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Bucharest is the capital city and industrial and commercial centre of Romania. It is located in the southeast of the country, at 44°25'N 26°06'E, and lies on the banks of the Dâmbovita River.
By European standards Bucharest is not an old city, its existence first being referred to by scholars as late as 1459. Since then it has gone through a variety of changes, becoming the state capital of Romania in 1862 and steadily consolidating its position as the centre of the Romanian mass media, culture and arts. Its eclectic architecture is a mix of historical, interbellum, Communist-era, and modern. In the period between the two World Wars, the city's elegant architecture and the sophistication of its elite earned Bucharest the nickname of the "Paris of the East" or "Little Paris" (Micul Paris). Although many buildings and districts in the historic centre were damaged or destroyed by war, earthquakes and Nicolae Ceausescu's program of systematization, much survived. In recent years, the city has been experiencing an economic and cultural boom.
According to the 2002 census, Bucharest proper has a population of 1,921,751. There are approximately 2.3 million inhabitants in the greater 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 Eastern Europe. As the most important city in Romania, Bucharest also 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.
Bucharest's history alternated periods of development and decline from the early settlements of the Antiquity and until its consolidation as capital of Romania late in the 19th century. According to the most popular of legends in circulation, the city was founded by a shepherd named Bucur.
First mentioned as "the Citadel of Bucuresti" in 1459, it became a residence of the Wallachian prince Vlad III the Impaler. The Old Princely Court (Curtea Veche) was built by Mircea Ciobanul, and during following rules, Bucharest was established as the summer residence of the court, competing with Târgoviste for the status of capital after an increase in the importance of southern Muntenia brought about by the demands of the suzerain power, the Ottoman Empire.
Burned down by the Ottomans and briefly discarded by princes at the start of the 17th century, 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. Before the 1700s, it became the most important trade centre of Wallachia and became a permanent location for 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, hit by Caragea's plague in 1813-1814, 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-centered 1848 Wallachian revolution, and an Austrian garrison took possession after the Russian departure (remaining in the city until March 1857). Additionally, on March 23, 1847, a fire consumed about 2,000 buildings of Bucharest, destroying a third of the city. The social divide between rich and poor was described at the time by Ferdinand Lassalle as making the city "a savage hotchpotch".
In 1861, when Wallachia and Moldavia were united to form the Principality of Romania, Bucharest became the new nation's capital; in 1881, it became the political center of the newly-proclaimed Kingdom of Romania. During 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.
Between December 6, 1916 and November 1918, it was occupied by German forces, the legitimate capital being moved to Iasi. After World War I, Bucharest became the capital of Greater Romania. As the capital of an Axis country, Bucharest suffered heavy losses during World War II, due to Allied bombings, and, on August 23, 1944, saw the the royal coup which brought Romania into the anti-German camp, suffering a short but destructive period of Luftwaffe bombings in reprisal. On November 8, 1945, the king's birthday, the Soviet-backed Petru Groza government 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 development called Centrul Civic (the Civic Centre), including the Palace of the Parliament, 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. Nevertheless, some historic neighbourhoods did survive to this day.
The Romanian Revolution of 1989 began with mass anti-Ceausescu protests in Timisoara in December 1989 and continued in Bucharest, leading to the overthrow of the Communist regime. Dissatisfied with the post-revolutionary leadership of the National Salvation Front, students' leagues and opposition groups organized large-scale protests continued in 1990 (the Golaniad), which were violently stopped by the miners of Valea Jiului (the Mineriad). Several other Mineriads followed, the results of which included a government change.
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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