The year 1918 was the beginning of a prolonged process of unification, a difficult effort that concentrated national energies in the years to come. The result, with all its flaws, was a democratic state, anchored in the legal system that emerged after the Paris Peace Conference, where minorities enjoyed unparalleled political and cultural freedoms. It was rightly considered one of the best times in Romanian history.
DEMOCRATIC GREATER ROMANIA EMERGES FROM THE WAR
The Great War claimed the lives of about 1.5 million Romanians. The vast human and material losses were strongly felt during the interwar years and proved to be major obstacles in the construction of new Romania.
The Great Union led to tremendous changes:
- The country’s surface increased from 138,000 square km to 295,049 square km;
- The population nearly doubled from 7.9 million inhabitants in 1915 to 14.7 million inhabitants in 1919;
- The arable area grew from 6,650,000 hectares to 14,000,000 hectares;
- The industrial wealth increased by 235%.
Greater Romania, as the new political entity came to be known, was the 10th largest of the 28 countries of what was then Europe. It was a democratic state, endowed with one of the most liberal constitutions of the time, adopted in 1923. The origin of this new state lay in an old political ideal as well as the democratic will of the majority of Romanians living in historical provinces hitherto parts of several empires.
Respect for citizens’ rights and liberties are mentioned in the fundamental documents adopted by the representative bodies that made this historical moment possible. The rights of minorities were explicitly protected.
The Act of Union of Bessarabia with Romania, adopted by the Country Council on March 27, 1918, established the election of a legislative institution (council) by universal suffrage, the recognition of minorities, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and other freedoms. The Resolution of the National Assembly in Alba Iulia (December 1, 1918) guaranteed freedom of expression for all minorities as well as freedom of religion, and provided for a democratic regime based on universal suffrage, freedom of the press, and freedom of association and assembly. It also called for agrarian reform and a modern legislation for workers.
On December 9, 1919, representatives of Romania signed the Treaty on National Minorities at the Paris Peace Conference. The Treaty was concluded between Romania and the Principal Allied and Associated Powers: the United States of America, the British Empire, France, Italy and Japan. ‘Romania, by its own will, desires to give certain guarantees of freedom and justice both to the inhabitants of the Old Kingdom of Romania and to those in the newly transferred territories, regardless of the race, language or religion to which they belong’. The rights and liberties mentioned in this treaty were already covered by the country’s legislation.
In the years following the unification of 1918, Romanian authorities implemented a series of fundamental reforms that contributed to the rapid modernisation of Romanian society.
allowed a growing number of citizens to participate in public life. The promises made by King Ferdinand I and the other leaders during the war were respected and, on November 2-6, 1919, the first elections took place on the basis of the universal ballot in Romania. In 1912, the number of voters in the country was 100,000. In 1926, their number increased to 3.4 million, and in 1937 it reached 4.6 million.
was legislated in 1921 and was one of the most comprehensive in Europe at that time. Approximately 4.5 million hectares of arable land were divided among peasants.
All of the fundamental laws adopted after the Great Union (the 1918 electoral law, 1923 agrarian law, 1925 administrative law, 1924-1928 law on education, 1925 general religion law) were based on the principle of non-discrimination on ethnic grounds. This state of affairs was enshrined in several articles of the Constitution of 1923:
Article 5: ‘Romanians, regardless of ethnic origin, language or religion, enjoy freedom of conscience, freedom of education, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of association and all the freedoms and rights established by law’.
Article 7: ‘The distinction of religious beliefs and confessions, of ethnic origin and language, is not a barrier in Romania to acquiring civil and political rights and to exercising them’.
Sculptor Constantin Brâncuși
The period that followed the Great Union, between the two world wars, was rightly considered one of the best in Romanian history. In the interwar period, Romanian society underwent an ample process of political, economic and cultural modernisation. In spite of many difficulties, the economy grew significantly, while Romanian culture and arts, through prominent representatives like Henri Coandă, Hermann Oberth, Nicolae Paulescu, Nicolae Iorga, Mircea Eliade, Emil Cioran, George Enescu, Constantin Brâncuși and others, came to be admired everywhere in Europe and the world.
Composer George Enescu
Philosopher and essayist Emil Cioran
Inventor and aerodynamics pioneer Henri Coandă
Writer and philosopher of religion Mircea Eliade
This website has been set up as part of the programme celebrating the Centenary of United Romania (1918-2018).
This website is created and financed by the Romanian Cultural Institute (RCI) through the Romanian Cultural Institute in London and the RCI’s Department of Promotion and Communication.