Lying along the banks of the Dâmboviţa River, Bucharest is the capital and largest city of Romania. Archeological excavations have shown that people have lived in the Bucharest area from as early as 9,000 BC, but the city of Bucharest was not first mentioned until 1459 AD in a document signed by Vlad III, the Impaler. Vlad III built the first fortress and his summer residence at Bucharest at this time in an attempt to hold back the encroaching Ottoman forces, but to little avail. In the early 17th century the city was burned down by the Ottomans, who then captured and rebuilt it.
Bucharest developed rapidly under the Ottomans and became the main economic center and capital of the seized Walachia region in 1659. For the next two hundred years, Bucharest was almost destroyed by natural disasters many times, (stubbornly rebuilt after every occurrence), ravaged by the Bubonic plague, and was occupied repeatedly by both the Habsburg Monarchy and Imperial Russia, ultimately residing under the Russians.
Walachia remained under Russian rule until a series of civic unrests in Bucharest helped to unify the Walachia and Moldavia regions, forming the state of Romania in 1859; Bucharest was named its capital in 1862. As the capital of the new kingdom, the city's population increased dramatically and large-scale architectural projects were begun. The extravagance shown by Bucharest's residences at this time earned it the nickname "The Paris of the East".
While escaping relatively unscathed during the First World War, Bucharest suffered substantial damage during World War II, primarily from heavy Allied bombings. After the wars, much of the old historic district of the city was torn down to make way for high-rise apartment buildings commissioned by the Communist government, and a massive earthquake in 1977 destroyed many of the remaining historic neighborhoods.
The Romanian Revolution of 1989 ended Communist rule in Romania when many disillusioned and dissatisfied protesters gathered in Bucharest. While at a speech being delivered by President Nicolae Ceauşescu, the protesters turned to rioting and fighting, overrunning the ineffective and desperate attempt by the police to contain them. Since the fall of communism, Bucharest has enjoyed a newfound economic boom and period of modernization, as well as new attempts by the local government to restore its nearly demolished historic center.