Braşov is a city in Romania and the capital of Braşov County, with a population of 284,596, according to the 2002 census, is the 8th largest Romanian city.
Braşov is located in the central part of the country, about 166 km from Bucharest. It is surrounded by the Southern Carpathians, and is part of the Transylvania region.
The city is notable for hosting the Golden Stag International Music Festival.
The city was first attested in the 13th century under the name Corona, a Latin word meaning "crown", a name given by the German colonists.
The current Romanian and Hungarian names are derived from the Turkic word (likely Pecheneg) barasu, meaning "white water", with a Slavic suffix -ov.
The first attested mention of Braşov is Terra Saxonum de Barasu ("Saxon Land of Baras"), in a 1252 document. The German name Kronstadt means "Crown City", and is reflected in the city's coat of arms, as well as in its Medieval Latin name, Corona. The three names of the city (Braşov/Brassó, Kronstadt, and Corona) were used simultaneously in the Middle Ages.
From 1950 to 1960, during part of the Communist period in Romania, the city was called Oraşul Stalin (Stalin City), after the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.
The oldest traces of human activity and settlements in Braşov date back to the Neolithic age (about 9500 BCE). Archaeologists, working from the last half of the 19th century, discovered continuous traces of human settlements in areas situated in Braşov: Valea Cetăţii, Pietrele lui Solomon, Şprenghi, Tâmpa, Dealul Melcilor, and Noua. The first three locations shows traces of Dacian citadels; Şprenghi Hill housed a Roman-style construction. The last two locations had their names applied to Bronze Age cultures — Schneckenberg and Noua.
German colonists known as the Transylvanian Saxons played a decisive role in Braşov's development. These Germans were invited by King Géza II of Hungary to develop towns, build mines, and cultivate the land of Transylvania at different stages between 1141 and 1162. The settlers came primarily from the Rhineland, Flanders, and the Moselle region, with others from Thuringia, Bavaria, Wallonia, and even France.
In 1211, by order of King Andrew II of Hungary, the Teutonic Knights fortified the Burzenland to defend the border of the Kingdom of Hungary. Although the crusaders were evicted by 1225, the colonists they brought in remained, along with local population, as did three distinct settlements they founded on the site of Braşov:
- Corona, around the Black Church (Biserica Neagră);
- Martinsberg, west of Cetăţuia Hill;
- Bartholomä, on the eastern side of Sprenghi Hill.
Germans living in Braşov were mainly involved in trade and crafts. The location of the city at the intersection of trade routes linking the Ottoman Empire and Western Europe, together with certain tax exemptions, allowed Saxon merchants to obtain considerable wealth and exert a strong political influence. They contributed a great deal to the architectural flavor of the city. Fortifications around the city were erected and continually expanded, with several towers maintained by different craftsmen's guilds, according to medieval custom. Part of the fortification ensemble was recently restored using UNESCO funds, and other projects are ongoing. At least two entrances to the city, Poarta Ecaterinei (or Katharinentor) and Poarta Şchei (or Waisenhausgässertor) are still in existence. The city center is marked by the mayor's former office building (Casa Sfatului) and the surrounding square (piaţa), which includes one of the oldest buildings in Braşov, the Hirscher Haus, owned by a wealthy merchant. Nearby is the "Black Church" (Biserica Neagră), which some claim to be the largest Gothic style church in South-Eastern Europe.
Once Braşov became a German colony, Romanians were denied several privileges by the new German settlers. They were no longer recognized as citizens of the city, and as such they were no longer able to continue to practice their crafts and operate their businesses. Additionally, their primary religion (Orthodox) was not officially recognized throughout Transylvania, especially during and after the 15th century. Most turned to shepherding as a result, ventures which still returned considerable wealth The first stone church had been built with the support of Wallachian Ioan Neagoe Basarab Voevod, in place of the wooden one . Here is the first Romanian printing press in Transylvania (1558), along with a library. The German burghers still relied on Romanian speakers from within the community in their dealings with the Hospodars of Wallachia and Moldavia, and occasionally with the Ottoman Empire.
The cultural and religious importance of the Romanian church and school in Şchei is underlined by the generous donations received from more than thirty hospodars of Moldavia and Wallachia, as well as that from Elizabeth of Russia. In the 17th and 19th centuries, the Romanians in Şchei campaigned for national, political, and cultural rights, and were supported in their efforts by Romanians from all other provinces, as well as by the local Greek merchant community. In 1838 they established the first Romanian language newspaper, Gazeta Transilvaniei and the first Romanian institutions of higher education (Şcolile Centrale Greco-Ortodoxe - "The Greek-Orthodox Central Schools", today named after Andrei Şaguna). The Holy Roman Emperor and sovereign of Transylvania Joseph II awarded Romanians citizenship rights for a brief period during the latter decades of the 18th century.
