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Kingdom of Romania

In common with all the peoples of southeastern Europe, the independence of the Rumanians and their political unity was destroyed by the Turks centuries before the awakening of "national consciousness." When they tried to take advantage of the decay of the Ottoman Empire to reconstitute a state in the modern sense of that word, that is, by bringing together into one political organism the regions where the majority of the people spoke the same language and felt the ties of blood and common interests, they faced implacable enemies in the empires of Austria and Russia. The policy of the Hapsburgs and Romanoffs was to extend their own frontiers at the expense of the Ottoman Empire. The resurrection of the Christian peoples subject to Turkey into political units was opposed by both empires because each believed that the other would control the new states. Great Britain and France, and later Germany and Italy, adopted the same policy for the same reason.

Up to 1880 the Occidental powers feared Russian control of the Balkans. They did not want the Slavs to have an outlet on the Mediterranean. During the generation preceding the World War, France, and later Great Britain, shifted their opposition from Russia to Austria. Where they had worried about the Romanoffs they now feared the Hohenzollerns. Unified Germany was gaining control of the Hapsburg Empire to further her Drang nach Osten.

But the motives actuating Balkan policy did not change. All the Balkan States, and Rumania especially, were potential factors in upsetting the European balance of power. Hence, they must be kept as small and powerless as possible, for fear of disturbing the peace of Europe. Irredentism, whether the agitation for extending frontiers was directed against Mohammedan Turkey or Christian Russia and Austria-Hungary, was frowned upon. To prevent the Balkan States from forming an alliance to secure their national unity, the great powers arranged frontiers at Paris in 1856 and at Berlin in 1878 in such a way as to kindle the animosity of one Balkan people against another. The Balkan peoples were not consulted in the drawing up of frontiers; they were not brought together and asked to settle their own differences by mutual compromises, with the great powers abstaining from interference. The same policy was followed at Paris in 1919.

The Kingdom of Romania was the parliamentary monarchy that existed in Romanian from 13 March 1881 to 30 December 1947. In 1859 the Rumanians awoke to full national consciousness, threw off the Turkish suzerainty, and notwithstanding Russian opposition, Wallachia and Moldavia united, forming the independent Kingdom of Rumania. Karl of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen led the voivode as King of Romania. His descendants are the kings of Romania until 1947. Real independence of Turkey was not obtainable until the Russo-Turkish War of 1877. Though Rumania rendered valuable assistance to Russia against the Turks, Russia regarded Rumania as a stumbling block to her ambitions in the Balkans and in Constantinople. Russia considered her seizure of Bessarabia as a preliminary step to her intended annexation of all Rumania, when the time should be ripe.

In 1857 the "Ad-hoc assemblies" convened in Bucharest and Iasi under the provisions of the Paris Peace Congress of 1856; all social categories participated and these assemblies unanimously decided to unite the two principalities into one single state. French emperor Napoleon III supported this, the Ottoman Empire and Austria were against, so a new conference of the seven protector powers was called in Paris (May-August 1858); there, only a few of the Romanians' claims were approved. But the Romanians elected on January 5/17, 1859 in Moldavia and on January 24/February 5, 1859 in Wallachia Colonel Alexandru Ioan Cuza as their unique prince, achieving de facto the union of the two principalities.

The Romanian nation state took on January 24/February 5, 1862 the name of Romania and settled its capital in Bucharest. Assisted by Mihail Kogalniceanu, his closest adviser, Alexandru Ioan Cuza initiated a reform program, which contributed to the modernisation of the Romanian society and state structures: the law to secularise monastery assets (1863), the land reform, providing for the liberation of the peasants from the burden of feudal duties and the granting of land to them (1864), the Penal Code law, the Civilian Code law (1864), the education law, under which primary school became tuitionfree and compulsory (1864), the establishment of universities in Iasi (1860) and Bucharest (1864).

After the abdication of Alexandru Ioan Cuza (1866), Carol of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, a relative of the royal family of Prussia, who was supported by Napoleon III and Bismark, was proclaimed on May 10, 1866, following a plebiscite, ruling prince of Romania, with the name of Carol I.

The new Constitution (inspired from the Belgian one of 1831), which was promulgated in 1866 and was in use until 1923, proclaimed Romania a constitutional monarchy. In the next decade the struggle of the Romanians to achieve full state independence was part of the movements that took place with other peoples in the south-east of Europe - Serbs, Hungarians, Montenegrins, Bulgarians, Albanians - to cut off their last ties to the Ottoman Empire. Within a favourable international framework - in 1875 the Oriental crisis broke out again and the Russo-Turkish war started in April 1877 - Romania declared its full state independence on May 9/21, 1877. The government led by Ion C. Bratianu, in which Mihail Kogalniceanu served as Foreign Minister, decided, upon the Russian request for assistance, to join the Russian forces that were operative in Bulgaria. A Romanian army, under the personal command of Prince Carol I, crossed the Danube and participated in the siege of Pleven; the result was the surrender of the Ottoman army led by Osman Pasha (December 10, 1877).

The independence of Romania, similarly to that Serbia and Montenegro, as well as the union of Dobrudja with Romania were recognised in the Russian-Turkish peace treaty of San Stefano (March 3, 1878). Upon the insistence of the great powers, an international peace Congress was held in Berlin (June-July 1878), which acknowledged and maintained the status that Romania had proclaimed by herself more than a year before; it also re-established, after a long period of Ottoman rule, Romania's rights over Dobrudja, which was re-united to Romania. But at the same time Russia violated the convention signed on April 4, 1877 and forced Romania to cede the Cahul, Bolgrad and Ismail counties of Southern Bassarabia.

On March 14/26, 1881, Romania proclaimed itself a kingdom and Carol I of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was crowned King of Romania. After gaining its independence, the Romania state was the place to which the hopeful eyes of all Romanians who lived on the lands still under foreign occupation turned. The Romanians in Bukovina and in Bessarabia were facing a systematic policy of assimilation into the German and Russian worlds, respectively.

Immigration of foreign peoples was directed to their territory. The Romanian enclaves in the Balkan Peninsula had increasing difficulties in opposing the denationalisation tendencies. At the turn of the 20th century, the Romanians were a people with over 12 million inhabitants, of whom almost half lived under foreign occupation.

At the same time in Transylvania, the Romanians suffered the serious consequences of the accord by which the Hungarian state was re-established more than three centuries after its collapse and the dual Austria-Hungary state was created (1867). Transylvania lost the autonomous status it had under Austrian rule and it was incorporated into Hungary. The legislation passed by the government in Budapest, which proclaimed the existence of only one nationality in Hungary - the Magyar one - sought to destroy from the ethno-cultural point of view the other populations, by forcing them to become Hungarian. This subjected the Romanian population, along with other ethnic groups, to heavy ordeals. At that time the National Romanian Party in Transylvania played an important role in asserting the Romanian national identity; the party was reorganised in 1881 and it became the standard bearer in the struggle to achieve recognition of equal rights of the Romanian nation and it the resistance against the denationalisation projects.

In 1892 the national struggle of the Romanians reached a climax through the Memorandum Movement. The memorandum was drafted by the leaders of the Romanians in Transylvania, Ion Ratiu, Gheorghe Pop of Basesti, Eugen Brote, Vasile Lucaciu, a.o. and it was sent to Vienna to be submitted to emperor Franz Joseph I; it advised the European public opinion of the Romanians' claims and of the intolerance shown by the government in Budapest regarding the national issue.

The 1878-1914 period was one of stability and progress for Romania. Politics got polarised around two huge parties - the conservative one (Lascar Catargiu, P.P. Carp, Gh. Grigore Cantacuzino, Titu Maiorescu, a.o.) and the liberal one (Ion C. Bratianu, Dimitrie A. Sturdza, Ion I.C. Bratianu, a.o.). They alternatively came to power and this became the characteristic trait of the epoch's politics. The expansionist policy of Russia determined Romania to sign in 1883 a secret alliance treaty with Austria-Hungary, Germany and Italy; the treaty was renewed periodically until World War I.

Roumania was unlike the countries that surrounded her in that she possessed a regular system of party government, a constitutional monarchy resembling in character that of Great Britain more closely than any other European state. The Romanian monarchy compared favorably with the structural instability of other Balkan kingdoms. Between 1866 and 1938, the year when the constitutional monarchy ended, Romania did not experience civil wars. A constitutional monarchy situated on the Black Sea; separated from Hungary by the Carpathian Mountains and the Transylvanian Alps; from Bulgaria by the Danube River; and from Russia by the Pruth River. Capital, Bucharest. Rumania seemed to realize her wildest dreams of national unification, which raised her, in population, area, and natural resources, to the rank of a great power.

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Page last modified: 21-11-2011 17:29:43 ZULU