Anti-romanian discrimination

Anti-Romanian discrimination and sentiment or Romanian-phobia[1] (Romanian: antiromânism,[2] românofobie) is hostility toward or prejudice against Romanians as an ethnic, linguistic, religious, or perceived racial group, and can range from individual hatred to institutionalized, violent persecution.

Anti-Romanian discrimination and sentiment has been present in various degrees among the peoples and/or governments of countries bordering on Romania, either toward Romania itself or towards Romanian ethnic minorities residing in these countries. Similar patterns have existed toward other groups both in the region and elsewhere in the world, especially where political borders do not coincide with the patterns of ethnic population.

Kingdom of Hungary and Austria-Hungary

Transylvania in the Middle Ages was organized according to the system of Estates, which were privileged groups (universitates) with power and influence in socio-economic and political life, being nonetheless organized according to certain ethnic criteria as well. The first Estate was the lay and ecclesiastic aristocracy, ethnically heterogeneous, but undergoing a process of homogenization around its Hungarian nucleus. The other Estates were Saxons, Szeklers and Romanians (or Vlachs - Universitas Valachorum), all with an ethnic and ethno-linguistic basis (Universis nobilibus, Saxonibus, Syculis et Olachis). The general assembly (congregatio generalis) of the four Estates had mainly supra-legislative powers in Transylvania, but it sometimes took measures regarding order in the country, relationships between the privileged, military issues, etc.

The turning point in the history of the Romanian population in Transylvania was in 1366, when through the Decree of Turda the king Louis I Anjou of Hungary redefined nobility in terms of membership in the Roman Catholic Church and, thus specifically excluding the Eastern Orthodox Romanians. The only possibility for Romanians to retain or access nobility was through conversion to Roman Catholicism. Some Orthodox Romanian nobles converted, being integrated in the Hungarian nobility, but the most of them declined, thus losing their status and privileges.

As a result, gradually, after 1366 Romanians lost their status as an Estate and were excluded from Transylvania's assemblies. This meant that the Romanian population of Transylvania was never directly represented in the Transylvanian Diet, which consisted of German, Hungarian and Szekler nobles (the Unio Trium Nationum), even though all the censuses conducted by the Hungarian authorities recorded that the three groups were minorities, while the Romanians comprised an absolute majority of the Transylvanian population. Moreover, in Medieval times, the Romanians were not allowed to reside within the walls of such Transylvanian cities as Sibiu (Nagyszeben/Hermannstadt), Braşov (Brassó/Kronstadt) or Cluj (Kolozsvár/Klausenburg). This led to extensive persecution against the under-represented Romanians. For example, in the 16th century, Transylvanian laws of justice separated the rights of Hungarians, Saxons and Szeklers from the rights of the Romanians.

As a consequence, Romanian peasants would sometimes revolt and demand better treatment. These revolts, such as the 1784 Romanian peasant uprising, were ruthlessly suppressed, met at times by horrible cruelty on the part of the Hungarian nobles who executed peasant leaders and other rebels by breaking on the wheel. This method of execution consisted of the victim being laid on the ground whilst the executioner would break the prisoner’s bones with a spiked wheel. Other peasants would be forced to watch the executions in order to frighten them from attempting future uprisings. In 1918, after the First World War, Transylvania was incorporated into Romania.

Russian Empire

Bessarabia became a part of the Russian Empire according to the 1812 Treaty of Bucharest. A period of autonomy followed, after which all Romanian government institutions, schools and presses were closed and replaced by a Russian-style provincial administration in 1828. At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, Bessarabia saw an intense process of Russification. Military service also became a new instrument of Russification. The process of Russification and colonization of this territory started to be carried out by representatives of other ethnic groups of the Russian Empire, including Jews, Germans, Bulgarians, Gagauz, and Ukrainians.

  • Russian census 1817: 86% Romanians
  • Russian census 1856: 74% Romanians
  • Russian census 1897: 56% Romanians

Soviet Union (including the 1917 Revolution)

When the Russian Empire collapsed after the Russian Revolution of 1917, a local body called “Sfatul Ţării” ("Council of the Country") was created in Bessarabia. Moldova became an independent republic on December 2, 1917. Given that Soviet raids already menaced the newly formed authority, the local body ("Sfatul Ţării") called in support troops from the Kingdom of Romania. The troops entered Bessarabia on December 13. On March 27, 1918, the local body (Sfatul Ţării) voted to unite with Romania. Subsequently, the Soviet Union refused to recognize the union, and supported an intense propaganda stating that the Kingdom of Romania was an imperialistic multi-ethnic state.

