In 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which stipulated, amongst other things, the Soviet "interest" in Bessarabia. Following the severe territorial losses of 1940, Carol was forced to abdicate, replaced as king by his son Mihai, but the power was taken by the military dictator Ion Antonescu (initially in conjunction with the Iron Guard). In August 1944, Antonescu was arrested by Mihai.
When King Michael, supported by the main
political parties, overthrew Ion Antonescu in August 1944, breaking
Romania away from the Axis and bringing it over to the Allied side,
Michael could do nothing to erase the memory of his country's recent
active participation in the German invasion of the Soviet Union.
Romanian forces fought under Soviet command, driving through Northern
Transylvania into Hungary proper, and on into Czechoslovakia, Austria
and Germany. However, the Soviets treated Romania as conquered
territory, and Soviet troops remained in the country as occupying
forces under the pretext that Romanian authorities could not guarantee
the security and stability of Northern Transylvania.
The Yalta Conference had granted the Soviet Union a predominant interest in Romania, the Paris Peace Treaties failed to acknowledge Romania as a co-belligerent, and the Red Army was sitting on Romanian soil. The Communists played only a minor role in Michael's wartime government, headed by General Nicolae Rădescu, but this changed in March 1945, when Dr. Petru Groza of the Ploughmen's Front, a party closely associated with the Communists, became prime minister. Although his government was broad, including members of most major prewar parties except the Iron Guard, the Communists held the key ministries.
The King was not happy with the direction of this government, but when he attempted to force Groza's resignation by refusing to sign any legislation (a move known as "the royal strike"), Groza simply chose to enact laws without bothering to obtain Michael's signature. On November 8, 1945, King Michael's name day, an anti-communist demonstration in front of the Royal Palace in Bucharest was met with force, resulting in dozens of killed and wounded; Soviet officers restrained Romanian soldiers and police from firing on civilians, and Soviet troops restored order.
the King's disapproval, the first Groza government brought land reform
and women's suffrage. However, it also brought the beginnings of Soviet
domination of Romania. In the elections of November 19, 1946,
Communists claimed by electoral fraud 80% of the votes given under
Soviet military pressure and diversions. After forming government, the
Communists worked to eliminate the role of the centrist parties;
notably, the National Peasant Party was accused of espionage after it
became clear in 1947 that their leaders were meeting secretly with
United States officials. A show trial of their leadership was then
arranged, and they were put in jail. Other parties were forced to
"merge" with the Communists.
In 1946-7, hundreds of participants in the pro-Axis regime were executed as war criminals, primarily for their involvement in the Holocaust and for attacking the Soviet Union. Antonescu himself was executed June 1, 1946. By 1948, most non-Communist politicians were either executed, in exile or in prison.