Twenty years after the end of communist rule, the country of 22 million is one of the poorest and most graft-prone corners of the European Union. No one has ever accused Romania of being a tidy place politically. This is a rough-and-tumble political environment. So far, the current political instability has stayed within legal and constitutional bounds, however torrid the rhetoric and vivid the theatrics. The legacy of its communist past still lingers in some elements, though it is receding since the 1989 termination of Nicolae Ceaucescu's erratic dictatorship. Romania generally punches above its weight when it comes to security issues. Most view EU accession, together with 2004 NATO membership, as solidifying Romania's Western orientation after decades of communist rule. Underinvestment in infrastructure, the lack of transparency in governmental decision making, and corruption all continue to have a negative impact on the overall business environment.

With one of the fastest growing economies in Europe, a talented workforce, and a strategic location on the Eastern rim of both NATO and the EU, Romania had a lot of positives with which to work, if only its political class can overcome its reliance on selfish, zero-sum politics. Ideology counts for little on the Romanian political scene. One observer suggests that Romanian parties are "pragmatic." A more jaundiced observer would describe them as "wholly opportunistic." Largely because of consistently poor government performance over the decade since 2000, Romania arguably suffered more than any other Eastern European country from the global economic recession that began in 2008.

Political parties represent a broad range of views and interests, and elected officials and other public figures freely express their views. Civil society watchdog groups remain relatively small but have grown in influence. The press is free and outspoken, although there have been incidents of politically motivated intimidation and even violence against journalists and media management, particularly prior to 2004 national elections. Independent radio networks have proliferated, and several private television networks now operate nationwide. In addition, a large number of local private television networks have emerged.

Responsible political leadership needs to sit down together and talk about their future and consider the consequences of a political implosion and the unintended results that could follow. Romania needs political stability in order to continue to make progress. The problem was exacerbated by Romania,s improving business environment; politics was no longer as attractive a career option for smart, ambitious youths as it was in the post-Ceaucescu era.

Though rumors are a major part of Romanian political life, and Romanians frequently link unrelated events in their propensity for conspiracy-think, just because they are paranoid does not mean they lack real adversaries. Romania's Balkan-like tendencies can lead others to try to see a strategy in what might just be unfortunately timed coincidences.

When Americans read or hear about Transylvania [in Romania], they immediately think of vampires, cemeteries, a mysterious, gloomy, and fog- covered countryside, lonely and terrorized people overawed and overshadowed by the castle. Many Romanians are superstitious and believe some really wacky things. Romanians are among the most religious and superstitious in the whole of Europe. Most Romanians find it strange not to have religious artifacts in one’s home. Romanians have one of the highest levels of religious belief and practice, and of trust in pseudo- and para-sciences, in horoscopes and superstitions. The Romanian public has one of the largest deficits of scientific knowledge in Europe. Just one in ten Romanians has a consolidated and active scientific culture. Over 40 percent of Romanians believe the Sun revolves around the Earth.

Romanian folklore is full of superstitions and mystical beliefs. There are many superstitions regarding items of clothing and household objects: Taking out garbage at night, placing cups upside down, dropping knives and forks, etc. The prevention of evil eye effect using a red item and the saying ‘an itchy left palm means one will be getting money’ are the most widely spread superstitions among Romanians.Many of these superstitions surround the protection of children from bad omens and the “evil eye”, which are believed to cause disastrous results, up to and including death. An envious person can cast an “evil eye” on an innocent, defenseless child. In fact, according to folklore, people can cast the evil eye without even meaning to. It is a tendency that people have, and nothing can be done about it. Even the most modern parents still use amulets to protect their children, in the belief that “it can’t hurt”!

Since the 1989 fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, Romania, arguably the most regimented of states in the Soviet bloc, has struggled with the transition from totalitarian state to democratic nation. Romania offers a unique mix: A rich and complex culture; a long history that is often reflected in daily life; a forward-looking society that is quickly becoming one of the most cosmopolitan countries in Europe.

In accordance with the December 1991 Romanian constitution, the Romanian armed forces have the defensive mission of ensuring the territorial integrity of the country. The military enjoys popular support, partly because of its role in supporting the December 1989 revolution. The army is the largest service. Romania has an all-volunteer military force; conscription ended in 2007.

The Romanian armed forces have about 75,000 military personnel and 15,000 civilians, for a total of 90,000 men and women. Out of these 75,000, about 45,800 are in the Land Forces. In 1993, the U.S. military began training of Romanian military and civilian officials through International Military Education and Training (IMET) and other exchange programs, emphasizing civilian democratic control over the military.

A defense access agreement with Romania represents the first time US military forces, albeit in small numbers, will be stationed in a new NATO ally that is also a former member of the Warsaw Pact.

Throughout history, periods of occupation of any territory have always been recorded as difficult times, times of abuse and requisitions. Despite the efforts and dedication of many military leaders, subordinates often bring disgrace to their uniform. In recent history, after 1945, the Soviet Army has been the most disgraced army of all, due to its alarmingly large number of soldiers who brought shame to their country by perpetrating heinous crimes in the occupied territories. This image of the Red Army can't be changed in the eyes of many past and future generations.

Romanian citizens of the time witnessed unforgettable misdeeds by Soviet soldiers, from robberies to rapes and murders. Rapes were a disgraceful chapter written by Soviet troops. Russian soldiers would rape seventy year old women. The criminal acts perpetrated by many soldiers of the Red Army during their stay in Romania, from the end of World War Two until 1958, brought irreparable physical and mental damage to their victims.

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