borders on the Black Sea between Bulgaria and Ukraine in southeast
is slightly smaller than Oregon.
total population is 22.4 million.
By ethnicity, Romanians are: Romanian 89.0 percent, Hungarian
7.1 percent, German 0.5 percent, Ukrainian, Serb, Croat, Russian,
Turk and Gypsy 2.5 percent.
speak Romanian, Hungarian and German.
The Romanian People's Republic was created in 1948.
was ruled by communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu from 1965
until his execution in 1989.
is currently a constitutional democracy -- more than 200 new
political parties sprang up after 1989. The current president
is Ion Iliescu. Elections are scheduled for 2004.
Romania, one of the poorest countries in Central and
Eastern Europe, began the transition from communism in 1989
with a largely obsolete industrial base. The country's main
exports are textiles and footwear (26 percent), metals and metal
products (15 percent), machinery and equipment (11 percent),
and minerals and fuels (6 percent). Forty percent of the working
population makes a living through agriculture.
percent of the population is literate, and there are 600,000
Internet users in Romania.
half (44.5 percent) of Romanians live below the poverty line.
The average monthly salary in Romania is 3.3 million lei --
about a hundred dollars. There were demonstrations in the fall
of 2002 protesting widespread poverty and governmental handling
of the economy.
the past decade, economic restructuring has lagged behind that
of most other countries in the region. The standard of living
has continued to fall: Real wages have dropped more than 40
percent since the 1989 revolution. In 2001, the inflation rate
was 30 percent.
European Union ranks Romania last among candidates for membership,
and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development rates
Romania's transition progress as the region's worst.
received a score of 2.2 on Transparency International's 2002
corruption perceptions index, with 10 being "highly clean" and
0 being "highly corrupt."
Why are there so many Romanian orphans?
After the 1989 revolution, stories abounded of Romania's abandoned
and abused children, and a rush of foreign adoptions began.
HERE for a clear-eyed report on "shopping for Romanian babies."
Who was Nicolae Ceausescu?
The megalomaniac dictator was born in 1918, the son of peasants,
and became active as a young man in the Romanian communist movement.
In 1967, he became head of state of Romania.
As supreme leader, Ceausescu promoted industrial and agricultural
development as well as stronger ties with the People's Republic
of China. His rule was marked, however, by frequently disastrous
economic schemes, and he became increasingly erratic, repressive
Under Ceausescu, as many as one in three Romanians was an informant
for the secret police, the Securitate. Writers suspected
of dissident tendencies were summoned to Securitate offices
and given lethal doses of radiation. Typewriters had to be registered
with the police, and television was limited to two hours of
propaganda a night. The authorities mandated how many light
bulbs could be used in each house, how many children a woman
should have and which conversations had to be reported to the
Rumors circulated that Ceausescu, who needed blood transfusions,
would take boys from villages, drink their blood and have them
killed. Ceausescu and his wife Elena were executed on Christmas
Day 1989, after being overthrown in a violent uprising and army
Why does such a poor country have so many huge buildings?
The former dictator was a man of massive and narcissistic ambition.
Ceausescu wanted Bucharest to properly reflect the greatness
of Romanian communism, so he demanded the demolition of almost
a quarter of the old town center -- streets, churches, monasteries,
hospitals and schools. At one point he traveled to North Korea
to admire Kim II Sung's construction of a new political and
architectural center. He then began a competition with North
Korea to see who could create the most grandiose monument.
The focal point of what locals dubbed "Ceausima" is the enormous
12-story, 3,100-room Palace of Parliament, the second-largest
building in the world. (The largest is Hong Kong's Container
Freight Station.) After the revolution, many Romanians wanted
this white elephant demolished, but in 1994, the government
decided to use it to house the Parliament.
Why are there so many wild animals in Romania?
Romania is wilder than most of Europe, partly because Ceausescu
forbade hunting by ordinary citizens. Today Romania has 13 national
parks, including the Retezat Mountains in the Carpathians, and
more than 500 protected areas. The Carpathian Mountains are
home to 60 percent of Europe's bears, 40 percent of Europe's
wolves and 35 percent of its lynx. The hills are alive with
stag, wild boar, badger, deer, fox and rare birds; the Danube
Delta shelters small pygmy cormorants, the white grey egret
and the white-tailed eagle. The Carpathian Mountains also boast
the least-spoiled forests in Europe, rich in beech, sycamore,
maple, poplar and birch. And some 1,350 floral species have
been recorded in the Carpathians, including the yellow poppy,
Transylvanian columbine, saxifrage and edelweiss.
What happened after the overthrow of Ceausescu?
Many claim that the "revolution" in Romania was hijacked by
former communist leader and Ceausescu associate Ion Iliescu,
who had quietly discussed post-Ceausescu scenarios with some
of Romania's top military leaders months before the uprising.
Iliescu was elected president in 1990, despite widespread charges
of election fraud, and continued to govern using many of Ceausescu's
former civil servants, members of the secret police and Communist
In 1996, democratic opposition forces helped elect President
Emil Constantinescu, the rector of Bucharest University. Constantinescu
and his allies, inexperienced and saddled with huge economic
problems, had difficulty implementing reforms. In December 1999,
Constantinescu signed a limited law opening the secret police
files that Romanians hope will at least begin to uncover the
past. In 2000, Iliescu took power again.
Romania's economic crisis continues, as does widespread discontent
with a government unable to provide for its citizens. Opposition
parties ranging from the main ethnic Hungarian party to the
Uniunea Democratica Maghiara din România (UDMR) to Vladim
Tudor's Greater Romania party are organizing for the forthcoming
elections in 2004.
CIA Worldfactbook, 2001, United Nations, U.S. State Department,
United States Library of Congress, Associated Press, National Bank of Romania, Multinational