|An ancient province of Rome (hence its name), the region of Romania was conquered by a succession of invaders: Bulgars, Mongols, and Ottomans. Long one of Europe's poorest and least developed countries, it was only in 1878 that independence was achieved. The 20th century was marked by turmoil including the Balkan Wars and the pro-Hitler government during World War II. After the Soviets 'liberated' Romania in 1944, the country became what has been termed a virtual colony of the USSR. In fact, the Soviet army did not leave the country until 14 years later. In 1965, Nicolae Ceausescu assumed power, pursuing repressive policies and poorly-developed economic strategies that left Romania in terrible straits. In 1989, Romania plunged in the throes of violent change from communism to a nascent democracy and the years since have been witness to continued instability, both economic and, sometimes, political.