Overview of Bucharest


History of Bucharest


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Romanian History

The history of present-day Romania can be traced back to prehistoric times. Archaeological traces of human settlements dating to approximately 40,000 BC have been found scattered throughout the country's territory.

Nevertheless, the first written record of the tribes living within the borders of the modern Romanian state comes from the Greek historian Herodotus. The area corresponding to current Romania was inhabited by a confederation of tribes called Dacians, from the larger family of the Getae population. During 101 - 106 AD, the Roman emperor Trajan defeated the Dacian kingdom, then under the rule of king Decebalus, conquering the Dacian kingdom. The Roman province of Dacia was intensely colonized between 106 and 271 AD, the moment of the Roman withdrawal, leading to the local population adopting the language and culture of the conquerors. The process, referred to as Romanization, gave birth to the Proto-Romanian language.

Following the withdrawal and throughout the Early Middle Ages, the territory was periodically invaded by Goths, Huns, Slavs, Magyars, Cumans and other nomadic tribes.

Although the Christianization of the population may have started during the Roman period, the evidence shows that the process took scale after the withdrawal and throughout the Early Middle Ages. Following the arrival of Bulgarians, Slavonic was introduced as the liturgical language.

By the 13th century, the principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia emerged, South and East of the Carpathian arch. Inside the Carpathian arch, the present-day Transylvania became part of the Kingdom of Hungary during the 11th century.

The Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453 and the threat of the Ottoman Empire soon reached the borders of the newly formed principalities. They, nevertheless, maintained their autonomy until mid-16th century and witnessed a quick succession of rulers. Among them, Wallachian Vlad Țepeș later became the source of inspiration for Bram Stoker's character, Dracula. The principality of Moldavia reached a cultural, diplomatic and military peak during the 47-year reign of Ștefan cel Mare, in the second half of the 15th century.

For a brief period during 1599, Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania were governed as a single state under the rule of Mihai Viteazul. After his death, Wallachia and Moldavia became vassal to the Ottoman Empire and gradually fell under Ottoman suzerainty until the 19th century. The provinces preserved their internal independence in exchange for tributes paid regularly to the Empire finances. A prominent figure of the Age of Enlightenment in the Romanian principalities was Dimitrie Cantemir, who in addition to being the ruler of Moldavia during the late 17th century, was also a philosopher, historian, composer and ethnographer.

The Hungarian kingdom had been an Ottoman province for 150 years, when the Turks were defeated by the Austrians in 1699. Transylvania, along with the rest of the kingdom, became part of the Austrian Empire ruled by the Habsburgs.

By the early 19th century, tensions started to build up in Wallachia and Moldavia, as the Ottoman suzerainty regime became tighter. In 1821, Wallachian Tudor Vladimirescu led an uprising that was violently ended as he was caught and executed by the Ottomans.

The Russo-Turkish War of 1828-1829 concluded with the two provinces coming under Russian supervision. The year 1848 brought along a revolutionary wave, that swiped most of the European countries. Revolts aimed at gaining full independence broke out in both Wallachia and Moldavia, while in Transylvania the goal of the upheaval was national emancipation. The revolution was suppressed in all three of the provinces.

As a result of the 1848 Revolution, however, the case of Wallachia and Moldavia came into the attention of the Great Powers of the moment, which nevertheless rejected their plea for unification and independence. In 1859, Alexandru Ioan Cuza was elected as a ruling prince by both Moldavian and Wallachian representatives, and a de facto unification of the two principalities was achieved.

In 1866, Cuza was sent to exile and Prince Karl of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was called to replace him, as Prince Carol of Romania. Under his rule, the united principalities obtained independence in 1878, and the modern state of Romania was founded. In 1888, Prince Carol became King Carol the 1st. His reign marked a period of radical social, economic and cultural reforms that profoundly changed the face of the Romanian society.

In 1914, King Carol I died and King Ferdinand, his successor, led the country until his death in 1927.

As World War I broke out in 1914, Romania initially remained neutral, finally joining the conflict in 1916, on the side of the Allied Powers. In 1918, Transylvania and other smaller territories with majority Romanian population united with the Romanian Kingdom, resulting in what was known as the Greater Romania.

A brief period of prosperity followed in the first decade after the unification, until the death of King Ferdinand. The fourth decade of the 20th century was a turbulent period. Ethnic tensions were rising as the nationalist, anti-Semitic party the Iron Guard gained popularity throughout the country, on the backdrop of the economic effects of the Great Depression. King Carol II took power and installed an authoritarian regime.

As the Second World War began, the internal political situation deteriorated significantly, with King Carol II abdicating in favour of his son, King Michael. However, the power was actually held by anti-Semitic marshal Ion Antonescu. After maintaining neutrality for almost two years, Romania was forced to enter the war in June 1941, siding with the Axis against the Soviet Union and its allies. On August 23, 1944, a few days after the Soviet Red Army entered the country, Romania changed sides, and turning against Nazi Germany.

