New territories 

At the end of the First World War, Romania had found themselves on the winning side and as a result, took the opportunity to expand its territory. The regions of Transylvania, Bessarabia and Bukovina became part of the country. The acquisition of these new territories was made possible thanks to the collapse of the Austro-Hungary Empire and the Russian Empire imploding upon itself thanks to its civil war 

Map of Romania showing the changes from 1914 - 1918.

Greater Romania

This led to the formation of ‘Greater Romania’ – something which nationalists in the country had long dreamt of – uniting all ethnic Romanians into one territory. However, in reality, this new, expanded Romania now found itself with a large number of other ethnic groups within its borders: Hungarian, German, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, and Russian minorities, which in turn put Romania at odds with several of her neighbours which occasionally led to conflict. The Romanian-Hungary War of 1918 – 1919 and the brief but violent Tatarbunary Uprising in 1924 (in just over 3 days, over 3000 people died).

1934, three men use scythes to work in the hayfields. Even by the mid-1930's, 80% of Romanians still were employed in agricultural roles.

27 Rare and Fascinating Color Photographs of Romania in the 1930s ~ Vintage Everyday

In 1929, the effects of the Great Depression started to take hold in Romania. Social unrest, high unemployment and various strikes all occurred. In response, the Romanian government often repressed these incidents violently – most notably in the 1929 miners’ strike in Valea Jiului and the railways workshops in Grivita.

However, by the mid-1930’s the Romanian economy had started to recover, and industry started to grow again, although even at this stage, around 80% of Romanians were still working in agriculture.

The Romanian capital, Bucharest, during the 1930's.

A Royal Dictatorship

Traditionally, Romania had always been a relatively democratic constitutional monarchy which was generally on good terms with the west.

But when the effects of the Great Depression started to be felt along with the rise of fascist organisations such as the Iron Guard, changes started to occur.

The Romanian monarch, King Carol II, proclaimed a ‘royal dictatorship’ in 1938 in an attempt to stabilise the country, and resulted in its policies starting to resemble those of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

Additionally, the west’s weak response to Hitler's increasing confidence and aggression encouraged Romania to drift towards these countries and away from Britain and France.

King Carol II, and his son, Prince Mihai.

A street scene in Oradea, Romania, 1930.

Despite this, when war broke out, Romania attempted to remain neutral.

However, with the Romanian Prime minister, Armand Călinescu, assassinated by the Iron Guard (with German assistance) and it becoming clear that Britain and France were in no position to assist – France having been forced to surrender and Britain having evacuated its troops,

Romania found itself under increasing pressure.

Even worse, with the Germans and Russians having previously signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, Romania now found itself forced to surrender much of the territory it had gained after World War One, with Russia and two other allies of Germany – Hungary and Bulgaria – being the main beneficiaries.

Such a dramatic change in fortune ultimately eroded King Carol’s power and influence and would eventually lead to his abdication and Prime minister Ion Antonescu and the Iron Guard taking control of the country.

Ion Antonescu


(6) Busy street in Bucharest, Romania, in 1930 (colorized) : europe (
Cornel Ban, Neoliberalism in Translation, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Maryland, 2011.
Carol II, King of Romania and his son, the Prince Mihai | coloRostariu (

27 Rare and Fascinating Color Photographs of Romania in the 1930s ~ Vintage Everyday