Today’s blog about Romanians abroad is a follow-up to last Friday’s post on the protest organized by the Romanian diaspora in Bucharest on August 10th.
Linguistic note: miting is the Romanian word for ‘protest,’ evidently a borrowing from English ‘meeting’. Thus mitingul diasporei translates as ‘the protest of the diaspora.’
Title image note: a CursDeGuverarne English-language newsletter from 2015 showing that Romania entered the top twenty list of countries with the largest diaspora (in absolute numbers, not percentages of population). Romania’s position is fourth from the left. In terms of Europe, Romania has the fourth most populous diaspora after the United Kingdom, Poland and Germany.
Political and economic note: Romania joined the European Union in January 2006.
Romanians Abroad – The Numbers
In 2015 the United Nations estimated that 3.4 million Romanians live abroad. (I have seen numbers much higher, but we’ll go with the UN here.) The in-country population of Romania is around 20 million (19.71 in 2016).
Compare for Europe: the 4.4 million of Poles who have left Poland represent 11% of a total population of 38.5 million, while Romania’s 3.4 million represents a much higher 17%.
Now compare again worldwide: in 2000 2.8% of people lived in countries other than their birth country. In 2015 that number rose to 3.3%. Romania rose 5 times faster.
Furthermore, Romania had the second highest increase of the diaspora in the world between 2000 – 2015. Syria was in first place. Thus, Romania had the highest increase of a diasporic population not faced with armed conflict and/or outright war.
Romanians cite the lack of economic opportunity at home as their main reason for leaving. When they leave, they don’t forget their friends and family. In 2016 Romanians abroad sent 2.45 billion euros back home. In 2017 it was 4.3 billion.
Not surprisingly most Romanian emigration is within the EU, with Spain and Italy heading the list.
Romanians Abroad – the 2014 Presidential Election and Beyond
In November 2014 Klaus Iohannis won a surprise victory over then Prime Minister Victor Ponta. Iohannis’s victory was due to a large turnout by the diaspora who had been angered at the government’s earlier mishandling – either deliberate or inadvertent – of their voting rights.
The August 2018 miting in Bucharest organized by the diaspora was to protest the perception of continuing corruption in the government. Even 30 years after the fall of the dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu Romanians here and abroad believe that the government is operating according to “(communist) business as usual.”
I’ve heard complaints from friends and on TV to the effect that “The politicians give out flour and cooking oil to the folks in the countryside so they’ll continue to vote for the crooks in office” and “We pay taxes so they can build their swimming pools.”
Romanians Abroad – Anecdotal
I’ve been coming to Romania every summer for a long time now, and I know and love many people here. Everyone I know has a family member or friend who has left. Everyone I know has discussed with me the possibility – past, present or future – of leaving, and I have experienced friends moving out of the country. I am currently facing the prospect of losing others.
So widespread is the diasporic phenomenon that I myself am interpreted – by those who don’t know me personally – to be a Romanian who left the country and has come back for a visit.
A couple of weeks ago I was at dinner with two friends. At the end of the evening we called a taxi, and because of where we three lived, the first two got out before me. When I was alone in the taxi, the driver’s conversational opener with me was the question, “Când ați plecat?” (“When did you leave?”)
He clearly figured me as part of the diaspora, so I had to reply, “Nu sunt româncă.” (“I’m not Romanian”) and the conversation continued along other lines.
Speaking of taxi drivers, I encountered one recently who must have been in his late twenties/early thirties. We got into a conversation (which often starts with the driver commenting on my accent) and it turns out this young man had spent 3 years in the UK. Yes, he had been sending good money to Romania, but he finally returned because he admitted he was lonely. He said he was happy to be home.
This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen