Romania is a sovereign state located in Southeastern Europe. It borders the Black Sea, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia, and Moldova. It has an area of 238,397 square kilometres (92,046 sq mi) and a temperate-continental climate. With almost 20 million inhabitants, the country is the seventh most populous member state of the European Union. Its capital and largest city, Bucharest, is the sixth-largest city in the EU, with 1,883,425 inhabitants as of 2011.
The River Danube, Europe's second-longest river, rises in Germany and flows in a general southeast direction for 2,857 km (1,775 mi), coursing through ten countries before emptying into Romania's Danube Delta. The Carpathian Mountains, which cross Romania from the north to the southwest, include Moldoveanu, at 2,544 m (8,346 ft).
Modern Romania was formed in 1859 through a personal union of the Danubian Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. The new state, officially named Romania since 1866, gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1877. At the end of World War I, Transylvania, Bukovina and Bessarabia united with the sovereign Kingdom of Romania. During World War II, Romania was an ally of Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union, fighting side by side with the Wehrmacht until 1944, when it joined the Allied powers and faced occupation by the Red Army forces. Romania lost several territories, of which Northern Transylvania was regained after the war. Following the war, Romania became a socialist republic and member of the Warsaw Pact. After the 1989 Revolution, Romania began a transition towards democracy and a capitalist market economy.
The human remains found in Peștera cu Oase ("The Cave with Bones"), radiocarbon dated as being from circa 40,000 years ago, represent the oldest known Homo sapiens in Europe. The Neolithic-Age Cucuteni area in northeastern Romania was the western region of the earliest European civilization, known as the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture. Also the earliest known salt works in the world is at Poiana Slatinei, near the village of Lunca in Romania; it was first used in the early Neolithic, around 6050 BC, by the Starčevo culture, and later by the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture in the Pre-Cucuteni period. Evidence from this and other sites indicates that the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture extracted salt from salt-laden spring water through the process of briquetage.
Prior to the Roman conquest of Dacia, the territories between the Danube and Dniester rivers were inhabited by various Thracian peoples, including the Dacians and the Getae. Herodotus, in his work "Histories", notes the religious difference between the Getae and other Thracians, however, according to Strabo, the Dacians and the Getae spoke the same language. Dio Cassius draws attention to the cultural similarities between the two people. There is a scholarly dispute whether the Dacians and the Getae were the same people.
In the Middle Ages, Romanians lived in three principalities: Wallachia (Romanian: Țara Românească – "The Romanian Land"), Moldavia (Romanian: Moldova) and in Transylvania. The existence of independent Romanian voivodeships in Transylvania as early as the 9th century is mentioned in Gesta Hungarorum, but by the 11th century, Transylvania had become a largely autonomous part of the Kingdom of Hungary. In the other parts, many small local states with varying degrees of independence developed, but only under Basarab I and Bogdan I the larger principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia would emerge in the 14th century to fight the threat of the Ottoman Empire.
By 1541, the entire Balkan peninsula and most of Hungary had been conquered and integrated into the Ottoman Empire. By contrast, Moldavia, Wallachia, and Transylvania, while under Ottoman suzerainty, preserved partial or full internal autonomy until the mid-19th century (Transylvania until 1711). This period featured several prominent rulers such as: Stephen the Great, Vasile Lupu, Alexander the Good and Dimitrie Cantemir in Moldavia; Vlad the Impaler, Mircea the Elder, Matei Basarab, Neagoe Basarab and Constantin Brâncoveanu in Wallachia; and Gabriel Bethlen in the Principality of Transylvania, as well as John Hunyadi and Matthias Corvinus in Transylvania, while it was still a part of the Kingdom of Hungary. In 1600, all three principalities were ruled simultaneously by the Wallachian prince Michael the Brave (Mihai Viteazul), who was considered, later on, the precursor of modern Romania and became a point of reference for nationalists, as well as a catalyst for achieving a single Romanian state.
Independence and monarchy
During the period of the Austro-Hungarian rule in Transylvania and of Ottoman suzerainty over Wallachia and Moldavia, most Romanians were given few rights in a territory where they formed the majority of the population. Nationalistic themes became principal during the Wallachian uprising of 1821, and the 1848 revolutions in Wallachia and Moldavia. The flag adopted for Wallachia by the revolutionaries was a blue-yellow-red horizontal tricolour (with blue above, in line with the meaning "Liberty, Justice, Fraternity"), while Romanian students in Paris hailed the new government with the same flag "as a symbol of union between Moldavians and Wallachians". The same flag, with the tricolour being mounted vertically, would later be officially adopted as the national flag of Romania.
