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Nicolae Ceaușescu

Nicolae Ceaușescu
Ceaușescu in 1981
General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party
In office
22 March 1965 – 22 December 1989
Preceded by Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej
Succeeded by Position abolished
1st President of Romania
In office
9 December 1967 – 22 December 1989
Preceded by Chivu Stoica
(as President of the State Council)
Succeeded by Ion Iliescu
Personal details
Born (1918-01-26)26 January 1918
Scornicești, Olt, Romania
Died 25 December 1989(1989-12-25) (aged 71)
Târgoviște, Dâmbovița, Romania
Nationality Romanian
Political party Romanian Communist Party
Spouse(s) Elena Petrescu (m. 1947–1989)
Children Valentin
Religion None
Military service
Allegiance  Romania
Service/branch Romanian Army
Years of service 1948–unknown
Rank Lieutenant General

Nicolae Ceaușescu ( ;[1] Romanian:  ( ); 26 January 1918[2] – 25 December 1989) was a Romanian Communist politician. He was General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party from 1965 to 1989, and as such was the country's second and last Communist leader. He was also the country's head of state from 1967 to 1989.

A member of the Romanian Communist youth movement, Ceaușescu rose up through the ranks of

Political offices
Preceded by
Chivu Stoica
President of Romania
9 December 1967 – 25 December 1989
Succeeded by
Ion Iliescu
Party political offices
Preceded by
Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej
General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party
22 March 1965 – 25 December 1989
Succeeded by
Position abolished
  • Ceaușescu, Nicolae – Romania under Communism
    • Nicolae Ceaușescu's last speech in public
    • Ceaușescu's trial transcripts (in English)
    • Ceaușescu's trial transcripts (in Romanian)
  • Romania's Demographic Policy
  • The Politicians and the revolution of 1989 (in Romanian)
  • Gheorghe Brătescu, 638: Un complot ratatClipa ("A failed scheme"). On how Milea died, probably killed by Stănculescu according to this writer, and the life of the Ceaușescu family. (In Romanian)
  • Death of the Father: Nicolae Ceaușescu Focuses on his death, but also discusses other matters. Many photos.
  • "Killer File" entry on Nicolae Andruța Ceaușescu Chronological overview of important events in his life and rule.
  • Video on YouTube, Video of the trial and execution of Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu.

External links

  • Mic Dicționar Enciclopedic ("Small encyclopedic dictionary"), 1978
  • Edward Behr, Kiss the Hand you Cannot Bite, ISBN 0-679-40128-8
  • Dumitru Burlan, Dupa 14 ani – Sosia lui Ceaușescu se destăinuie ("After 14 Years: The Double of Ceaușescu confesses"). Editura Ergorom. 31 July 2003 (in Romanian).
  • Juliana Geran Pilon, The Bloody Flag. Post-Communist Nationalism in Eastern Europe. Spotlight on Romania, ISBN 1-56000-062-7; ISBN 1-56000-620-X
  • Marian Oprea, "Au trecut 15 ani – Conspirația Securității" ("After 15 Years: The Conspiracy of State Security"), in Nr 10, 2004Lumea Magazin: (in Romanian; link leads to table of contents, verifying that the article exists, but the article itself is not online).
  • Viorel Patrichi, "Eu am fost sosia lui Nicolae Ceaușescu" ("I was Ceaușescu's double"), Lumea Magazin Nr 12, 2001 (in Romanian)
  • Stevens W. Sowards, Twenty-Five Lectures on Modern Balkan History (The Balkans in the Age of Nationalism), 1996, in particular Lecture 24: The failure of Balkan Communism and the causes of the Revolutions of 1989
  • Victor Stănculescu, "Nu vă fie milă, au 2 miliarde de lei în cont" ("Do not have mercy, they hold 2 billion lei [33 million dollars] in their account[s]"), in Jurnalul Național, 22 Nov 2004
  • John Sweeney, The Life and Evil Times of Nicolae Ceaușescu, ISBN 0-09-174672-8
  • Stelian Tănase, "Societatea civilă românească și violența" ("Romanian Civil Society and Violence"), in Agora, issue 3/IV, July–September 1991
  • Filip Teodorescu, et al., Extracts from the minutes of a Romanian senate hearing, 14 December 1994, featuring the remarks of Filip Teodorescu.
  • Cătălin Gruia, "Viata lui Nicolae Ceausescu", in National Geographic Romania, November 2007, pp. 41–65
  • Dennis Deletant (1995), Ceauşescu and the Securitate: Coercion and Dissent in Romania, 1965–1989, ISBN 978-1563246333 pub. M. E. Sharpe. p. 351
This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the Italiano WorldHeritage.


