In 1862, the Danubian principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia were allowed to unite as Romania, although the country remained under the control of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire until 1878, when full independence was achieved. During the Second Balkan War, in 1913, the territory of South Dobruja was annexed from Bulgaria.
In August 1916, Romania joined the First World War on the Allied side, but capitulated in December 1917 to the Central Powers, who occupied its oilfields. In November 1918 Romania briefly re-entered the war on the winning side. Under the Versailles Treaty of 1919-20, Romania was awarded the territories of Transylvania and Banat from Romania, Bukovina from Austria and Bessarabia from Russia. This virtually doubled the size of Romania.
During the 1930’s Romania became a royal-fascist dictatorship under King Carol II, with Nazi Germany as a close ally. In 1940 Romania was forced to concede Bessarabia and Bukovina to the Soviet Union, northern Transylvania to Hungary and South Dobruja to Bulgaria. Carol was immediately ousted by Marshal Ion Antonescu, who led Romania into World War Two on the side of the Axis Powers. In August 1944, as Soviet forces started to invade, Antonescu was overthrown by an anti-fascist coalition led by King Micheal and Romania sided with the Allies.
The Soviet Union imposed a communist government in March 1945, and in 1947 King Micheal was exiled and a People’s Republic proclaimed. Romanian participation in the Soviet suppression of the Romanian revolution in November 1956 was rewarded in 1958 by the full withdrawal of Soviet troops from its territory.
Romania became a Socialist Republic in 1965, and under the leadership of President Nicolae Ceausescu followed an increasingly independent course. However, high level corruption and mis-management seriously damaged the economy and by 1976 the former net exporter of oil and foodstuffs was heavily dependent on imports. A draconian austerity programme and the bull-dozing of rural villages to make way for state-controlled apartment blocks gave rise to widespread mass protests. In December 1989 Ceausescu and his wife were deposed and executed after the army and security forces suddenly changed sides.
A National Salvation Front, mainly composed of ex-members of the Ceausescu regime, seized power and claimed victory in the dubiously organised elections of May 1990. Sweeping economic reforms were eventually introduced but it wasn’t until the mid 1990s that the economy slowly started to recover. Progress towards true democracy has also proved halting as the entrenched ex-communists are slowly replaced by more liberal reformers. In November 2002 Romania was invited to join NATO, and it formally joined on 2 April 2004.