With the exception of the southern halves of Bukovina and Transylvania, these territories were ceded to neighboring countries in 1940, under the pressure of Nazi Germany
or the Soviet Union
. Following the abolishment of the 1923 constitution by King Carol II
in 1938, the Kingdom of Romania became a de facto absolute monarchy
, only to become a military dictatorship
under Ion Antonescu
in 1940 after the forced abdication of King Carol II, with his successor, King Michael I being a figurehead with no effective political power. The country's name was changed to Legionary Romania.
Unification and monarchy
On 11 (O.S.
) / 23 February 1866 a so-called Monstrous coalition, composed of Conservatives and radical Liberals, forced Cuza to abdicate. The German prince Charles of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was appointed as Prince of Romania, in a move to assure German
backing to unity and future independence. He immediately adopted the Romanian spelling of his name, Carol
, and his cognatic descendants would rule Romania until the overthrow of the monarchy in 1947.
Following the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878
, Romania was recognized as an independent state by the Treaty of Berlin, 1878
and acquired Dobruja
, although it was forced to surrender southern Bessarabia (Budjak
) to Russia. On 15 March 1881, as an assertion of full sovereignty, the Romanian parliament raised the country to the status of a kingdom, and Carol was crowned as king on 10 May.
The new state, squeezed between the Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian
, and Russian
Empires, with Slavic populations on its southwestern, southern, and northeastern borders, the Black Sea due east, and Hungarian
neighbors on its western and northwestern borders, looked to the West, particularly France, for its cultural, educational, and administrative models.
Abstaining from the Initial Balkan War
against the Ottoman Empire, the Kingdom of Romania entered the Second Balkan War
in June 1913 against the Tsardom of Bulgaria
. 330,000 Romanian troops moved across the Danube and into Bulgaria. One army occupied Southern Dobrudja and another moved into northern Bulgaria to threaten Sofia, helping to bring an end to the war. Romania thus acquired the ethnically-mixed territory of Southern Dobrudja, which it had desired for years.
In 1916 Romania entered World War I
on the Entente
side. Romania engaged in a conflict against Bulgaria but as a result Bulgarian forces, after a series of successful battles, regained Dobruja, which had been previously ceded from Bulgaria by the treaty of Bucharest and the Berlin congress. Although the Romanian forces did not fare well militarily, by the end of the war the Austrian and Russian empires were gone; various assemblies proclaimed as representative bodies in Transylvania, Bessarabia and Bukovina decided on union with Romania. In 1919 by the Treaty of Saint-Germain
and in 1920 by the Treaty of Trianon
most of territories claimed were assigned to Romania.
Romanian Old Kingdom (1881–1918)
The term came into use after World War I, when the Old Kingdom was opposed to Greater Romania
, which included Transylvania, Banat
, Bessarabia, and Bukovina. Nowadays, the term is mainly of historical relevance, and is otherwise used as a common term for all regions in Romania included in both the Old Kingdom and present-day borders (namely: Wallachia, Moldavia, and Northern Dobruja).
Proclamation Act of the Kingdom of Romania
The Kingdom of Romania in 1890
1901 German map of Romania
The Kingdom of Romania in 1914
World War I
Romania delayed in entering World War I, but ultimately declared war on the Central Powers in 1916. The Romanian military campaign
ended in stalemate when the Central Powers quickly crushed the country's offensive into Transylvania
and occupied Wallachia and Dobruja, including Bucharest and the strategically important oil fields, by the end of 1916. In 1917, despite fierce Romanian resistance, especially at Mărăşeşti
, due to Russia's withdrawal from the war following the October Revolution
, Romania, being almost completely surrounded by the Central Powers, was forced to also drop from the war, signing the Armistice of Focșani
and next year, in May 1918, the Treaty of Bucharest
. But after the successful offensive on the Thessaloniki
front which put Bulgaria out of the war, Romania's government quickly reasserted control and put an army back into the field on 10 November 1918, a day before the war ended in Western Europe. Following the proclamation of the union of Transylvania with the Kingdom of Romania
on 1 December 1918 by the representatives of Transylvanian Romanians gathered at Alba Iulia
, Transylvania was soon united with the Kingdom, as was Bessarabia
earlier in 1918, since the power vacuum in Russia caused by the civil war there allowed the Sfatul Țării
, or National Council, to proclaim the union of Bessarabia with Romania
. War with the Hungarian Soviet Republic
in 1919 resulted in the occupation of Budapest by Romanian troops and the end of Béla Kun
's Bolshevik regime.
