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Useful Notes: Romania

There is an untranslatable Romanian word that expresses with great precision the kind of unbearable longing and nostalgia that grips one's heart when thinking of home. That word is dor. I have felt it many times. Nostalgia for the medieval squares of Sibiu steeped in golden light, longing for the outdoor cafes of Bucharest, drinking new wine, all of us young, intoxicated with poetry and song. I missed the smells of flowering linden trees, the blue reflections of deep mountain snow in the evenings, the old peasant villages that Ceauşescu's insanity almost wiped off the face of the earth. I missed the real fairy tales I was raised on. The story of the waters of life and death, youth without age, the tale of the sheep Mioriţa that recites the cosmic poetry of the sky, the story of the poplars that grew pears...
Andrei Codrescu

Romania (Romanian: România), a member of The European Union, is a country of 20 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 after the Bolsheviks pulled Russia out of the war. 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, not to mention the fact that the majority of the population in Transylvania were actually Romanians and had voted for a union with Romania), 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 did not 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 Stalinist 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 were thoroughly frauded to make the Communist Party win note , the King was deposed and thrown out and the parties banned, Stalinism took over - it's a reasonable claim to argue that Romania had one of the worst regimes in Eastern Europe during the Cold War, which lasted for only 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, the construction of the Danube-Black Sea Canal (which involved dissidents being worked to death) and the foundation of the infamous secret police Securitate ("Security"), all with appropriately Stalinist zeal. The next was Nicolae Ceaușescu, who initially seemed like an improvement, presiding over a period of cultural thawing, improved relations with the West, and gaining immense popularity from denouncing the Warsaw Pact's invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

All this ended after he came back from a tour of North Korea and China in 1971 and published the "July theses". From then on, he managed to be even worse than Dej, and is routinely credited for destroying the country thanks to his subsequent policies. In detail: He started a personality cult that was egregious even by Warsaw Pact standards. He presided over a policy of enforcing population growth (as in, five children per mother, abortion and contraception completely banned) that produced many unwanted children, who ended up in orphanages often described as "gulags for children". He destroyed a whole lot of old buildings in Bucharest (already battered by the 1977 earthquake) and other cities as part of a "systematization" policy which saw them replaced with depressing, Stalinist eyesore apartment blocks. And having already showed his complete incompetence at economic matters, then he decided to export everything to pay off Romania's foreign debts, leading to rationing, shortages, and starvation for the rest of the population. Unsurprisingly, even with the heavy-handed dictatorship and secret police, the terrible conditions caused revolts, in 1977 in the Jiu Valley and 1987 in Brașov.

The Romanian version of the Hole in Flag revolutions was the only one that got seriously violent. Then again, the Ceaușescu regime was one of the most unpleasant in the Warsaw Pact — a place where the locking of dissidents in insane asylums was standard practice. While this makes Romania probably the worst of the post-Stalin Soviet Bloc countries, ironically Ceaușescu at first had gained some popularity in the West, on both the left and the right, 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 Ceaușescu 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 conspiracy theories — 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 Ceaușescu 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-dictatorship situation, the Mineriad, the inefficient education system, the painful transition to capitalism, the income inequality and poverty problems, the severe corruption and plain incompetent governments...

That said, they do have what some motoring enthusiasts have described as the greatest driving-road and some of the fastest Internet speeds...

...

...in the world.

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. Usually at any rate; average citizens from the two countries may still dislike/hate the residents of the other country. And one of the continuing grievances involves the region of Transylvania.

Transylvania, setting for "Dracula", is in Romania - now. It also initially belonged to Romania, before it was transferred to Hungary, then Romania claimed it again at the end of World War One, and it 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, a good chunk of it has been settled down by Romanians 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 Ceaușescu'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 long and complex relations with oppressive 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), both have spent a long time amidst war and rebellion. And both have an unhealthy obsession with maize.note 

The national anthem, incidentally, is impressive.

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, 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 need the problems. On the other hand, television ratings were nonexistent until the 2000s (even 2005). This implied anything 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.

Romania's industry has gone down in recent years, although it was built on innovation. One such innovation is that in 1877 Romania produced the world's first oil refinery, extracting and processing oil. Oil later become the driving force of the Industrial Age.

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 și 2 zile, better known in English as 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.

Romania has a certain talent for computers and programming. You'd be surprised to know that the second most spoken language in Microsoft is Romanian. Also, due to the higher-than-average concentration of network engineers and programmers it also has fastest download speeds and second-fastest Internet on the planet, right behind South Korea. Internet access is generally dirt cheap.

Also to note is the adaptability of Romania to technology and new challenges. One 16th November 2000, Romania won the International Bridge Championship on the Internet, Bridge being considered one of the most difficult card games.

In sports, Romania is well-known for its gymnasts, many of whom were the products of infamously rough training. The most famous is Nadia Comăneci, who won the first perfect 10 in gymnastics at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games, effectively redefining the sport.

