Centenary of the Great Union of Romania: 10 major historical events of the last 100 years


On December 1 of this year, Romania not only celebrates its national day, but also marks the centenary of the Great Union of 1918 – the major historical event that changed the course of the country’s history.

100 years ago, one of the most important and important political goals of the Romanian nation – the Great Union – finally took place. The Union has forever marked the history of the country, but Romania has had to go through many other changes and challenges since then, including World War II, the communist regime and the revolution of 1989.

The Great Union of 1918

The end of World War I, one of the bloodiest events in the history of the world, was quickly followed by one of the most important historical events in the history of Romania – the Great Union of 1918 , which brought hope to all Romanians. The Great Union represented the unification of all provinces where Romanians were in the majority, namely Transylvania, Banat, Crisana, Maramures, Bessarabia and Bukovina, with the Kingdom of Romania, to form a single national state. On December 1, 1918, the National Assembly of Alba Iulia was held, where the 1,228 elected delegates unanimously adopted the union resolution. The unification declaration was read at a public event attended by over 100,000 Romanians.

Second World War

By 1940, the territorial gains made by Romania after World War I, when the country had considerably expanded its territory, were mostly nullified. In July of the same year, Romania lost Bessarabia, northern Bukovina and the city of Herts to the Soviet Union. Shortly after, in August, Hungary received the region called northern Transylvania. Following these events, Romania entered the Second World War, in June 1941, alongside the Germans and against the Soviet Union, wanting to reunify its territory. The liberation of Bessarabia and northern Bucovina took place in July 1941, while in October the Romanian Fourth Army conquered Odessa.

Romanian-Soviet talks resumed in Stockholm in April 1944, when the Soviet government presented minimum conditions for a truce, which included the 1940 return to the border, war damage and the return of most of the Transylvania to Romania. However, Romania rejected the terms of the truce in mid-May. In August 1944, Soviet troops broke the German-Romanian front in Moldova, proving that Romania could no longer hold out.

On August 23, Marshal Ion Atonescu announced to King Michael I that he was ready to sign the truce once the front had stabilized and Hitler gave his approval. The king ordered the dismissal and arrest of Antonescu. In a radio broadcast to the Romanian nation and army later the same day, King Michael issued a ceasefire, proclaimed Romania’s loyalty to the Allies, announced acceptance of an armistice (signed later September 12) offered by Great Britain, the United States, and the USSR, and declared war on Germany.

Under the 1947 Treaty of Paris, Romania had to accept difficult political, economic and military conditions, but northern Transylvania was, once again, recognized as an integral part of Romania.

The abdication of King Michael I

Prince Michael, son of Crown Prince Carol and Crown Princess Elena, first became King on July 20, 1927, at the age of just 5 years and 9 months. However, on June 8, 1930, his father, Crown Prince Carol, returned to the country and took over the throne. Ten years later, on September 6, 1940, following the abdication of his father, Michael I became king again.

His subsequent years were also complicated, given that World War II was in progress. On August 23, 1944, at the age of 22, King Michael made the most important decision of his reign. He ordered the arrest of Marshal Ion Antonescu, who had led Romania to fight alongside Nazi Germany in World War II, and decided that the Romanian army should fight alongside the Allies. His decision would have shortened World War II by about six months, helping to save hundreds of thousands of lives.

He was 26 when he was forced to abdicate on December 30, 1947, at a time when the country was ruled by the Communist government of Petru Groza. The king had tried to oppose Groza’s government from August 1945 to January 1946, refusing to sign and ratify its decrees.

Communist Romania

The occupation of the Soviet Union after World War II facilitated the rise of the Communist Party in Romania. This led to the forced abdication of King Michael I and the establishment of a one-party People’s Republic in 1947, which evolved Romania into a centralized economy as private companies were nationalized. The early years of communism in Romania were marked by repeated changes of course and numerous arrests and imprisonments as factions competed for domination. Once the Communist government became more entrenched, the number of arrests increased, mainly targeting intellectuals, clerics, teachers and former politicians. The existing prisons were filled with political prisoners and a new system of forced labor camps and prisons was created. The prisoners were subjected to forced labor, starved and tortured.

