Month: October 2014

A Slice of History: Romanian Army’s Day

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Dr Ion Jinga Headshot Dr Ion Jinga, the Ambassador of Romania to the UK in Huffington Post (27/10/2014)

70 years ago, on 25 October 1944, the Romanian Army liberated the town of Carei in North-West of the country. It was the complete liberation of North-West Transylvania from foreign ruling and administration, following the outrageous Vienna Diktat in 1940 arbitrated by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

Carei, 1944

In the autumn of 1940 Romania was completely isolated on the international arena. Its main allies in the inter-war period were France and the United Kingdom, but inJune 1940 France capitulated and Britain was under siege. On 26-27 June, the Romanian government was forced to accept Soviet ultimatums and allowed Moscow to take over Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina, both historical Romanian provinces which rejoined the Kingdom of Romania after WW1, in application of the principle of self-determination proclaimed by the US President Woodrow Wilson.

In Budapest, Regent Miklós Horthy, who had established close relations with Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, saw the opportunity and asked his friends to put pressure on Romania to give up Transylvania. The alliance with Nazi Germany had already made possible Hungary’s gaining of Southern Czechoslovakia in 1938 and Subcarpathia in 1939. Foreign Ministers Joachim von Ribbentrop of Germany and Galeazzo Ciano of Italy met on 30 August 1940 at the Belvedere Palace in Vienna and simply produced a map detailing what the settlement was to be: North-West Transylvania, a land of 43,492 km² with a population of 2.4 million, was given to Hungary. According to Romanian census of 1930, the population in North-West Transylvania was 2,393,300: Romanians – 1,176,900 (50%); Hungarians – 912,500 (38%); Germans – 68,300; Jewish – 138,800 (one year after the Vienna Diktat, the Jewish population was only 47,400); Other – 96,800. These figures are confirmed by the Hungarian historian Árpád E. Varga who writes: “The census conducted in 1930 met international statistical requirements in every respect. In order to establish nationality, the compilers devised a complex criterion system, unique at the time, which covered citizenship, nationality, native language and religion”.
The Romanian Foreign Minister Mihail Manoilescu collapsed when he saw the map and had to be revived. The Daily Telegraph’s correspondent in the Balkans wrote on 8 October 1940 in his article “Hungary wants more. Vienna Diktat was not a settlement at all”: “When the time comes for peace-making, a country like Hungary, therefore, will have a natural tendency to cash in as much as possible on the grounds that “if the Axis wins, we keep what we have; if the Axis is defeated or weakened, then the more we have, the less we are likely to lose in proportion.””

Harta pierderilor teritoriale din 1940
Romanian territory losses in 1940

In order to retake Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina, on 22 June 1941 Romania entered the war against the Soviet Union. On 23 August 1944, King Michael led a successful coup with support from the Army and removed the government of Marshall Ion Antonescu. According to Western historians, the coup shortened WW2 by six months, saving hundreds of thousands of lives.
The Army was under orders from the King to defend Romania against any German attacks. The King then offered to put Romania’s military capabilities on the Allied side and the Romanian Army ended the war fighting hard to liberate Transylvania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Austria and Czechoslovakia, from August 1944 until the end of WW2 in Europe. Of some 538,500 Romanian soldiers who fought against the Axis in 1944-45, some 167,000 were killed, wounded or went missing, a contribution ranking Romania fourth behind the USSR, USA and Great Britain in the victory against fascism.

25 October is therefore the Romanian Army’s Day. It is also King Michael’s birthday. His Majesty is now 93 and continues to be a symbol of honour, dignity and love for his country. It is said that Romanian generals who led the military offensive in October 1944 postponed by one day the liberation of Carei in order to offer the victory to the King’s anniversary.

Today, Romania is a security provider in the region and its Army operates at the highest NATO professional standards, protecting our European democratic community of values. The proximity to the Eastern border of the Euro-Atlantic space makes my country both a gate-locker and a strategic opener of roads. Romania is now repositioned on the world chessboard in accordance with its geo-strategic location.