Modern Romania: The End of Communism, the Failure of Democratic Reform, and the Theft of a Nation
Before we figured out we were going to Romania — the lady’s work is sending her and I’m hitchhiking — I knew virtually nothing about the country. I read a bit about the region in books about the ancient and medieval times, but nothing so much as far as the country as it is today.
The country is geopolitically placed in a region that has seen more than its fair share of violence. The Ottomans for centuries have fought for the land and control over the people. The Romans, the barbarian tribes, the Huns, the Communists, the Mongols, everyone and their grandmother wanted a piece of this land.
After the dust settled after WWI and WWII, there was a country born. The book covers a bit about its pre-world wars history, but mainly focuses on the Romania we’re about to visit. What I didn’t know was how brutal its history has been, almost all the way til this day.
After the Communists were given an eviction letter, Nicolae Ceauşescu eventualy came to power on a nationalist platform. He did everything he could to turn this agricultural-based economy into an industrial one, and he was not afraid of doing it however he saw fit. He and his wife Elena redefined ruling with an iron fist. During his rule of over two decades, Ceauşescu led a brutal and repressive regime, some calling it the most Stalinist regime in the Soviet bloc. The people finally led a revolution in 1989 and overthrew the dictator, executing him and his people on Christmas day in 1989.
To think in 1989 I was living around the corner in Germany where my dad was stationed and no idea what was going on.
The book then goes on a whirlwind tour of the events that happened afterwards, covering Romanian politics from 1990 to 2005. During those 15 years, the country experienced some of the worst growing pains though it gained its independence from the Ottomans in the late 1870s. From Ion Iliescu to Emil Constantinescu to the various Prime Ministers, Modern Romania delivers a thorough and depressing account of the country that to this day is still defining itself. The Balkan Wars, the effort to join NATO and the EU, the spats with the Hungarians, the prejudices against the Jews and gypsies, the IMF relationship, the Russian relationship, the American relationship; the only thing missing from the book is more maps to develop a better picture of this country that barely existed before I read the book.
Prior to reading it, I primarily focused on the middle east, Africa, central Asia and ancient/medieval times. Modern Romania has piqued my interest to read more about Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Soviet bloc countries after the fall of the USSR.
For now, though, I’m preparing to journey into this once unknown land to experience the Romania that Tom Gallagher has introduced me to.