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The Romanians (dated: Rumanians or Roumanians; or -historically, but now a seldom-used regionalism- rumâni; dated exonym: Vlachs) are a nation and ethnic group native to Romaniamarker, who speak Romanian (română); they are the majority inhabitants of România.

In one prominent interpretation of the census results in Moldovamarker, Moldovans are counted as Romanians, which would mean that the latter form the majority in that country as well. Romanians are also an ethnic minority in several nearby countries.

The Romanian people are a nation in the meaning of ethnos (in Romanian: neam), defined more by the sense of sharing a common Romanian culture, descent, and having the Romanian language as mother tongue than by citizenship or by being subjects to any particular country. The Romanian citizenship Law legislated in March 1991 establishes the rights of second and third generation descendants of Romanian citizens to obtain a Romanian citizenship, if they speak fluent Romanian and are able to demonstrate sufficient knowledge in Romanian history and culture. 89.4 percent of Romania's people declared themselves as Romanians at the 2002 Romanian Census. In the world today, 24 million people have Romanian as their mother tongue.


Ancient times

Inhabited by the ancient Dacians, today's territory of Romaniamarker was conquered by the Roman Empire in 106, when Trajan's army defeated the army of Dacia's ruler Decebalus (see Dacian Wars). The Roman administration withdrew two centuries later, under the pressure of the Goths and Carpi.

The Romanian people was formed by the Romanization of the Roman Province of Dacia. The Romanians are descended from local populations: Dacians (Getae, Thracians) and Roman legionnaires and colonists. In the course of the two wars with the Roman legions, between 101 - 102 A.D. and. 105 - 106 A.D. respectively, the emperor Trajan succeeded after in defeating the Dacians and the greatest part of Dacia became a Roman province. The colonization with Roman or Romanized elements, the use of the Latin language and the assimilation of Roman civilization as well as the intense development of urban centres led to the Romanization of the autochthonous population. The intermarriage of Dacians with Roman colonists, formed the Daco-Roman population, which is part of the ethnogenesis process of the Romanian people. This process was probably concluded by the 10th century when the assimilation of the Slavs by the Daco-Romanians was completed.

Small genetic differences were reportedly found among Southeastern European populations and especially those of the DniestermarkerCarpathianmarker region. The genetic affinities among Dniester–Carpathian and southeastern European populations reportedly do not reflect their linguistic relationships. One Romanian study claims that ethnic and genetic differentiations occurred in these regions to a considerable extent independently of each other.

Middle ages

Regions with green inhabited by significant Romanian population

The tribal migrations that followed - such as those of Slavs, Bulgars (later Bulgarians), Hungarians, and Tatars - did not allow Romanians to develop any large centralized state, which was only achieved in the 13th century and especially in the 14th century, when the Danubian Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia emerged to fight the Ottoman Empire.

The entire Balkan peninsula was annexed by the Ottoman Empire, but Moldavia, Wallachia, and Transylvania remained autonomous under Ottoman suzerainty. The three principalities were united for several months in 1600 under the authority of Wallachian Prince Michael the Brave.

Up until 1541, Transylvania was part of the Kingdom of Hungary, later (due to the conquest of Hungary by the Ottoman Empire) was a self-governed Principality governed by the Hungarian nobility. In 1699 it became a part of the Habsburg lands. By the 19th century, the Austrian Empiremarker was awarded by the Ottomans with the region of Bukovina and, in 1812, the Russians occupied the eastern half of Moldavia, known as Bessarabiamarker.

Modern age

Territories inhabited by Romanians before WWI
In 1821 and 1848, two rebellions occurred, and both failed; but they had an important role in the spreading of the liberal ideology. In 1859, Moldavia and Wallachia elected the same ruler - Alexander John Cuza (who reigned as Domnitor) and were thus unified de facto.

The newly founded Kingdom of Romania—led by the Hohenzollern prince Carol I—fought a War of Independence against the Ottomans, and was recognized in 1878. Although allied with Austria-Hungary, Romaniamarker refused to go to enter World War I on the side of the Central Powers, because Romania was obliged to go to war only if Austria-Hungary was attacked. In 1916, Romania joined the war on the side of the Triple Entente. As a result, at the end of the war, Transylvania, Bessarabia and Bukovina were awarded to Romania, resulting in Greater Romania.

During World War II, Romania lost territory in both east and west, as Northern Transylvania became part of Hungarymarker through the Second Vienna Award, while Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina were taken by the Soviets and included in the Moldavian SSR and Ukrainian SSR respectively. The eastern territory losses were facilitated by the Molotov-Ribbentrop German-Soviet non-aggression pact.

The Soviet Union imposed a Communist government and King Michael was forced to abdicate and leave for exile. Nicolae Ceauşescu became the head of the Romanian Communist Party in 1965 and his draconian rule of the 1980s was ended by the Romanian Revolution of 1989.

