The largest of the Balkan countries, Romania has dramatic mountain scenery and a coastline on the Black Sea.
It has seen numerous empires come and go from the Roman and Ottoman to the Austro-Hungarian.
After World War II the country fell under Communist rule, although the leadership pursued a foreign policy independent of that of the Soviet Union.
The legacy of Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu lingered long after the uprising which brought about his downfall on Christmas Day 1989.
A slower developer than other former communist countries of eastern Europe, Romania took a major step away from its past when it was one of seven countries to join Nato in late March 2004.
In April 2005 Bucharest signed an EU accession treaty, paving the way for Romania eventually to join the union in January 2007.
Population 21.4 million
Area 238,391 sq km (148,129 sq miles)
Major languages Romanian
Major religion Christianity
Life expectancy 71 years (men), 78 years (women)
Currency new leu
President: Klaus Iohannis
Provincial mayor Klaus Iohannis inflicted a shock defeat on Prime Minister Victor Ponta in a presidential election run-off in November 2014.
Mr Ponta was leading in the opinion polls and had beaten Mr Iohannis, the centre-right mayor of the city of Sibiu in Transylvania, in the first round of voting.
But Mr Iohannis, who campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, won a decisive victory on a record turn-out.
Prime minister: Ludovic Orban
Ludovic Orban, the leader of the centrist National Liberal Party, took over as prime minister in November 2019 after the divided and scandal-ridden Social Democratic government lost a parliamentary confidence vote the previous month.
Mr Orban faces the task of forming a government from parties united by little except their opposition to the Social Democrats, whose efforts to decriminalise corruption and tighten control over the judiciary prompted mass protests as well as conflict with the European Commission during their three years in office.
Romania has one of the most dynamic media markets in southeastern Europe. A handful of conglomerates dominates the industry.
TV is the medium of choice, with commercial stations Pro TV and Antena 1 being the leading outlets. TVR is the public broadcaster.
There is a competitive pay TV sector, via cable and satellite. Romania is yet to complete the switch to digital terrestrial TV (DTT).
There are more than 100 private radios. Public Radio Romania operates national, regional and local stations.
Some key dates in Romania's history:
1859 - Prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza is proclaimed prince of Moldavia and Wallachia.
1862 - The union of the two Danubian principalities is consolidated into a new state - Romania. Prince Cuza launches an ambitious policy of reform.
1877-1878 - Romania wins full independence from the Ottoman Empire by siding with Russia in the Russo-Turkish War. It also acquires a coastline on the Danube delta.
1916 - Romania joins into World War I on the Allied side.
1918 - As part of the peace settlement at the end of the war, Romania virtually doubles in size and population.
1941-1944 - Romania fights on German side against Soviet Union, switches sides as Soviet forces close in.
1945 - Soviet-backed government installed.
1965 - Nicolae Ceausescu becomes Communist Party leader. He pursues foreign policy that often runs counter to Moscow's lead, while increasing repressive rule and personality cult at home.
1989 - Bloody national uprising, Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena are executed. National Salvation Front government formed by former Ceausescu ally Ion Iliescu.
2004 - Romania admitted to Nato.
2007 - Romania and Bulgaria join the European Union.