Saturday, February 19, 2011

About Romania

My two 95+ year old great aunts are having a hard time remembering which country Theron and I are headed to. So, I condensed some info from wikipedia, enlarged it to 20 point font, and mailed it to them. I thought you might be interested, too, even in slightly smaller print. It is kind of long, but my aunts don't have a whole lot to do.


The name "Romania," first used in 1859, reflects the influence of ancient Rome on the nation's language and culture.

Communist History

During the period of Soviet rule, Romania's resources were drained, and there were hundreds of thousands of abuses, deaths, and incidents of torture against a large range of people, from political opponents to ordinary citizens. The nation is also known for the despot Nicolae Ceauşescu who developed a cult of personality, deepened the country's communist police state, and imposed policies that impoverished Romanians and exhausted the economy.


In the extreme southeast, Mediterranean influences offer a mild, maritime climate. In Bucharest, the temperature ranges from -20.2°F in January to 84.2°F in July. Rainfall, although adequate throughout the country, decreases from west to east and from mountains to plains. Some mountainous areas receive about 40 inches of precipitation each year. Annual precipitation averages about 25 inches in central Transylvania and only 15 inches near the Black Sea.


With a surface area of 92,043 square miles Romania is the largest country in southeastern Europe and the 12th-largest in Europe, or slightly smaller than Oregon.

Romania's terrain is distributed roughly equally between mountainous, hilly, and lowland territories. The Carpathian Mountains dominate the center of Romania, with 14 of its peaks reaching above the altitude of 6500 feet. Romania's geographical diversity has led to an accompanying diversity of flora and fauna. The country has the largest brown bear population in Europe, while chamois, lynx, wild cats, martens, and capercaillies are also known to live in the Carpathian Mountains.

Natural resources include petroleum timber, natural gas, coal, iron ore, salt, arable land, and hydro power.

Its capital and largest city is Bucharest, which with 2,082,334 inhabitants, is the sixth largest city in the European Union. Located in the southeast, it is the industrial and commercial center of Romania.


Romania is a semi-presidential democratic republic where executive functions are shared between the president and the prime minister. The president is elected by popular vote and serves five years.

The prime minister, who is nearly always the head of the party that holds a majority in the parliament, heads the Romanian Government. If no party holds 50 percent + 1 of the total seats in parliament, the president will appoint the prime minister.

The legislative branch of the government consists of two chambers – the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. The members of both chambers are elected every four years under a system of party-list proportional representation. All aged 18 years and over may vote.

The justice system is independent of the other branches of government, and is made up of a hierarchical system of courts culminating in the High Court of Cassation and Justice. There are also courts of appeal, county courts and local courts. The Constitutional Court is responsible for judging the compliance of laws to the constitution, which was introduced in 1991, can only be amended by a public referendum. The Constitutional Court comprises nine judges who serve nine-year, non-renewable terms. The court's decisions cannot be overruled by any majority of the parliament.


Romania has a large, upper-middle-income economy, the nineteenth largest in Europe. Its capital, Bucharest, is one of the largest financial centers in the region.

Romania is a country of considerable potential, with rich agricultural lands, diverse energy sources (coal, oil, natural gas, hydro, and nuclear), a substantial, if aging, industrial base encompassing almost the full range of manufacturing activities, a well-trained work force, and opportunities for expanded development in tourism on the Black Sea and in the mountains.

The average gross wage per month in Romania is 1387 lei, equating to $600.17 based on international exchange rates and $827.57 based on purchasing power parity. About 88 percent of all Romanian citizens have a color television set in their household and 90 percent have a refrigerator.


Romania has a population of 21,680,974, which is expected to gently decline as a result of sub-replacement fertility rates. Life expectancy at birth for the total population was 69.93 years in 2000.


