Romania, country in southeastern Europe. Romania is rich in culture and natural resources, but 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 or parts of it for much of its history. Bucharest is its capital and largest city.
The modern country of Romania was created in 1859. It became fully independent in 1878. Romania was a kingdom from 1881 to 1947. In 1948 Communists took control of Romania and modeled the government and economy after those of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). 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 Ceauşescu, the country’s president and Communist Party leader. Ceauşescu was executed, and a non-Communist government was installed. The first free multiparty elections took place in Romania in 1990.
II LAND AND RESOURCES
Romania has a total land area of 237,500 sq km (91,700 sq mi). The country is bounded on the north by Ukraine, on the east by Moldova, on the southeast by the Black Sea, on the south by Bulgaria, on the southwest by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), and on the west by Hungary. Romania is roughly oval in shape, with a maximum distance from east to west of 720 km (450 mi) and a maximum distance from north to south of 515 km (320 mi). A long chain of mountain ranges curves through northern and central Romania. The Danube River forms much of the country’s southern and southwestern borders with Bulgaria and the FRY, and the Prut River divides Romania from its northeastern neighbor Moldova.
A Natural Regions
Transylvania, an extensive elevated plateau region that reaches a maximum height of about 600 m (about 2,000 ft), occupies most of central and northwestern Romania. Transylvania is surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains, a large mountain system of central and eastern Europe. The Eastern Carpathians extend from the northern border to the center of the country and contain the forested region of Bukovina; the Southern Carpathians, also known as the Transylvanian Alps, stretch westward from the Eastern Carpathian range; and the Western Carpathians traverse the western portion of Romania. The Southern Carpathians contain the country’s highest peak, Moldoveanu, which reaches an elevation of 2,543 m (8,343 ft). The geological structure of the Carpathians has given rise to severe earthquakes: In 1977 an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5 on the Richter scale inflicted serious damage on Bucharest and claimed more than 1,500 lives. Another earthquake measuring 6.0 was registered in 1990.
The areas stretching outward from Romania’s mountainous interior contain hills and tablelands full of orchards and vineyards, and flat lowlands where cereal and vegetable farming takes place. Western Romania is dominated by the Tisza Plain, which borders both Hungary and the FRY; the section of the plain that borders the FRY is generally known as the region of Banat, while the section that borders Hungary is commonly referred to as Crişana-Maramureş. To the east of central Romania, stretching from the Carpathians to the Prut River along the Moldovan border, lies the region of Moldavia. Southern Romania contains the region of Walachia, which stretches from the southernmost mountains to the Danube and contains the city of Bucharest. The small region of Dobruja, located in the extreme southeast between the Danube River and the Black Sea, is an important tourist center.
B Rivers and Lakes
The most important river of Romania is the Danube. Its lower course forms a delta that covers much of northeastern Dobruja. Most of Romania’s major rivers are part of the Danube system; these include the Mureş, the Someş, the Olt, the Prut, and the 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.
C Plant and Animal Life
Wooded steppe, now largely cleared for agriculture, dominates the plains of Walachia and Moldavia. Fruit trees are common in the foothills of the mountains. The lower slopes have forests with deciduous trees such as birch, beech, and oak. The forests of the higher elevations are coniferous, consisting largely of pine and spruce trees. Above the timberline (approximately 1,750 m/5,740 ft), the vegetation is alpine.
Wild animal life is abundant in most parts of Romania. The larger animals, found chiefly in the Carpathian Mountains, include wild boar, wolves, lynx, foxes, bears, chamois, roe deer, and goats. In the plains, squirrels, hare, badgers, and polecats are common. 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, herring, salmon, perch, and eel.
D Natural Resources
The principal resources of Romania are agricultural, but the country also has significant mineral deposits, particularly petroleum, natural gas, salt, hard coal, lignite (brown coal), iron ore, copper, bauxite, chromium, manganese, lead, and zinc. Timber is also an important natural resource.
About 43 percent of land in Romania is cultivated for crops or used for orchards, and the soils in most parts of the country are fertile. In Banat, Walachia, and Moldavia, soils consist mainly of chernozem, or black earth, highly suited for growing grain. Soils in Transylvania are generally lower in nutrients.
Romania has a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. Temperatures are generally cooler in the mountains, while the hottest areas in summer are the lowlands of Walachia, Moldavia, and Dobruja. The average daily temperature range in Bucharest is -7° to 1°C (19° to 34°F) in January and 16° to 30°C (61° to 86°F) in July. Rainfall is heaviest during the months of April, May, June, September, and October. Yearly rainfall averages about 650 mm (about 25 in), ranging from about 500 mm (about 20 in) on the plains to about 1,020 mm (about 40 in) in the mountains. The climate of Dobruja is extremely dry.
F Environmental Issues
Air and water pollution by industry are serious environmental problems in Romania. The country’s factories, chemical plants, and electric power plants depend heavily on burning coal, a process that emits dangerous levels of carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. The industrial centers of Copşa Mică, in central Romania, and Giurgiu, in the south, have severe air pollution problems. Bucharest, the capital, also has serious air pollution. Industrial runoff ends up in the Danube and other rivers, making water unsafe for drinking and threatening the diverse ecosystems of the Danube delta. The delta, the largest in Europe, was declared a World Heritage Site in 1991. Its lakes and marshes are home to hundreds of species of birds and dozens of fish and reptile species. As a result of air and water pollution, however, many species are threatened with extinction.
Unsystematic farming practices, particularly poor crop rotation, have led to severe soil degradation and erosion in Romania. In the 1980s large tracts of marshland along the Danube were drained and converted to cropland to aid food production. Nevertheless, deforestation is not a problem in Romania—in 1995, 27.1 percent of the country’s total land area was forested. The government has designated 4.7 percent (1997) of the country’s area protected. It has ratified international environmental agreements pertaining to air pollution, biodiversity, climate change, desertification, endangered species, environmental modification, hazardous wastes, ozone layer protection, ship pollution, and wetlands.
III THE PEOPLE OF ROMANIA
A Population and Settlement
At the 1992 census, Romania had a population of 22,760,449. The 2002 estimated population is 22,317,730, yielding an average population density of 94 persons per sq km (243 per sq mi). The population is 56 percent urban.
B Principal Cities
Bucharest, the capital and largest city of Romania, is the commercial and industrial center of the country. Other major cities include Constanţa, the principal Romanian port on the Black Sea; Iaşi, a cultural and manufacturing center; Timişoara, a textile, machinery, and chemical manufacturing center; Cluj-Napoca, a commercial and industrial center; Galaţi, a naval and metallurgical center; Braşov, a transportation and industrial center; and Craiova, a ...
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