If you browse through my website you should know I am on a constant quest of finding valuable Romanians performing worldwide. I look for unknown heroes as I like to call them, interview them and share their beautiful stories and beliefs. I am always amazed to see how good we are in everything we decide to do, and the good news is - we've always been like that! With Romania on everybody's lips these days, it is the perfect time to take a step back and think about our rich history and the people who influenced it. So here's my list of 35 top Romanian people everyone should know about, ordered chronologically.
Decebal - the last king of Dacia (87-106) who fought hard to keep his country free from the Roman Empire;
John Hunyadi (1406 - 1456) - voivode of Transylvania, one of the greatest military leaders in the Middle Ages: he fought against the Ottoman Empire protecting the Kingdom of Hungary, and his victory at Belgrade in 1456 is considered the reason why the Turks stopped their century-long mission to conquer Central Europe;
Vlad the Impaler (1428 - 1477) - ruler of Walachia, famous for fighting against injustice in his country and for the creative methods to punish his enemies; originary from Transylvania, he is the reason behind the myth of Dracula, thanks to his cruelty;
Stephen the Great (1435 - 1504) - the longest reigning prince of Moldavia (1457-1504), recognized as a top European political figure of the 15th century; it is said he never lost a battle against his strong enemies (Poles, Hungarians and Turks), although he was outnumbered every time; he used to build a monastery after every single battle, thus essentially contributing to the strong spiritual legacy to be seen nowadays in Moldavia and Bukovina;
Matthias Corvinus (1443 - 1490) - son of John Hunyadi, he is acknowledged as the most important king in the history of Hungary; strong debates are around his origins, but the fact that he was born in Cluj-Napoca in a Romanian family is not to be denied;
Michael the Brave (1558 - 1601) - from my opinion the most important Romanian of all time, because he was the first one to reunite all three historical regions Moldavia, Walachia and Transylvania by 1600; although the Unification only lasted one year, his actions are the foundation of century-long dreams and hopes;
Constantin Brancoveanu (1654-1714) - one of the wealthiest and most important rulers in Walachia, who profited of peaceful times in Europe to change the looks of the territory; his legacy is recognized nowadays thanks to the Brancovenesc style of his many buildings - the so-called Romanian Renaissance, a combination of Byzantine, Renaissance and Baroque architecture;
Dimitrie Cantemir (1673 - 1723) - former ruler of Moldavia, who remained in history as one of the most esteemed writer of his times; his works helped reconstruct the history of Romanian territories and the Ottoman Empire;
Tudor Vladimirescu (1780 - 1821) - the national hero who successfully led the fight against the Phanariote regime (a 100-year period of Greek occupation in Walachia and Moldavia, instrumented by the Ottoman Empire and characterized by chaos and corruption);
Alexandru Ioan Cuza (1820 - 1873) - the man who has forever unified Moldavia with Walachia by becoming ruler of both territories in January 5 and 24, 1859 respectively;
Carol I (1839-1914) - the first German ruler (1866-1881) and king of Romania (1881-1914), successfully fighting the War of Independence (1877) and turning the country into one of the wealthiest and most respected in the Balkan region;
Mihai Eminescu (1850 - 1889) - our national poet and the most important writer of our history;
I. L. Caragiale (1852 - 1912) - not really worldwide known but surely among the most beloved Romanians of all times, one of the fathers of Romanian theatre; his plays were comical satires which criticized habits of society, creating such a strong legacy that people still refer to him whenever something similar happens nowadays, more than 100 years later;
Victor Babes (1854 - 1926) - founder of modern microbiology, with significant early contribution to the study of tuberculosis, rabies, leprosy and many more;
Ferdinand I (1865 - 1927) - the 2nd German king, responsible for the Unification of all Romanian territories by December 1, 1918;
Henri Coanda (1866 - 1972) - an aeronautical inventor, whose most famous invention happened in 1910 when he became the first in the world to fly a jet, even though by accident;
Emil Racovita (1868 - 1947) - father of speology and the first biologist in the world to study life in Antarctica;
Nicolae Paulescu (1869 - 1931) - inventor of insulin;
Traian Vuia (1872 - 1950) - another pioneer in the aviation history, worldwide known for being the first one to prove that a vehicle on wheels can rise up in the air (1906);
Queen Marie of Romania (1875 - 1938) - descendent of the British royal family, she spent almost her whole life in Romania; she was wife of Ferdinand I and a strong voice during his tenure as King of Romania; she is considered one of the most patriotic Romanians of all times and the most influential wife of a king in history;
Constantin Brancusi (1876 - 1957) - the most important sculptor of the 20th century, creator of 215 masterpieces which represent the foundation of modern sculpture;
George Enescu (1881 - 1955) - Romania's most important composer and musician, being sometimes named the best since Mozart himself;
Ion Antonescu (1882 - 1946) - the fierceful Prime Minister of Romania during World War II, Hitler's main ally in Eastern Europe;
Ana Aslan (1897 - 1988) - the physician who discovered the anti-aging effects with the help of the famous Gerovital;
George Palade (1912 - 2008) - the most influential cell biologist ever, laying the foundation for modern molecular cell biology for his innovations in electron microscopy and cell fractionation;
Nicolae Ceausescu (1918 - 1989) - everybody knows him and connects Romania to his name: one of the most relevant communist dictator in the 20th century, probably the biggest villain in our history but still worth mentioning;
Michael I (1921 -) - the last German king, who at only 22 played a vital role in changing the course of World War II: on August 23, 1944, he has surprisingly took down the Nazi regime and helped the Soviet Union end the war;
Elie Wiesel (1928 - 2016) - Auschwitz survivor, Nobel Peace Prize winner, the first one to call Hitler's horrors "Holocaust" and the most important Jewish fighter against worldwide oppressions and wars;
Ion Tiriac (1939 -) - the 2nd most famous tennis player of our country and the richest Romanian alive, owning several successful companies in automotive, aircraft or banking industries;
Gheorghe Zamfir (1941 -) - the Pan Flute Master, worldwide known singer;
Sir George Iacobescu (1945 -) - the only Romanian holding the "Sir" title, CEO @ Canary Wharf and the main reason for London turning into a world financial center;
Ilie Nastase (1946 -) - the best tennis player of Romania, winner of more than 100 ATP titles and the first world number one in ATP rankings;
Nadia Comaneci (1961 -) - the best gymnast of all times, the first in Olympic history to score a perfect 10 in 1976 at Montreal;
Gheorghe Hagi (1965 -) - Maradona of Carpathians, our best footballer of all times, leader of our best generation and renowned for his dribbling, left foot and creativeness;
Simona Halep (1991 -) - Romania's current sports ambassador, one of the best worldwide tennis player and probably the most popular Romanian today.
From Decebal to Simona Halep - crazy isn't it? 2000 years of history and 35 fantastic people who made this country renowned. It is a combined list of famous persons who made history in different areas, with one goal in mind: the greatness of our country. They couldn't have succeeded without a wide sense of patriotism, whether it was for Dacia, Romanian territories or Hungary. Within the borders or abroad, they are truly remarkable for never forgetting their roots and making the name of Romania famous worldwide, and that's surely something to be proud of!
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