CITIZENSHIP AND EMIGRATION FROM ROMANIA TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, CANADA, ENGLAND, BRAZIL, VENEZUELA, ARGENTINA, COLUMBIA IN THE PERIOD 1865-1938 The Romanian Migration in 1865 Positioned at the eastern border of Europe, at those gates of the East that Raymond Poincaré, former Prime Minister and President of France, evoked, Romania was an area of […]
Published on February 7, 2019

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The Romanian Migration in 1865

Positioned at the eastern border of Europe, at those gates of the East that Raymond Poincaré, former Prime Minister and President of France, evoked, Romania was an area of interest for the population of neighbouring countries, with both-way migration being a demographic phenomenon a considerable intensity throughout our history.

Under these circumstances, it is natural that, with the advent of official statistics, it begins to record information on entry and exit at the country’s borders. The earliest evidences in this regard date back to 1865, six years after the establishment of the statistical offices in Bucharest and Iasi and three years after their establishment in a national institution.

The first official record of migration in Romania was made in 1865. This statistical survey mainly followed the nationality and citizenship of the people who entered and those who left Romania through Transylvania, Bucovina, Bassarabia and Serbia/Bulgaria. Citizenship, in the vocabulary of those times, was called “protection.”

In 1865 traffic at the border of the country numbered 118,712 persons who entered the country and 95,879 who left, resulting in a surplus of 22,833 persons, a migratory increase.

Most of those who have chosen to stay are Romanians (45%), followed by Hungarians. Of the 13,986 Hungarians who entered Romania, 2,703 remained in the country, respectively 38%.

The only population that had a negative migratory increase was the Israelite: respectively, there were 8,730 and 9,522 came out with a negative increase of 792. Considering that the Israelite population increased significantly in the second half of the nineteenth century, and the explanation for the negative gain since 1865 derives from its main occupation, trade.

Structure by citizenship of the population of Romania in 1899

At the end of the 19th century foreigners settled in Romania were divided into two categories. From the first category were those with citizenship, called “foreign subjects”, amounting to 188 834, ie 3.2% of the country’s population, distributed as follows: Austria-Hungarian 108 285; Turks 23 756; Greeks 20 103; Italians 8 863; Bulgarians 8064; Germans 7 733; Russian 4593; Serbian 4 100; French 1 619; Swiss 725; English 444; Belgians 159; Others 390.

In the second category were foreigners who had lost their citizenship or had renounced it and who, by force of circumstances, benefited from the protection of the Romanian state. They were called “foreigners of Romanian protection”. Numerically, this category represented 278,560 people, of which 256,488 were Jews (92%), while the remaining 22,072 (8%) belonged to different nationalities. Proportionally, foreigners of Romanian protection represented, at the level of 1899, 4.7% of the total population of the country.

Briefly, Romania’s population consisted of 92.1% of Romanians, 3.2% of foreigners and 4.7% of foreigners of Romanian protection, the total foreign element being 7.9%.

The fact that foreign citizens were not allowed to own land, according to the laws of those times, caused them to settle in the localities where economic activity was trade. These, coming from other European countries and foreigners, have begun trade activities.

The proportion of foreigners settled in Romania at the end of the nineteenth century was the second largest in Europe, after Switzerland, with 11.56%, followed by Denmark by far, with 3.27%.

Migration in Romania during 1926-1938

On April 20, 1925, the law on the regulation of migrants was issued, whereby emigration and immigration were declared free with certain restrictions. If, on emigration, the enclaves were determined mainly by the material status of emigrants, immigration was more rigorous, prohibiting the entry on the territory of Romania of persons in incapacity to work, those without a job, as well and those considered dangerous – the latter being not admitted even in transit.

In 1940, the first substantial migration analysis in Romania was carried out. It recorded separately citizens of other nationalities and citizens of Romanian nationality who crossed the country’s borders in the period 1926-1938, during which the modern history recorded the first global economic crisis, with its debut in 1929 and the duration until 1933.

Both categories of population were classified as: persons who left the country, ie emigrants, and people who entered the country, i.e. immigrants.

Migration of Foreign Citizens.

In the period 1926-1936, a total of 61,225 foreign citizens entered Romania, leaving 94 878 foreign citizens, the highest values being recorded in 1927 and 1929, the years of the economic crisis in the interwar period.

Head of statistics, Sabin Manuilă, based on administrative sources, tells the number of those who left Romania in the first decade after the Union of 1918, to 200 000 people, especially from Transylvania. This category includes Hungarian citizens, former clerks or military cadres of the late Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Even though the new Romanian state, through the Constitution of 1923, offered equal rights to all its citizens regardless of ethnicity, a part of the Hungarian elite did not find its place in the Romanian society.