Union with Bessarabia, Bukovina and Transylvania
At the Paris Peace Conference
, Romania received territories of Transylvania
, part of Banat and other territories from Hungary
, while as well Bessarabia (Eastern Moldavia between Prut and Dniester rivers) and Bukovina. In the Treaty of Trianon
, Hungary renounced in favor of Romania all the claims of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy
The union of Romania with Bukovina
was ratified in 1919 in the Treaty of Saint Germain
and in 1920 some of the Western powers recognized Romanian rule over Bessarabia by the Treaty of Paris
Thus, Romania in 1920 was more than twice the size it had been in 1914. The last territorial change during this period came in 1923, when a few border settlements were exchanged between Romania and Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes
. The most notable Romanian acquisition was the town of Jimbolia
, while the most notable Yugoslav acquisition was the town of Jaša Tomić
Although the country had no further territorial claims, it aroused the enmity of Bulgaria, and especially Hungary and the Soviet Union. It is worth noting, however, that the Treaty of Paris – recognizing the union with Bessarabia – never came into effect because one of its signatories, Japan, refused to ratify it. This meant that the union was not recognized by the international community, making it – unlike the other provinces – more of a de facto
union than an official, de jure
Furthermore, President Wilson left the peace conference to emphasize his disagreements earlier in 1919 and because the U.S. Congress did not ratify the Treaty of Trianon
, the United States of America and the Kingdom of Hungary signed a separate peace treaty on 29 August 1921.
now encompassed a significant minority population, especially of Hungarians
, and faced the difficulty of assimilation. Transylvania had significant Hungarian and German population, and with a historically contemptuous
attitude towards Romanians, they now feared reprisals. Both groups were effectively excluded from politics as the postwar Romanian regime passed an edict stating that all personnel employed by the state had to speak Romanian. The new Romanian state was also a highly centralized one, so it was unlikely that the Hungarian or German minorities would exercise political influence without personal connections in the government in Bucharest. The Romanian policy towards Hungarians and Germans was fairly balanced,
and both were permitted to have schools in their respective languages and the freedom to publish written material. Judicial hearings would also be conducted in their native official languages.
Ethnic map of Romanians within the Kingdom of Hungary in 1890
Lesser minorities were not as well treated because of their small numbers and because they had no outside power to support them. Jews in particular were highly unpopular.
Romanian education was a mixed bag. While the nobility had a long tradition of sending their sons to Europe's finest schools, the educated were a tiny minority. Transylvania had the most educated population in Romania, while Bessarabia fared the worst. While all Romanian children were required to attend at least four years of school, few actually went and the system was designed to separate those who would go on to higher education from those who would not. While this was partially necessary due to limited resources, it also ensured that peasants had almost no chance of becoming educated.
High school and college education in Romania was modeled after French schools. Students undertook a rigid curriculum based around the liberal arts and anyone who could pass was very well-educated. However, Romania suffered from the same problem as the rest of Eastern Europe, which was that most students preferred abstract subjects like theology, philosophy, literature, the fine arts, and law (in the philosophical rather than the applied sense) to practical ones like science, business, and engineering.
The peasant population was among the poorest in the region, a situation aggravated by one of Europe's highest birth rates. As elsewhere, peasants everywhere were convinced that land reform would solve their problems, and after the war they began to clamor loudly for such action, which led to the 1921 land reform
. But it did precious little to improve productivity, especially since the richness of Romania's soil was negated by a lack of modern farming techniques. Agricultural exports could not compete with those of Western Europe and North America, and the onset of the Great Depression in Romania
caused the market for them to completely dry up.
