Great Union Day in Romania is celebrated annually every 1 December to commemorate the expansion of Romania to, more or less, its present-day boundaries in the aftermath of World War I. It was on this date that Transylvania, Bessarabia, and Bukovina joined Romania in 1918.
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On National Day, Romanians fly their national flag, which represents the three major regions of their country. The blue stripe stands for Transylvania, the yellow stripe for Wallachia, and the red stripe for Moldavia.
The district of Bukovina reunited with Romania in 1918, but it had been one of the original heartland regions of Moldavia for centuries. It was fought over by Poles, Turks, Russians, and finally, fell into Austrian hands in 1774. After the disintegration of Austria-Hungary after World War I, both Romania and Ukrainian rebels claimed and fought for control over Bukovina. With the help of Polish forces, however, Romania won the dispute.
Bessarabia, largely corresponding to the modern nation of Moldova, was originally part of Moldavia but was lost to the Turkish and then to the Russian Empire. It briefly rejoined Romania after World War I.
The main acquisition in 1918 was Transylvania and the adjacent regions of Banat, Crisana, and Maramures. Delegates representing Romanians living in these areas met in the Transylvanian town of Alba Iulia on 1 December 1918 to unanimously vote to unify with Romania. Around 100,000 people attended the meeting in Alba Iulia, and the declaration of unity with Romania was read aloud to the crowds.
Transylvania was the core region of the ancient Dacian kingdom, which is considered a kind of precursor of modern Romania. Dacia was conquered by the Roman Empire but later abandoned. It was then overrun by a long train of nomadic, warlike tribes. The Magyars, modern Hungarians, arrived in the 9th Century A.D. and ruled over Transylvania for many years. However, Transylvania later became an independent principality, and its Romanian population gradually grew during this time. In 1683, Transylvania was acquired by the Austrian Hapsburg Empire.
Once Transylvania and the other provinces voted to join Romania in 1918, Romania nearly doubled in size. Hungary protested because over 30 percent of Transylvanians were Hungarian, but Romanians were in the majority and voted to unite with their fellow Romanians to the east and south.