Country Listing

Romania Table of Contents


Ottoman Domination and the Struggle for National Unity and Independence

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the lands of modern Romania became a battleground for Ottoman armies invading southeastern Europe and for local voivodes who resisted their incursions. Moldavia and Walachia succumbed and accepted rule by the Ottoman Empire despite some great victories won by their armies and voivodes such as Stephen the Great, Voivode of Moldavia (1457-1504). Although Ottoman suzerainty proved to be relatively lenient, the sultans forbade the principalities to maintain armies that could be used to fight for independence. Michael the Brave, prince of Walachia (1593-1601), defied them, briefly emancipated and united the principalities, and defeated Ottoman armies in 1596. But the latter reasserted control over the principalities and killed Michael in 1601.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the expanding Russian and Habsburg, or Austro-Hungarian, empires began to contest Ottoman domination of the Balkans and fought many battles against the Ottoman armies on the territory of Moldavia and Walachia. A Walachian voivode, Tudor Vladimirescu, led a brigade of 6,000 men fighting in tsarist ranks in the Russo-Turkish War of 1806-12. Vladimirescu received the Russian Order of St. Vladimir for his service. In 1821 he led a rebellion in Walachia against Ottoman rule. Tsar Alexander I, however, did not approve of his actions, and Vladimirescu fell out of favor with the Russian Empire.

In 1848 Romanian nationalists formed an armed force to fight for the liberation and unification of the principalities into a modern state. Recognizing the challenge that this development implied, Russian and Habsburg armies invaded to forestall unification. The unsuccessful revolution of 1848 showed that there would not be a Romanian nation-state, independent of control by any empire, until the military power needed to defend it was established.

Data as of July 1989