Bessarabia was a part of Romania until 1940 when the USSR re-annexed the territory as well as Northern Bukovina.

The convention of October 28, 1920, whereby the British Empire, France, Italy, and Japan recognized Romanian sovereignty in Bessarabia, was rejected as invalid by the USSR. Moscow even denied the validity of that part of the convention that stipulated that, upon Russian request, the Council of the League of Nations could be empowered to arbitrate the Russo-Romanian dispute over Bessarabia. In short, the Kremlin insisted that Romania was illegally occupying Bessarabia. Moscow also encouraged revolutionary activities by Bolshevik elements in Bessarabia.

The exact position of the USSR on these issues is unknown except for Moscow's unwillingness to make any concessions to Bucharest on Bessarabian issues. Recent tracts by Romanian historians have emphasized the support given by Romanian Communists to the "democratic forces" opposed to alteration of the status quo in Transylvania in 1938 and subsequent years. True as this may be, there has been no evidence presented in support of any fundamental change in Moscow's positions with respect to Bessarabia in 1938 and subsequent years.

According to official NKVD documents, over 15,000 Romanians from Northern Bukovina were deported to Siberia in 1940 alone.[3] The Soviet action culminated with the Fântâna Albă massacre when 2,500 to 3,000 Romanian refugees who were attempting to leave Northern Bukovina for Romania were blocked by the USSR Border Troops and about 200 of them were shot, at a place called "Fântâna Albă" (White Fountain in Romanian). This policy resulted in a substantial shrinkage of the Romanian population in the province. By 1941, out of 250,000 Romanians in Northern Bukovina, only 192,000 were left.

The territory of the Moldavian SSR was composed of Bessarabia (except for Southern Bessarabia, assigned to Ukraine) and a part of the territory of the former Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (Transnistria), founded in 1924 within the territory of Ukraine. In the document confirming the establishment of the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (MASSR) of 12 October 1924 the West frontier of the republic was traced out not along the Dniester River but the Prut River. In the MASSR the ideology of a separate Moldovan identity was pursued, including the introduction of Moldovan language, distinct from Romanian. The Cyrillic alphabet and abundant Russisms were introduced.

Another historical event which contributed to the future implementation of the anti-Romanian feelings was Romania’s behaviour in World War II, when the Romanian regime allied itself with Nazi Germany.

In Bessarabia, the Soviet government pursued a policy of assimilation of the native Romanian population. First, the province was divided into a "Moldovan" Socialist Republic and a southern region known as Budjak, which was renamed Izmail Oblast and attached to the Ukrainian SSR. Elite elements of the Romanian population were then deported to Siberia much like their Bukovinian counterparts. Russian and Ukrainian settlers were used to fill the vacant areas caused by the deportation of Romanians.[4] Romanians who continued to identify themselves as Romanians and not Moldovans were severely punished by the Communist regime.

In 1946-1947, as a result of the famine organised in the MSSR (according to some data of certain scientists; official data has not yet been published), around 300,000 died and many cases of cannibalism occurred. In addition, the population of the former MASSR, as a part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, also suffered from the artificial famine in the 1930s when several million people died in Ukraine (see also Holodomor).

The territory of Transnistria was more industrialised in comparison with the other part of Moldova and the industrialisation process of Transnistria was accompanied by a population flow from other areas of the USSR, especially from Russia. Although in the Republic of Moldova the level of population density was the highest one in the USSR, Moscow continued to stimulate the arrival of labour force from outside, including that with a poor qualification. Even Igor Smirnov himself, current leader of the separatist regime of Transnistria, was sent in 1987 from Russia to Bender to be the director of an enterprise. This process was also amplified by the excessive militarization of the area.

Many officers of the Red Army, serving in military units on the left bank of Dniester river, transferred to reserve, preferred to stay and live in Tiraspol and Bender. Therefore, although in the whole of the MSSR in 1989 the titular nationality's share of the population was about 65%, in Transnistria it stood at only 40%. Moreover, the majority of the Romance-speaking population on the left bank of the Dniester was dispersed in rural localities and it was more difficult for them to consolidate and to express themselves politically.

