Bucharest is the capital city and industrial and commercial centre of Romania. It is located in the southeast of the country, on the banks of the Dambovita River.
The city was first mentioned in 1459 and became the capital of Romania in 1862. Since then, it has gone through a variety of changes and has become the centre of the Romanian mass media, cultural and arts scene. Its eclectic architecture, which is a mix of historical, Communist-era and modern, also reflects the city's varied history. In the period between the two World Wars, the city's elegant architecture and the sophistication of its elite gave Bucharest the nickname of the "Paris of the East" or "Little Paris" (Micul Paris). Although much of the historic center was damaged or destroyed by war, earthquakes and Nicolae Ceausescu's program of systematization, much survived, and in recent years the city is experiencing an economic and cultural boom.
Bucharest has a population of 1,921,751 inhabitants in the city proper, making it the largest city in Southeastern Europe. There are also approximately 2.3 million inhabitants in the metropolitan area. Economically, the city is by far the most prosperous in Romania and is one of the main industrial centres and transportation hubs of the region. As the most important city in Romania, Bucharest has a broad range of educational facilities.
The city is administratively known as the Municipality of Bucharest (Municipiul Bucuresti), and has the same administrative level as a county, being further subdivided into six sectors.
The six sectors are numbered from one to six and are disposed radially so that each one has under administration an area of the city center. They are numbered clockwise and are further divided into districts:
Sector 1: Baneasa, Pipera, Floreasca
Sector 2: Pantelimon, Colentina, Iancului, Tei
Sector 3: Vitan, Titan, Centru Civic
Sector 4: Berceni, Oltenitei
Sector 5: Rahova, Ferentari, Cotroceni
Sector 6: Giulesti, Drumul Taberei, Militari, Crângasi
Like all other local councils in Romania, the Bucharest sectorial councils, General Council and the mayors are elected every four years by the population. Additionally, Bucharest has a prefect which is appointed by Romania's central government. Despite this, the prefect is not allowed to be a member of a political party. The role of the Bucharest Prefect is to represent the national government at local level, acting as a liaison between the national government and the local government and facilitating the implementation of National Development Plans and governing programmes at local level.
Bucharest has had a varied history from ancient times, even though it became Romania's principal city only in the mid-19th century. According to legend, the city was founded by a shepherd named Bucur, even though it is likely that the city was established by Mircea cel Batrân in the 14th century after a victory won over the Turks.
Bucharest was first mentioned as "the Fortress of Bucuresti" in 1459, when it was a residence of the Wallachian prince Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler). It was then that the Old Royal Court (Curtea Veche) was built and during the rule of Radu cel Frumos, Bucharest became the summer residence of the court.
Burned by the Turks in 1595, Bucharest was restored and continued to grow in size and prosperity. Its centre was around the street "Ulita Mare", which starting 1589 was known as Lipscani, after the city of Leipzig, the origin of many of the wares sold there. In the 17th century, Bucharest became the most important trade centre of Wallachia and in 1698, it was chosen as capital of Wallachia by Constantin Brâncoveanu.
During the 18th century, Romanian possession of Bucharest was frequently disputed by the Ottoman Turks, the Austrian Empire and Imperial Russia. It was occupied by the Russians twice, in 1828 and in 1853-1854, and an Austrian garrison took possession after the Russian departure in 1854, remaining in the city until March 1857. Additionally, on 23 March 1847 a fire consumed about 2,000 buildings of Bucharest, destroying a third of the city.
In 1861, when Wallachia and Moldavia were united to form the Principality of Romania, Bucharest became the new nation's capital. In the second half of the 19th century, due to its new status, the city's population increased dramatically, and a new period of urban development began. The extravagant architecture and cosmopolitan high culture of this period won Bucharest the nickname of The Paris of the East (or Little Paris, Micul Paris), with Calea Victoriei as its Champs-Élysées or Fifth Avenue. However, the social divide between rich and poor was described at the time by Ferdinand Lassalle as making the city "a savage hotchpotch.
Between December 6, 1916 and November 1918, the city was occupied by German forces, the capital being moved to Iasi. After World War I, the city became the capital of the newly-proclaimed Kingdom of Romania, which included Transylvania and several other territories gained after the war. Bucharest suffered heavy loses during World War II due to English and American bombardments (Romania was a German ally during the first half of the war). On November 8, 1945, the king's birthday, the Communists suppressed pro-monarchist rallies.
During Nicolae Ceausescu's leadership (1965-1989), most of the historic part of the city was destroyed and replaced with Communist-style buildings, particularly high-rise apartment blocks. The best example of this is the Centru Civic (Civic Centre) development, including the Palace of the Parliament (the second largest building in the world), where an entire historic quarter was razed to make way for Ceausescu's grandomanic constructions. In 1977, a strong 7.4 on the Richter-scale earthquake claimed 1,500 lives and destroyed many old buildings. Despite this, some historic districts remain.
After the year 2000, due to the advent of Romania's economic boom, the city has modernised and is currently undergoing a period of urban renewal. Various residential and commercial developments are underway, particularly in the northern districts, while Bucharest's historic centre is currently undergoing significant restoration.
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