The Place of Romania in European History, Part I

For centuries before independence in 1877 the Romanian principalities led a precarious life of their own, writes Kenneth Johnstone.

The years between 1977 and 1980 mark a series of centenaries in the history of Romania, celebrating the stages in the country’s achievement of full European statehood. It seems an appropriate moment to look back over the centuries of struggle which at last won this recognition.

On May 21st, 1877, in the stress of a war between Russia and Turkey already beginning on Romanian soil, the Romanian Parliament disowned all ties of allegiance to the Sultan and declared the country independent. On the following day the German prince, Charles of Hohensollern-Sigmaringen, who had ruled Romania under Turkish suzerainty for the past eleven years, was offered and accepted the crown of the new kingdom.

The Parliament’s action was unilateral, but Romania’s independence was conditionally recognised by the Treaty of Berlin in the following year. In 1880 it was confirmed by the major European powers and this new addition was duly admitted into the European family. But treaties can no more create living nations than birth certificates can create births; they can only give them official registration.

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