Romania, Relations with

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Founded in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia gained their autonomy from the Hungarian kings with the election of native princes. The status of these principalities was comparable to that of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, and they shared allegiance to the patriarch of Constantinople. During the fifteenth century, the chief threat they faced was Turkish expansionism in the Balkans. Their earliest contact with Moscow occurred when Ivan III negotiated a marriage alliance with Steven the Great of Moldavia (14571604). His daughter, Elena, became the bride of Ivan the Young, whose son Dmitry became heir to the throne.

the liberation of romanian lands from the turks

As the power of the Romanian princes declined and those of the grand dukes increased, the former tried to switch their allegiance from Constantinople to Moscow. Such contacts encouraged Nicholas Milescu, a Moldavian boyar, to serve Tsar Alexei as ambassador to China. The earliest attempt at signing a treaty of alliance with Russia was made by Prince Dmitry Cantemir of Moldavia, who invited Peter the Great (r. 16821725) to deliver the country from the Turks. The liberation failed with Peter's defeat on the River Pruth in 1711, but it opened a career for Dmitry at St. Petersburg as a Westernizer, and for his daughter, Maria, who dedicated herself to emancipating the Russian women.

The true liberator of Romanian lands was Catherine the Great (r. 17621796) who, in three campaigns against the Turks, reached the Dniester River. The Treaty of Kutchuk Kainardji (1774) gave Russia formal influence in the principalities, with two consuls at Bucharest and Jassy. French interference with these provisions occasioned the Russo-Turkish War of 18021812, which gave Russia the Bessarabian half of Moldavia. Although the Greek revolution of 1821 began in Moldavia, Tsar Alexander I (r. 18011825) denounced it because of the anti-revolutionary stance of the Holy Alliance (an informal agreement among Christian monarchs to preserve European peace). Russia's greatest gain occurred following the Treaty of Adrianopole, when Tsar Nicholas I (r. 18251855) established a protectorate over both Romanian provinces, thus taking over the nominal Turkish suzerainty. Although native Romanian princes continued to be elected, power now resided with the two Russian proconsuls who were headquartered in Bucharest and Jassy.

Russia demanded that the new generations be schooled at St. Petersburg, but Romanians preferred the schools in Paris, where many of their young people participated in the 1848 revolution against the July monarchy. When they returned home and attempted to continue that revolution in the Romanian capitals, Russia suppressed the movement and reoccupied the provinces under more stringent conditions. The Congress of Paris, which followed the Crimean War (18531856), suppressed the Russian protectorate, internationalized Danubian navigation, reunited Bessarabia with Romania, and attempted to revise the constitution of both states. The Romanians took the initiative of electing Alexander Ion Cuza in 1859 as prince of the United Principalities, as Moldavia and Wallachia were now called, but this arrangement disturbed Austria and Turkey more than it did Russia.

The overthrow of Cuza in a military coup, and the advent of Prince Charles of Hohenzollern Sigmaringen in 1866, was greeted positively by Austria after he visited Tsar Alexander II (r. 18551881) at Livadia in 1869. The Bosnian crisis that led to the Balkans war of independence (18771878) gave Russia the opportunity to avenge its defeat in 1856. Initially neutral during this war, Romania nonetheless gave Russia a right of passage to Bulgaria, albeit with misgivings. However, when Grand Duke Nicholas ran into difficulties at Plevna, in Bulgaria, he appealed to Prince Charles for military assistance, and placed him in command of the Russo-Romanian forces, which were ultimately victorious. At the Congress of Berlin (1878), where postwar negotiations took place, Russia demanded retrocession of southern Bessarabia in exchange for recognition of Romania's independence.

Relations between Romania and Russia improved when the heir to the Romanian throne, Ferdinand of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, married Princess Marie, a forceful personality and the granddaughter of Tsar Alexander and Queen Victoria. In February 1914 Prince Ferdinand visited St. Petersburg to arrange another political marriage, this time between his son Prince Carol with one of Tsar Nicholas' daughters. During the summer the entire imperial family sailed to Constanta to further the marital alliance, but it came to naught because it incurred protests from Vienna.

With the outbreak of World War I, King Charles felt bound by treaty to join the Central Powers (Prussian and Austria) against Russia, but politicians of all the parties that had been affected by Hungary's repression of the Romanias in Transylvania forced a declaration of neutrality. Wooed both by Russia, which supported Romania's claim to Transylvania, and by the Central Powers who offered the return to Romania of Bessarabia, Romania's prime minister Ion Bratianu ultimately declared war on Germany and Austria Hungary, largely because he was impressed by Russian general Alexei Brusilov's victories in Poland. In 1916, the joint German-Bulgarian offensive forced the Romanian army to withdraw to Moldavia, where Russian troops helped them to stabilize the front. However, the fall of Russia's Provisional Government under Alexander Kerensky in November 1917 and the advent of the Bolsheviks to power in Russia undermined resistance and led to the Russo-German Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (December 1917), which the Romanians refused to attend.

Plans to evacuate the Romanian royal family to Russia were scrapped, although the Romanian gold reserves that had been sent ahead to Moscow for this purpose were never returned. When the pro-German government of Marghiloman finally surrendered in the Treaty of Bucharest, Southern Dobrogea was ceded to Germany's ally, Bulgaria, and southern Bessarabia was returned to Romania. Within the province there raged civil war between the Red army, Ukrainian partisans, and Romanian nationalists who had convened a council and proclaimed independence from Russia.

