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Romania, a member of the European Union, is a country of 22 million people and one of the only two Latin countries that are Orthodox Christian, the other one being its close relative Moldova.
It's had quite a troubled past, with large chunks of its history being about resisting encroaching foreign powers for as long as possible before the inevitable failure, even larger chunks about the struggle to carve a place for itself while surrounded by larger countries like Austria-Hungary, Russia and the Ottoman Empire, all slathered in heavy doses of being the Butt Monkey of Central Europe and occasional moments of Yank the Dog's Chain. The modern country formed through the union of its two constitutent states, Moldova (Moldavia) and Wallachia, in 1859.
Romania's entry into World War I mostly came about under pressure from the Allies and promises that they could annex Transylvania from Hungary. It proved to be a disaster, with the Germans, Austrians, Bulgarians and Ottomans all ganging up on a poorly organised army and forcing it to retreat up to Moldova, where they held together for a few more years before finally capitulating. As part of the Peace of Bucharest of March 1918, Romania was reduced to a vassal state occupied by Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Bulgaria, had several of its territories yanked away again and would have a German monopoly on oil exports for 99 years. Said peace treaty was never completely ratified because King Ferdinand refused to sign it, and Romania re-entered the war one day before the armistice with Germany was signed and well after the military forces of the Central Powers had been thrashed on the Western Fronts. The Allies eventually kept their word, giving Transylvania to Romania (but Romania had to twist their hand a bit by starting a Curb Stomp War with Hungary in 1919 and occupying and plundering it for about a year or so, and then milking some abusive armistice terms), which had also regained the Romanian-dominated area (Moldova between the Prut and Dniester rivers) in the meantime. Greater Romania was born.
Greater Romania lasted between 1919-1940 and is generally regarded as Romania's one period of Glory Days in history, when its culture was flourishing, reforms were implemented to address social ills, the economy was doing well and Bucharest was legitimately called "The Paris of the East" - it's okay as long as you don't mind the worrying popularity of far-right groups (like the Iron Guard) or anti-Semitism. Unsurprisingly, it was Too Good to Last. Thanks to the rank incompetence and authoritarianism of King Carol II, Romania had its constitution suspended in 1938 and fell under a dictatorship led by Ion Antonescu, was forced into World War Two on the Axis' side before defecting to the Allied side in August 1944 after a coup led by the opposition and King Michael. For all their trouble, all Romanians got out of it was Meet the New Boss: the Soviet Union imposed a Communist regime on the country and even took away the areas of the country beyond the Prut, in essence creating Romania's modern borders. They however were generous enough to recognise Romania's ownership of Transylvania.
Once the 1946 elections where thoroughly frauded to make the Communists win , the King was deposed and thrown out and the parties banned, Communism took over - it's a reasonable claim to argue that Romania had one of the worst regimes in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. Amazingly enough it only had two leaders. The first, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej (1948-1965), presided over horrible repression, the nationalisation of industry, the violent collectivisation of agriculture, the institution of the Five-Year Plans and the foundation of the infamous secret police Securitate ("Security"), all with appropriately Stalinist zeal. The next was Nicolae Ceauşescu, who managed to be even worse than Dej and is routinely credited for destroying the country thanks to his policies.
The Romanian version of the Hole in Flag revolutions was the only one that got seriously violent. Then again, the Ceauşescu regime was seriously unpleasant (complete with the mental hospitals and destroying the economy to repay the foreign debt). While this makes Romania probably the worst of the post-Stalin Soviet Bloc countries, ironically Ceauşescu at first had gained some popularity for his independent foreign policy and challenging the authority of the Soviet Union. This however had more to do with him admiring himself more than the respective Soviet leaders than with being a good human.
The Revolution saw 1,104 deaths, with Ceauşescu and his wife receiving a machine-gunning, on camera, as a Christmas present. It too counts as a Meet the New Boss, since in the entire chaos the second rung of the Communist Party ended up in power. Try to steer clear of this subject, since there's so many unknowns and suspicious details going around that it's a prime source of Epileptic Trees and Poison Oak Epileptic Trees - where the USA has Who Shot JFK??, Romania has What Really Happened In 1989? and What The Hell Was Up With The Mineriad?.
