Introduction of Bucharest
Capital and principal city of Romania, in Walachia in the SE, on the Dimbovita River, a tributary to the Danube. Founded in the 14th century as a military stronghold known as Cetatea Dambovitei, it was strategically located on a principal commercial route to Constantinople. From 1459 it was the seat of the sovereigns of Walachia, who named it Bucharest.
Under the leadership of Constantine Brancovan it was made the Walachian capital in 1698 and continued in this role with the unification of Moldavia and Walachia in 1859 and the emergence of the Romanian nation in 1861. Its strategic position in eastern Europe has made it a suitable site for the negotiation of several important treaties in the region: the Peace of Bucharest between Russia and Turkey in 1812, the settlement treaty between Serbia and Bulgaria in 1886, and the Treaty of Bucharest in 1913, which retracted the conquests of Bulgaria in the Second Balkan War. It was occupied by Germany and her allies from 1916 to 1918 during World War I.
Once known for its stimulating cultural and social life, it was often referred to by Romanians as “Little Paris” or the “Paris of the East” before World War II. It was taken and held by the Nazis from 1940 until 1944 during that war. When the Romanians finally surrendered to the Allies the city was severely damaged by German bombers. It was captured by Soviet troops August 31, 1944, and , with the accession to power of a leftist, pro-Soviet coalition, became part of the communist Eastern bloc. From 1948 until 1956 it served as headquarters for the Cominform. Presently the seat of the patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, it is also the site of several beautiful churches from the 17th and 18th centuries. After World War II the city was surrounded with ugly concrete apartment buildings, in the bombed out areas and then into the surrounding countryside as the population of the city doubled from one to 2 million. The Communist government poured money into huge and grand iose projects including the “House of the People,” the world’s second largest building after the U.S. Pentagon. Only Romanian materials and products were used to build the dictator’s headquarters. Now renamed the Palace of Parliament, the building of 1,000 rooms reflects the work of the country’s best architects and artisans.