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The Romanian people, like all national groups of Eastern Europe, are of extremely mixed ethnic origins. In the main they derive from the Thracian people called Dacians who lived in the region in late prehistoric and Roman times, but they incorporate many other elements: the Roman settlers of the 2nd century A.D., the Slav invaders of the 7th and 8th centuries, Magyar invaders of the 9th and 10th centuries, as well as Turks, Germans Gypsies, and Jews. Other groups, the Celts, the Goths, and Tatars, at some time occupied some part of Romania, and have influenced the racial composition of its people.
Although there were Greek colonies on the Black Sea coast from the 6th century B.C., the first centralized kingdom was of a Thracian people called Dacians. This Dacian civilization reached its zenith under Decebalus, who is still honored today. Due to legendary richness of this region, Dacia was a great temptation for the Roman Emperors. But Dacia was not easy to conquer, and general after general had to bow in front of the brave natives. Finally, the Emperor Trajan conquered the country in 106 A.D. The celebration of the victory lasted 123 days. Seven years later, Trajan erected a monument depicting his victory over Dacia, which is called Trajan's column and still stands today in Rome, Italy. By the mixing of the two peoples, the Romanian people later emerged. As a proof of Rome's powerful influence, not only the land was later called Romania, but also the Romanian language evolved from Latin. Roman colonization and intermarriages followed, and the resultant population was Christianized. In 271 A.D. the Roman legions withdrew, and 1,000 years of sporadic invasions ensued.
The 165 years of occupation left as a lasting legacy the Latin language, which survived the many subsequent invasions of migratory people. Romania is the only Latin country in Eastern Europe.A "Latin island in a Slavic sea." With the exception of Hungary on the northwestern border, Slavonic countries surround it.
Late in the 9th century the Magyar tribes invaded the Hungarian plain from the South Russian steppe. They came by way of the Carpathian passes, and some of their number, the Szeklers, were left behind in Transylvania, or were deliberately settled there after the arrival of the Magyars in the present area of Hungary in order to protect the new state from fresh invaders from the East. The Szecklers have inhabitted their present area in Northern Transylvania at least since the Middle Ages.They are still a notable minority group, having retained their language, only slightly modified from the Hungarian of Hungary itself. The 1992 census reveals a total of 1,624,959 Magyars living in Romania, (7.1% of the population).
The second most important national minority were for a half a century the Germans, descendent from settlers who came in the 13th century mainly from the Moselle Valley. They settled in the good farming country of Transylvania, and have since constituted a compact and distinctive group, perpetuating the costume, architecture, and folkways which they brough from Germany. In 1956 the number of this minority group was officialy put at 384,708. Despite some social and especially cultural achievements obtained until 1989, the German population in Romania dropped dramatically. Only a fourth of them had confidence in the promises made by the rulling bodies at the end of 1989 and the beginning of 1990, the rest of this minority group emigrated to Germany and other western countries. The census of 1992 shows the total number of Germans living in Romania being 119,462 ( 0.5% of the population).
Another minority group that was somewhat protected by the communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu during his reign, are the Gypsies. It seems like after the 1989 events, regardless of their attempts to emigrate in the western countries, most of them have returned to Romania with the money made abroad and built castles for themselves and their children. Many of these Gyspy-Tin-Roof castles with poor architectural style can be seen along the roads in Romania today, and in their courtyards expensive luxury cars have taken the place of their old horse pulled wagons. These fortunate gypsies, however, make up for a very small percentage of their ethnic group. Unfortunately, the greater majority of them are still living bellow poverty level. The cleaned-up, dressed-up, and sharp looking westernized gypsies, together with the greater majority that have never left Romania were making up for a total of 401,087 people in 1992, (1.8% of the population).
Other minority groups are relatively small. The Yugoslavs (Serbians), numbering 46,517 in 1956, have decreased following the fall of communism and moved west in Yugoslavia or other western countries, much like the Germans did. The 1992 census shows a total of 29,408 Serbians living mainly in the southwest in territory (0.1% of the population). They live in an area that is ethnically very mixed, with German and Hungarian communities in addition to the Romanian and Yugoslav.