In 1919, a staggering 72% of Romanians were engaged in agriculture. And due to one of Europe's highest birth rates, as much as a quarter of the rural population was unnecessary surplus.[clarification needed]
Farming was primitive and machinery and chemical fertilizers almost unheard of. The Regat (prewar Romania) was traditionally a land of large estates worked by peasants who either had no land of their own or else dwarf plots. The situation in Transylania and Bessarabia was marginally better. After peasant calls for land reform snowballed into an avalanche, King Ferdinand had to oblige, especially once the Russian Revolution had encouraged peasants to take the matter in their own hands. In the end, it did nothing to remedy the basic problems of rural overpopulation and technological backwardness. The redistributed plots were invariably too small to feed their owners and peasants also could not overcome their tradition of growing grain over cash crops. Since draft animals were rare, to say nothing of machinery, actual agricultural productivity was worse than before.
Despite the land reforms, landowners still controlled up to 30% of Romania's land, including the forests that peasants needed for fuel. Romania also had little opportunity to export agricultural products since the biggest ones like grain could not possibly compete with producers in the United States or elsewhere.
Romanian industry was quite well developed due to an abundance of natural resources, especially oil. Lumber and various minerals were produced mainly for export, but most industry was owned by foreign companies, over 70% during the interwar period.
Pre-Kingdom Era to World War I
At the time of the proclamation of the Kingdom, there were already several industrial facilities in the country: The Assan and Olamazu steam mills
, built in 1853 and 1862 respectively, a brick factory built in 1865, and two sugar factories built in 1873, among others. In 1857, the first oil refinery in the world was built at Ploiești
In 1880, after several railways were built, the CFR
was founded. After proclamation of the Kingdom, the pre-established industrial facilities began to be highly developed: 6 more, larger, sugar factories were built and the railway network was expanded more. Another, more modern brick factory was built in 1891. Despite all of these industrial achievements, the overwhelming majority of Romania's economy remained the agriculture.
The Malaxa Prime, a Romanian-made steel-wrought locomotive
Despite the destruction provoked by the First World War, Romanian industry managed significant growth, as a result of new establishments and development of the older ones. The MALAXA
industrial engineering and manufacturing company was established in 1921 by Romanian industrialist Nicolae Malaxa
and dealt especially with rolling stock maintenance and manufacturing. It developed rapidly, and by 1930 Romania had managed to cease importing locomotives altogether, all required rolling stock being supplied by the local industry.
Industrial facilities acquired along with the new provinces, such as the Reșița works
, also contributed to the rapid development of Romanian heavy industry. Other important establishments were the Copșa Mică works
, producing non-ferrous metals and the Romanian Optical Enterprise
. Construction also developed, as great monuments like the Caraiman Cross
(1928), Arcul de Triumf
(1936) and the Mausoleum of Mărășești
(1938) were erected. The oil industry was also greatly expanded, making Romania one of the top oil exporters by the late 1930s, which also attracted German and Italian interest
250 mm Negrei mortar
Romanian military industry during World War I
was mainly focused on converting various fortification guns into field and anti-aircraft artillery. Up to 334 German 53 mm Fahrpanzer
guns, 93 French 57 mm Hotchkiss guns, 66 Krupp 150 mm guns and dozens more 210 mm guns were mounted on Romanian-built carriages
and transformed into mobile field artillery, with 45 Krupp 75 mm guns and 132 Hotchkiss 57 mm guns being transformed into anti-aircraft artillery. The Romanians also upgraded
120 German Krupp 105 mm howitzers, the result being the most effective field howitzer in Europe at that time. Romania even managed to design and build from scratch its own model of mortar, the 250 mm Negrei Model 1916.
Other Romanian technological assets include the building of Vlaicu III
, the world's first aircraft made of metal.
The Romanian Navy possessed the largest warships on the Danube. They were a class of 4 river monitors, built locally at the Galați shipyard
using parts manufactured in Austria-Hungary, and the first one launched was Lascăr Catargiu
, in 1907.
The Romanian monitors displaced almost 700 tons, were armed with three 120 mm naval guns in 3 turrets, two 120 mm naval howitzers, four 47 mm anti-aircraft guns and two 6.5 machine guns.
The monitors took part in the Battle of Turtucaia
and the First Battle of Cobadin
. The Romanian-designed Schneider 150 mm Model 1912 howitzer was considered one of the most modern field guns on the Western Front.