It is important to specify at this point that the 1921 Agrarian Law has significantly improved the situation of the peasantry, including ethnic minorities, and the ownership is non-discriminatory. As such, even for most of the privileged populations up to 1918, respectively for the Hungarian and German ones, the Union was a benefit. We do not mention the other minorities, “tolerated” by the former Austro-Hungarian administration (Serbian, Slovak, Polish, etc.) who have appreciated the same as the Romanian majority. They received land including the so-called “enemies of yesterday”, as former soldiers in the Hungarian army, who fought against Romania during the First World War.

Migration of Romanian citizens.

Between 1926 and 1936, a total of 24,447 Romanian citizens returned to Romania, with the highest values recorded in 1928 and 1930, respectively, during the onset of the economic crisis. Out of the total Romanian citizens returned to the country, almost 90% came from the US, especially from the US (43%), then from Brazil (24%), Argentina and Canada, with over 8% each.

Between 1926 and 1936, 79,906 Romanians left Romania, the peak of this phenomenon being registered in 1928. Of the Romanian citizens who left Romania, most of them chose destinations on the American continent, especially Canada (29%). , followed by Brazil (23%), USA (about 14%), Argentina (12%), but also other states like Uruguay, Palestine, Venezuela, Colombia, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay.

Migration in 1938

In 1940 the migration from Romania was made separately in 1938, separating the citizens of other nationalities, together with the citizens of Romanian nationality.

Migration of Foreign Citizens

The total number of aliens who entered Romania was 2 354, with their citizenship being mainly Yugoslav, Bulgarian and German, these three populations accounting for over 73% of all foreign immigrants. In 1938, foreigners who left Romania numbered 3,006 people, mainly Yugoslav, Bulgarian and German citizens, these three nationalities accounting for over 63% of all foreign emigrants.

In 1938 the number of immigrants was 394, most of them, about 37%, of German nationality, and Romanians representing 23%, Hungarians 16%, Jews 14%, and others less than 10%. The origin of immigrants was, in particular, the USA, close to 43%, followed by Argentina, with over 31%. The countries of departure varied from one national to another: over 81% of Germans came from Argentina and the USA, about 80% of Romanians in the USA, nearly 70% of Hungarians in the USA and Argentina, and more than 50% of Jews in the USA. The other nationalities came from Argentina.

Migration of Romanian Citizens.

In 1938 the number of Romanian emigrants was 1 679, and the majority of them, about 54%, were of Jewish nationality, followed by the German one, with 18%, the Romanians accounting for only 4.5%.

The destination of the emigrants was different, depending on their nationality. Thus, the Jews chose Palestine, almost 36%, and 46% of them on the American continent, especially Argentina, USA, Cuba, Colombia and Canada. Over 90% of Germans emigrated to three USA states, Argentina, Canada and the United States. Most of the emigrants of Russian nationality, 82%, were targeted to Canada and Paraguay. Hungarians migrated to Argentina and Canada in a proportion of 76%. Ukrainians opted for Canada and USA, at a rate of 95%. Romanians opted for the USA – about 51%, Canada – 23% and Argentina – 18%. Yugoslav, Polish, and Czechoslovakian nationals chose Canada in particular, and Bulgarians in other states.


The analysis of the migration phenomenon on the Romanian territory reveals a permanent variation of this phenomenon, both in intensity and sense.

Thus, in the beginning period that we presented (1865) one can speak of a relative balance between the incoming and outgoing in and out of Romania, slightly favourable as the share of the first ones (about 119 000 people, compared to about 96 000 out).

Four decades later, in 1899, research into statistical data reveals that Romania had become the second target of European emigration, the number of foreigners settled in our country accounting for the ratio of 7.90% of the total population (the first place being Switzerland, 11.56%), which is the obvious expression of the spirit of tolerance characteristic of the Romanian people.

The years that followed the First World War and the achievement of the Great Union in 1918 brought the first consistent regulations in the issue of emigration and immigration, the statistical evidences available to today’s researchers, including a wealth of information on the number, age, sex and profession of people, the observation that, in the new situation, the immigration/emigration report becomes net favourable to the latter (nearly 80,000 departures and 25,000 arrivals).

A very interesting analysis concerns exclusively the year 1938, referring to the nationality and the country of origin / destination of the persons involved in the migration process, data that allow a series of conclusions with a character that surpasses purely statistical analysis (e.g. the exodus of the ethnic Germans in Romania to countries on the American continent, Jews to Palestine, Romanians to the USA, Canada, Argentina, etc.).

After the Second World War, international migration, in terms of the population of Romania, after a peak determined by the dramatic political mutations of the early years, almost entirely decreased during the communist period, to grow exponentially again with the events of December 1989 and especially after Romania’s accession to the European Union on 1 January 2007 (over 500 000 people left that country alone in that year).

The waves achieved now lead to a change in the size of the emigration from thousands to tens of thousands to millions, with the observation that the number must be necessarily associated with it and a qualitative connotation. Because this time immigration itself, let’s call it classical, which involves changing home and, ultimately, citizenship, there is also a new form, temporary labour emigration, a formula that does not lead breaking the ties with the country, with the place of birth and home, with the loss of Romanian citizenship.