Jews lived in Romania in the 15th century, but the majority came in from Poland and Russia during the 19th century. They usually lived as a class apart from the rest of the population, and in 1939, a total of 517,754 were recorded by the census as Yddish speaking. The Jewish population was greatly reduced by the territorial losses of 1940. The Jewish community suffered a great loss from war time persecution, thus in 1947 numbered about 428,300. This number was once again reduced by immigration to Israel, and in 1956 the Jews numbered only about 146,000. During the Communism regime, numerous Jewish families were allowed to leave Romania, but the cruel part was that money was received in exchange for each Jew leaving. Following the events of 1989 and the opening of the borders, the number of Jewish population has dramatically diminished leaving many synagogues literally empty. The 1992 census shows only 8,955 Jewish people living in Romania.
In the East Romania includes part of the settlement area of Ukrainians, Russians, Tatars, Turks, and Bulgarians. Each of these communities is, however, quite small; the largest, the Ukrainians, Ruthenians and Hutzuls, numbered in 1992 a total of 65,764 people, (0.3% of the population).
Other minorities living in Romania according to the 1992 census are as follows: 38,606 Russians (0.2%); 29,832 Turks (0.1%); 24,596 Tatars (0.1%); 19,594 Slovaks (less than 0.1%); 9,851 Bulgarians (0.05%); 4,085 Croatians; 4,232 Poles; 3,940 Greeks; 1,957 Armenians; others 8,602.
Romanians have a recorded presence of over 250 years on American soil. In the middle of the year 1748, a Transylvanian priest named Samuel Damian immigrated to America for scientific reasons. Damian conducted various experiments with electricity and even caught the attention of Benjamin Franklin (they met and had a conversation in Latin). After living in South Carolina for a few years, Damian left for Jamaica and disappeared from historical record. In 1849, a group of Romanians came to California during the Gold Rush but, being unsuccessful, migrated to Mexico. Romanians continued to immigrate to America during this period, and some distinguished themselves in the Union Army during the Civil War. George Pomutz (1818-1882) joined the Fifteenth Volunteer Regiment of Iowa and fought at such battlefields as Shiloh, Corinth, and Vicksburg and was later promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. Nicholas Dunca (1825-1862), a captain serving in the Ninth Volunteer Regiment of New York, died in the battle of Cross Keyes, Virginia. Another Romanian-born soldier, Constantin Teodoresco, died in the Spanish-American War in 1898.
The first major wave of Romanian immigration to the United States took place between 1895 and 1920, during which 145,000 Romanians entered the country. They came from various regions, including Wallachia and Moldavia. The majority of these immigrants - particularly those from Transylvania and Banat - were unskilled laborers who left their native regions because of economic depression and forced assimilation, a policy practiced by Hungarian rulers. They were attracted to the economic stability of the United States which promised better wages and improved working conditions. Many did not plan to establish permanent residency in America, intending instead to save enough money to return to Romania and purchase land. Consequently, tens of thousands of Romanians immigrants who achieved this goal left the United States within a few years and by 1920 the Romanian American population was approximately 85,000.
Between 1921 and 1939, the number of Romanians entering the United States declined for several reasons. Following World War I, Transylvania, Bukovina, Bassarabia, and other regions under foreign rule officially became part of Romania, thus arresting emmigration for a time. In addition, the U. S. Immigration Act of 1924 established a quota system which allowed only 603 persons per year to immigrate from Romania. The great depression added to the decline of new Romanian immigrants to the United States; immigration figures reached their lowest level at the beginning of World War II. Romanians who did enter the country during this period, however, included students, professionals, and others who later made notable contributions to American society. A new surge of immigrants to the United States was generated by the threat of Nazi occupation of Romania during World War II. When the Communists assumed control of the country in 1947, they imposed many political, economic, and social restrictions on the Romanian people. Refugees (who had left the country as a result of persecutions, arrests, or fear of being mistreated) and exiles (who were already abroad and chose not to return to Romania) were admitted into the United States through the auspices of the Displaced Persons Act of 1947 and other legislation passed to help absorb the flood of refugees and other immigrants from postwar Europe. Because of the abrupt and dramatic nature of their departure, the refugees and exiles (estimated at about 30,000) received special moral and financial support from various Romanian organizations - religious and secular - in America. These immigrants infused an important contingent of professionals, including doctors, lawyers, writers, and engineers into theRomanian American community and were also more active politically. They established new organizations and churches and fought against Communist rule in their homeland.