Romania has many long-standing problems, one of them being nasty orphanages. This had to do with Ceauşescu wanting to boost the Romanian population by all means, even if this involved many mothers not being able to care for so many unwanted kids, abandoning them instead, so they ended up in... right. And we haven't even gone into the chaotic post-Communist situation, the Mineriad, the inefficient education system, the severe corruption and plain incompetent governments...
Used to have a long enmity with Hungary, especially over Transylvania (a bit more on this historical conflict on the Hungary page), but that's mostly boiled over by now and the two countries get along well enough. Average citizens from the two countries may still dislike/hate the residents of the other country though.
Transylvania, setting for "Dracula", is in Romania - now. It was transferred from Hungary at the end of World War I, and has always been an ethnically mixed country (there is a serious unresolved - on an international level - debate going on about that though, regarding who was there first - science has pretty much said it was likely Romanians, not that it matters anyhow): despite some 400 years of efforts from Hungarian, and later Austro-Hungarian authorities, it's been mostly Romanian at least since the Turkish Wars; despite some 50 years of best efforts from the Commies, the Hungarian "Szeklers" are still there; they currently form an ethnic majority in the counties of Covasna and Harghita (where they form 85% of the population) and are a significant presence in Mureș and other counties, causing some hand-wringing and Misplaced Nationalism over minority rights (want to see an Internet Backdraft? Bring up the question of language rights). Traditionally, the south was inhabited by Germans who had come to the Mongol-ravaged land in the Middle Ages, but they mostly packed up and left after the war or were bought the privilege to leave - one of Ceauşescu's brilliant ideas was to sell off Germans and Jews to West Germany and Israel. There is a still a larger-than-average German minority, German in high-schools, and German names on some road signs. Bram Stoker's Dracula was a Szekler, but its inspiration, the "real" Dracula, was Romanian, although, ironically, not a Transylvanian at all: he was from Wallachia, the southern third of the country.
In other words, when someone tries to do a gritty adaptation of Dracula and has him speaking Romanian to up the realism, they're wrong. He should be speaking Hungarian. If they were making a film about Vlad Dracul, Wallachian prince and freedom fighter also known as "The Impaler", then he ought to be speaking Romanian.
Fun fact: Romania can be pretty much described as the Mexico of Eastern Europe. Both have a lifelong inferiority complex from oppressed by surrounding powers, both had a rough time in the eighties, both pretty much opened to the world once the nineties began (Romania with the fall of communism, Mexico with the NAFTA), and both have spent a long time amidst war and rebellion.
Romania and popular culture (not to be confused with the below section).
Romania has now mostly nationalistic archives from before WWII, and after the commies took over the television and there was only one station - TVR1. It served as a propaganda tool, as well as a form of keeping the masses in line. Being closed off from all western television and radio stations (and "pirate" radio stations would give their own western propaganda, rather than talk about trends, stars, etc of the western side), otherwise respected Romanian actors and singers would "inspire greatly" from western movies and music (as to where, if someone without a Nostalgia Filter and who knows now western and Romanian "oldies" songs alike, would notice between 50% and 90% have the same tune. Seriously). Original creations include Sergiu Nicolaescu's historical movies about Romania in just about every stage of its history (it'd fit with the commie nationalistic propaganda), a comedy series called BD ("The Diverse Brigate"), and others.
By 1985-1989, at the tail end of Ceaușescu's "pay off debt by starving the population" phase, the entire network's runtime had been reduced to two hours, containing mostly patriotic songs. The people were not amused. People could still watch foreign stations with make-shift (or very expensive, depending on the case) "black market" parabolic antennas. For the worst of those, they could see Russian, Moldovan and Bulgarian stations. For the best, they could tune to French ones.
After the fall of Communism in the '90s, television tried to grow, but unfortunately TVR was the only available option and still in the grasp of the Neo-Communists that had come to power. One of the first (free, private) stations was Tele7ABC, but the first mainstream television station to hold its ground as leader even today was Pro TV, was created in 1995.
