The legend says that Bucharest was founded by a shepherd named Bucur, another variant, more likely, is that it was established by Mircea cel Bătrân in the 14th century after a victory won over the Turks (bucurie means joy in Romanian). Like most ancient cities of Romania, its foundation has also been ascribed to the first Wallachian prince, the half-mythical Radu Negru.
Bucharest is first mentioned under its present name as a residence in 1459 of the Wallachian prince Vlad Țepeș (Vlad the Impaler). It was then that the Old Royal Court (Curtea Veche) was built and during the rule of Radu cel Frumos it became the summer residence of the court. In 1595 it was burned by the Turks; but, after its restoration, continued to grow in size and prosperity and in 1698, Prince Constantin Brâncoveanu chose it for his capital.
During the 18th century the possession of Bucharest was frequently disputed by the Turks, Austrians and Russians. In 1812 it gave its name to the treaty by which Bessarabia and a third of Moldavia were ceded to Russia. In the war of 1828 it was occupied by the Russians, who made it over to the prince of Wallachia in the following year. On 23 March 1847 a fire consumed about 2,000 buildings of Bucharest (about a third of the city) . A rebellion against Prince Bibescu in 1848 brought both Turkish and Russian interference, and the city was again held by Russian troops in 1853-1854. On their departure an Austrian garrison took possession and remained till March 1857. In 1858 the international congress for the organization of the Danubian principalities was held in the city; and when, in 1861, the union of Wallachia and Moldavia was proclaimed, Bucharest became the Romanian capital. Alexander John Cuza, the first ruler of the united provinces, was driven from his throne by an insurrection in Bucharest in 1866. In the second half of the 19th century, the population of the city increased dramatically. The extravagant architecture and cosmopolitan high culture of this period won Bucharest the nickname of The Paris of the East (or Little Paris, "Micul Paris"), with Calea Victoriei as its Champs-Élysées or Fifth Avenue, but the social divide between rich and poor was described at the time by Ferdinand Lassalle as "a savage hotchpotch."
On December 6, 1916 the city was occupied by the German forces, the capital being moved to Iași, but it was liberated in November 1918, becoming the capital of the new united Kingdom of Romania. Bucharest suffered heavy loses during WWII due to the English and American bombardments. On November 8, 1945, the king's day, the communists suppressed pro-monarchist rallies. During Nicolae Ceaușescu's leadership, most of the historical part of the city, including old churches, was destroyed, to be replaced with the grandomanic socialist buildings of the Centru Civic, notably the Palace of the Parliament. Some historic districts remain, but many argue whether Bucharest is really the Paris of the East today. In 1977, a strong 7.4 on the Richter-scale earthquake claimed 1,500 lives and destroyed many old buildings. Mass protests began in Timișoara in December 1989 and continued in Bucharest, leading to the overthrow of Ceaușescu's communist regime. Unhappy with the results of the revolution, mass protests supported by the students' leagues continued in 1990 (the Golaniad) and were violently stopped
by the miners of Valea Jiului (the Mineriad). Several other Mineriads followed, the results of which
included a government change. After the year 2000, due to the advent of Romania's economic boom, the
city has modernized and many historical areas have been restored to their former glory.