A formation of IAR-80 fighter aircraft
The Romanian armament industry was expanded greatly during the Interwar period and World War II. New factories were constructed, such as the Industria Aeronautică Română
and Societatea Pentru Exploatări Tehnice
aircraft factories, which produced hundreds of indigenous aircraft, such as IAR 37
, IAR 80
and SET 7
. Before the war, Romania acquired from France the licence to produce hundreds of Brandt Mle 27/31
and Brandt Mle 1935
mortars, with hundreds more produced during the war,
and also the licence to produce 140 French 47 mm Schneider anti-tank guns at the Concordia factory, with 118 produced between 26 May 1939 and 1 August 1940 and hundreds more produced during the war;
these guns were to be towed by Malaxa Tip UE
armored carriers, built since late 1939 at the Malaxa factory under French licence, eventually 126 being built until March 1941. Czechoslovak licence was acquired in 1938 to produce the ZB vz. 30
machine gun, with 5,000 being built at the Cugir gun factory until the start of Operation Barbarossa
in June 1941.
Romania also acquired the licence to produce the AH-IV
tankette, but ultimately only one prototype was built locally.
German licence was acquired in 1938 to produce 360 37 mm Rheinmetall anti-aircraft guns
, but only 102 were produced until May 1941.
British licence was acquired to produce 100 Vickers Model 1931
75 mm anti-aircraft guns at the Reșița works
, with the first battery of 6 guns entering service on 1 August 1939, and 100 more guns were built during the war for a total production of 200.
On 14 June, Romania launched the first locally-built warship, the minelayer NMS Amiral Murgescu
The Romanian expression România Mare (literal translation "Great Romania", but more commonly rendered in English: "Greater Romania") generally refers to the Romanian state in the interwar period
, and by extension, to the territory Romania covered at the time. Romania achieved at that time its greatest territorial extent (almost 300,000 km2
(120,000 sq mi)
). At the 1930 census, there were over 18 million inhabitants in Romania.
The resulting "Greater Romania" did not survive World War II. Until 1938, Romania's governments maintained the form, if not always the substance, of a liberal constitutional monarchy. The National Liberal Party
, dominant in the years immediately after World War I, became increasingly clientelist
, and in 1927 was supplanted in power by the National Peasants' Party
. Between 1930 and 1940 there were over 25 separate governments; on several occasions in the last few years before World War II, the rivalry between the fascist Iron Guard
and other political groupings approached the level of a civil war.
Upon the death of king Ferdinand
in 1927, his son Prince Carol
was prevented from succeeding him because of previous marital scandals that had resulted in his renunciation of rights to the throne. After living three years in exile, with his brother Nicolae serving as regent and his young son Michael
as king, Carol changed his mind and with the support of the ruling National Peasants' Party he returned and proclaimed himself king.
, leader of the National Peasants' Party, engineered Carol's return on the basis of a promise that he would forsake his mistress Magda Lupescu
, and Lupescu herself had agreed to the arrangement. However, it became clear upon Carol's first re-encounter with his former wife, Elena
, that he had no interest in a reconciliation with her, and Carol soon arranged for Magda Lupescu's return to his side. Her unpopularity was to be a millstone around Carol's neck for the rest of his reign, particularly because she was widely viewed as his closest advisor and confidante. Maniu and his National Peasant Party shared the same general political aims of the Iron Guard: both fought against the corruption and dictatorial policies of King Carol II and the National Liberal Party.
The worldwide Great Depression that started in 1929
and was also present in Romania
destabilised the country. The early 1930s were marked by social unrest, high unemployment, and strikes. In several instances, the Romanian government violently repressed strikes and riots, notably the 1929 miners' strike in Valea Jiului
and the strike in the Grivița
railroad workshops. In the mid-1930s, the Romanian economy recovered and the industry grew significantly, although about 80% of Romanians were still employed in agriculture. French economic and political influence was predominant in the early 1920s but then Germany became more dominant, especially in the 1930s.
Romanian pavilion at EXPO Paris 1937
As the 1930s progressed, Romania's already shaky democracy slowly deteriorated toward fascist
dictatorship. The constitution of 1923 gave the king free rein to dissolve parliament and call elections at will; as a result, Romania was to experience over 25 governments in a single decade.