After the failed 1848 revolutions not all the Great Powers supported the Romanians' expressed desire to officially unite in a single state. But in the aftermath of the Crimean War, the electors in both Moldavia and Wallachia voted in 1859 for the same leader, Alexandru Ioan Cuza, as Domnitor ("ruling prince" in Romanian), and the two principalities became a personal union formally under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire. Following a coup d'état in 1866, Cuza was exiled and replaced with Prince Carol I of Romania of the House of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. During the 1877–1878 Russo-Turkish War Romania fought on the Russian side, and in the aftermath, it was recognized as an independent state both by the Ottoman Empire and the Great Powers by the Treaty of San Stefano and the Treaty of Berlin. The new Kingdom of Romania underwent a period of stability and progress until 1914, and also acquired Southern Dobruja from Bulgaria after the Second Balkan War.
World Wars and Greater Romania
Romania remained neutral for the first two years of World War I. Following the secret Treaty of Bucharest, according to which Romania would acquire territories with a majority of Romanian population from Austria-Hungary, it joined the Entente Powers and declared war on 27 August 1916. After initial advances the Romanian military campaign quickly turned disastrous for Romania as the Central Powers occupied two-thirds of the country within months, before reaching a stalemate in 1917. The October Revolution and Russian withdrawal from the War left Romania alone and surrounded, and a cease fire was negotiated at Focșani that December. Romania was occupied and a harsh peace treaty was signed in May 1918. In November, Romania reentered the conflict. Total military and civilian losses from 1916 to 1918, within contemporary borders, were estimated at 748,000. After the war, the transfer of Bukovina from Austria was acknowledged by the 1919 Treaty of Saint Germain, of Banat and Transylvania from Hungary by the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, and of Bessarabia from Russian rule by the 1920 Treaty of Paris. All cessations made to the Central Powers in the ceasefire and treaty were nullified and renounced.
With an area of 238,391 square kilometres (92,043 sq mi), Romania is the largest country in Southeastern Europe and the twelfth-largest in Europe. It lies between latitudes 43° and 49° N and longitudes 20° and 30° E.
The terrain is distributed roughly equally between mountains, hills, and plains.
The Carpathian Mountains dominate the centre of Romania, with 14 mountain ranges reaching above 2,000 m or 6,600 ft, the highest of which is Moldoveanu Peak at 2,544 m or 8,346 ft. They are surrounded by the Moldavian and Transylvanian plateaus and Carpathian Basin and Wallachian plains.
About 47% of the country's land area is covered with natural and semi-natural ecosystems. There are almost 10,000 km2 (3,900 sq mi) (about 5% of the total area) of protected areas in Romania covering 13 national parks and three biosphere reserves.
The Danube river forms a large part of the border with Serbia and Bulgaria, and flows into the Black Sea, forming the Danube Delta, which is the second-largest and best-preserved delta in Europe, and also a biosphere reserve and a biodiversity World Heritage Site. At 5,800 km2 (2,200 sq mi), the Danube Delta is the largest continuous marshland in Europe, and supports 1,688 different plant species alone.
Owing to its distance from open sea and position on the southeastern portion of the European continent, Romania has a climate that is temperate and continental, with four distinct seasons. The average annual temperature is 11 °C (52 °F) in the south and 8 °C (46 °F) in the north. In summer, average maximum temperatures in Bucharest rise to 28 °C (82 °F), and temperatures over 35 °C (95 °F) are fairly common in the lower-lying areas of the country. In winter, the average maximum temperature is below 2 °C (36 °F). Precipitation is average, with over 750 mm (30 in) per year only on the highest western mountains, while around Bucharest it drops to around 600 mm (24 in). There are some regional differences: in the western parts, such as Banat, the climate is milder and has some Mediterranean influences; the eastern part of the country has a more pronounced continental climate. In Dobruja, the Black Sea also exerts an influence over the region's climate.
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According to the 2011 census, Romania's population is 20,121,641. Like other countries in the region, its population is expected to gradually decline in the coming years as a result of sub-replacement fertility rates and negative net migration rate. In October 2011, Romanians made up 88.9% of the population. The largest ethnic minorities are the Hungarians, 6.1% of the population, and the Roma, 3.0% of the population.[d] Hungarians constitute a majority in the counties of Harghita and Covasna. Other minorities include Ukrainians, Germans, Turks, Lipovans, Aromanians, Tatars, and Serbs. In 1930, there were 745,421 Germans in Romania, but only about 36,000 remain today. As of 2009, there were also approximately 133,000 immigrants living in Romania, primarily from Moldova and China.