Ethnic Romanians make up 89.5 percent of the population, Hungarians 6.6 percent, and Roma about 2 percent. The remaining 1.9 percent is made up of Germans, Ukrainians, Lipovans, Turks, Tatars, Serbs, Slovaks, Bulgarians, Croats, Greeks, Czechs, Poles, Italians, Chinese, Armenians and others. Before World War II, there was a large Jewish population, but almost 400,000 Jews were killed during the Nazi years, and many of the remainder emigrated to Israel. Today the Jewish population is estimated at less than 10,000. Estimates of the Roma population range from 400,000 to one million—their transient or nomadic lifestyle poses difficulties for statisticians.


The official language is Romanian, an Eastern Romance language, which has Latin roots that date back to the Roman occupation, and contains words from Greek, Slavic languages, and Turkish. In the fourteenth century, the country adopted the Cyrillic alphabet, but it later reverted to Roman lettering. Romanian is spoken as a first language by 91 percent of the population, with Hungarian and Romani being the most important minority languages, spoken by 6.7 percent and 1.1 percent respectively. Until the 1990s, there was also a substantial number of German-speaking Transylvanian Saxons, even though many have since emigrated to Germany. Serbian, Ukrainian, Slovak, Czech, Bulgarian, and Turkish are also spoken. In localities where a specific ethnic minority comprises more than 20 percent of the population, that minority's language can be used in the public administration and justice system, while native-language education and signage is also provided. English and French are the main foreign languages taught in schools.


Romania is a secular state with no state religion. The dominant religious body is the Romanian Orthodox Church, whose members make up 86.7 percent of the population according to the 2002 census. Other important religions include Roman Catholicism (4.7 %), Protestantism (3.7 %), Pentecostal denominations (1.5 %) and the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church (0.9 %). Romania has a significant Turkish Muslim minority of 67,500 people. There are also 6179 Jews, 23,105 people who are of no religion and/or atheist, and 11,734 who refused to answer.

Romanian Orthodoxy descends from the Great Schism between Eastern and Western Christianity of 1054, and has a more mystical slant than Roman Catholicism. Icons—images representing Christ, angels, saints, and other holy figures—are believed to be incarnations of the saint, and are considered a link between the physical and spiritual worlds. Under communism, religion was suppressed, churches were destroyed, and clergy were arrested. The government restricted religious practice but did not forbid it. The Romanian Orthodox Church did not oppose the regime, and priests helped the administration.

The belief in vampires popularized in the nineteenth century story of Dracula, is a part of Romania folk culture. The belief is that sometimes the spirit does not leave the body after death, but remains, without decaying, to haunt the village, and can claim victims with a touch or a glance. Garlic is believed to keep vampires away, as are food offerings made on the holy days of Saint George and Saint Andrew. Mirrors are covered in the home of the deceased for fear that the spirit of the dead person will see its reflection and not be able to leave.

Men and women

The communist regime gave women equal rights in marriage and the workplace, and tried to get large numbers of women into the work force. While most women work outside the home, they have lower-level positions in traditional women’s jobs, such as primary school teachers or agricultural workers. Women who have a full-time job are expected to do all the cooking and cleaning at home. The Ceauşescu regime required women to have at least five children. Efforts to increase the population burdened women with unwanted children, and made many seek illegal and dangerous abortions. The government required gynecological examinations of women of childbearing age to prove that they had not had abortions. Already poor families could not afford to feed or clothe their children, and orphanages filled with abandoned babies.

Marriage and the family

Traditionally, the couple's parents arranged marriages through a matchmaker, the bride's family contributed a dowry of linen and embroidery, and rural weddings involved the entire village. Today, young people choose their own spouses, although some traditions persist. The bride's hair is still elaborately braided, she wears a crown of flowers, jewels, and ribbons, and the groom wears a white leather vest and a hat decorated with feathers, flowers, and leaves. The best man shaves the groom's beard, symbolizing his departure to a new lifestyle, and in the ceremony, both ask their parents to forgive them for leaving. Wedding feasts include kegs of wine and a big round loaf of bread shared by the bride and groom.