Increasingly, these governments were dominated by a number of anti-Semitic
, ultra-nationalist, and mostly at least quasi-fascist parties. The National Liberal Party
steadily became more nationalistic than liberal, but nonetheless lost its dominance over Romanian politics. It was eclipsed by parties like the (relatively moderate) National Peasants' Party and its more radical Romanian Front
offshoot, the National-Christian Defense League
(LANC) and the Iron Guard
. In 1935, LANC merged with the National Agrarian Party
to form the National Christian Party
(NCP). The quasi-mystical fascist Iron Guard was an earlier LANC offshoot that, even more than these other parties, exploited nationalist feelings, fear of communism, and resentment of alleged foreign and Jewish
domination of the economy.
Already, the Iron Guard had embraced the politics of assassinations, and various governments had reacted more or less in kind. On December 10, 1933, Liberal prime minister Ion Duca
"dissolved" the Iron Guard, arresting thousands; consequently, 19 days later he was assassinated by Iron Guard legionnaires.
Throughout the 1930s, these nationalist parties had a mutually distrustful relationship with King Carol II. Nonetheless, in December 1937, the king appointed LANC leader, the poet Octavian Goga
as prime minister of Romania's first Fascist government
. Around this time, Carol met with Adolf Hitler
, who expressed his wish to see a Romanian government headed by the pro-Nazi Iron Guard. Instead, on 10 February 1938 King Carol II used the occasion of a public insult by Goga toward Lupescu as a reason to dismiss the government and institute a short-lived royal dictatorship, sanctioned seventeen days later by a new constitution under which the king named personally not only the prime minister but all the ministers.
In April 1938, King Carol had Iron Guard leader Corneliu Zelea Codreanu
(aka "The Captain") arrested and imprisoned. On the night of 29–30 November 1938, Codreanu and several other legionnaires were killed while purportedly attempting to escape from prison. It is generally agreed that there was no such escape attempt, but that they were murdered in retaliation for a series of assassinations by Iron Guard commandos.
The royal dictatorship was brief. On 7 March 1939, a new government was formed with Armand Călinescu
as prime minister; on 21 September 1939, three weeks after the start of World War II, Călinescu, in turn, was also assassinated by legionnaires avenging Codreanu's murder.
In 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union
signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact
, which stipulated, among other things, the Soviet "interest" in Bessarabia. After the 1940 territorial losses and growing increasingly unpopular, Carol was compelled to abdicate and name general Ion Antonescu
as the new Prime-Minister with full powers in ruling the state by royal decree.
Ethnic map (1930 census)
Population of Romania according to ethnic group in 1930
Physical map of Romania in 1939
Largest cities as per 1930 census:
Notes: 1 - including 12 suburban communities.
Administrative map of Romania in 1930
After Independence, the Romanian Old Kingdom was divided into 33 counties.
After World War I, as a result of the 1925 administrative unification law, the territory was divided into 71 counties, 489 districts (plăși
) and 8,879 communes
In 1938, King Carol II
promulgated a new Constitution
, and subsequently he had the administrative division of the Romanian territory changed. Ten ținuturi
(approximate translation: "lands") were created (by merging the counties) to be ruled by rezidenți regali
(approximate translation: "Royal Residents") - appointed directly by the King. This administrative reform did not last and the counties were re-established after the fall of Carol's regime.
Romanian territory during the 20th century: purple indicates the Old Kingdom before 1913, orange indicates Greater Romania areas that joined or were annexed after the Second Balkan War
and World War I
but were lost after World War II
, and rose indicates areas that joined Romania after World War I and remained so after World War II.
Timeline of the borders of Romania between 1859 and 2010
- Selection of newspapers of the Kingdom of Romania
Alegătorul liber, January 23, 1875
Bukarester Tagblatt, August 10, 1880 (in German)
Voința naționala, November 1, 1884
Opinia, August 22, 1913
Kings of Romania (1881–1947)
Queens-consort of Romania
Pretenders to the Romanian throne
This is a graphical
lifespan timeline of Kings
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Last edited on 11 May 2021, at 08:44
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