Film rights and airing were scarce, but televisions tried. While the copyright law made it fair game (now, in 2010, in Moldova, there are still reports of movies being aired directly from downloaded from the internet by national stations), we didn't really needed the problems. On the other hand, television ratings were nonexistent until the 2000s (even 2005). This implied nothing short of porn could be aired all day or all night (there were attempts to forbid porn as "violating public morals" or whatever) - 16+ horrors at 8 o'clock, etc, if you can imagine it, it was aired whenever they liked it. This was partly due to the authorities' fear that they'd be accused of limiting the "freedom of the press" (while stealing everything there was to steal left from the old regime), and coincided with the country's "Wild West / Aggressive Capitalism" period, where almost anything, however legal, semi-legal or illegal it was, was mostly fair game (short of stealing from someone's house: steal millions of dollars from a bank, split up the profit with the country's rulership, profit; you steal an apple from someone's house, 5 years jail, no discussion).
For the first ten years after the revolution, the film industry was basically dead (it relied for 40 years from state sponsorship; now with the country revitalizing its economy, that was one of the least of the priorities). It didn't help that funds for new films were gobbled up by the same Sergiu Nicolaescu, while copyright commissions gobbled up artists' money rights. This didn't stop the music industry from flourishing though, as a song was cheap to make and record, the first years everyone relied on radio to be transmitted (yes, the same TVR corporation ruling it, and bribes to be aired were not unheard of, and if the national radio station didn't air your song, "you didn't exist" and could hardly sell your albums), and with the introduction of videoclips, half-naked underaged girls to sing high-pitched forgettable songs were not hard to find.
Currently Romania's film industry adapted to the system, that is artsy films with very little resources. The most recent notable film is 4 luni, 3 săptămâni şi 2 zile, better known in English as 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.
True or False
- The Roma - their actual number in the general population is not large and never was, yet they are disproportionately represented in the criminal class. They suffer from terrible poverty, prejudice against them and "invisibility" - according to a UN survey, Romania is the most highly segregated society in Eastern Europe when it comes to the separation between the Roma and the rest of the population.
- Poverty - most street begging is actually professional and profitable, playing on the compulsive duty of the average Romanian to appear compassionate.
(most of them having made a name for themselves abroad, for some reason)
- Eugène Ionesco (Eugen Ionescu) - playwright, Trope Maker of the Theatre of the Absurd alongside Samuel Beckett back in The Fifties.
- Emil Cioran - philosopher and writer.
- Mircea Eliade - writer and historian, known for his works dealing with the history of religions. Fled Romania after the Communists took over, lived in Chicago until his death.
- George Enescu - the most famous Romanian composer.
- Gheorghe Zamfir - famous pan flute virtuoso.
- Gheorghe Hagi - footballer.
- Elie Wiesel (part Hungarian) - famous Holocaust survivor.
- Sebastian Stan: Actor, famous for roles in Gossip Girl and Kings. Born in Constanța, moved to Vienna after the Romanian Revolution, and then to the United States.
- Nadia Comăneci - aforementioned world class gymnast.
- Nicolae Ceauşescu - the country's dictator between 1965-1989. Initially supported by the West for daring to stand up to Moscow, by the end he had hundreds of volunteers for his firing squad. Today, he is reviled for severely mismanaging the economy, oppressing the people, and generally running the country into the ground.
- Ion Iliescu - former Communist member and the country's first post-Communist president, serving three terms between 1990-1996 and 2000-2004 (despite the Constitution limiting him to two. Loophole Abuse is fun!). Masterminded the Mineriad, which is a whole 'nother can of prime Poison Oak Epileptic Trees and Flame Bait.
- Inna - dance music singer.
- Vlad III Ţepeş, aka "The Impaler", ruled Wallachia between 1456-1462 then again for a few months in 1476 before his death. His supposed love of a very Squicky execution technique was very likely exaggerated in order to discredit him as a Complete Monster while he was held captive by King Matthias Corvinus between 1462-1476.
- The Cheeky Girls - we're sorry.
Romania in Popular culture
- As said, oh so many books, games and movies involving Dracula. Van Helsing, Castlevania, and so on.
- Hellsing. Alucard's real origins are actually from Transylvania, Romania.