After the revolution of December 1989, which brought an end to Communism in Romania, thousands of new immigrants of all ages came to the United States; and new arrivals (legal and illegal) continue to enter the country. The elimination of Communist travel restrictions, the desire of thousands of people to be reunited with their American relatives and friends, and the precarious economic conditions in the new Romania were powerful incentives to come to America for a new start in life. Among the newcomers were professionals, former political prisoners, and others who were disenchanted with the new leadership in Romania. There were also many Romanian tourists who decided to remain in America. Many of these immigrants spoke English and adjusted relatively well, even if they took lower paying jobs than those to which their credentials or experience entitled them. However, others found neither employment nor understood the job hunting process, and returned to Romania. Still others left the United States to try their luck in Canada or South America. Those who chose to return to Europe settled in Germany, France, or Italy. According to the 1990 U. S. Census, there were approximately 365,544 people of Romanian ancestry living in the United States.
Because early Romanian immigrants were either peasants or laborers, they settled in the major industrial centers of the East and Midwest and took unskilled jobs in factories. The heaviest concentrations of Romanian Americans can be found in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and Indiana. A substantial number of Romanians also settled in Florida and California. Living near the factories where they worked, first-generation Romanian Americans established communities which often consisted of extended families or of those who had migrated from the same region in Romania. Second and third generation Romanian Americans, having achieved financial security and social status, gradually moved out of the old neighborhoods, settling either in suburban areas or in larger cities, or relocating to another state. Consequently, there are few Romanian American communities left that preserve the social fabric of the first-generation neighborhoods.
While most Romanian Americans immigrated from Romania, a significant number also arrived from countries adjacent to or bordering Romania. The Republic of Moldova, known as Basarabia before World War II, is in fact a second Romanian country. Sandwiched between Romania and the Ukraine, it occupies an area of 13,010 square miles (33,700 square kilometers). Its capital is Chisinãu (pronounced Keesheenau). The population of 4.5 million consists of 65% Romanians, 14% Ukrainians, 13% Russians, 4% Gagauz (Turks of Christian faith), and 2% Bulgarians. There are also smaller groups of Poles, Belarusans Germans, and Gypsies. While 98% of the population are Eastern Orthodox believers, some Moldavians are Protestant and Jewish. The Official language of Moldova is Moldovan (a dialect of Romanian), and the second language is Russian. The countrys flag is the same as Romanias: red, yellow, and blue vertical stripes, with the emblem of Moldova's coat of arms added in the center.
During the Middle Ages, Basarabia was an integral part of the Romanian principality of Moldavia; but it later became a tributary to the Ottoman Empire. In 1812, following the Russian-Turkish War (1806-1812), Basarabia was annexed by Tsarist Russia until the 1917 October Revolution. In 1918, as a result of the Romanian population majority vote, Basarabia was reunited with Romania; but in 1940, the Soviet Union, in a pact with Nazi Germany, gained control of the land. During 1941-1944, Romania recaptured the territory but lost it one more time at the conclusion of World War II, when the Soviet Union incorporated Basarabia under the name of the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic. After the fall of Communism, in 1991, the country became independent and took the name of the Republic of Moldova. It underwent various changes (free elections, a multi-party system of government, and economic reforms) before reaching an understanding in 1996 with separatist movements in two regions, Dnestr and Gagauzia. There was also a movement for reunification with Romania, but the majority of the population opted for independence.
Immigrants from Moldova who came to America before World War II, as well as those who arrived later (about 5,000 in the 1990s), consider themselves members of the Romanian American community, using the same language, worshiping in the same Eastern Orthodox or Protestant churches, and preserving the same heritage. They are also fully integrated in Romanian American organizations and support the reunification of their land of origin with Romania.