Traditional families were large patriarchal units, with many family members available to work in the fields. The domestic unit still comprises several generations living together, which is also a result of housing shortages. The culture puts great value on helping members of the extended families, which allows accusations of nepotism. Traditionally, an estate passes to the oldest son, although women are entitled to inherit property.


Education in Romania is free and compulsory from age six to 16. Children attend elementary school to age 14. After this, they must pass examinations to enter secondary school. About half these students go on to vocational schools; others continue their education at technical institutes or teacher-training programs. Romania has a high literacy rate—97.3 percent of the total population age 15 and over can read and write.


Most people are poor, and the standard of living is low compared with Western Europe. Under the communist regime, a small elite had access to luxuries. Some of the old elite have retained their wealth and power. Cars, which are rare, and imported consumer goods and household appliances, which are expensive and difficult to come by, both symbolize status. The ability to send one's children to the best day-care centers and provide private tutoring is a mark of wealth.


Romanians are hospitable and generous—guests are always fed. Men show their respect for women by tipping the hat, kissing the hand, or offering a seat. Moldavia is known for its painted churches, with their fine exterior and interior frescoes. Romanian folk tales and poems are about love, faith, kings, princesses, and witches. Transylvania is the location of the story of Dracula, based on the local tradition of vampires.


City dwellers wear Western-style clothing, while in rural areas, some still wear traditional garb—embroidered wool skirts and vests for women, and a white blouse and pants with a wool or leather belt and a cap or hat for men. Roma people stand out in their brightly colored clothes. Women wear long flowing skirts, and men dress in white shirts with colorful sashes. Unmarried women wear their hair in traditional braids, while married women cover their heads with cloths.


Romanian cuisine is diverse, greatly influenced by the cuisines of Germans, Serbians, and Hungarians. One of the most common dishes is mămăliga, a cornmeal mush, long-considered the poor man's dish. Pork is the main meat, but beef, lamb, and fish are also consumed. Different recipes are prepared depending on the season or for special events. For Christmas, a pig is traditionally sacrificed by every family to provide: cârnaţi (a kind of long sausages made with meat), caltaboşi (sausages made with liver and other intestines, piftie – made with the feet or the head and ears, suspended in aspic, and tochitură (a kind of stew) is served along with mămăligă and wine, and sweetened with the traditional cozonac (sweet bread with nuts or rahat). At Easter, the main dishes are roast lamb and drob - a cooked mix of intestines, meat and fresh vegetables, mainly green onion, served with pască (pie made with cottage cheese) as a sweetener. Desserts include baclava (sweet pastry), pretzels, donuts, Turkish delight, pie, sponge cake, rice pudding, and crêpes. Wine is the main drink and has a 3000-year tradition. Romania is the world's ninth largest wine producer. Beer is highly regarded, generally blond pilsener beer. Romania is the world's second largest plum producer and almost the entire plum production becomes the famous ţuică (a plum brandy).

Folk traditions

Romanian culture has strong folk traditions. Traditional folk arts include wood carving, ceramics, woven wool rugs, and embroidery of costumes, household decorations, dance, and richly varied folk music. Doorways, gates, and windows are carved with elaborate designs. Traditional costumes are works of art, often displaying elaborate embroidery and a trimming of tiny glass beads.

Famous People

In the 1976 Summer Olympics, the gymnast Nadia Comăneci became the first gymnast ever to score a perfect "10", and won three gold medals, one silver and one bronze, all at the age of 15. Her success continued in the 1980 Summer Olympics, where she was awarded two gold medals and two silver medals.

George Emil Palade, a cell biologist and a teacher, became the first Romanian to receive a Nobel Prize, winning the 1974 prize in physiology or medicine for describing the structure and function of organelles in cells.

Elie Wiesel, a Romania-born American novelist, political activist, and Holocaust survivor, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

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