In 1918, when Transylvania joined Romania by the "Proclamation of Union" of Alba Iulia (adopted by the Deputies of the Romanians from Transylvania) Deputies of the Saxons from Transylavania supported it, with their vote to be part of Romania, and declared their allegiance to the new Romanian state. The inter-war period saw a flourishing of economic and cultural life in general, which included the Saxons in Braşov as well. However, at the end of World War II many ethnic Germans were forcibly deported to the Soviet Union, and subsequently many more emigrated to West Germany after Romania became a communist country.
Jews have lived in Braşov since 1807, when Aron Ben Jehuda was given permission to live in the city, a privilege until then granted only to Saxons. The Jewish Community of Braşov was officially founded 19 years later, followed by the first Jewish school in 1864, and the building of the synagogue in 1901. The Jewish population of Braşov was 67 in 1850, but it expanded rapidly to 1,280 people in 1910, and 4,000 in 1940. Today the community has about 230 members, after many families left for Israel between World War II and 1989.
During the communist period, industrial development was vastly accelerated. Under Nicolae Ceauşescu's rule, the city was the site of the 1987 Braşov strike. This was repressed by the authorities and resulted in numerous workers being imprisoned.
Industrial development in Braşov started in the inter-war period, with one of the largest factories being the airplane-manufacturing plant (IAR Braşov), which produced the first Romanian fighter planes, which were used in World War II against the Soviets. After Communist rule was imposed, this plant was converted to manufacture of agricultural equipment, being renamed «Uzina Tractorul Braşov» (internationally known as Universal Tractor Braşov).
Industrialization was accelerated in the Communist era, with special emphasis being placed on heavy industry, attracting many workers from other parts of the country. Heavy industry is still abundant, including Roman, which manufactures MAN AG trucks under licence, as well as native-designed trucks and coaches. Although the industrial base has been in decline in recent years, Braşov is still a site for manufacturing agricultural tractors and machinery, hydraulic transmissions, auto parts, ball-bearings, helicopters (at the nearby IAR site in Ghimbav), building materials, tools, furniture, textiles, shoes and cosmetics. There are also chocolate factories and a large brewery. In particular, the pharmaceutical industry has undergone further development lately, with GlaxoSmithKline establishing a production site in Braşov.
A large longwave broadcasting facility is located near Braşov, at Bod.
Significant growth in real estate prices continues, along with other major Romanian cities, as investor sentiment remains high, given the large FDI influx, recent accession to the European Union and forthcoming airport. Like most of Romania and Poland, cities like Brasov are predicted to exhibit strong growth for many years to come. Many foreign investors are sourcing their own land, or engaging local firms to create holiday or investment property.
Centrally located Braşov is a good starting point for trips around Romania. The city is situated at fairly equal distances from several tourism destinations in the country: the Black Sea resorts, the monasteries in northern Moldavia, and the well-preserved wooden churches of Maramureş. It is also the largest city in a mountain resorts area. The old city itself is very well preserved, and is best seen by taking the cable-car to the top of Tâmpa Mountain (995 m), a beautiful lookout.
Temperatures from May to September fluctuate around 23°C / 75°F. Braşov benefits from a winter tourism season centered on winter sports and other activities.
- Biserica Neagră ("The Black Church"), a celebrated Gothic site - the building dates from 1477, when it replaced an older church (demolished around 1385). Its acquired the name after being blackened by smoke from the 1689 great fire.
- Casa Sfatului ("The mayor's former office building"). The administration for Braşov was here for more than 500 years.
- Biserica Sf. Nicolae (St. Nicholas Church), dating back to the 14th century.
- The First Romanian School, a museum with the first Romanian printing press among many other firsts.
- The Rope Street, the most narrow street in Romania.
- Şchei, the historically Bulgarian but then Romanian neighbourhood outside of the old walled city.
- The Orthodox church of the Dormition of the Theotokos, built in 1896.
- Muzeul Prima Carte Românească, a museum exhibiting the first book printed in the Romanian language.
- Tâmpa, a small mountain in the middle of the city (900m above sea level), a sightseeing spot near the old city center.
- The "Braşov Citadel Fortress" - Cetăţuia Braşovului
- The nearby Bran Castle, attracting many fans of Dracula, and often (but incorrectly) said to have been the home of Vlad the Impaler.
- Poiana Braşov, mainly a ski resort, but also a sightseeing spot.
- Râşnov Fortress, above the nearby town of Râşnov, is a restored peasant fortress
- Prejmer Fortress, in the nearby town of Prejmer