  1. ^ "Ceaușescu" entry in Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, Random House, 1999.
  2. ^ "Ceausescu". Files. September 2010. Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  3. ^ Behr, E. (1991). Kiss the hand you cannot bite: the rise and fall of the Ceausescus. London: Hamish Hamilton.
  4. ^ Name Withheld (Pavel Câmpeanu), "Birth and Death in Romania, October 1986," Making the History of 1989, Item #694, (accessed 10 April 2013, 1:26 pm).
  5. ^ Ratesh, N. (1991). Romania: The Entangled Revolution. Praeger Publishers.
  6. ^ Boyes, Roger (24 December 2009). "Ceausescu looked in my eyes and he knew that he was going to die".  
  7. ^ a b c d Gruia, p. 42
  8. ^ a b c d
  9. ^ a b c d e Gruia, p. 43
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i Sebetsyen, Victor (2009). Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire. New York City:  
  11. ^ "Rumania: Enfant Terrible". Time. 2 April 1973. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  12. ^ Martin Sajdik, Michaël Schwarzinger (2008). European Union enlargement: background, developments, facts. New Jersey, USA: Transaction Publishers. p. 10.  
  13. ^ David Phinnemore (2006). The EU and Romania: accession and beyond. London, UK: Federal Trust for Education and Research. p. 13.  
  14. ^ Roger Kirk, Mircea Răceanu. Romania versus the United States: diplomacy of the absurd, 1985–1989. Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Georgetown University, 1994. p. 81.  
  15. ^ Romania's Demographic Policy, U.S. Library of Congress country study for details see Gail Kligman. 1998. The Politics of Duplicity. Controlling Reproduction in Ceausescu's Romania. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  16. ^ Karen Dente and Jamie Hess, Pediatric AIDS in Romania – A Country Faces Its Epidemic and Serves as a Model of Success, MedGenMed. 2006; 8(2): 11. Published online 6 April 2006.
  17. ^ See, for instance, Bohlen, Celestine, Measures to encourage reproduction included financial motivations for families who bear children, guaranteed maternity leave, and childcare support for mothers returning to work, work protection for women, and extensive access to medical control in all stages of pregnancy, as well as after. Medical control is seen as one of the most productive effects of the law, since all women who became pregnant were under the care of a qualified medical practitioner, even in rural areas. In some cases, if the woman was unable to visit a medical office, the doctor would make visits at her home. "Upheaval in the East: Romania's AIDS Babies: A Legacy of Neglect," 8 February 1990, The New York Times.
  18. ^ (Romanian) Regimul Ceaușescu – de la mitingul din 1968 la cel din 1989, "Ceaușescu Regime: From the 1968 to the 1989 Mass Meeting", in Jurnalul Naţional, December 21, 2005
  19. ^ Grosescu, R. (2004). The Political Regrouping of Romanian Nomenklatura during the 1989 Revolution. Romanian Journal of Society and Politics, 4(1), 97-123.
  20. ^ Mungiu‐Pippidi, A. (2001). The Return of Populism‐The 2000 Romanian Elections. Government and Opposition, 36(2), 230-252.
  21. ^ Deletant, Dennis (1995). Ceauşescu and the Securitate: Coercion and Dissent in Romania, 1965–1989. M.E.Sharpe. p. 351.  
  22. ^ Text of Speech in Revolution Square, 21 December 1989
  23. ^ Aubin, Stephen P (1998). Distorting defense: Network news and national security. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 158.  
  24. ^ Boyes, Roger (24 December 2009). "Ceausescu looked in my eyes and he knew that he was going to die". The Times (London). Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  25. ^ Daniel Simpson, "Ghosts of Christmas past still haunt Romanians"
  26. ^ The dictator and his henchman
  27. ^ Demian, Sinziana (25 December 2009). "In Romania, Ceausescu's death haunts Christmas". Global Post (Cluj Napoca). Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  28. ^ "'"Ceausescu execution 'avoided mob lynching. BBC. 25 December 2009. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  29. ^
  30. ^ a b c Osborn, Andrew (21 July 2010). "'"Nicolae Ceausescu exhumed 'wearing his black winter coat. The Telegraph (Moscow). Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  31. ^ a b Jurnalul Naţional, 25 January 2005
  32. ^
  33. ^ "Un Ceauşescu pe care nu îl ştiaţi: creţ, cu ochii "blonzi" şi nasul borcănat" (in Romanian). 3 August 2011. Retrieved July 22, 2014. 
  34. ^ Relations with the Socialist World Library of Congress Country Study on Zaire (Former), Library of Congress Call Number DT644 .Z3425 1994. (TOC.) Data as of December 1993. Accessed online 15 October 2006.
  35. ^ List of honorary British Knights
  36. ^ Valenzuela, J. Samuel and Arturo Valenzuela (eds.), Military Rule in Chile: Dictatorship and Oppositions, p. 321
  37. ^ Romanian-Moldavian SSR relations, by Patrick Moore and the Romanian Section
  38. ^ Official communique of the National Board of the Audio-Visual at the Wayback Machine (archived December 20, 2007), originally at but now removed, accessible through
  39. ^ John Horvath. "Ceausescu – Back from the Dead". Telepolis. Retrieved 2012-12-28. 
  40. ^ a b "In Romania, Opinion Polls Show Nostalgia for Communism". Balkanalysis. 27 December 2011. Retrieved 2012-12-28. 
  41. ^ "Noul Partid Comunist Român, condus de un șofer de taxi". Adevarul. Retrieved 2012-12-28. 
  42. ^ Mic Dicționar Enciclopedic
  43. ^ Geran Pilon, Chapter III, Communism with a Nationalist Face, pp. 60–66; Tănase, p. 24
  44. ^ a b Geran Pilon, p.60
  45. ^ Tănase, p.23
  46. ^ Geran Pilon, p.62
  47. ^ a b Geran Pilon, p.61
  48. ^ Geran Pilon, pp. 61–63
  49. ^ [1]
  50. ^ Geran Pilon, p.63
  51. ^ The Official Website of the British Monarchy: "Queen and Honours", retrieved on 13 October 2010.
  52. ^ "Reply to a parliamentary question" (PDF) (in German). p. 277. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  53. ^ Badraie
  54. ^ Badraie


