Nicolae Ceaușescu

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Nicolae Ceaușescu
Nicolae Ceausescu.jpg
General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party
In office
22 March 1965 – 25 December 1989
Preceded byGheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej
Succeeded byPosition abolished
President of Romania
In office
9 December 1967 – 25 December 1989
Preceded byChivu Stoica
Succeeded byIon Iliescu
Personal details
Born(1918-01-26)26 January 1918
Scornicești, Olt, Romania
Died25 December 1989(1989-12-25) (aged 71)
Târgoviște, Dâmbovița, Romania
NationalityRomanian
Political partyRomanian Communist Party
Spouse(s)Elena Ceaușescu (m. 1946–1989)
Children
ReligionNone (Atheist)
(prev.Romanian Orthodoxy)
Signature
Military service
Allegiance Romania
Service/branchRomanian Army
Years of service1948–unknown
RankRO-Army-OF7.png Lieutenant General
 
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Nicolae Ceaușescu
Nicolae Ceausescu.jpg
General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party
In office
22 March 1965 – 25 December 1989
Preceded byGheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej
Succeeded byPosition abolished
President of Romania
In office
9 December 1967 – 25 December 1989
Preceded byChivu Stoica
Succeeded byIon Iliescu
Personal details
Born(1918-01-26)26 January 1918
Scornicești, Olt, Romania
Died25 December 1989(1989-12-25) (aged 71)
Târgoviște, Dâmbovița, Romania
NationalityRomanian
Political partyRomanian Communist Party
Spouse(s)Elena Ceaușescu (m. 1946–1989)
Children
ReligionNone (Atheist)
(prev.Romanian Orthodoxy)
Signature
Military service
Allegiance Romania
Service/branchRomanian Army
Years of service1948–unknown
RankRO-Army-OF7.png Lieutenant General

Nicolae Ceaușescu (Romanian pronunciation: [nikoˈla.e t͡ʃe̯a.uˈʃesku]; 26 January 1918[1] – 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 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 Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej's Socialist government and, upon the death of Gheorghiu-Dej in March 1965, he succeeded to the leadership of Romania’s Communist Party as General Secretary.

Ceaușescu's regime became increasingly brutal and repressive. By some accounts, his rule was the most rigidly Stalinist in the Soviet bloc.[2] His secret police, the Securitate, maintained strict controls over speech and the media, and internal dissent was not tolerated. 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 personality cult, nationalism, a continuing deterioration in foreign relations even with the Soviet Union, and nepotism.

Ceaușescu’s regime collapsed after he ordered his security forces to fire on antigovernment demonstrators in the city of Timișoara on 17 December 1989. The demonstrations spread to Bucharest and became known as the Romanian Revolution of 1989, which was the only violent overthrow of a Communist government during the revolutions of 1989. 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 mass murder in a two-hour court session. Ceaușescu and his wife were then shot by a firing squad.[3]

Early life and career[edit]

Captured in 1936 and imprisoned for two years at Doftana Prison.

Ceaușescu was born in the village of Scornicești, Olt County, on 26 January 1918 being one of the ten children (see Ceaușescu family). His father, Andruță Ceaușescu owned 3 hectares of agricultural land, a few sheep and he also supplemented his large family's income through tailoring.[4] Nicolae studied at the village school and, at the age of 11, until he ran away from his abusive, alcoholic father to Bucharest, initially living with his sister, Niculina Rusescu, and then becoming an apprentice shoemaker.[4]

Soon after being freed, he was arrested again and sentenced for "conspiracy against social order", spending the time during the war in prisons and internment camps: Jilava (1940), Caransebeș (1942), Văcărești (1943), Târgu Jiu (1943).[5] In 1943, he was transferred to Târgu Jiu internment camp where he shared a cell with Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, becoming his protégé. After World War II, when Romania was beginning to fall under Soviet influence, he served as secretary of the Union of Communist Youth (1944–1945).[6]

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.[6]

Leadership of Romania[edit]

Initially, Ceaușescu became a popular figure in Romania and also in the Western World, 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 Ceaușescu's speech of 21 August 1968. 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 maverick status within the Eastern Bloc.[7]

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

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.[8] 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.[9]

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

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.[10] Ceaușescu negotiated in international affairs, such as the opening of US relations with China in 1969 and the visit of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to Israel in 1977. Also Romania was the only country in the world to maintain normal diplomatic relations with both Israel and the PLO.[11]

The 1966 decree[edit]

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

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).[12] Furthermore, a considerable number of women either died or were maimed during clandestine abortions.[13]

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.[14][15]

Speech of 21 August 1968[edit]

Ceaușescu's speech of 21 August 1968 represented the apogee of Ceaușescu's regime.[16] It marked the highest point in Ceaușescu's popularity, when he openly condemned the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia.

