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Most of Romania's territory was inhabited in Antiquity by Dacian tribes, a branch of the Thracian people. By the 1st century B.C. the Dacians managed to create a powerful tribal union/kingdom with its center in present day south-western Transylvania, but after years of internal conflicts and a series of wars with the Roman Empire, in 106 A.D. the Dacians were finally defeated and much of their country became a Roman province. The rich natural resources and a wise Roman administration brought prosperity to the region; this situation encouraged people from throughout the Roman Empire to settle here and prompted the Dacians to adopt the Latin language, the Roman way of life, religion etc.
As the power of the Roman Empire was fading, this region at the edge of the Empire increasingly came under attack from nomadic tribes; as a result, around 271 A.D. the Roman administration and military left the province, because they considered it can no longer be defended. A sizable part of the population left with them, but most people stayed on, retreating from the cities and from other open places into safer areas (mountains, river valleys, woodlands etc.); naturally, they had to adopt a rather primitive way of life, but they managed to preserve many Roman customs and most importantly, the Latin-based language.
For the next several centuries the territory of Romania was overrun by successive waves of nomadic peoples, but fortunately, as these tribes were not too numerous, they didn't make a significant influence over the locals. The notable exception were the Slavic tribes, which arrived in the 6th century A.D. and left a lasting legacy; the mix between the local Dacian-Romans (usually called Vlachs) and the Slavs gave rise to the present-day Romanian people.
As the Dark Ages were coming to an end the small rural communities in which the Romanians lived slowly began to unite into larger political entities, but they were soon confronted with the ambitions of the powerful neighboring states. Between the 11th and 13th centuries the small states west of the Carpathian Mountains were incorporated into the Hungarian Kingdom (which created on this ocassion the Voivodeship of Transylvania). During this time Magyars and Szekelys (and later Germans) settled in Transylvania; initially the situation of Romanians in the region was relatively good, but over the time they were progressively marginalized, mainly on the grounds that they remained Orthodox Christians while the Hungarian Kingdom strongly promoted Catholicism.
Across the Carpathians the Romanians were more successful in creating their own states. In the early 14th century the principality of Wallachia appeared south of the mountains; its independence was consolidated by Basarab I's victories against the Mongols and Hungarians. East of the Carpathians the principality of Moldavia also achieves independence around 1360, under Bogdan of Cuhea. Both these states developed very rapidly in the next few years and turned into stable and prosperous countries, but by the end of the century they were already facing the expansionism of the Ottoman Empire.
The two states initially succeeded in resisting the Turkish attacks (most notably during the reigns of Mircea the Elder in Wallachia and Stephen the Great in Moldavia), but eventually (in the 15-16th century) they had to accept Ottoman suzerainty: they were forced to pay a yearly tribute, but they were allowed to preserve their internal autonomy. After the collapse of the Hungarian Kingdom in the 16th century, Transylvania also became a tributary state of the Ottoman Empire. The rulers of the principalities constantly attempted to restore their independence (and some wanted even more:in 1600, Michael the Brave, the prince of Wallachia, gained control of both Transylvania and Moldavia). The Empire reacted by progressively diminishing the principalities autonomy, a policy which climaxed in the 18th century.
In the 18th century a Romanian national revival movement began developing in Transylvania, as the local Romanians were attempting to regain their political rights. Although for the moment they didn't achieve much, their movement marked the beginning of the Romanian awakening. After a 1821 uprising, taking advantage of the favorable international situation, Wallachia and Moldavia rapidly regained their autonomy to the point of becoming virtually independent; as such, they decided to unite in 1859, creating modern Romania.After taking part in the 1877 - 78 war against Turkey Romania's independence was internationally recognized (and it also acquired the Black Sea province of Dobruja). In the years to WWI Romania achieved unprecedented progress and prosperity, nearly turning into a modern European country; the situation of the peasants worsened though, leading to a massive uprising in 1907.
In WWI Romania fought against Germany and Austro-Hungary, without much success. Fortunately, at the war's end the neighboring empires collapsed and the Romanians living in them were able to unite their provinces (Transylvania, Bessarabia and Bukovina) with Romania. The new Romania went relatively well until the late 30's when the rise of fascism and authoritarianism plunged it into dictatorship. In 1940 Romania suffered heavy territorial losses and in 1941 it entered WWII on Germany's side; in 1944 the regime of marshal Antonescu was removed and Romania joined the Allies. In 1946 the Soviet Union imposed a communist government, which in 1947 turned the country into a republic.The first 15 years of communist rule were marked by large scale imprisonments, purges, nationalization of industry and collectivization of agriculture; after 1964 the regime renounced open terror and tried to distance itself from the USSR's line, especially in the early part of Nicolae Ceausescu's dictatorship. Later his inept economical policies and grotesque personality cult led to widespread popular discontent; the December 1989 revolution overthrew the communist regime and Ceausescu was executed. The transition to democracy and market economy did not go as smooth or fast as in other Eastern European states, but eventually (after 2000 - 2001) things started to pick up and Romania was able to join the European Union in January 2007.