See also


  • Report during the joint solemn session of the CC of the Romanian Communist Party, the National Council of the Socialist Unity Front and the Grand National Assembly: Marking the 60th anniversary of the creation of a Unitary Romanian National State, 1978
  • Major problems of our time: Eliminating underdevelopment, bridging gaps between states, building a new international economic order, 1980
  • The solving of the national question in Romania (Socio-political thought of Romania's President), 1980
  • Ceaușescu: Builder of Modern Romania and International Statesman, 1983
  • The nation and co-habiting nationalities in the contemporary epoch (Philosophical thought of Romania's president), 1983
  • Istoria poporului Român în concepția președintelui, 1988

Selected published works

Honorary degrees from the University of Bucharest (1973), Lebanese University (1974), University of Buenos Aires (1974), Autonomous University of Yucatan (1975), University of Nice Sophia Antipolis (1975), University of Liberia (1988) and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (1988).

Several foreign decorations were revoked at the time of the collapse of the Ceaușescu regime.

Foreign decorations

All titles and decorations were revoked by the provisional government on December 26, 1989.

Romanian decorations

On his 70th birthday in 1988, Ceaușescu was decorated with the Karl-Marx-Orden by then Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) chief Erich Honecker; through this he was honoured for his rejection of Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms.

Ceaușescu was likewise stripped of his honorary GCB (Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath) status by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom on the day before his execution. Queen Elizabeth II also returned the Romanian order Ceaușescu had bestowed upon her.[51]

Ceaușescu received the Danish Order of the Elephant, but this award was revoked on 23 December 1989 by the queen of Denmark, Margrethe II.

Honours and awards

In November 1989, at the XIVth and last congress of the PCR, Ceaușescu condemned the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and asked for the annulment of its consequences. In effect, this amounted to a demand for the return of Bessarabia (most of which was then a Soviet republic and since 1991 has been independent Moldova) and northern Bukovina, both of which had been occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940 and again at the end of World War II.

The strong opposition of his regime to all forms of perestroika and glasnost placed Ceaușescu at odds with Mikhail Gorbachev. He was very displeased when other Warsaw Pact countries decided to try their own versions of Gorbachev's reforms. In particular, he was incensed when Poland's leaders opted for a power-sharing arrangement with the Solidarity trade union. He even went as far as to call for a Warsaw Pact invasion of Poland—a significant reversal, considering how violently he opposed the invasion of Czechoslovakia 20 years earlier. For his part, Gorbachev made no secret of his distaste for Ceaușescu, whom he called "the Romanian führer." At a meeting between the two, Gorbachev upbraided Ceaușescu for his inflexible attitude. "You are running a dictatorship here," the Soviet leader warned.[10]

and the ultimate isolation of Romania on the world stage. [50] Nicolae Ceaușescu had a major influence on modern-day Romanian populist rhetoric. In his final years, he had begun to rehabilitate the image of pro-

A new generation of committed supporters on the outside confirmed the regime's character. Ceaușescu probably never emphasized that his policies constituted a paradigm for theorists of National Bolshevism such as Jean-François Thiriart, but there was a publicised connection between him and Iosif Constantin Drăgan, an Iron Guardist Romanian-Italian émigré millionaire (Drăgan was already committed to a Dacian Protochronism that largely echoed the official cultural policy).

The system's nationalist traits grew and progressively blended with [47] The regime continued its cultural dialogue with ancient forms, with Ceaușescu connecting his cult of personality to figures such as Mircea cel Bătrân (whom he styled Mircea the Great) and Mihai Viteazul. It also started adding Dacian or Roman versions to the names of cities and towns (Drobeta to Turnu Severin, Napoca to Cluj).[48] Although Ceaușescu maintained an independent, "national Communist" course, his absolute control over the country led many non-Romanian observers to describe his regime as one of the closest things to an old-style Stalinist regime. The last edition of the Country Study on Romania, for instance, referred to the PCR's "Stalinist repression of individual liberties."[49]

Alexander Dubček's version of Socialism with a human face was never suited to Romanian Communist goals. Ceaușescu found himself briefly aligned with Dubček's Czechoslovakia and Josip Broz Tito's Yugoslavia. The latter friendship was to last well into the 1980s, with Ceaușescu adapting the Titoist doctrine of "independent Socialist development" to suit his own objectives. Romania proclaimed itself a "Socialist" (in place of "People's") Republic to show that it was fulfilling Marxist goals without Moscow's overseeing.