July Theses[edit]

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

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.

On 6 July 1971, he delivered a speech before the Executive Committee of the PCR. This quasi-Maoist speech, which came to be known as the July Theses, contained seventeen proposals. Among these were: continuous growth in the "leading role" of the Party; improvement of Party education and of mass political action; youth participation on large construction projects as part of their "patriotic work"; an intensification of political-ideological education in schools and universities, as well as in children's, youth and student organizations; and an expansion of political propaganda, orienting radio and television shows to this end, as well as publishing houses, theatres and cinemas, opera, ballet, artists' unions, promoting a "militant, revolutionary" character in artistic productions. The liberalisation of 1965 was condemned and an index of banned books and authors was re-established.

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.

President of Romania[edit]

Standard as President of Romania

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.

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.

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 Yugoslavia) to take part in the American-organized 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

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

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.

Pacepa defection[edit]

In 1978, Ion Mihai Pacepa, a senior member of the Romanian political police (Securitate, State Security), defected to the United States. A 2-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.

Foreign debt[edit]

Ceaușescu addresses his New Year's Eve message on TV and radio

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.

In an attempt to correct this, Ceaușescu decided to repay Romania's foreign debts. He organised a referendum and managed to change the constitution, adding a clause that barred Romania from taking foreign loans in the future. According to official results, the referendum yielded a nearly unanimous "yes" vote.

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, Ceaușescu shut down all radio stations outside of the capital, and limited television to one channel broadcasting only two hours a day.

The debt was fully paid in the summer of 1989, shortly before Ceaușescu was overthrown.[7] However, heavy exports continued until the revolution in December.

1984 failed coup d'etat attempt[edit]

A tentative coup d'etat planned in October 1984 failed when the assigned military unit to carry the plan was sent to harvest maize[17]

Revolution[edit]

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.

Timișoara[edit]

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.

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.

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".

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.

Overthrow[edit]

Speech on 21 December[edit]

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 alligators who want to destroy socialism."[18]

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-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 uncomprehending facial expression as the crowd began to boo and heckle him remains one of the defining moments of the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe.[7]

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.

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.

Flight on 22 December[edit]

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.

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.[7] The PCR disappeared soon afterward; unlike its kindred parties in the former Soviet bloc, it has never been revived.

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.[19]

Death[edit]

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

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.

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.

The Ceaușescus were executed by a gathering of soldiers: Captain Ionel Boeru, Sergeant-Major Georghin Octavian and Dorin-Marian Cîrlan,[20] 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.

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.[21][22]

The manner in which the trial was conducted was widely criticized 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[23] 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.[24]

The Ceaușescus were the last people to be executed in Romania before the abolition of capital punishment on 7 January 1990.[25]

Their graves are located in Ghencea Cemetery in Bucharest. They are buried on opposite sides of a path. The graves themselves are unassuming, but they tend to be covered in flowers and symbols of the regime. In April 2007, their son Valentin Ceaușescu lost an appeal for an investigation into whether the graves were genuine. Upon his death in 1996, the elder son, Nicu, was buried nearby in the same cemetery.[26] According to Jurnalul Național,[27] requests were made by the Ceaușescus' daughter Zoia and by supporters of their political views to move their remains to mausoleums or to purpose-built churches. These demands were denied by the government. On 21 July 2010, forensic scientists exhumed the bodies of the Ceaușescus to perform DNA tests.[26] It was determined that they were indeed the remains of the Ceaușescus.[28] His family planned to organize a funeral service for the couple.[26]

Personality cult and authoritarianism[edit]

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

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.

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.[7]

Such excesses prompted the 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 avoid new treason after Pacepa's defection, Ceaușescu also invested his wife Elena and other members of his family with important positions in the government, leading Romanians to joke that Ceaușescu was creating "socialism in one family."

