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Romania: 1914

Copyrigth by Alan Grant
Sinaia Monastery in Prahova Valley

Romania joined the First World War, on the Allied side, at the end of August 1916. At the end of the war it emerged victorious and had added Transylvania, Bessarabia, Bukovina and two thirds of the Banat to its territory. This extract comes from Hannah Pakula's biography of the life of Marie, Queen of Romania, who was a grand-daughter of Queen Victoria.

During the early stages of the war there was little change in the conditions of life in Roumania. The harvests of 1914 and 1915 yielded excellent crops that sold at very high prices; Bucharest was a speculator's paradise where the Central Powers and the Entente both threw away huge sums of money trying to keep supplies away from the other side. Along with the speculators the boyars [aristocrats and land owners] made fortunes, but as always the peasants remained outside the charmed circle of profit. To improve their lot, they tried to drive their cattle across the Carpathian Mountains to sell them in the Austro-Hungarian Empire at inflated wartime prices, but they were soon stopped by the government. Meat rationing was enacted, and meat was allowed to be sold in markets and restaurants only four days a week… During the days of neutrality, Bucharest resembled nothing so much as a giant Oriental bazaar, patronized by everyone from Eastern or Western Europe with something to sell. Then local black market dealt indiscriminately in commodities and loyalties, and it was frequented with equal enthusiasm by representatives of both the Entente and the Central powers.

Queen of Roumania: The life of Princess Marie, grand-daughter of Queen Victoria. Hannah Pakula. 1989.
[pp. 191-192 / Trans-Atlantic Publications]

April 2007
Tim Judah

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