In addition, several human rights restrictions have come into effect, such as the policy banning abortion and contraception, or the invasion of privacy by the secret police. The desire of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu to repay all foreign loans made matters worse, as he implemented a severe austerity policy, including rationing of food, gas, heat and electricity.

Nicolae Ceausescu’s decision

Nicolae Ceausescu, the last leader of communist Romania, came to power after the death of Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej in 1965. He was elected general secretary on March 22, 1965, three days after the death of Gheorghiu-Dej. One of his first steps was to change the name of the party from Party of Romanian Workers to Communist Party of Romania and to declare the country a socialist republic. Although its ultimate goal was to make Romania one of the great powers in the world, the oppression and bad life of Romanians led to the Revolution of 1989, which ended the communist era in Romania and brought about leads to the execution of Ceausescu and his wife.

The Revolution of 1989

A series of protests and street demonstrations erupted in Romania in December 1989, with local civil unrest being part of the revolutions of the same year that occurred in several countries. The revolution in Romania began in Timisoara, spread rapidly across the country, and culminated with the brief trial and execution of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife on Christmas Day 1989. Both were the last people convicted to death and executed in Romania.

Over 1,100 people were killed during the Romanian revolution, with most of the deaths occurring after the protests that led to the overthrow of Nicolae Ceaușescu (December 16-22, 1989). Although many years have passed since then, prosecutors are still investigating the events of the 1989 Revolution.

Free elections

After the Revolution of 1989, which ended the communist era in Romania, Romanians were ready and hoping for a new start. The political vacuum was filled by the National Salvation Front (FSN), made up of members of the second-rank Communist Party opposed to Ceausescu’s policies and participants in the revolt. Ion Iliescu was recognized as the head of the organization and the FSN ran as a party in the 1990 general elections – the first free and multi-party elections held in the country after World War II. The FSN won the elections and its leader Ion Iliescu also won the separate presidential elections, becoming the first democratically elected head of state in Romania. Iliescu was President of Romania between 1990 and 1996, and between 2000 and 2004. His political career after the Revolution was however marked by multiple controversies, such as the juvenile riots of 1990 and 1991 and the fact that King Michael I was banned in the country for five years, between 1992 and 1997.

A new constitution

The new Constitution of Romania was adopted in November 1991. It was approved on December 8 of the same year, in a national referendum, and promulgated on the same day. Its text has only been amended once so far, in October 2003, also by referendum. The idea of ​​a second review surfaced in 2010 and was discussed in the years that followed, but nothing concrete has happened so far.


Romania joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) at the end of March 2004. It was a big step for Romania, as this decision had a major influence on the country’s foreign and domestic policy. At the beginning of April 2008, Romania hosted the NATO summit in Bucharest, which is one of the biggest foreign policy events organized by Romania. As a member of NATO, Romania participates in all Alliance missions and operations, including those outside the Euro-Atlantic area.

Join the European Union

Romania is one of the newer members of the European Union (EU), joining in 2007, as is neighboring Bulgaria. The country signed its Europe Agreement in 1993 and presented its official application for EU membership on June 22, 1995. Romania and Bulgaria have implemented several reforms to prepare for EU membership. EU, which targeted the democratic system, the rule of law, human rights. , and a market economy. However, as concerns about corruption in both countries were still high, Romania and Bulgaria were monitored by the European Commission through the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM).

Sources: Wikipedia, Agerpres.ro, Romaniacentenary.org

Irina Marica, irina.marica@romania-insider.com

(Photo source: Romaniacentenary.org; this was one of the few photos of the assembly of the Great Union in Alba Iulia on December 1, 1918, which was taken by Romanian war photographer Samoila Marza)

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Patrick F. Williams

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