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Profile of Romania

July 1998

Size: Oval-shaped country; maximum distances: east west 460 miles, north south 300 miles.

Neighbours: Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Ukraine and Moldova. The eastern border is the Black Sea.

Environment: The Carpathian Alps run through the centre of Romania. They are home to many wild animals, including wolves, wild boar and bears. To the west lies the Transylvanian Basin; to the east the Danube River, plains and delta.

Population: 23 million. Romanian 81%; Hungarian, mainly settled in Transylvania, 8%; Gypsy (Romany) 9%; German 0.5%; others, including Turk and Serb, 1.5%. Ethnic tensions exist between Romanians and Hungarians. Anti-Semitism and antagonism to Gypsies is common.

Capital: Bucharest (2.2 million).

Religions: Muslim 1%; Romanian Orthodox 70%; Roman Catholic 7%; secular and other 14%; Protestant 8%.

Denominations: Hungarian Reformed; Romanian Baptist Union; Pentecostal; Christian Brethren; Lutheran; Hungarian Baptist Union; also The Lord’s Army (an unofficial renewal movement within the Orthodox Churches). Over half of the Protestants would claim to be evangelicals.

Economy: Mainly agricultural, producing cereals, sugar beet, potatoes, meat, fruit and timber; also rich in oil, natural gas, coal, and mineral deposits; fishing. Previous economic bias towards heavy industry has brought serious imbalance and pollution.

History: Romania was formed in 1861, when the provinces of Walachia and Moldovia united. It became a communist republic in 1946. The Christian Church suffered persecution under communism. Nicolae Ceausescu ruled repressively from 1965 to 1989. His forcible urbanization and industrialization programmes led to severe food shortages. He and his wife were ousted by the army and summarily executed in 1989.

Democratic elections took place in 1992. Romania is seeking full integration into the European Union and NATO. The previous monarch, King Michael, who abdicated in 1947, returned to receive a hero’s welcome in 1997.

Romania struggles with widespread poverty, caused by years of corruption, bureaucracy and economic mismanagement – not all in the past either. Under Ceausescu birth control was outlawed. This has left a legacy of unwanted and neglected children. Conditions in state orphanages and hospitals are poor.