Ceaușescu was prepared to take a more decisive step in questioning Soviet policies. In the early years of his rule, he generally relaxed political pressures inside Romanian society,[45] which led to the late 1960s and early 1970s being the most liberal decade in Socialist Romania. Gaining the public's confidence, Ceaușescu took a clear stand against the 1968 crushing of the Prague Spring by Leonid Brezhnev. After a visit from Charles de Gaulle earlier in the same year (during which the French President gave recognition to the incipient maverick), Ceaușescu's public speech in August deeply impressed the population, not only through its themes, but also because, uniquely, it was unscripted. He immediately attracted Western sympathies and backing, which lasted well beyond the 'liberal' phase of his regime; at the same time, the period brought forward the threat of armed Soviet invasion: significantly, many young men inside Romania joined the Patriotic Guards created on the spur of the moment, in order to meet the perceived threat.[46] President Richard Nixon was invited to Bucharest in 1969, which was the first visit of a United States president to a Socialist country after the start of the Cold War.

It had also engineered the publishing of several works that subverted the Russian and Soviet image, such as the final volumes of the official History of Romania, no longer glossing over traditional points of tension with Russia and the Soviet Union (even alluding to an unlawful Soviet presence in Bessarabia). In the final years of Gheorghiu-Dej's rule more problems were openly discussed, with the publication of a collection of Karl Marx texts that dealt with Romanian topics, showing Marx's previously censored, politically uncomfortable views of Russia.

Ceaușism's main trait was a form of Romanian Red Army in 1958.

While the term Ceaușism became widely used inside Romania, usually as a pejorative, it never achieved status in academia. This can be explained by the largely crude and syncretic character of the dogma. Ceaușescu attempted to include his views in mainstream Marxist theory, to which he added his belief in a "multilaterally developed Socialist society" as a necessary stage between the Leninist concepts of Socialist and Communist societies (a critical view reveals that the main reason for the interval is the disappearance of the State and Party structures in Communism). A Romanian Encyclopedic Dictionary entry in 1978 underlines the concept as "a new, superior, stage in the Socialist development of Romania [...] begun by the 1971–1975 Five-Year Plan, prolonged over several [succeeding and projected] Five-Year Plans".[42]


Praising the crimes of so-called totalitarian regimes and denigrating their victims is forbidden by law in Romania; this includes the Ceaușescu regime. Dinel Staicu was fined 25,000 lei (approx. 9,000 United States dollars) for praising Ceaușescu and displaying his pictures on his private television channel (3TV Oltenia).[38] Nevertheless, according to opinion polls held in 2010, 41% of Romanians would vote for Ceaușescu[39][40] and 63% think that their lives were better before 1989.[40][41]

Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu had three children: Valentin Ceaușescu (born 1948), a nuclear physicist; Nicu Ceaușescu (1951–1996), also a physicist; and a daughter, Zoia Ceaușescu (1949–2006), who was a mathematician. After the death of his parents, Nicu Ceaușescu ordered the construction of an Orthodox church, the walls of which are decorated with portraits of his parents.[31]

His successor, Ion Iliescu, and Nicolae Ceaușescu in 1976


In August 1976, Nicolae Ceaușescu was the first high-level Romanian visitor to Bessarabia since World War II. In December 1976, at one of his meetings in Bucharest, Ivan Bodiul said that "the good relationship was initiated by Ceaușescu's visit to Soviet Moldova."[37]

Ceaușescu's Romania was the only Warsaw Pact country that did not sever diplomatic relations with Chile after Augusto Pinochet's coup.[36]

France granted Ceaușescu the Legion of Honour and in 1978 he became a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath[35] (GCB, stripped in 1989) in the UK. Elena Ceaușescu was arranged to be "elected" to membership of a Science Academy in the USA; all of these, and more, were arranged by the Ceaușescus as a propaganda ploy through the consular cultural attachés of Romanian embassies in the countries involved.

He was a close ally and personal friend of dictator President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaïre. Relations were in fact not just state-to-state, but party-to-party between the MPR and the Romanian Communist Party. Many believe that Ceaușescu's death played a role in influencing Mobutu to "democratise" Zaïre in 1990.[34]

He organised a successful referendum for reducing the size of the Romanian Army by 5% and held large rallies for peace.

Ceaușescu's Romania was the only Eastern Bloc country that retained diplomatic relations with Israel and did not sever diplomatic relations after Israel's pre-emptive strike against Egypt at the start of the Six-Day War in 1967. Ceaușescu made efforts to act as a mediator between the PLO and Israel. Similarly, Romania was the only Soviet-bloc country to attend the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

With Warsaw Pact leaders, 1987 (from left): Husák of Czechoslovakia, Zhivkov of Bulgaria, Honecker of East Germany, Gorbachev of the USSR, Ceaușescu, Jaruzelski of Poland, and Kádár of Hungary


Not surprisingly, Ceaușescu was greatly concerned about his public image. For years, nearly all official photographs of him showed him in his late 40s. Romanian state television was under strict orders to portray him in the best possible light.[10] Additionally, producers had to take great care to make sure that Ceaușescu's height—he was only 1.68 metres (5 ft 6 in) tall[33]—was never emphasized on screen. Consequences for breaking these rules were severe; one producer showed footage of Ceaușescu blinking and stuttering, and was banned for three months.[10]

Such excesses prompted painter Salvador Dalí to send a congratulatory telegram to the "Conducător", in which he sarcastically congratulated Ceaușescu on his "introducing the presidential sceptre". The Communist Party daily Scînteia published the message, unaware that it was a work of satire. To lessen the chance of further treason after Pacepa's defection, Ceaușescu also invested his wife Elena and other members of his family with important positions in the government--much as Kim Il-sung did in North Korea. This led Romanians to joke that Ceaușescu was creating "socialism in one family."