The official language is Romanian, an Eastern Romance language similar to Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, and Istro-Romanian, but sharing many features with other Romance languages such as Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese. (The Romanian alphabet contains the same 26 letters of the Latin, plus 5 others, totaling 31.) Romanian is spoken as a first language by 85% of the population, while Hungarian and Vlax Romani are spoken by 6.2% and 1.2% of the population, respectively. There are 25,000 native German speakers, and 32,000 Turkish speakers in Romania, as well as almost 50,000 speakers of Ukrainian, concentrated in some compact regions, near the border, where they form a majority. According to the Constitution, local councils ensure linguistic rights to all minorities, with localities with ethnic minorities of over 20%, that minority's language can be used in the public administration, justice system, and education. Foreign citizens and stateless persons that live in Romania have access to justice and education in their own language. English and French are the main foreign languages taught in schools. In 2010, the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie identifies 4,756,100 French speakers in the country. According to the 2012 Eurobarometer, English is spoken by 31% of Romanians, French is spoken by 17%, and Italian by 7%.
Romania is a secular state and has no state religion. An overwhelming majority of the population identify themselves as Christians. At the country's 2011 census, 81.0% of respondents identified as Orthodox Christians belonging to the Romanian Orthodox Church. Other denominations include Protestantism (6.2%), Roman Catholicism (4.3%), and Greek Catholicism (0.8%). From the remaining population, 195,569 people belong to other Christian denominations or have another religion, which includes 64,337 Muslims (mostly of Turkish and Tatar ethnicity) and 3,519 Jewish. Moreover, 39,660 people have no religion or are atheist, whilst the religion of the rest is unknown.
Although 54.0% of the population lived in urban areas in 2011, this percentage has been on the decline since 1996. Counties with over ⅔ urban population are Hunedoara, Brașov and Constanța, while with less than a third are Dâmbovița (30.06%) and Giurgiu and Teleorman. Bucharest is the capital and the largest city in Romania, with a population of over 1.8 million in 2011. Its larger urban zone has a population of almost 2.2 million, which are planned to be included into a metropolitan area up to 20 times the area of the city proper. Another 19 cities have a population of over 100,000, with Cluj-Napoca and Timișoara of slightly more than 300,000 inhabitants, Iași, Constanța, Craiova and Brașov with over 250,000 inhabitants, and Galați and Ploiești with over 200,000 inhabitants. Metropolitan areas have been constituted for most of these cities.
Arts and monuments
The topic of the origin of the Romanians began to be discussed by the end of the 18th century among the Transylvanian School scholars. Several writers rose to prominence in the 19th century, including George Coșbuc, Ioan Slavici, Mihail Kogălniceanu, Vasile Alecsandri, Nicolae Bălcescu, Ion Luca Caragiale, Ion Creangă, and Mihai Eminescu, the later being considered the greatest and most influential Romanian poet, particularly for the poem Luceafărul. In the 20th century, Romanian artists reached international acclaim, including Tristan Tzara, Marcel Janco, Mircea Eliade, Nicolae Grigorescu, Marin Preda, Liviu Rebreanu, Eugène Ionesco, Emil Cioran, and Constantin Brâncuși. The latter has a sculptural ensemble in Târgu Jiu, while his sculpture Bird in Space, was auctioned in 2005 for $27.5 million. Romanian-born Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, while writer Herta Müller received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2009.
Holidays, traditions and cuisine
There are 12 non-working public holidays, including the Great Union Day, celebrated on 1 December in commemoration of the 1918 union of Transylvania with Romania. Winter holidays include the Christmas festivities and the New Year during which, various unique folklore dances and games are common: plugușorul, sorcova, ursul, and capra. The traditional Romanian dress that otherwise has largely fallen out of use during the 20th century, is a popular ceremonial vestment worn on these festivities, especially in the rural areas. Sacrifices of live pigs during Christmas and lambs during Easter has required a special derogation from EU law after 2007. During Easter, painted eggs are very common, while on 1 March features mărțișor gifting, a tradition likely of Thracian origin.
Romanian cuisine shares some similarities with other Balkan cuisines such as Greek, Bulgarian and Turkish cuisine. Ciorbă includes a wide range of sour soups, while mititei, mămăligă (similar to polenta), and sarmale are featured commonly in main courses. Pork, chicken and beef are the preferred meats, but lamb and fish are also popular.  Certain traditional recipes are made in direct connection with the holidays: chiftele, tobă and tochitura at Christmas; drob, pască and cozonac at Easter and other Romanian holidays. Țuică is a strong plum brandy reaching a 70% alcohol content which is the country's traditional alcoholic beverage, taking as much as 75% of the national crop (Romania is one of the largest plum producers in the world). Traditional alcoholic beverages also include wine, rachiu, palincă and vișinată, but beer consumption has increased dramatically over the recent years.