- Train of Life, a great tragicomedy about Romanian Jews in World War II who know that they're to be deported and hatch a crazy plan - that could work.
- In Harry Potter, Ron's brother, Charlie Weasley, works with dragons in Romania.
- In Twilight's Breaking Dawn, some of the most ancient vampires come actually from Romania, angry at the Volturi clan for destroying their castle and the other Romanian vampires.
- South Park's answer to the Elian Gonzalez debacle, Quintuplets 2000, involved Romanian quintuplets... whose home country is apparently still Communist, and certainly dominated by grey, bland architecture and an economy and populace so poor that a few hundred US dollars makes one "rich" there. Probably not the best depiction, and not necessarily all that accurate, either it turns out (current-day Bucharest, at any rate, is actually quite pretty, as far as we're concerned, and the country's been a democratically-elected Republic for years). This probably stems more from the fact that Romania was Communist-controlled until 1989 and wanting to draw a better comparison between the episode's plot and the Elian Gonzalez thing than anything else, though.
- The older bits of Bucharest are pretty. The Communists did their best to hack the place apart and fill it with depressing architecture. It's all a matter of finding the old parts that escaped relatively unscathed.
- An unintentional depiction occurred in an episode of Charmed, where an old woman "gypsy", instead of speaking Romany (which she was allegedly speaking), was actually speaking, yes... Romanian, which is a completely different language. Methinks that show was even more low-budget than I thought!
- The same happens in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. An ancient "gypsy" spell seems to be partly in Latin, partly in Romanian.
- Perhaps coincidentally, the tribe that invented that spell were protected by Dracula, so they might have picked up elements of the spell from other magicians nearby.
- Same again in the Wolf Man remake. The two gypsy women speak in Romanian.
- The same happens in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. An ancient "gypsy" spell seems to be partly in Latin, partly in Romanian.
- In Desperate Housewives' season 4 finale it's revealed that Dylan comes from a Romanian orphanage. The kind of Romanian orphanage run by the church, with Catholic Nuns no less. (Never mind that most Romanians are ORTHODOX.)
- Well, there is a Catholic Church down here, but they barely add up to 4.7% of the population. They probably didn't care enough to do the research and are just lucky that by coincidence, there's a Catholic minority in Romania.
- Nicolae Carpathia, the Antichrist in the Left Behind series, is the former president of Romania. He probably doesn't have the same first name as Ceauşescu for nothing, and that's probably the best thing of the series.
- The band O-Zone, famous for "Dragostea din Tei" - better known as the "Numa Numa song" are commonly thought to be Romanian. They're actually Moldovan. But then again, plenty of Moldovans would call themselves Romanians. It's complicated.
- Hansel and Gretel, the Creepy Twins from Black Lagoon, hail from Romania, where they were raised in an Orphanage of Fear. And that's one of the least disturbing things in regards to them.
- Wallachia is the location of the first gateway to the Vampire World, and the birthplace (not to mention undeath place) of the Big Bads from the first two books of the Necroscope saga.
- Romania as represented in Scandinavia and The World is a vampire who steals, in keeping with the typical exaggeration of stereotypes. He also re-enacted Dracula with the Netherlands, at least until England threw them out of his garden.
- Hetalia. Another Moe Anthropomorphism of Romania is mentioned in Hungary's bio and relationship chart, and apparently doesn't get along with her. By now, he had appeared in Volume 4 and wears a Nice Hat. He may be a homage or reference to Dracula because of his red eyes and cute little fang.
- Though presented as Kazakhstan, the village at the beginning of Borat is in Romania.
- A Wizards of Waverly Place episode revolves around Romania, due to the fact that Alex wants to travel there for entertainment, and she doesn't know exactly where it is located (or what it actually is). Her father explains to her that Romania is a country in Europe, filled with gymnasts and vampires.
Tropes that apply in Real Life to Romania
- Anachronism Stew: Depending on what city you live in and where you're driving, it can be quite common to see horse-drawn carriages on the same roads and highways as cars.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: average Romanians absolutely hate to see one of them raising himself or herself to fame, wealth and power. Among two artists (or scientists, or politicians) with equal credentials, one native and one foreigner, they will always praise the foreigner and search for the slightest faults in the native's performance to diminish him or her.