The most important day of the year during Ceaușescu's rule was his birthday, 26 January—a day which saw Romanian media saturated with praise for him. According to historian Victor Sebestyen, it was one of the few days of the year when the average Romanian put on a happy face, since appearing miserable on this day was too risky to contemplate.[10]

Ceaușescu created a pervasive personality cult, giving himself such titles as "Conducător" ("Leader") and "Geniul din Carpați" ("The Genius of the Carpathians"), with inspiration from Proletarian Culture (Proletkult). After his election as President of Romania, he even had a king-like sceptre made for himself.

Stamp commemorating the 70th birthday (and 55 years of political activity) of Nicolae Ceaușescu, 1988

Personality cult and authoritarianism

[30] Their graves are located in

The Ceaușescus were the last people to be executed in Romania before the abolition of capital punishment on 7 January 1990.[29]

The manner in which the trial was conducted was widely criticised inside and outside Romania. However, Ion Iliescu, Romania's provisional president, said in 2009 that the trial was "quite shameful, but necessary" in order to end the state of near-anarchy that had gripped the country in the three days since the Ceaușescus fled Bucharest[27] Similarly, Victor Stănculescu, who had been defense minister before going over to the revolution, said in 2009 that the alternative would have been seeing the Ceaușescus lynched on the streets of Bucharest.[28]

The hasty show trial and the images of the dead Ceaușescus were videotaped and the footage promptly released in numerous western countries two days after the execution. Later that day, it was also shown on Romanian television.[25][26]

The Ceaușescus were executed by a gathering of soldiers: Captain Ionel Boeru, Sergeant-Major Georghin Octavian and Dorin-Marian Cîrlan,[24] while reportedly hundreds of others also volunteered. The firing squad began shooting as soon as the two were in position against a wall. A TV crew who were to film the execution only managed to catch the end of it as the Ceaușescus lay on the ground shrouded by dust kicked up by the bullets striking the wall and ground. Before his sentence was carried out, Nicolae Ceaușescu sang "The Internationale" while being led up against the wall. After the shooting, the bodies were covered with canvas.

On Christmas Day, 25 December, in a small room the Ceaușescus were tried before a drumhead court-martial convened on orders of the National Salvation Front, Romania's provisional government. They faced charges including illegal gathering of wealth and genocide. Ceaușescu repeatedly denied the court's authority to try him, and asserted he was still legally president of Romania. At the end of the quick show trial the Ceaușescus were found guilty and sentenced to death. A soldier standing guard in the proceedings was ordered to take the Ceaușescus out back one by one and shoot them, but the Ceaușescus demanded to die together. The soldiers agreed to this and began to tie their hands behind their back which the Ceaușescus protested against but were powerless to prevent.

Ceaușescu and his wife Elena fled the capital with Emil Bobu and Manea Mănescu and headed, by helicopter, for Ceaușescu's Snagov residence, whence they fled again, this time for Târgoviște. Near Târgoviște they abandoned the helicopter, having been ordered to land by the army, which by that time had restricted flying in Romania's airspace. The Ceaușescus were held by the police while the policemen listened to the radio. They were eventually turned over to the army.

Original grave site of Nicolae Ceaușescu, Ghencea Civil Cemetery (Bucharest)


During the course of the revolution, the western press published estimates of the number of people killed by Securitate forces in attempting to support Ceaușescu and quell the rebellion. The count increased rapidly until an estimated 64,000 fatalities were widely reported across front pages. The Hungarian military attaché expressed doubt regarding these figures, pointing out the unfeasible logistics of killing such a large number of people in such a short period of time. After Ceaușescu's death, hospitals across the country reported a death toll of less than 1,000, and probably much lower than that.[23]

Believing that Milea had been murdered, rank-and-file soldiers switched sides to the revolution almost en masse. The commanders wrote off Ceaușescu as a lost cause and made no effort to keep their men loyal to the regime. Ceaușescu made a last desperate attempt to address the crowd gathered in front of the Central Committee building, but the people in the square began throwing stones and other projectiles at him, forcing him to take refuge in the building once more. One group of protesters forced open the doors of the building, by now left unprotected. They managed to overpower Ceaușescu's bodyguards and rushed through his office and onto the balcony. Although they did not know it, they were only a few meters from Ceaușescu, who was trapped in an elevator. He, Elena and four others managed to get to the roof and escaped by helicopter, only seconds ahead of a group of demonstrators who had followed them there.[10] The PCR disappeared soon afterward; unlike its kindred parties in the former Soviet bloc, it has never been revived.

By the morning of 22 December, the rebellion had already spread to all major cities across the country. The suspicious death of Vasile Milea, the defense minister (later confirmed as a suicide), was announced by the media. Immediately thereafter, Ceaușescu presided over the CPEx (Political Executive Committee) meeting and assumed the leadership of the army.