The 1989 revolution brought to power the dissident former communist Ion Iliescu. He remained in power until 1996, and then once more between 2000 and 2004. Emil Constantinescu was president from 1996 to 2000, and Traian Băsescu started his mandate in 2004.

Romania joined NATOmarker in 2004 and the European Union in 2007.


The origins of Romanian language, a Romance language, can be traced back to the Roman colonization of the region. The basic vocabulary is of Latin origin, although there are some substratum words that are assumed to be of Dacian origin. Of all the Romance languages, in some respects, Romanian is the most conservative language, having retained, for example, the inflected structure of Latin grammar.

During the Middle Ages, Romanian was isolated from the other Romance languages, and borrowed words from the nearby Slavic languages. Later on, it borrowed a number of words from Hungarian and Turkish. During the modern era, most neologisms were borrowed from French and Italian, though the language has increasingly begun to adopt English borrowings.

The Moldovan language, in its official form, is practically identical to Romanian, although there are some differences in colloquial speech. In the de-facto independent (but internationally unrecognized) region of Transnistriamarker, the official script used to write Moldovan is Cyrillic.

A 2005 Ethnologue estimation puts the (worldwide) number of Romanian speakers at approximately 23.5 million. The 23.5 million, however, represent only speakers of Romanian, not all of whom are necessarily ethnic Romanians. Also, this number does not include ethnic-Romanians who no longer speak the Romanian language.


Many Romanian surnames have the suffix -escu or (less commonly) -aşcu which corresponds to the Latin suffix -iscus and means "belonging to the people". For example, Petrescu used to be Petre's son. Similar suffixes such as -asco, -asgo, -esque, -ez, etc. are present in other Latin-derived languages.

Many Romanians in France changed this ending of their surnames to -esco, because the way it is pronounced in French better approximates the Romanian pronunciation of -escu. Other suffixes are -eanu (or -an, -anu), which indicates the geographical origin and -aru (or -oru), which indicates an occupation.

The most common surnames are Popa ("the priest")—almost 200,000 Romanians have this surname —Popescu ("son of the priest") —almost 150,000 have this name— and Ionescu ("John's (Ion's) son").

Names for Romanians

In English, Romanians are usually called Romanians, Rumanians, or Roumanians except in some historical texts, where they are called Roumans or Vlachs.

Etymology of the name Romanian (român)

The name "Romanian" is derived from Latin "Romanus". Under regular phonetical changes that are typical to the Romanian languages, the name was transformed in "rumân" (ru'mɨn). An older form of "român" was still in use in some regions. Socio-linguistic evolutions in the late 18th century led to a gradual preponderance of the "român" spelling form, which was then generalized during the National awakening of Romania of early 19th century.

Until the 19th century, the term Romanian denoted the speakers of the Daco-Romanian dialect of the Romanian language, thus being a much more distinct concept than that of Romania, the country of the Romanians. Prior to 1867, the (Daco-)Romanians were part of different statal entities: with the Moldavians and the Wallachians being split off and having shaped separate political identities, possessing states of their own, and with the rest of Romanians being part of other states. However, they retained their Romanian cultural and ethnic identity.


To distinguish Romanians from the other Romanic peoples of the Balkans (Aromanians, Megleno-Romanians, and Istro-Romanians), the term Daco-Romanian is sometimes used to refer to those who speak the standard Romanian language and live in the territory of ancient Dacia (today comprising mostly Romania and Moldova), although some Daco-Romanians can be found in the eastern part of Central Serbia (which was part of ancient Moesia).

Etymology of the term Vlach

The name of "Vlachs" is an exonym that was used by Slavs to refer to all Romanized natives of the Balkans. It holds its origin from ancient Germanic - being a cognate to "Welsh" and "Walloon" -, and perhaps even further back in time, from the Roman name Volcae, which was originally a Celtic tribe. From the Slavs, it was passed on to other peoples, such as the Hungarians (Oláh) and Greeks (Vlachoi). (see: Etymology of Vlach). Wallachia, the Southern region of Romania, takes its name from the same source.

Nowadays, the term Vlach is more often used to refer to the Romanized populations of the Balkans who speak Daco-Romanian, Aromanian, Istro-Romanian and Megleno-Romanian. Istro-Romanian is the closest related language to the Daco-Romanian language which is the official language of the country.


These are family names that have been derived from either Vlach or Romanian. Most of these names have been given when a Romanian settled in a non-Romanian region. Examples: Oláh (37,147 Hungarians have this name), Vlach, Vlahuta, Vlasa, Vlasi, Vlašic, Vlasceanu, Vlachopoulos, Voloh, Bolog/Balogh, Volyh, Vlack, Flack and Vlax.