- Common Knowledge: The history curriculum in Romania conflates the Dacians and the Getae, something modern historians aren't very eager to champion (some go so far as to suggest they were two separate tribes of Thracians, the Getae living in southern Romania and the Dacians beyond the Carpathians). This is mostly a legacy of the long Romanian-Hungarian dispute over who "rightfully" owns Transylvania, wherein both sides gleefully bent history to try and fit their own narratives - the Geto-Dacian classification is meant to emphasise the fact that Romanians were there first.
- Drives Like Crazy: In practice, less accent on the crazy part and more on the crazily fast. While may be many crackpot theories to explain the disregard of rules, in reality the disregard is first and foremost for the police, who are regarded as the most disgusting species of CorruptHicks on Earth.
- Greece: Romania has a connection with the start of Greece's war of independence, as Filiki Eteria's initial plan was to both start an insurrection and get all the Christians in the Balkans on their side (and hopefully Russia too). Unfortunately, this simple plan got bungled big time when Alexander Ypsilantis clashed with the Romanian rebels led by Tudor Vladimirescu, was upbraided by Tsar Alexander for misusing the military force he'd received, decisively lost all Romanian support by executing Vladimirescu, and was left to lead Eteria to get annihalated at Drăgășani.
- Misplaced Nationalism and Patriotic Fervor: Bring up the Hungarian minority's rights, or just Hungary in general, in the right crowd. Make sure you have popcorn.
- Nosy Neighbor: Description is futile, one has to experience life among them to believe.
- Terrified of Germs: ever since before Communists came, authorities had been concerned with contagion and disease, for good reasons. Families, Communist schools and state-owned health system had pounded the people to always be careful what they eat, what they drink, whom do they sleep with and always to wash their hands. While nowadays an Anglophone makes a big fuss of even a very simple CBC test, the ordinary employment medical test for a Romanian (supported by health insurance) includes physical examination, eyesight, blood pressure, lungs' auscultation and others, according to his or her profession, and no less than forty blood tests of which CBC is just one, including VDRL, VSH, AST, ALT, TSH, ASLO, hepatitis A, B and C, cholesterol...
- Also expect complex examinations (which include, beyond the usual eyesight and psychological test, 2 blood tests and a lung X-ray) from at least 7 doctors for something as simple as getting a driver's license. (Expect similar examinations from 10 doctors to get a firearm license.) Clinics use economies of scale to perform all of them for as little as $50 per patient.
- The Mafiya: most business and politics enterprises are almost entirely dependent of personal or family relationships, even more visible outside large cities. Stepping on the wrong people's toes in business or inter-gender relationships may have unfortunate results. Having the right friends always helps.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: From the way Julia Gelardi describes it, Romania was severely losing at the first few weeks of the Paris Peace Conference, so in a fit of desperation PM Ionel Brătianu asked Queen Marie to travel to France to represent the country. Marie proceeded to use her charisma and reminders about Romania's considerable losses to charm-bully the Allies onto her side, and the conference ended with Romania receiving all it set out to gain (and then starting a curbstomp war with Hungary and pillaging it in retaliation). Clearly, if you want to expand a country's territory, you should join the war, get beaten, re-join at the last minute and then send your monarch to annoy everybody else into giving you what you want.
- Slave to PR: Romanians of the 2000s are masters of online campaigns (in the English language nevertheless). In the recent past, they have bombed Google only because they did not like the unflattering auto-completion phrases when someone searched "Romanians". After withstanding much slander combined with some truth over the years, they had to do something to change the situation.
- Vodka Drunkenski: Romania is the 9th country in the world by alcohol consumption. When you're 7 places above Ireland in the top, this should tell something. Russia is the 5th. Sister country Moldova is the first.
the Romanian flag
- The main argument in the Communist Party was whether they should give themselves a "reasonable" 70% victory or at least 90%
- Don't try. Flame War ensues.
- Their efforts to prove they are just that are admirable.
- backing the theory that the Allies only promised the country territory to get it into World War I in the first place