Romania is one of the EU's most corrupt states. One of the most populous countries of Eastern Europe, Romania has a rich and complex history. Its culture has evolved over centuries and is a product of many conquering tribes and empires whose civilizations eventually blended together. Since the overthrow of Nicolae Ceausescu and the communist system in 1989, Romania has struggled to restructure its political, economic, and social institutions into free and democratic establishments.
There is a growing political generation gap in Romania between those who are nostalgic for Ceaucescu-like controls, those who reject any attempt to look for benefits from the Ceaucescu era, and those -- mainly young people -- who either are scrambling to get out of Romania, rebelling against their elders, or biding their time under the current rules of the game. Romania is still trying to find where it fits in Europe.
Extending inland halfway across the Balkan Peninsula and covering a large elliptical area of 237,499 square kilometers (91,699 sq. mi.), Romania occupies the greater part of the lower basin of the Danube River system and the hilly eastern regions of the middle Danube basin. It lies on either side of the mountain systems collectively known as the Carpathians, which form the natural barrier between the two Danube basins.
Romania's location gives it a continental climate, particularly in Moldavia and Wallachia (geographic areas east of the Carpathians and south of the Transylvanian Alps, respectively) and to a lesser extent in centrally located Transylvania, where the climate is more moderate. A long and at times severe winter (December-March), a hot summer (April-July), and a prolonged autumn (August-November) are the principal seasons, with a rapid transition from spring to summer. In Bucharest, the daily minimum temperature in January averages -7oC (20oF), and the daily maximum temperature in July averages 29oC (85oF).
About 89% of the people are ethnic Romanians, a group that--in contrast to its Slav or Hungarian neighbors--traces itself to Latin-speaking Romans, who in the second and third centuries A.D. conquered and settled among the ancient Dacians, a Thracian people. As a result, the Romanian language, although containing elements of Slavic, Turkish, and other languages, is a romance language related to French and Italian.
Hungarians and Roma are the principal minorities, with a declining German population and smaller numbers of Serbs, Croats, Ukrainians, Greeks, Turks, Armenians, Great Russians, and others. Minority populations are greatest in Transylvania and the Banat, areas in the north and west, which belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire until World War I. Even before union with Romania, ethnic Romanians comprised the overall majority in Transylvania. However, ethnic Hungarians and Germans were the dominant urban population until relatively recently, and ethnic Hungarians still are the majority in a few districts.
Before World War II, minorities represented more than 28% of the total population. During the war that percentage was halved, largely by the loss of the border areas of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina (to the former Soviet Union -- now Moldova and a portion of south-west Ukraine) and southern Dobrudja (to Bulgaria), as well as by the postwar flight or deportation of ethnic Germans. In the last several decades, more than two-thirds of the remaining ethnic Germans in Romania emigrated to Germany.
Romania's rich cultural traditions have been nourished by many sources, some of which predate the Roman occupation. The traditional folk arts, including dance, music, wood-carving, ceramics, weaving and embroidery of costumes and household decorations still flourish in many parts of the country. Despite strong Austrian, German, and especially French influence, many of Romania's great artists, such as the painter Nicolae Grigorescu, the poet Mihai Eminescu, the composer George Enescu, and the sculptor Constantin Brancusi, drew their inspiration from Romanian folk traditions.
Poetry and the theater play an important role in contemporary Romanian life. Classic Romanian plays, such as those of Ion Luca Caragiale, as well as works by modern or avant-garde Romanian and international playwrights, find sophisticated and enthusiastic audiences in the many theaters of the capital and of the smaller cities.
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