Romanians outside Romania

Most Romanians live in Romaniamarker, where they constitute a majority; Romanians also constitute a minority in the countries that neighbour Romania. Romanians can also be found in many countries as immigrants, notably in Italymarker, Spainmarker, the United Statesmarker, Francemarker, Canadamarker, the UKmarker, the Netherlandsmarker, Austriamarker and Germanymarker. With respect to geopolitical identity, many individuals of Romanian ethnicity in Moldova prefer to identify themselves as Moldovans.

The contemporary total population of ethnic Romanians cannot be stated with any degree of certainty. A disparity can be observed between official sources (such as census counts) where they exist, and estimates which come from non-official sources and interested groups. Several inhibiting factors (not unique to this particular case) contribute towards this uncertainty, which may include:
  • A degree of overlap may exist or be shared between Romanian and other ethnic identities in certain situations, and census or survey respondents may elect to identify with one particular ancestry but not another, or instead identify with multiple ancestries;

  • Counts and estimates may inconsistently distinguish between Romanian nationality and Romanian ethnicity (i.e. not all Romanian nationals identify with Romanian ethnicity, and vice versa);
  • The measurements and methodologies employed by governments to enumerate and describe the ethnicity and ancestry of their citizens vary from country to country. Thus the census definition of "Romanian" might variously mean Romanian-born, of Romanian parentage, or also include other ethnic identities as Romanian which otherwise are identified separately in other contexts;
  • The number of ethnic Romanians who live and work abroad is not precisely known, particularly so where their presence in the host country may be considered "illegal". In addition, where estimates for these populations have been made there is some risk of likely "double counting"— that is, Romanian persons abroad who have retained (or have not formally relinquished) their original citizenship may possibly figure in the counts or estimates of both the "home" and "host" countries.
For example, the decennial U.S. Census of 2000 calculated (based on a statistical sampling of household data) that there were 367,310 respondents indicating Romanian ancestry (roughly 0.1% of the total population). The actual total recorded number of foreign-born Romanians was only 136,000 Migration Information Source However, some non-specialist organizations have produced estimates which are considerably higher: a 2002 study by the Romanian-American Network Inc. mentions an estimated figure of 1,200,000 for the number of Romanian-Americans. This estimate notes however that "...other immigrants of Romanian national minority groups have been included such as: Armenians, Germans, Gypsies, Hungarians, Jews, and Ukrainians". It also includes an unspecified allowance for second- and third-generation Romanians, and an indeterminate number living in Canada. An error range for the estimate is not provided. For the United States 2000 Census figures, almost 20% of the total population did not classify or report an ancestry, and the census is also subject to undercounting, an incomplete (67%) response rate, and sampling error in general.


Contributions to humanity

Romanians have played an important role in the arts, sciences and engineering.

In the history of flight, Traian Vuia built the first self-propelling heavier-than-air aircraft, while Henri Coandă built the first aircraft powered by a jet engine. Victor Babeş discovered more than 50 germs and a cure for a disease named after him, babesiosis; biologist Nicolae Paulescu discovered insulin. Another biologist, Emil Palade, received the Nobel Prize for his contributions to cell biology. General of United Statesmarker in the Civil War and diplomat George Pomutz, played an important role in the negotiations for the Alaska Purchase. Mathematician Ştefan Odobleja is considered to be the ideological father behind cybernetics - his work The Consonantist Psychology (Paris, 1938) was the main source of inspiration for N. Wiener's Cybernetics (Paris, 1948).

In the arts and culture, important figures were George Enescu (music composer, violinist, professor of Sir Yehudi Menuhin), Constantin Brâncuşi (sculptor), Eugène Ionesco (playwright), Mircea Eliade (historian of religion and novelist), Emil Cioran (essayist, Prix de l'Institut Francais for stylism) and Angela Gheorghiu (soprano).

In sports, Romanians have excelled in a variety of fields, such as soccer (Gheorghe Hagi), gymnastics (Nadia Comăneci, Lavinia Miloşovici etc.), tennis (Ilie Năstase, Ion Ţiriac), canoe racing (Ivan Patzaichin) and handball (four times men's World Cup winners).

Count Dracula is a worldwide icon of Romania. This character was created by the Irish fictional writer Bram Stoker, based on some stories spread in the late Middle Ages by the frustraded German trademen of Kronstadt (Braṣov) and on some Balkan folklore tales about the historic Romanian figure of Prince Vlad Ţepeş.


See also: History of Christianity in Romania

The majority of Romanians are Eastern Orthodox Christians, belonging to the Romanian Orthodox Church. According to the 2002 census, 94.0% of ethnic Romanians in Romaniamarker identified themselves as Romanian Orthodox (in comparison to 86.8% of Romania's total population, including other ethnic groups). However, it must be noted that the actual rate of church attendance is significantly lower, and that many Romanians are only nominally believers. For example, according to a 2006 Eurobarometer poll, only 23% of Romanians attend church once a week or more. A 2006 poll conducted by the Open Society Foundation found that only 33% of Romanians attended church once a month or more.

