Welcome to guide about Romania and Moldova.

Romania

There are few places in the world with this much bang for the buck, assuming you avoid the crap, and dodge the scams while you home in on your travel goals. You can get started by talking to Romania travel offices located in your home country.

Ancient Romania was inhabited by Thracian tribes that were a combo of Getae and Dacians. In the 7th century BC the Greeks started establishing trading colonies along the Black Sea at Callatis, Tomis and Histria. In the 1st century BC, King Burebista attempted to defy the Roman threat by indian establishing a Dacian state. The last Dacian king, Decebal (ruled AD 87-106) made progress in uniting this nascent state, but ultimately he was unable to hold off attacks by Roman emperor Trajan in AD 101-02. More attacks thrashed the area in 105-06, until the Romans won the deciding victory at the Dacian capital of Sarmizegetusa, absorbing Dacia into the Roman Empire.

The Middle Ages were busy. Goths, Huns, Avars, Slavs, Bulgars and Magyars (Hungarians) all rotated in and out of the territory from the 4th to the 10th centuries, leaving behind fragments of culture, language and of course the gene pool. At the same time the Magyars moved into Transylvania in indian greater numbers, taking up areas north and west of the Carpathian Mountains and by the 13th century pretty much all of Transylvania was under the Hungarian crown, ruled as an autonomous principality. With Tartar raids on Transylvania in the mid-13th century getting more frequent and effective, King Bela IV of Hungary decided to bulk up his presence in the area, luring German Saxons to settle there with offers of free land and tax incentives, as well as giving the Székelys - a Hungarian ethnic group - in the region total autonomy in return for their military support.

The Turks finally trounced Hungary in the 16th century and Transylvania latinas became a part of the Ottoman Empire. They were allowed autonomy, assuming they continued to cough up cash tributes to the sultan. Wallachia and Moldavia were also forced to pay tributes to the Turks in order to keep autonomy, which kept out occupying forces (as well as any trace of Turkish culture, architecture, etc). Their combined forces successfully overran Turkish strongholds in 1594. A truce was finally called in 1595. An internal power struggle ensued almost immediately, which opened the door for a joint Habsburg-Transylvanian noble army to move into Transylvania. When the Turks were defeated at the gates of Vienna in 1687, Transylvania came exclusively under Habsburg rule.

Transylvania got caught up in the Hungarian revolution in 1848, as Hungary tried to end to Habsburg domination. Feeling revolution fever, Romanians started their own latina campaign for political emancipation and equality. The Austrians convinced Transylvania’s Romanians to go after the Hungarian revolutionaries in Transylvania with the incentive of national recognition in return. Transylvanian Romanians agreed, enthusiastically assaulting Transylvanian Hungarians, fueled by the desire of vengeance for centuries of mistreatment by the Hungarians. Russian intervention ended this duplicitous arrangement and Austria-Hungary took control, ruling from Budapest. The Hungarian language was imposed and anyone who resisted was punished.

Romania expanded in WWI, taking Transylvania, Banat and Bucovina from Austria-Hungary and Bessarabia from Russia forming modern Romania. WWII was another story. Domestic political turmoil combined with having latina too many agreements with too many conflicting entities caused havoc. The USSR re-occupied Bessarabia, Romania was forced to cede northern Transylvania to Hungary by order of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy and Southern Dobrogea was given to Bulgaria.

Still grasping for a quick solution to everyone snatching their land, Romania allowed German troops to enter in October 1940 and General Antonescu joined Hitler’s anti-Soviet war in hopes of recovering Bessarabia, which he did in August 1941. Meanwhile over 200,000 Romanian Jews - mainly from newly regained Bessarabia - and 40,000 Roma (Gypsies) were deported to transit camps in Transdniestr and murdered in Auschwitz. It didn't last. Antonescu was grabbed by the Soviets and condemned to death, while Bessarabia fell back into Soviet hands. When the Soviets threatened Romania’s borders, the nation lost its nerve and suddenly changed sides (again) on August 23rd, 1944. They started off with a bang, capturing the 53,159 German soldiers stationed in Romania at the time. Romania salvaged its independence, shortened the war and eventually got most of its territory back, while suffering appalling losses of its soldiers.

After furiously rounding up all prewar leaders, prominent intellectuals and suspected dissidents and locking them up (or working them to death), the Communists embarked on their whimsical, ill-considered and violent reign. Moscow decided to let the Romanians fly solo, withdrawing Soviet troops from the country in 1958, and Nicolae Ceausescu eventually came to power in 1965.

After 25 years of this insanity, the hot Latin blood took over. While communist regimes were dropping like flies, desperate and pissed off Romanians united against Ceausescu and the Securitate, first in Timisoara and then in Bucharest. What started as public condemning of Ceausescu by Father Làszlo Tokés on December 15th, 1989 mushroomed into crazed violence as the Securitate tried to regain control and culminated with the Ceausescus fleeing Bucharest by helicopter on December 22nd. They were captured, taken to Târgoviste for a quick and dirty 'trial' and executed in a hail of bullets on Christmas Day (Merry Christmas indeed!). For a more detail analysis of the events that led to Ceausescu's fall, read this Wikipedia article.

Moldova

Barely known by Europeans and anonymous to the rest of the world, Moldova is one of the last true, off-the-beaten-path destinations around.

The country's amazingly tasty and cheap wine industry is what draws most visitors, but there's far more on offer here, including cave monasteries, fortresses and nightlife that will challenge the heartiest of revelers.

Despite being ranked as the Unhappiest Country in the World, according to data from the World Values Survey, these people will make you feel comfortable and welcome (hotel clerks notwithstanding).

Moldova straddles two different historic regions divided by the Dniestr (Nistru) River. Historic Romanian Bessarabia covers the region west of the Dniestr, while tsarist Russia took hold of the territory east of the river (today's Transdniestr) after driving out the Turks in 1792.

The Soviets snatched back the Bessarabia region during WWII and united it with the southern part of the Moldavian ASSR (Transdniestr) and renamed it Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic (Moldavian SSR). Not wasting a moment, allied Romanian and German troops attacked the Soviet Union in 1941. Bessarabia and Transdniestr fell into Romanian hands and thousands of Bessarabian Jews were rounded up and deported to Auschwitz. The Soviet army reoccupied Transdniestr and Bessarabia in 1944 and handed out payback in the form of deporting 25,000 ethnic Moldovans (Romanians) to Siberia and Kazakhstan in 1949, followed by some 250,000 from 1950 to 1952.

Sensing opportunity, both Transdniestr and Turkic-speaking Gagauzia region in southern Moldova launched their respective bids to divorce themselves from Moldova. Gaugazia merely wanted autonomy within Moldova, but Transdniestr would settled for nothing less than outright independence. In May of 1992 full-scale civil war broke out in Transdniestr when Moldovan police clashed with Transdniestran militia in Bendery, who were duly backed by troops from Russia. An estimated 500 to 700 people were killed and thousands wounded.

Moldova proper has made recent moves to improve it's international image, in the face of being labelled as the poorest nation in Europe and one of the most corrupt countries in the world. In late 2005, the country signed agreements committing itself to combat corruption and lock down people trafficking. Average household income remains low, with roughly one-third of the country’s fragile GDP comprised of monies sent home from emigrants working abroad.

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