Great Romania of the interwar years formally came into existence as a result of the Conference of Paris in 1918. The cession of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina was signed at the Treaty of Sevres, but was never recognized by the newly reconstituted Soviet Union. Romania initially had no contact with the Soviets, and a cordon sanitaire was maintained by a network of alliances (known as the "little entente"), with French backing (1921). Diplomatic relations were finally reopened in 1934 due to the efforts of Romania's long-serving foreign secretary, Nicolae Titulescu, who worked against the wishes of the newly crowned King CarolII. Conscious of Hitler's increasing threat to Euro pean security at this time, Titulescu worked out a pact of mutual assistance with the Soviet Union on the eve of the Munich crisis of 1938. This pact allowed the Soviet airforce to cross Romanian territory in defense of Czechoslovakia, but Stalin never took advantage of this offer, having secretly allied himself with Hitler at that time.

When Hitler and Russia attacked and then divided Poland, neutral Romania gave refuge to the remnants of the Polish opposition forces, most of whom had come from the Russian zone and later fought alongside the French and British, much to Stalin's annoyance. With the fall of France, Romania also fell within the German orbit, leading to the dictatorship of Marshall Ion Antonescu. The dismantling of Romania began with the Molotov-Ribentrop Pact, which ceded Bessarabia and northern Bucovina to the Soviet Union (August 2,1940). It therefore was inevitable that Antonescu would join the Wehrmacht in its attack on the Soviet Union (June 1941). The Romanian army occupied Odessa, which became the capital of "Transnistria," a newly created territory that was administrated but never formally annexed by the Romanian authorities. The siege of Stalingrad, in which 300,000 Romanians were killed or wounded, provided a decisive turning point for Romania's participation in the war, and persuaded Marshall Antonescu and King Michael to withdraw from the fighting. Though Molotov preferred negotiating with Antonescu, it was King Michael who, on August 23, 1944, did a political "about-face" and ordered the Romanian army to attack the Germans. The breakdown of the Romanian front greatly facilitated the liberation of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, hastened the Allied push to Berlin, and ultimately shortened the war in Europe.

In spite of Allied promises not to change the country's social structure, Romania's fate was sealed by an agreement between Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin, in which 90 percent of Romania's territory was ceded to the Soviets. A Stalinist regime was established in the annexed territory, with Stalin's protégé, Ana Pauker, placed in charge. The Treaty of Paris (1947) confirmed the cession of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina to Russia and northern Dobrogea to Bulgaria. Northern Transylvania, which had been taken by Hitler and given to the Hungarians, was returned to Romania at the insistence of Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov. Romania faced severe economic and financial conditions as a result of war reparations claims made by the Soviets, and the country was never formally recognized for their ultimate support of the Allied cause during the final years of the war.

With the forced abdication of King Michael in December 1947, the People's Republic of Romania was initially organized upon the Soviet model. Agriculture was collectivized, industry nationalized, the language Slavicized, and the former ruling class exterminated in Soviet-run labor camps. In 1952, even before Stalin's death, the secretary general of the Communist Party in Romania, Gheorghe Gheorghiu Dej, began purging those who were deemed to have been Stalinist supporters, and he attempted to construct a Romanian socialist state. The Polish and Hungarian crisis of 1956 and Nikita Krushchev's denunciation of Stalin triggered Romania's further disengagement from the Soviet bloc. Alhough cofounders of the Warsaw Pact and member of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, Dej also sought admission to the United Nations and UNESCO; refused to be involved in the Soviet conflicts with the Chinese, Yugoslavs, or Albanians; retained good relations with Israel; vetoed Khruschev's plans to make Romania an agricultural state; and, in 1958, eliminated the Soviet army of occupation.

Dej's successor, Nicolae Ceausescu, who came to office in 1965, created the Romanian Socialist Republic and added to the Presidency of the Council the title of President of the Republic, becoming the leading political official in the state. Although obligated to resume Romania's alliance with the USSR, Ceausescu also established diplomatic relations with West Germany and strengthened contact with France and the United States by hosting Charles de Gaulle in 1968 and Richard Nixon in 1969. He also visited the Queen of England and reestablished trade relations with the West.

During the Czech crisis of 1968, Ceausescu joined Tito in repealing Leonid Brezhnev's doctrine of the right of intervention and refused to allow Romania's participation in military exercises with members of the Warsaw Pact. He went so far as to question Russia's right to occupy Bessarabia. Ceausescu also ignored Mikhail Gorbachev's attempt to soften his dictatorial rule over Romania, despite the fall of the Berlin Wall and that event's implications for the fate of the now crumbling Soviet Union. This precipitated a bloody revolution and, ultimately, Ceausescu's death. Post-communist Romania has made considerable progress with democratization and, with Moscow's consent, joined NATO in 2002.

See also: crimean war; paris, congress and treaty of 1856; world war i; world war ii


Florescu, Radu R. (1997). The Struggle against Russia in the Romanian Principalities. IASI: Center for Romanian Studies.

Moseley, M. P. E. (1934). Russian Diplomacy and the Opening of the Eastern Question in 1838 and 1839. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Radu R. Florescu