The 1989 adoption of the Law on state language (official language) and Law on functioning of languages on the territory of the MSSR generated an extremely negative reaction in the industrial centres of Transnistria, where the largely Russian-speaking population was not being consulted, and felt threatened by the prospects of Romanianization. These laws proclaimed the Moldovan (Romanian) language, written in the Latin alphabet, as the only state language. The fact that Moldovan and Romanian are identical was recognised. Although a majority of the Transnistrian population never read these laws which served as a reason for the conflict's outburst, they feared that by the application of the new linguistic legislation, Russian language speakers would become second-class citizens. At the industrial enterprises, including those of the military-industrial complex of the USSR, strikes occurred protesting against granting official language status to the Moldavian (Romanian) language.

Post-USSR Moldova and Transnistria

After the break-up of the USSR, various legislative reforms consolidated the position of ethnic Romanians/Moldovans, especially by establishing the Moldovan language as the official language. The 2001 parliamentary elections, won by the Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova, initially brought a series of attempts to raise Russian to the status of a state language. However, the project was dropped due to popular opposition.

Relations between the Moldovan and Romanian governments have initially included some tension as the Moldovan government led by President Vladimir Voronin accused Romania of imperialism. Nevertheless, in the recent past relations have improved and President Voronin as well as Romanian President Traian Băsescu have called for cooperation between the two sovereign states.

In 2006, the Gh. Asachi Romanian-French School was forced by the government to change its name to the Gh. Asachi Moldovan-French School. Critics argued that the government acted unilaterally and discriminated against Romanians, as other schools such as the Necui-Leviţki Russian-Ukrainian School were allowed to continue using that name. In protest, four high school students from Asachi replaced the new high school sign with another with the old name. They were charged with "group-committed aggravated hooliganism".[5]

In Transnistria, the situation is far worse. After the 1992 war between the breakaway republic and Moldova, the Romanian population was substantially persecuted, causing at least 5,000-10,000 Romanians to flee the region. Although the number of Romanians in Transnistria is significant, the Romanian language is almost never used in public.

Romanian schools comprise about 11% of the total schools in Transnistria. Most of these schools are forced to teach in the Cyrillic script and use outdated, 40-year-old, communist-era books. 6 schools are permitted to teach in Romanian using the Latin script; however, pressure is often put on these institutions to close. The 2004 school crisis is a prime example of this, when the pro-Russian government in Tiraspol forcefully attempted to close down 2 of these schools. In the orphanage of Tighina, Romanian children returning from vacations found the orphanage locked by police. After spending a night outdoors, they forced their way into the building and had to stay there without water and electricity for a few months, until, due to pressure from the Moldovan and Romanian governments and from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the conflict was resolved.[6] Numerous Romanian parents were arrested or fired from their jobs due to their political views and their determination to keep their children in Romanian-language schools.

Citizens who express pro-Romanian or pro-Moldovan attitudes are likewise persecuted in Transnistria. The Ilie Ilaşcu group is the most commonly known and well-documented of these organisations.


Northern Bukovina, as well as the Tiachiv and Rakhiv raions (districts) of Zakarpattia Oblast (Transcarpathia), are the regions in Ukraine with considerable Romanian minorities, according to the 2001 Ukrainian Census.

The Ukrainian Census of 2001 was criticized by Dr. Ion Popescu, leader of the National Council of the Interregional Union of the Romanian Community in Ukraine and also one of the authors of the not to respond to this or any other particular census question or not answer any questions at all; besides, no allegation of counting fraud were ever brought up. It is therefore unclear if Dr. Popescu criticizes the way in which the census was conducted or the way in which data was processed.

The number of Romanian students at [6]

However, it should be noted that according to the Ukrainian Constitution adopted after its 1991 independence, Ukrainian is the only state language in the country, and the state higher education system was switched to Ukrainian, according to the common practice in many countries worldwide and this practice was not directed specifically at the Romanian population. For example, the majority of Ukrainian universities do not provide education in Russian either, despite the fact that Russian is the native language of a much more considerable part of the population in Ukraine.

At the same time, there are schools teaching Romanian as a primary language, as well as newspapers, TV, and radio broadcasting in Romanian [11].

