Land and Resources
Romania is roughly oval in shape, with a maximum extent east to west of about 740 km (460 mi) and north to south about 475 km (295 mi). The topography is varied. The Transylvanian Basin, or Plateau, which occupies central Romania, is very hilly for the most part, but also has wide valleys and extensive arable slopes. The Transylvania region is almost completely surrounded by mountains. To the north and east are the Carpathian Mountains, and along the south are the Transylvanian Alps, which continue south to the Danube gorge at the Banat Mountains.
Moldoveanul (2,544 m/8,395 ft), the highest peak in the country, is in these Alps. A smaller group of ranges, the Bihor Mountains, is west of Transylvania. The remaining areas of Romania are predominantly lowlands. In the west are the lowlands of the Tisza Plain, which are usually referred to as the Banat, adjacent to the Serbian border, and Crisana-Maramures, adjacent to Hungary. T
he most extensive plains are the lowlands of Walachia, located between the Transylvanian Alps and Bulgaria, and the region of Moldova (Moldavia), east of the Carpathian Mountains. Bordering the Black Sea in the extreme east and forming part of Dobruja, or Dobrogea, is a low plateau, which continues south into Bulgaria.
The most important river of Romania is the Danube. It demarcates the eastern part of the boundary with Serbia, and most of the boundary with Bulgaria. The valley of the lower course of the Danube (east of the Iron Gate gorge near Turnu Severin) and the Danube delta are very swampy. Other important rivers, all part of the Danube system, are the Mure, Prut, Olt, and Siret. Romania has many small, freshwater mountain lakes, but the largest lakes are saline lagoons on the coast of the Black Sea; the largest of these is Lake Razelm.
The Transylvanian Basin, the Carpathian Mountains, and the western lowlands have warm summers and cold winters with recorded temperature extremes ranging between 37.8° C (100° F) and -31.7° C (-25° F). The Walachian, Moldavian, and Dobrujan lowlands have hotter summers and occasionally experience periods of severe cold in winter; recorded extremes in Bucharest and the lowlands are 38.9° C (102° F) and -23.9° C (-11° F). Rainfall averages 508 mm (20 in) on the plains and from 508 mm to 1,016 mm (20 in to 40 in) on the mountains and is concentrated in the warmer half of the year.
The principal resources of Romania are agricultural, but the country also has significant mineral deposits, particularly oil, natural gas, salt, coal, lignite, iron ore, copper, bauxite, chromium, manganese, lead, and zinc.
Plants and Animals
Wooded steppe, now largely cleared for agriculture, predominates in the plains of Walachia and Moldova. Fruit trees are common in the foothills of the mountains. On the lower slopes are found forests of such deciduous trees as birch, beech, and oak. The forests of the higher altitudes are coniferous, consisting largely of pine and spruce trees. Above the timberline (approximately 1,750 m/5,740 ft), the flora is alpine.
Wild animal life is abundant in most parts of Romania. The larger animals, found chiefly in the Carpathian Mountains, include the wild boar, wolf, lynx, fox, bear, chamois, roe deer, and goat. In the plains, typical animals are the squirrel, hare, badger, and polecat. Many species of birds are abundant; the Danube delta region, now partly a nature preserve, is a stopover point for migratory birds. Among species of fish found in the rivers and offshore are pike, sturgeon, carp, flounder, salmon, perch, and eel.
Romanians, who constitute 89 per cent of the total population, are descendants of the peoples inhabiting Dacia (modern Romania) at the time of its conquest (about AD 106) and absorption by the Romans. Important minorities are the Hungarians, who comprise about 11 per cent of the population and are chiefly settled in Transylvania; and Germans, who make up less than 1 per cent of the population and live chiefly in the Banat.
Romania also has small numbers of Ukrainians, Jews, Russians, Serbs, Croats, Turks, Bulgarians, Tatars, and Slovaks. Ethnic unrest has troubled Romania since the overthrow of the communist regime. In 1991 organized attacks on Romany communities caused a large number to flee to Germany and Austria, but most of these were forcibly returned to Romania in 1992. Unrest in Transylvania forced the ethnic Hungarians there to flee in 1990, after Romanian tanks had been deployed to quell the uprising. Anti-Semitism has also been rising.
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