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During late Antiquity and Middle Ages, the major influences came from the Slavic peoples who migrated and settled south of the Danube; from medieval Greeks, and the Byzantine Empire; from the Hungarians; from the Germans, especially Saxon settlers in Transylvania as well as from several other neighboring peoples.

Romania’s history has been full of rebounds: the culturally productive epochs were those of stability, when the people proved quite an impressive resourcefulness in making up for less propitious periods and were able to rejoin the mainstream of European culture. This stands true for the years after the PhanarioteOttoman period, at the beginning of the 19th century, when Romanians had a favourable historical context and Romania started to become westernized, mainly with French influences, which they pursued steadily and at a very fast pace. From the end of the 18th century, the sons of the upper classes started having their education in Paris, and French became (and was until the communist years) a genuine second language of culture for Romanians.

The modeling role of France especially in the fields of political ideas, administration and law, as well as in literature was paralleled, from the mid-19th century down to World War I, by German culture as well, which also triggered constant relationships with the German world not only at a cultural level but in daily life as well. With the arrival of Soviet Communism in the area, Romania quickly adopted many soviet influences, and Russian was also a widely taught in the country during Romania’s socialist years.

In Transylvania, although they formed the majority of the population, Romanians were merely seen as a “tolerated nation” by the Austrian leadership of the province[3], and were not proportionally represented in political life and the Transylvanian Diet. At the end of the 18th century an emancipation movement known as the Transylvanian School (Şcoala Ardeleană) formed, which tried to emphasize that the Romanian people were of Roman origin, and also adopted the modern Latin-based Romanian alphabet (which eventually supplanted an earlier Cyrillic script). It also accepted the leadership of the pope over the Romanian church of Transylvania, thus forming the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church. In 1791, they issued a petition to Emperor Leopold II of Austria, named Supplex Libellus Valachorum based on the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, demanding equal political rights with the other ethnicities for the Romanians in Transylvania. This movement, however leaned more towards westernization in general, when in fact the origin of the Romanian people is not only from the peoples of the former Roman Empire, but also from the ancient Dacians, predating the arrival of the Romans, not to mention that from around the 1600s to the 1800s Romanian culture was heavily influenced by Eastern influences as emphasized through the Ottomans, and the Phanariotes.

The end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century was marked in Wallachia and Moldavia by the reigns of Phanariote Princes; thus the two principalities were heavily influenced by the Greek world. Greek schools appeared in the principalities and in 1818 the first Romanian School was founded in Bucharest by Gheorghe Lazăr and Ion Heliade RădulescuAnton Pann was a successful novelist, Ienăchiţă Văcărescu wrote the first Romanian grammar and his nephew Iancu Văcărescu is considered to be the first important Romanian poet. In 1821, an uprising in Wallachia took place against Ottoman rule. This uprising was led by the Romanian revolutionary and militia leader Tudor Vladimirescu.[4]

Until the 14th century, small states (Romanianvoievodate) were spread across the territory of TransylvaniaWallachia, and Moldavia. The medieval principalities Wallachia and Moldavia arose around that time in the area on the southern and eastern sides of the Carpathian Mountains.

Moldavia and Wallachia were both situated on important commercial routes often crossed by Polish, Saxon, Greek, Armenian, Genovese, and Venetian merchants, connecting them well to the evolving culture of medieval Europe. Grigore Ureche‘s chronicleLetopiseţul Ţărîi Moldovei (The Chronicles of the land of Moldavia), covering the period from 1359 to 1594, is a very important source of information about life, events and personalities in Moldavia. It is among the first non-religious Romanian literary texts; due to its size and the information that it contains it is, probably, the most important Romanian document from the 17th century.

The first printed book, a prayer book in Slavonic, was produced in Wallachia in 1508 and the first book in Romanian, a catechism, was printed in Transylvania, in 1544. At the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century, European humanism influenced the works of Miron Costin and Ion Neculce, the Moldavian chroniclers who continued Ureche’s work. Constantin Brâncoveanuprince of Wallachia, was a great patron of the arts and was a local Renaissance figure. During Şerban Cantacuzino‘s reign the monks at the monastery of Snagov, near Bucharest published in 1688 the first translated and printed Romanian Bible (Biblia de la Bucureşti – The Bucharest Bible). The first successful attempts at written Romanian-language poetry were made in 1673 when Dosoftei, a Moldavian metropolitan in Iaşi, published a Romanian metrical psalter.

Dimitrie Cantemir, a Moldavian prince, was an important personality of the medieval period in Moldavia. His interests included philosophy, history, music, linguistics, ethnography and geography, and the most important works containing information about the Romanian regions were Descriptio Moldaviae published in 1769 and Hronicul vechimii a romano-moldo-valahilor (roughly, Chronicle of the durability of Romans-Moldavians-Wallachians), the first critical history of Romania. His works were also known in western Europe, as he authored writings in Latin: Descriptio Moldaviae (commissioned by the Academy of Berlin, the member of which he became in 1714) and Incrementa atque decrementa aulae othomanicae, which was printed in English in 1734–1735 (second edition in 1756), in French (1743) and German (1745); the latter was a major reference work in European science and culture until the 19th century.

The revolutionary year 1848 had its echoes in the Romanian principalities and in Transylvania, and a new elite from the middle of the 19th century emerged from the revolutions: Mihail Kogălniceanu (writer, politician and the first prime minister of Romania), Vasile Alecsandri (politician, playwright and poet), Andrei Mureşanu (publicist and the writer of the current Romanian National Anthem) and Nicolae Bălcescu (historian, writer and revolutionary).

The union between Moldavia and Wallachia in 1859 brought a growing consolidation of Romanian life and culture. Universities were opened in Iaşi and in Bucharest and the number of new cultural establishments grew significantly. The new prince from 1866 and then King of RomaniaCarol I was a devoted king, and he and his wife Elisabeth were among the main patrons of arts. Of great impact in Romanian literature was the literary circle Junimea, founded by a group of people around the literary critic Titu Maiorescu in 1863. It published its cultural journal Convorbiri Literare where, among others, Mihai Eminescu, Romania’s greatest poet, Ion Creangă, a storyteller of genius, and Ion Luca Caragiale, novelist and the Romania’s greatest playwright published most of their works. During the same period, Nicolae Grigorescu and Ştefan Luchian founded modern Romanian painting; composer Ciprian Porumbescu was also from this time

In Transylvania, the emancipation movement became better organised and in 1861 an important cultural organisation ASTRA (The Transylvanian Association for Romanian Literature and the Culture of the Romanian People) was founded in Sibiu under the close supervision of the Romanian Orthodox Metropolitan Andrei Şaguna. It helped publish a great number of Romanian language books and newspapers, and between 1898 and 1904 it published a Romanian Encyclopedia. Among the greatest personalities from this period are: the novelist and publicist Ioan Slavici, the prose writer Panait Istrati, the poet and writer Barbu Ştefănescu Delavrancea, the poet and publicist George Coşbuc, the poet Ştefan Octavian Iosif, the historian and founder of Romanian press in Transylvania George Bariţiu and Badea Cârţan, a simple peasant shepherd from Southern Transylvania who, through his actions became a symbol of the emancipation movement.

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