Romania: Trying to recover from bad luck, bad choices

antonescu and hitler

The 20th century was, to be blunt, pretty crappy for citizens of many countries. Those of the Soviet Union, who were forced to endure two world wars, civil war, the onset of communism and Stalin’s murderous regime, had it particularly bad, for example.

Other nations that had a rather rough go of it during the 20th century include:

  • Poland (the loss of 450,000 men in World War I even though it was not independent at that point, a war with the Soviets from 1918-1921, invaded and decimated by Nazi Germany with a huge loss of life – estimated at more than 6 million, including 3 million Jews – then placed under Soviet hegemony for 45 years);
  • Korea (annexed and brutally subjugated by Japan from 1910 to 1945, divided and then involved in a ruthless civil war from 1950-53, and both North Korea and South Korea still at daggers with one another); and
  • The former Yugoslav republics (cobbled together in part through Woodrow Wilson’s machinations after World War I, invaded by the Nazis – who set up a brutal puppet state – commandeered by Tito after the war, and finally rent asunder by brutal internecine conflict in the 1990s).

Another country that would probably like a do-over for the 20th century is Romania, which didn’t acquit itself very well in either world war and suffered under the whip of two particularly odious dictators during the Cold War.

Romania chose to remain neutral for the first two years of World War I before joining with the Entente Powers in the summer of 1916. Unfortunately,  Romania then quickly found itself overwhelmed by the Central Powers, which occupied two-thirds of the country.

When Russia capitulated to Germany following the Russian Revolution, Romania found itself surrounded and was forced to sign a harsh peace treaty. Although it was ultimately able to acquire territory under the Treaties of Saint Germain, Trianon and Paris, total Romanian military and civilian losses between 1916 and 1918 were estimated at nearly 750,000.

Things turned out even worse in the Second World War for Romania. Originally loosely affiliated with Great Britain and France, Romania opted to align itself with Nazi Germany after the start of World War II when the Nazis made quick work of most of Western Europe.

Seventy-five years ago this week, the Romanian government, under the control of fascist Ion Antonescu, officially threw its lot in with the Axis Powers, signing the Tripartite Pact.

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Pontiac’s Rebellion: Native Americans hit back

Pontiac's Rebellion

Today marks the 250th anniversary of the beginning of Pontiac’s Rebellion, known by a number of other monikers, including Pontiac’s War, Pontiac’s Uprising and Pontiac’s Conspiracy.

Pontiac was a chief of the Ottawa nation, and was one of many Indians dissatisfied with the results of the French and Indian War (1754-1763), which left the British in control of much of eastern North America.

Pontiac was born in the early part of the 18th century, most likely along a waterway in what is today the Midwestern US, likely either the Detroit or Maumee river.

He became an Ottawa war leader by the mid-1740s and supported the French in pivotal French and Indian War.

Following the British victory in North America and the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the British angered Indian tribes who had been allied with the French by cutting back on key supplies previously distributed from forts in the region.

The Indians had come to depend on gunpowder and ammunition distributed by Europeans for hunting game for food and to be able to take skins, which could be used in trade. The British, however, mistrusted their former Indian adversaries and began to restrict distribution of both.

Some Native Americans began to grow wary, believing the British were making preparations to attack them by disarming them. Many also resented being treated like a conquered people.

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