Country Listing

Romania Table of Contents


Traditional Settlement Patterns

Romania remained a predominantly rural country until well after World War II, with most of the population living in villages and working in agriculture. Just before the war, more than 15,000 villages were spread out over the territory between the Danube Delta and the Carpathians, where more than three-quarters of the population resided. Many of the villages were little changed by contemporary events, at least in appearance, and continued to be categorized into three types, depending on the terrain they occupied. Village settlements on the plains tended to be large and concentrated; most were involved in agriculture, primarily in cultivating cereals and raising livestock. In the hilly regions, settlements were more scattered. Here the main activities were fruit and wine production, and homesteads were generally surrounded by vineyards and orchards. At higher altitudes, settlements were mainly involved in raising livestock and in lumbering, and the villages were even more dispersed.

Romania's first urban settlements were founded by the Greeks on the Black Sea Coast at Tomi (now Constanta) and Kallatis (now Mangalia). Roman occupation brought urban settlements to the plains and mountains, and many towns were founded on ancient Dacian settlement sites. These towns were situated at strategic and commercial vantage points, and their importance endured long after the Romans had departed. Cluj-Napoca, Alba-Iulia, and Drobeta-Turnu Severin are among the major cities with Dacian roots and Roman development. During the Middle Ages, as trade between the Black Sea and Central Europe developed, a number of settlements grew into important trade centers, including Brasov, Sibiu, and Bucharest.

Despite some ancient urban roots, most of Romania's urban development came late. In 1948 only three cities had more than 100,000 inhabitants, and the total urban population was only 3.7 million. By 1970 thirteen cities had populations of more than 100,000, the population of Bucharest alone had increased by some 507,000, and the total urban population had reached 8.2 million. The urban population increased from 23.4 percent of the total population in 1948 to 41 percent in 1970.

This increased urbanization was not simply a consequence of the development of nonagricultural activities; for the most part it was centrally directed by the PCR under the guiding influence of Marxist concepts. According to Marxism, urbanization has important intrinsic value that aids in the creation of a socialist society, and urban areas are economically, socially, and culturally superior. Urbanization based on the development of industry enables the state to transform society and eradicate the differences between rural and urban life.

Romanian urbanization did not result in a large number of new cities spread evenly throughout the country. Although the number of cities rose from 183 in 1956 to 236 in 1977, and the proportion of the population living in urban areas increased to 47 percent, most of this growth came in the old towns, some of which doubled, tripled, and even quadrupled their prewar populations. Bucharest far exceeded all other cities in growth and by 1975 was approaching 2 million inhabitants--19.9 percent of the total urban population. Meanwhile the number of cities with populations of more than 100,000 had grown to eighteen, accounting for another 35.7 percent of the urban population. Thus by 1978 more than half of the country's total urban population lived in just 19 of Romania's 236 urban areas.

Data as of July 1989