The name "Romania," which was first used when the three regions of the
country were united in 1859, reflects the influence of ancient Rome on
the nation's language and culture. The three regions—Walachia, Moldavia,
and Transylvania—are relatively culturally uniform. An exception is the
Hungarian community in Transylvania, which has its own language and
traditions and considers itself Hungarian. The Roma (Gypsies), who are
scattered throughout the country, mostly in small camps on the outskirts
of towns and cities, are in many ways culturally unassimilated.
Romania is in southeastern Europe at the north end of the Balkan
peninsula, bordering Ukraine and Moldova to the north, Hungary to the
northwest, Serbia to the southwest, Bulgaria to the south, and the Black
Sea to the east. The land area is 91,699 square miles (237,500 square
kilometers). The Carpathian Mountains cover about one-third of the
country; they surround the Transylvanian Plateau and divide it from the
other two main regions: Moldavia in the northeast and Walachia in the
south. The Transylvanian Alps in the central region contain the highest
peak, Mount Moldoveanu. The eastern and southern regions are
characterized by rolling plains.
The Danube River stretches through the country for six hundred miles,
forming its southern border with Serbia and Bulgaria and emptying into
the Black Sea in the east. It is a source for irrigation and
Serious environmental problems include soil erosion and water and air
pollution from unregulated industrial development. Because of economic
hardship, the government has been slow to enforce laws that place
restraints on industry.
The population was estimated to be 22,411,121 in 2000. Ninety percent of
the people are Romanian, 7 percent are Hungarian, and 2 percent are
Roma. The remainder is made up of Germans, Ukrainians, and others.
Estimates of the Roma population range from 400,000 to one million; it
is difficult to pinpoint because of the Roma's nomadic lifestyle. Before
World War II, there was a large Jewish population, but almost 400,000
Jews were killed during the Nazi years, and many of the remaining Jews
emigrated to Israel after the war. Today the Jewish population is
estimated at less than 10,000. The German population has also decreased
significantly. In the 1980s, Ceaucescu's government charged citizens
large sums for permission to leave the country, a policy Germans felt
was aimed specifically at them. Since Ceaucescu's regime fell in 1989,
many Germans have emigrated.