Flight on 22 December

Although the television broadcasts of the "support meeting" and subsequent events had been interrupted, Ceaușescu's reaction to the events had already been imprinted on the country's collective memory.

Failing to control the crowds, the Ceaușescus finally took cover inside the building that housed the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party, where they remained until the next day. The rest of the day saw an open revolt of Bucharest's population, which had assembled in University Square and confronted the police and army at barricades. The rioters were no match for the military apparatus concentrated in Bucharest, which cleared the streets by midnight and arrested hundreds of people in the process.

However, Ceaușescu had seriously—and as events developed, fatally—misjudged the crowd's mood. Roughly eight minutes into his speech, several people began jeering, booing and whistling at him—a reaction that would have been unthinkable for most of the previous quarter of a century of his rule. As the speech wore on, more and more people did the same. Others began chanting "Ti-mi-șoa-ra! Ti-mi-șoa-ra!" He tried to silence them by raising his right hand and calling for the crowd's attention before order was temporarily restored, then proceeded to announce social benefit reforms that included raising of the national minimum wage by 100 lei per month. Ceaușescu's facial expression (perhaps reflecting realisation) as the crowd began to boo and heckle him remains one of the defining moments of the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe.[10]

The mass meeting of 21 December, held in what is now Revolution Square, began like many of Ceaușescu's speeches over the years. Ceaușescu spoke of the achievements of the "Socialist revolution" and Romanian "multi-laterally developed Socialist society." He also blamed the Timișoara riots on "fascist agitators who want to destroy socialism."[22]

Speech on 21 December


The country, which had little or no information of the Timișoara events from the national media, learned about the Timișoara revolt from western radio stations such as Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, and by word of mouth. On the next day, 21 December, Ceaușescu staged a mass meeting in Bucharest. Official media presented it as a "spontaneous movement of support for Ceaușescu", emulating the 1968 meeting in which Ceaușescu had spoken against the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact forces.

On 18 December 1989, Ceaușescu departed for a state visit to Iran, leaving the duty of crushing the Timișoara revolt to his subordinates and his wife. Upon his return to Romania on the evening of 20 December, the situation became even more tense, and he gave a televised speech from the TV studio inside Central Committee Building (CC Building), in which he spoke about the events at Timișoara in terms of an "interference of foreign forces in Romania's internal affairs" and an "external aggression on Romania's sovereignty".

Romanian students spontaneously joined the demonstration, which soon lost nearly all connection to its initial cause and became a more general anti-government demonstration. Regular military forces, police and Security fired on demonstrators on 17 December 1989, killing and injuring men, women and children.

Demonstrations in the city of Timișoara were triggered by the government-sponsored attempt to evict László Tőkés, an ethnic Hungarian pastor, accused by the government of inciting ethnic hatred. Members of his ethnic Hungarian congregation surrounded his apartment in a show of support.


In November 1989, the XIVth Congress of the Romanian Communist Party (PCR) saw Ceaușescu, then aged 71, re-elected for another five years as leader of the PCR. During the Congress, Ceaușescu made a speech denouncing the anti-Communist revolutions happening throughout the rest of Eastern Europe. The following month, Ceaușescu's regime itself collapsed after a series of violent events in Timișoara and Bucharest in December 1989.


A tentative coup d'état planned in October 1984 failed when the military unit assigned to carry out the plan was sent to harvest maize instead.[21]

1984 failed coup d'état attempt

The debt was fully paid in the summer of 1989, shortly before Ceaușescu was overthrown.[10] However, heavy exports continued until the revolution in December.

In the 1980s, Ceaușescu ordered the export of much of the country's agricultural and industrial production in order to repay its debts. The resulting domestic shortages made the everyday life of Romanians a fight for survival as food rationing was introduced and heating, gas and electricity blackouts became the rule. During the 1980s, there was a steady decrease in the Romanian population's standard of living, especially in the availability and quality of food and general goods in shops. During this time, all regional radio stations were closed, and television was limited to a single channel broadcasting for only two hours a day.

In an attempt to correct this, Ceaușescu decided to repay Romania's [20]

Ceaușescu's political independence from the Soviet Union and his protest against the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 drew the interest of Western powers, whose governments briefly believed that he was an anti-Soviet maverick and hoped to create a schism in the Warsaw Pact by funding him. Ceaușescu did not realise that the funding was not always favorable. Ceaușescu was able to borrow heavily (more than $13 billion) from the West to finance economic development programs, but these loans ultimately devastated the country's finances. He also secured a deal for cheap oil from Iran, but that deal fell through after the Shah was overthrown.

Ceaușescu gives his New Year's Eve address on TV and radio

Foreign debt

In 1978, Ion Mihai Pacepa, a senior member of the Romanian political police (Securitate, State Security), defected to the United States. A 3-star general, he was the highest ranking defector from the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War. His defection was a powerful blow against the regime, forcing Ceaușescu to overhaul the architecture of the Security. Pacepa's 1986 book, Red Horizons: Chronicles of a Communist Spy Chief (ISBN 0-89526-570-2), claims to expose details of Ceaușescu's regime, such as massive spying on American industry and elaborate efforts to rally Western political support.

