A Balancing Act - Romania, 1919-1940

Caught between the bear and the eagle – Dennis Deletant examines how one Balkan nation with substantial minorities problems, struggled in vain to avoid being swept aside in the gathering storms of inter-war Europe.

The position of Romania in the inter-war period proved to be of vital strategic interest to the major powers of Europe. The country's oil reserves and cereals, and its location at the crossroads of south-eastern Europe, represented a powerful magnet for any power with ambitions of territorial expansion in the area. Thus in the late 1930s control of Romanian oil, invaluable for the German war machine, became the object of German policy. Conversely, Britain and France sought to deny Germany that control. At the same time the Soviet Union, faced with a Continental Europe dominated by Germany, made its own accommodation with Nazi expansion by conspiring, under the terms of the Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 1939, in the carving up of Eastern Europe; among the victims of the pact was Romania from which the Soviet Union amputated the regions of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina in 1940.

For Romania, relations with the major European powers were crucial for its survival as an independent state and for the preservation of its territorial integrity. An enlarged Romania had received international blessing at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919-20, alongside those other states which historians have usually called 'the new nation-states' of Eastern Europe: Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia and the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Yet this very term 'nation-state' contained a contradiction which explained the weakness of the new states and their vulnerability to challenges to the Versailles settlement during the inter-war period.

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