Yugoslavia and modern Serbia

The Romanians living in the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina are very well represented at the provincial level despite their small presence (about 30,000 people, 1.5% of the province's population of around 2 million), and Romanian is one of the six official languages of the province. However, their counterparts in Eastern Central Serbia (mostly in the Timok Valley and Branicevo), known as Vlachs and outnumbering the Vojvodinian Romanians, have not had any privileges. As example from Negotin in Vrsac, the Romanian local television station door was vandalized with the inscription "Out Romanians, Serbia!!!" (Serbian: Napolje Rumuni, Srbija!!!).[8]

The Timok Vlachs speak the same dialect (Daco-Romanian) as is spoken to the north, in Romania.[9] However, the Serbian authorities have pursued a policy of de-nationalization as they have slowly changed the term Romanian into Vlach through the years.[10][11]

These people declare themselves on census forms as ethnic Vlachs and their number is about 40,000. Nevertheless, older Serbian censuses counted up to 200,000 Romanians (Vlachs) in present-day Central Serbia (the 1895-census counted 159,510 Romanians, the 1921-census counted 150,098 Romanians, the 1953-census counted 198,793 Vlach (Romanian) - speakers).

Since 2004 they are regular clashes between the Serbian authorities and the Romanian community in Timok when Bojan Aleksandrovic, a Romanian Orthodox priest decided to build a small church where he would hold services in Romanian. The priest has been subjected to threats while children attending mass with their parents have been humiliated in the village school by their Serbian teacher. Romanians in Serbia proper do not have the right to schooling and public worship in their native language.[12][13]

In the town of Negotin, the Romanian Cultural Association was vandalized in 2004 when Serbian pro-fascist ultra-nationalists wrote "Out of Serbia" on the windows of the main doors[12] and such psychological pressure has contributed to the fear instilled in the Romanian minority's reluctance to declare themselves Romanians at censuses.


In 2013 accusations of discrimination in Covasna surfaced against Hungarian students and teachers. During a ceremony for the national day of Hungary, some Romanian students wearing the Romanian flag have been physically assaulted by older students, and threatened by teachers with punishment for wearing the national symbol. As a result, the Romanian human rights organisation ActiveWatch [14] issued a statement condemning the actions of the school's administration, which it considers a blunt infringement of human rights and freedom of expression.[15][15][16][17]


In 2009, a right-wing political party (Swiss People's Party (SVP)) had run an anti-immigration campaign, against Romanians and Bulgarians, distributing and displaying banners depicting citizens of these countries as "crows".[18]

European Union

Anti-Romanian sentiment in the European Union refers to the discrimination of Romanian citizens within the European Union. As a member of the E.U., Romanian citizens have faced racial profiling in various northern European countries, such as Denmark and open discrimination in countries like Italy or Austria.

United Kingdom

Based on growing dissatisfaction with the European Union, several British politicians have posed a stance against the free movement of Romanians (and Bulgarians) within the E.U. and subsequently in the United Kingdom. As a result multiple British newspapers have started publishing discriminatory articles about Romanian citizens, thus inciting an anti-Romanian sentiment; mainly against the vulnerable Roma-Romanian ethnics.


In 2013 a prominent German newspaper, Der Spiegel, has published a short video displaying Roma-Romanians living in the city of Duisburg. The video shows a small number of Roma-Romanians and uncensored under-aged children living in a ghetto-like part of the city, without access to proper public services and living in poor housing conditions. Although there is no proof that the Romanian citizens were unemployed, the video claims they are a burden on the local welfare system. The discriminatory aspect of this video is visible through the fact that a number of German citizens are shown living in the same conditions; yet blaming the foreign citizens. This further increases the anti-Romanian sentiment, in a country where the majority of Romanian (and Bulgarian) citizens are well integrated.


Following the deportation of Roma-Romanian citizens from France, and numerous discriminatory articles in the French media, a small protest occurred in front of the French embassy in Bucharest, against the discrimination of Romanians in France.[19]


A Dutch right wing political party (Wilders’ Freedom party (PVV)), launched a website aimed at gathering denunciations against Polish, Romanian and Bulgarian nationals living in the Netherlands.[20] Denunciations consist of competition on the job market, and others, with the slogan: “Are they causing you problems? Or did you lose your job to a Pole, Bulgarian, Romanian or other Central of East European? We would love to hear from you,”; thus inciting social tension between European Citizens exercising their treaty right of freedom of movement and the local population. The Netherlands is one of the main countries blocking Romania and Bulgaria from joining the Schengen Agreement; as well as one of the countries with growing populism.




  1. (Romanian)


  1. (English)


  1. (Romanian)
  2. (Hungarian) Romsics, Ignác. Magyarország története a huszadik században ("A History of Hungary in the 20th Century"), p. 85-86.


  1. (Romanian)
  2. (English)
  3. (Romanian)
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  5. (Romanian)

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