Romanian Catholics are present in Transylvania, Bucharestmarker, and parts of Moldavia, belonging to both the Romanian Greek-Catholic Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church. A small percentage of Romanians are Protestant, neo-Protestant (2.8%), or agnostic (0,15%).

There is no official date for the adoption of Christianity by the Romanians. Based on linguistic and archaeological findings, historians suggest that the Romanians' ancestors acquired their religion in the Roman era. Like in all other Romance languages, the basic Romanian words related to Christianity are inherited from Latin, such as God ("Dumnezeu" Domine Deus), church ("biserică" basilica), cross ("cruce" crux, -cis), angel ("înger" angelus), saint (regional: "sân(t)" sanctus), Christmas ("Crăciun" creatio, -onis), Christian ("creştin" christianus), Easter ("paşte" paschae), sin ("păcat" peccatum), to baptize ("a boteza" batizare), a.s.o.

After the Great Schism, there existed a Catholic Bishopric of Cumania (later, separate bishoprics in both Wallachia and Moldavia). However, this seems to be the exception, rather than the rule, as in both Wallachia and Moldavia the state religion (the one use for crowning, and other ceremonies) was orthodox. Until the 17th century, the official language of the liturgy was Old Church Slavonic. Then, it gradually changed to Romanian.


Romanian flag
Moldovan flag
Coat of Arms of Romania

In addition to the colours of the Romanian flag, each historical province of Romania has its own characteristic animal symbol: The Coat of Arms of Romania combines these together.


Relationship to other ethnic groups

The closest ethnic groups to the Romanians are the other Romanic peoples of Southeastern Europe: the Aromanians (Macedo-Romanians), the Megleno-Romanians, and the Istro-Romanians. The Istro-Romanians are the closest ethnic group to the Romanians, and it is believed they left Maramureş, Transylvania about a thousand years ago and settled in Istriamarker, Croatiamarker. Numbering about 500 people still living in the original villages of Istria (while the majority left for other countries after World War II (mainly to Italy, United States, Canada, Germany, France, Sweden, Switzerland, and Australia), they speak the Istro-Romanian language, the closest living relative of Romanian.

The Aromanians and the Megleno-Romanians are Romanic peoples who live south of the Danube, mainly in Greecemarker, Albaniamarker and the Republic of Macedoniamarker, although some of them migrated to Romania in the 20th century. It is believed that they diverged from the Romanians in the 7th to 9th century, and currently speak the Aromanian language and Megleno-Romanian language, both of which are Eastern Romance languages, like Romanian, and are sometimes considered by traditional Romanian linguists to be dialects of Romanian.

See also

Notes and references

  1. The label Moldovan (or Moldovian) indicates nationality, as "ethnic" Moldovans are ethnicaly Romanian - Ethnic Groups Worldwide: A Ready Reference Handbook By David Levinson, Published 1998 - Greenwood Publishing Group.
  2. At the time of the 1989 census, Moldova's total population was 4,335,400. The largest nationality in the republic, ethnic Romanians, numbered 2,795,000 persons, accounting for 64.5 percent of the population. --> Source : U.S. Library of Congress. (however it is one interpretation of census data results. The subject of Moldovan vs Romanian ethnicity touches upon the sensitive topic of Moldova's national identity, page 108 sqq.)
  3. Romanian Citizenship Law (translated to English)
  4. [1] Data according to the Latin Union.
  5. Arizona State University
  6. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2009, O.Ed. The ethnogenesis of the Romanian people was probably completed by the 10th century. The first stage, the Romanization of the Geto-Dacians, had now been followed by the second, the assimilation of the Slavs by the Daco-Romans
  7. Alexander Varzari et al.(2007), [2] "Population history of the Dniester–Carpathians: evidence from Alu markers", Journal of Human Genetics, Volume 52, Number 4, April 2007
  8. Romanian language on Ethnologue.
  9. In an ever more globalized world the incredibly diverse and widespread phenomenon of migration has played a significant role in the ways in which notions such as “home,” “membership” or “national belonging” have constantly been disputed and negotiated in both sending and receiving societies. - Rogers Brubaker, Citizenship and Nationhood (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994).
  10. 2000 U.S. Census, ancestry responses
  11. Romanian Communities Allocation in United States: Study of Romanian-American population (2002), Romanian-American Network, Inc. Retrieved 14 October 2005. Their figure of 1.2 million includes "200,000-225,000 Romanian Jews", 50,000-60,000 Germans from Romania, etc.
  12. European Commission, Eurobarometer National Report: Romania - Autumn 2006, p. 25
  13. Barometrul de Opinie Publică - Mai 2006, p. 112, Open Society Foundation
  14. Istro-Romanians in Croatia

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