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Area: 238,391 sq km
Population: 21.3 million
Languages: Romanian, Hungarian, Romany (Gypsy)
Religions: Orthodix Christian, Protestant, Catholic
GNI per capita: US$6,150
Currency: RON (leu);1USD = 2.5 lei
Established as a province of the Roman Empire in A.D. 100, Romania has survived various conquerors throughout its history. It has seen numerous empires come and go from the Roman, to the Ottoman, to the Austro-Hungarian. After World War II the country was under communist rule although the leadership pursued a foreign policy independent of that of the Soviet Union.
Romania has a varied terrain, including dry and sandy plains as well as high mountain ranges. Summers are hot and sunny with frequent rain and thunderstorms. Winters are cold and cloudy with plenty of snow and fog.
Former communists dominated politics until 1996 when a centrist government came to power. It became involved in prolonged political feuding which did little or nothing to promote economic reform. The left returned in 2000 when Ion Iliescu was re-elected president. Failure to push ahead sufficiently with reforms meant that the country was not on the list of new EU members four years later. However, in April 2005 Bucharest signed the EU accession treaty, paving the way for Romania to join the union in January 2007.
Romanians are proud people with a rich cultural and religious history, reflected in their beautiful cathedrals. Yet one-quarter of the population lives below the poverty level, making Romania one of the poorest countries in Europe. One in two Romanians lives in rural areas and survives through subsistence farming. Poor families struggle to keep warm during the severe winters, when the temperature often drops to -30°C.