Romania is also known as the earliest godfather of baseball. Going back to 14th century, they invented the crude unrefined baseball of its time known only as "Oina".

True or False

Famous Romanians

(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.
  • Nicolae Teclu - inventor of the "Teclu Burner".
  • Eugen Pavel - Romanian scientist and inventor. In 1999 he won the gold Medal for at the EUREKA Contest in Brussels for inventions that culminated into the creation of the Hyper CD-Rom which could write 100 EB(1 Exabytes = 1 billion gigabytes). The information on the CD would last 5000 years.
  • Petrache Poenaru - inventor of the fountain pen.
  • Augustin Maior - famous romanian inventor who place a foundation on modern day Telephones. In 1906, in Budapest Hungary during a inventor contest, he managed to create a system where he proved that using one single telephone line, he could exchange 5 different conversations without the signals interfacing one another. His discovery is the base of the current interplanetary telecommunication system. He received a Nobel prize in 1950.
  • 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.
  • Aurel Vlaicu - inventor, self-taught pilot. He built his own planes in Romania in 1900's. Due to his success, Romania become the second country in the world to employ Airplanes in the military force after France. At the time, his planes were the best in Europe at precision landing, flexibility of flight.
  • George Enescu - the most famous Romanian composer.
  • Constantin Brancusi - the most famous Romanian sculptor.
  • Gheorghe Zamfir - famous pan flute virtuoso.
  • Victor Babes - One of the first microbiologists in the world. He wrote the first book on microbiology and made a lot of descoveries regarding infectious diseases.
  • Gheorghe Hagi - footballer, best player in recent history, known to have led the national team to the World Cup quarter-finals in 1994.
  • 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.
  • Stefan Odobleja - Romanian scientist, and the father of Cybernetics. Invented the concept of Cybernatics applied even in the present;
  • Nicolae Paulescu - Romanian physiologist, inventor of insulin.
  • Lazar Edeleanu - Romanian born, but moved to Germany, he is the original inventor of amphetamines which the father of modern day pain-killers, depressant and epilepsy medicine invented later. He did not know how to use the full potential of his discovery, but the Germans managed to put it to use by creating a medicine that was said to alleviate fatigue for soldiers in harsh conditions in WWII. It was later used in the US to create painkillers and antidepressants. His greatest discovery though was the discovery of a method to process crude oil, which is the fore-stone of the multi-billion industry in the present.
  • Henri Coanda - Romanian inventor and aerodynamics pioneer, recognized as the inventor of the jet airplane;
  • Anastase Dragomir - Early flight pioneer, and a passionate enthusiast for the safety of flying. In France, he proposed the system of safely ejection of passengers from planes in case on danger. His idea eventually transformed into the invention of the Ejection seat. James Bond movies would be a lot more boring without them.
  • Nadia Comăneci - aforementioned world class gymnast.
  • Nicolae Ceaușescu - 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. One of the rare cases of the Revolution being televised—he and his wife were deposed and assassinated on live television.
  • 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 Țepeș, 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 while he was held captive by King Matthias Corvinus between 1462-1476.
  • Stefan III of Moldavia, or Stefan the Great, ruled Moldavia between 1433 - 1504, was the great king that fought against Moldova's outside powerhouses of Poland, Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. Known as the greatest battle king who fought 48 great battles and won 46. He is also known as the cousin of Vlad III or Vlad the Impaler.
  • 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.
    • It's a bit more complicated. Alucard is Vlad III, but at the same time he was explicitly said to be the Bram Stoker's vampire — who realistically should've been, and actually was described as Hungarian. Given that Kouta Hirano never misses a detail due to sloppy research, it was most probably due to Rule of Cool.
      • Dracula was never described to be Hungarian in the Bram Stoker's original book. He was said to be from Eastern Europe and implied to be Vlad The Impaler, who was Romanian, not Hungarian. The idea of Dracula having Hungarian traits came from the 30's movie, in which Dracula was played by an Hungarian actor, but that was just it. Dracula was initially intended to be from Transylvania, which originally belonged to Romania, even before it belonged to Hungary.
      • It's true that the Count is never described as Hungarian in the novel — in fact, as a proud Szekely, he boasts of how "we threw off the Hungarian yoke." However, as Elizabeth Miller discusses in Dracula: Sense and Nonsense, much of his characterization is more consistent with Hungarian than Romanian origin (which she uses as evidence for for thinly the Count is based on the historical Vlad Tepes, about whom Stoker know little).
  • 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. 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.
  • 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 Ceaușescu 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 wallets, 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

The Romanian flag
The flag combines the heraldic colors of Wallachia (red and yellow) and Moldavia (red and blue), two of the major components of Romania. Not to be confused with that of Chad, which uses a lighter shade of blue.

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alternative title(s): Romania
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