Macedo-Romanians, also called Aromanians or Vlachs, live mostly in Albania, but also in Greece and Macedonia. In addition, they have lived in Yugoslavia and Bulgaria for over 2,000 years. Their history goes back to the First and Second Centuries A.D., when the Roman Empire included the territories of todays Romania and neighboring Balcanic countries. It is estimated that there are about 600,000 to 700,000 Macedo-Romanians in the above mentioned countries. They know the Romanian language, but they also use their own dialect consisting of many archaisms, characteristic regional expressions and foreign influences. Macedo-Romanians consider themselves Romanian, and belong to the same Eastern Orthodox Church. In the United States, there are about 5,000 Macedo-Romanians, settled mostly in the states of Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Missouri. The first wave of immigration took place at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, while a second wave was recorded after World War II, and family reunifications continue to this day.
Macedo-Romanians are characterized by their hard work, the high esteem in which they keep their families, and the value they place on education. They adjusted well to American life and preserved their cultural heritage via their own organizations. Although the younger generation of Macedo-Romanians are proud of their heritage, they display strong trends of assimilation and tend to use English more than the language of their ancestors.
Romanian national minority groups of various ethnic backrounds immigrated to the United States along with the bulk of Romanian ethnics, and many still use or know the Romanian language. Such ethnic groups to be considered are: Armenians, Germans, Gypsies, Hungarians, Jews, Russians and Ukrainians who came from Romania during the 20th century.
There are about 20,000-25,000 Armenian Americans who immigrated from Romania especially after World War II because many were former businessmen, industrialists, and professionals and whole families had been deprived of their economic positions and suffered other represions by Romania's Communist regime. The majority settled in New York, California, Massachusetts, and Michigan.
The Germans who immigrated from Romania consist of two main groups: Swabians from Banat, Transylvania and Bukovina, and Saxons mainly from Transylvania. Swabians started coming to America in the 18th century. Thier immigration continued in the 19th century. They were joined by an influx of Saxons at the turn of the century and in the next two decades. Many immigrants were farmers, craftsmen, manual workers, and settled mostly in Mid-western states. Thousands of new immigrants arrived after World War II. Presently, the total Romanian-German population in the United States and Canada is estimated at about 50,000-60,000 people.
Gypsies who came from Romania consist of three groups: Kalderash, Ludars (Lautari in Romanian), and Romungre (descending from Transylvania). Their immigration started at the turn of the century and continued in the next two decades. A new influx was recorded after World War II. They settled mostly in New York, California, Maryland, Texas, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey and Florida. The majority are musicians, fortune tellers, horse traders, vehicle dealers, construction workers, tinkers, and metal workers, and many are still travelers. Their total population is estimated at about 10,000-15,000 people.
The Hungarians from Transylvania immigrated to America at the turn of the century. The influx continued in the next two decades and was slightly resumed after World War II. They mostly settled in New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Chicago and Florida. Presently, the population is estimated at about 15,000-20,000.
Romanian Jews started arriving in America in the first half of the 19th century. Mass migration increased in the 1880s and at the turn of the century, because of discriminatory legislation. By the 1930s, over 130,000 Romanian Jews were in the United States. The flow of the immigration resumed after World War II, with the arrival of thousands of victims of the Holocaust or refugees fleeing the Communist regime in Romania. Some came via Israel. Presently, there are about 200,000-225,000 Romanian Jews in both America and Canada, mostly living in New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, and Washington DC.
Along with the previous minority ethnics from Romania, came also Russian immigrants from the region of Dobrogea, adjacent to the Black Sea.
Ukrainians/Bukovinians Ukrainians immigrated to the United States mostly from the region of Bukovina, integral part of Romania before World War II, but presently divided between the Northern Bukovina under Ukrainian control, and Southern Bukovina under Romanian rule. It is estimated that the Ukrainian Americans from Bukovina number about 10,000. Their ancestors came at the turn of the century for economic reasons, but several thousands came after World War II via Germany and Austria as displaced persons. They settled in New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Florida, and Illinois.