Pacepa defection

Also, the Socialist Republic of Romania was the first of the Eastern bloc nations to have official relations with the Western bloc and the European Community: an agreement including Romania in the Community's Generalised System of Preferences was signed in 1974 and an Agreement on Industrial Products was signed in 1980. On 4 April 1975, Ceaușescu visited Japan and met with Emperor Hirohito.

Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife with Emperor Hirohito during a visit in Tokyo in 1975

He continued to follow an independent policy in foreign relations—for example, in 1984, Romania was one of few communist states (notably including the People's Republic of China, and 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Although Ceaușescu had been head of state since 1965, he had merely been first among equals on the State Council, with his real power coming from his status as party leader. The new post, however, made him the nation's top decision-maker both in name and in fact. He was empowered to carry out those functions of the State Council that didn't require plenums. He also appointed and dismissed the president of the Supreme Court and the prosecutor general whenever the legislature wasn't in session. In practice, from 1974 onward Ceaușescu frequently ruled by decree.[19]

In 1974, Ceaușescu converted his post of president of the State Council to a full-fledged executive presidency. He was first elected to this post in 1974, and would be reelected every five years until 1989.

Standard as President of Romania

President of Romania

The Theses heralded the beginning of a "mini cultural revolution" in Romania, launching a Neo-Stalinist offensive against cultural autonomy, reaffirming an ideological basis for literature that, in theory, the Party had hardly abandoned. Although presented in terms of "Socialist Humanism", the Theses in fact marked a return to the strict guidelines of Socialist Realism, and attacks on non-compliant intellectuals. Strict ideological conformity in the humanities and social sciences was demanded. Competence and aesthetics were to be replaced by ideology; professionals were to be replaced by agitators; and culture was once again to become an instrument for political-ideological propaganda and hardline measures.

On 6 July 1971, he delivered a speech before the Executive Committee of the PCR. This quasi-

Ceaușescu visited the People's Republic of China, North Korea, Mongolia and North Vietnam in 1971. He took great interest in the idea of total national transformation as embodied in the programs of North Korea's Juche and China's Cultural Revolution. He was also inspired by the personality cults of North Korea's Kim Il-sung and China's Mao Zedong. Shortly after returning home, he began to emulate North Korea's system. North Korean books on Juche were translated into Romanian and widely distributed inside the country.

Ceaușescu meeting with North Korean leader Kim Il Sung in 1971.

July Theses

Ceaușescu's speech of 21 August 1968 represented the apogee of Ceaușescu's regime.[18] It marked the highest point in Ceaușescu's popularity, when he openly condemned the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Speech of 21 August 1968

The government also targeted rising divorce rates and made divorce much more difficult—it was decreed that a marriage could be dissolved only in exceptional cases. By the late 1960s, the population began to swell. In turn, a new problem was created by child abandonment, which swelled the orphanage population (see Cighid). Transfusions of untested blood led to Romania accounting for many of Europe's pediatric HIV/AIDS cases at the turn of the 21st century despite having a population that only makes up around 3% of Europe's total population.[16][17]

In 1966, Ceaușescu, in an attempt to boost the country's population, made abortion illegal, and introduced Decree 770 to reverse the very low birth rate and fertility rate. Mothers of at least five children would be entitled to significant benefits, while mothers of at least ten children were declared heroine mothers by the Romanian state. Few women ever sought this status; instead, the average Romanian family during the time had two to three children (see Demographics of Romania).[15]

Ceaușescu is greeted by King Juan Carlos I of Spain in Madrid, 1979

The 1966 decree

A series of official visits to Western countries (including the US, France, the United Kingdom, and Spain) helped Ceaușescu to present himself as a reforming Communist, pursuing an independent foreign policy within the Soviet Bloc. He also became eager to be seen as an enlightened international statesman, able to mediate in international conflicts, and to gain international respect for Romania.[13] Ceaușescu negotiated in international affairs, such as the opening of US relations with China in 1969 and the visit of PLO. In 1980, Romania participated in the 1980 Moscow Olympics with its other Soviet bloc allies but in 1984 was one of the few Communist countries to participate in the 1984 Summer Olympics when most of the East bloc's nations boycotted this event.[14]

The presidential couple is received by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in June 1978

During the following years Ceaușescu pursued an open policy towards the United States and Western Europe. Romania was the first Warsaw Pact country to recognize West Germany, the first to join the International Monetary Fund, and the first to receive a US President, Richard Nixon.[11] In 1971, Romania became a member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Romania and Yugoslavia were also the only Eastern European countries that entered into trade agreements with the European Economic Community before the fall of the Eastern Bloc.[12]

Ceaușescu spending time with French prime minister Jacques Chirac at the Romanian seaside in Neptun (1975)

Initially, Ceaușescu became a popular figure in Romania and also in the West, because of his independent foreign policy, challenging the authority of the Soviet Union. In the 1960s, he eased press censorship and ended Romania's active participation in the Warsaw Pact (though Romania formally remained a member). He not only refused to take part in the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact forces, but actively and openly condemned that action in his 21 August 1968 speech. He even traveled to Prague a week before the invasion to offer moral support to his Czechoslovak counterpart, Alexander Dubček. Although the Soviet Union largely tolerated Ceaușescu's recalcitrance, his seeming independence from Moscow earned Romania a maverick status within the Eastern Bloc.[10]

Ceaușescu was not the obvious successor to Gheorghiu-Dej when he died on 19 March 1965, despite his closeness to the longtime leader, but amid widespread infighting among older and more connected officials the Politburo turned to Ceaușescu as a compromise candidate.[10] He was elected general secretary on 22 March 1965, three days after Gheorghiu-Dej's death. One of his first acts was to change the name of the party from the Romanian Workers' Party back to the Communist Party of Romania, and declare the country a socialist republic rather than a people's republic. In 1967, he consolidated his power by becoming president of the State Council, making him de jure head of state.

