Could we reinvent the charm of old cities ?

Bucharest’s history alternated periods of development and decline from the early settlements in antiquity until its consolidation as the national capital of Romania late...

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Bucharest’s history alternated periods of development and decline from the early settlements in antiquity until its consolidation as the national capital of Romania late in the 19th century. First mentioned as the “Citadel of București” in 1459, it became the residence of the famous Wallachian prince Vlad III the Impaler.[18]:23

Early 18th century woodcut of Bucharest (1717)

The Ottomans appointed Greek administrators (Phanariotes) to run the town from the 18th century. A short-lived revolt initiated by Tudor Vladimirescu in 1821 led to the end of the rule of Constantinople Greeks in Bucharest.[19]

The Old Princely Court (Curtea Veche) was erected by Mircea Ciobanul in the mid-16th century. Under subsequent rulers, Bucharest was established as the summer residence of the royal court. During the years to come, it competed with Târgoviște on the status of capital city after an increase in the importance of southern Muntenia brought about by the demands of the suzerain power – the Ottoman Empire.

Bucharest finally became the permanent location of the Wallachian court after 1698 (starting with the reign of Constantin Brâncoveanu).

Partly destroyed by natural disasters and rebuilt several times during the following 200 years, and hit by Caragea’s plague in 1813–14, the city was wrested from Ottoman control and occupied at several intervals by the Habsburg Monarchy (1716, 1737, 1789) and Imperial Russia(three times between 1768 and 1806). It was placed under Russian administration between 1828 and the Crimean War, with an interlude during the Bucharest-centred 1848 Wallachian revolution. Later, an Austrian garrison took possession after the Russian departure (remaining in the city until March 1857). On 23 March 1847, a fire consumed about 2,000 buildings, destroying a third of the city.


Ottoman massacre of Greek irregulars in Bucharest (August, 1821)

After Wallachia and Moldavia were united to form the Principality of Romania, Bucharest became the new nation’s capital city. In 1881, it became the political centre of the newly proclaimed Kingdom of Romania under King Carol I. During the second half of the 19th century, the city’s population increased dramatically, and a new period of urban development began. During this period, gas lightinghorse-drawn trams, and limited electrification were introduced.[20] The Dâmbovița River was also massively channelled in 1883, thus putting a stop to previously endemic floods like the 1865 flooding of Bucharest.[21] The Fortifications of Bucharest were built. The extravagant architecture and cosmopolitan high culture of this period won Bucharest the nickname of “Little Paris” (Micul Paris) of the east, with Calea Victoriei as its Champs-Élysées.

Bucharest in 1868

Between 6 December 1916 and November 1918, the city was occupied by German forces as a result of the Battle of Bucharest, with the official capital temporarily moved to Iași (also called Jassy), in the Moldavia region. After World War I, Bucharest became the capital of Greater Romania.

In the interwar years, Bucharest’s urban development continued, with the city gaining an average of 30,000 new residents each year. Also, some of the city’s main landmarks were built in this period, including Arcul de Triumf and Palatul Telefoanelor.[22] However, the Great Depression took its toll on Bucharest’s citizens, culminating in the Grivița Strike of 1933.[23]

In January 1941, the city was the scene of the Legionnaires’ rebellion and Bucharest pogrom. As the capital of an Axis country and a major transit point for Axis troops en route to the Eastern Front, Bucharest suffered heavy damage during World War II due to Allied bombings. On 23 August 1944, Bucharest was the site of the royal coup which brought Romania into the Allied camp. The city suffered a short period of Nazi Luftwaffe bombings, as well as a failed attempt by German troops to regain the city.

I.C. Brătianu Boulevard in the 1930s

After the establishment of communism in Romania, the city continued growing. New districts were constructed, most of them dominated by tower blocks. During Nicolae Ceaușescu‘s leadership (1965–89), much of the historic part of the city was demolished and replaced by “Socialist realism” style development: (1) the Centrul Civic (the Civic Centre) and (2) the Palace of the Parliament, for which an entire historic quarter was razed to make way for Ceaușescu’s megalomaniac plans.

On 4 March 1977, an earthquake centered in Vrancea, about 135 km (83.89 mi) away, claimed 1,500 lives and caused further damage to the historic centre.

Mihail Kogălniceanu Square in 1941

The Romanian Revolution of 1989 began with massive anti-Ceaușescu protests in Timișoara in December 1989 and continued in Bucharest, leading to the overthrow of the Communist regime. Dissatisfied with the postrevolutionary leadership of the National Salvation Front, some student leagues and opposition groups organized rallies.

Since 2000, the city has been continuously modernized and is still undergoing urban renewal. Residential and commercial developments are underway, particularly in the northern districts; Bucharest’s old historic centre is being restored.

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