The country emerged from the conflict having lost significant territory, including the Bessarabia region, now the Republic of Moldova. As King Michael abdicated and left in 1947, Romania became a communist state under the direct influence of Moscow. The first decade of communist rule was particularly harsh, as a new social and economic order were imposed upon Romanian society, leading to thousands of people being imprisoned for political, economic or unknown reasons.

In 1958, the Russian troops finally withdrew from Romania, and the country's government started to assert its freedom from the influence of the Soviet Union. Nicolae Ceaușescu became the president in 1967, a position he would hold until his death in 1989. Towards the end of the 1970s, Ceaușescu's rule had become increasingly despotic, as he imposed a cult of personality and engaged the country into an ambitious plan of repaying all of its external debt that eventually impoverished the population. During the 1980s, his policies tightened and discontent surged as he continued his drastic measures.

1989 brought the fall of the communist regimes in most of the countries behind the Iron Curtain. In Romania, the revolution started in December 1989, in the city of Timișoara, and soon spread across the country. Ceaușescu was overthrown and executed on December 25 1989.

Ion Iliescu, the leader of an ad-hoc party named the National Salvation Front, became the first president of the country after the fall of communism. In 1996, the country elected its first President representing the center-right, Emil Constantinescu. The last decade of the 20th century was particularly tumultuous, with unpopular free-market measures implemented against the background of a strong political and legislative instability.

The beginning of the 21st century was marked by the futher opening of the country along with negotiations to enter NATO and the European Union. Romania was admitted to NATO in 2004 and became part of the European Union in 2007. In 2004, Traian Băsescu was elected president, holding this position for two consecutive mandates, until December 2014.

History of Bucharest

Despite remains of human settlements from the Paleolithic exist in the current territory of the Romanian capital; historians agree that the actual city of Bucharest came into being during the Middle Ages. Its founder is said to be a shepherd named Bucur, who gave his name to the settlement. The first certain written evidence of Bucharest dates back to 1459, when Wallachian ruler Vlad Țepeș exempted the citadel from the duty of paying taxes.

The first construction still preserved in its original form is a church built between 1558 and1559 in the area currently known as Curtea Veche, now part of the Historical Centre of the city. During the two centuries that followed, the citadel grew in size, extending on both banks of the Dâmbovița River, and became the most populous settlement in the region. In the mid-17th century, the city went through a brief period of decline, witnessing civil uprisings, Tatar and Ottoman attacks, droughts, famines and a devastating fire.

In 1659, after numerous changes between Bucharest and Târgoviște, the capital of Wallachia was set to Bucharest. After that date, a variety of administrative, religious and commercial buildings were erected, many of them in the Brâncovenesc local architectural style that derives its name from Constantin Brâncoveanu, prince of Wallachia between 1688 and 1714. During his rule, important civil works were carried out, such as the Mogoșoaia Bridge, now one of Bucharest's main arteries Calea Victoriei.

Because of the increasing involvement of the Ottoman Empire in the appointment of Wallachian princes, the 18th century is also known as the Phanariot period, named after a district in Constantinople. Some of the most beautiful constructions of the city's architectural heritage, the Stravropoleos, Crețulescu churches date back to this era. At the same time, outbreaks of bubonic plague, famines and attacks by Ottoman, Austrian and Russian troops occurred regularly, until mid-19th century.

Between 1829 and 1834 Wallachia was run by a Russian military administration. General Pavel Kiseleff was appointed to govern the province and undertook a number of measures meant to improve the city governance. One of the most important of the Bucharest avenues still carries his name.

During the first half of the 19th century the local customs, institutions and mentalities shifted as the nobility started to turn its gaze away from the Ottoman Empire and looked towards Western Europe. The changes grew deeper after the unification of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldova and the appointment of a German king a few years later. The city's urbanism followed closely the modernization of the society, as most of the constructions and roads erected during the previous centuries were wiped off and the configuration of the present day Bucharest was drawn.  The reign of Carol I was also when Bucharest started resembling a European capital and gained its unofficial title of "Little Paris".

During the inter-war period, Bucharest witnessed its latest period of administrative and cultural flourishing as new residential and business districts were built and the city expanded territorially. The Neo-Romanian architectural style emerged, inspired by the Brâncovenesc style, with Ion Mincu being the most influential architect of his time. Public transport was modernized with the introduction of the first electric streetcars and buses.

The city was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1940, as well as by bombardments during the Second World War.

The communist period between 1947 and 1989 dramatically changed the face of Romania's capital. The government's massive urban relocation plans led to an explosion in the population of the city. Starting from the 1970, extensive neighoubrhoods were demolished and extensive quarters with blocks of flats were built in order to accommodate the recently moved inhabitants. Civil constructions were build imitating the social realism style in the Soviet Union.

In 1974, an earthquake of 7.4 degrees on the Richter scale shook the country and severely affected its capital, claiming 1500 lives and destroying old buildings. The event was the main trigger for a massive scale plan to build a new Civic Centre, which materialized during the 1980s and culminated with the construction of the present-day Palace of Parliament, the second largest building in the world.

In December 1989, Bucharest streets hosted the mass protests and violence that led to the fall of communism.

After the communist period, the city has been undergoing a process of modernization, with both destruction and restoration of its architectural heritage.

Update 24/04/2017


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