Leadership of Romania

After the Communists seized power in Romania in 1947, he headed the ministry of agriculture, then served as deputy minister of the armed forces under Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, becoming a major-general. In 1952, Gheorghiu-Dej brought him onto the Central Committee months after the party's "Muscovite faction" led by Ana Pauker had been purged. In 1954, he became a full member of the Politburo and eventually rose to occupy the second-highest position in the party hierarchy.[8]

Soon after being freed, he was arrested again and sentenced for "conspiracy against social order", spending the time during the war in prisons and World War II, when Romania was beginning to fall under Soviet influence, he served as secretary of the Union of Communist Youth (1944–1945).[8]

The profile file from the secret police, Siguranța Statului, named him "a dangerous Communist agitator" and "distributor of Communist and antifascist propaganda materials".[9] For these charges he was convicted on 6 June 1936 by the Brașov Tribunal to 2 years in prison, an additional 6 months for contempt of court, and one year of forced residence in Scornicești.[9] He spent most of his sentence in Doftana Prison.[9] While out of jail in 1940, he met Elena Petrescu, whom he married in 1946 and who would play an increasing role in his political life over the years.[8]

He worked in the workshop of Alexandru Săndulescu, a shoemaker who was an active member in the then-illegal Communist Party.[7] Ceaușescu was soon involved in the Communist Party activities (becoming a member in early 1932), but, as a teenager, he was given only small tasks.[7] He was first arrested in 1933, at the age of 15 for street fighting during a strike and again, in 1934, first for collecting signatures on a petition protesting the trial of railway workers and twice more for other similar activities.[8] By the mid-1930s, he had been in missions in Bucharest, Craiova, Câmpulung, and Râmnicu Vâlcea, being arrested several times.[9]

Ceaușescu was born in the village of Scornicești, Olt County, on 26 January 1918 being one of the ten children of a poor peasant family (see Ceaușescu family). His father, Andruță Ceaușescu, owned 3 hectares (7.4 acres) of agricultural land, a few sheep, and he also supplemented his large family's income through tailoring.[7] Nicolae studied at the village school until at the age of 11, when he ran away from his abusive, alcoholic father to Bucharest. He initially lived with his sister, Niculina Rusescu, and then became an apprentice shoemaker.[7]

Captured in 1936 when he was 18 years old, and imprisoned for two years at Doftana Prison for anti-fascist activities.

Early life and career


  • Early life and career 1
  • Leadership of Romania 2
    • The 1966 decree 2.1
    • Speech of 21 August 1968 2.2
    • July Theses 2.3
    • President of Romania 2.4
    • Pacepa defection 2.5
    • Foreign debt 2.6
    • 1984 failed coup d'état attempt 2.7
  • Revolution 3
    • Timișoara 3.1
    • Overthrow 3.2
      • Speech on 21 December 3.2.1
      • Flight on 22 December 3.2.2
    • Death 3.3
  • Personality cult and authoritarianism 4
    • Statesmanship 4.1
  • Legacy 5
  • "Ceaușism" 6
  • Honours and awards 7
  • Selected published works 8
  • Gallery 9
  • See also 10
  • Notes 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13

Ceaușescu’s regime collapsed after he ordered his security forces to fire on anti-government demonstrators in the city of Timișoara on 17 December 1989. The demonstrations spread to Bucharest and became known as the Romanian Revolution, which was the only violent removal of a Communist government in the course of the revolutions of 1989.[5] Ceaușescu and his wife, Elena, fled the capital in a helicopter but were captured by the armed forces. On 25 December the couple were hastily tried and convicted by a special military tribunal on charges of genocide and sabotage of the Romanian economy in a two-hour court session. Ceaușescu and his wife were then shot by a firing squad.[6]

After a brief period of relatively moderate rule, Ceaușescu's regime became increasingly brutal and repressive. By some accounts, his rule was the most rigidly Stalinist in the Soviet bloc.[4] He maintained controls over speech and the media that were very strict even by Soviet-bloc standards, and internal dissent was not tolerated. His secret police, the Securitate, was one of the most ubiquitous and brutal secret police forces in the world. In 1982, with the goal of paying off Romania's large foreign debt, Ceaușescu ordered the export of much of the country’s agricultural and industrial production. The resulting extreme shortages of food, fuel, energy, medicines, and other basic necessities drastically lowered living standards and intensified unrest. Ceaușescu's regime was also marked by an extensive and ubiquitous cult of personality, nationalism, a continuing deterioration in foreign relations even with the Soviet Union, and nepotism.


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