Not surprisingly, Ceaușescu was greatly concerned about his public image. Nearly all official photographs of him showed him in his early 40s. Romanian state television was under strict orders to portray him in the best possible light. Additionally, producers had to take great care to make sure that Ceaușescu's height — he was 1.65m (5-foot 5 inches) tall — 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.[7]

Statesmanship[edit]

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

Ceaușescu's Romania was the only Eastern Bloc country that retained diplomatic relations with Israel and did not sever diplomatic relations after Israel's launch of the Six-Day War in 1967 against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. 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.

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

Ceaușescu tried to play a role of influence and guidance in African countries.[citation needed] 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.[29]

France granted Ceaușescu the Legion of Honour and in 1978 he became a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath[30] (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.

Ceaușescu's Romania was the only Warsaw Pact country that did not sever diplomatic relations with Chile after Augusto Pinochet's coup.[31]

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."[32]

Legacy[edit]

His successor, Ion Iliescu, and Nicolae Ceaușescu in 1976

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.[27]

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).[33] Nevertheless, according to opinion polls held in 2010, 41% of Romanians would vote for Ceaușescu[34][35] and 63% think that their lives were better before 1989.[35][36]

Ceaușescu's last days in power were dramatized in a stage musical, The Fall of Ceaușescu, written and composed by Ron Conner. It premiered at the Los Angeles Theater Center in September 1995 and was attended by Romanian President Ion Iliescu, who was visiting Los Angeles at the time.

One unresolved mystery that followed the death of Nicolae Ceaușescu pertains to Romania's Apollo 17 Goodwill Moon rock[37] which was in Ceaușescu's possession at the time of his death, but has since disappeared.[citation needed] This moon rock was presented by the Nixon Administration to Romania and is said to be worth 5 million dollars on the black market.[citation needed]

"Ceaușism"[edit]

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 Marxist 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".[38]

Ceaușism's main trait was a form of Romanian nationalism,[39] one which arguably propelled Ceaușescu to power in 1965, and probably accounted for the Party leadership gathered around Ion Gheorghe Maurer choosing him over the more orthodox Gheorghe Apostol. Although he had previously been a careful supporter of the official lines, Ceaușescu came to embody Romanian society's wish for independence after what many considered years of Soviet directives and purges, during and after the SovRom fiasco. He carried this nationalist option inside the Party, manipulating it against the nominated successor Apostol. This nationalist policy had more timid precedents:[40] for example, the Gheorghiu-Dej regime had overseen the withdrawal of the Red Army in 1958.

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.

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,[41] 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.[42] 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.

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.

The system's nationalist traits grew and progressively blended with Juche and Maoist ideals. In 1971, the Party, which had already been completely purged of internal opposition (with the possible exception of Gheorghe Gaston Marin),[40] approved the July Theses, expressing Ceaușescu's disdain of Western models as a whole, and the reevaluation of the recent liberalisation as bourgeois. The 1974 11th Congress tightened the Party's grip on Romanian culture, guiding it towards Ceaușescu's nationalist principles:.[43] Notably, it demanded that Romanian historians refer to Dacians as having "an unorganised State", part of a political continuum that culminated in the Socialist Republic.[43] 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).[44]

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).

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-Nazi dictator Ion Antonescu. Although Antonescu's image was never a fully official myth in Ceaușescu's time, today's politicians such as Corneliu Vadim Tudor have coupled the images of the two leaders into their versions of a national Pantheon. The conflict with Hungary over the treatment of the Magyar minority in Romania had several unusual aspects: not only was it a vitriolic argument between two officially Socialist states (as Hungary had not yet officially embarked on the course to a free market economy), it also marked the moment when Hungary, a state behind the Iron Curtain, appealed to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe for sanctions to be taken against Romania. This meant that the later 1980s were marked by a pronounced anti-Hungarian discourse, which owed more to nationalist tradition than to Marxism,[45] and the ultimate isolation of Romania on the world stage.

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.[7]

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.

Honours and awards[edit]

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

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.[46]

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.


This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the Italian Wikipedia.
Romanian decorations

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

Foreign decorations

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

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).

Selected published works[edit]

Gallery[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Ceausescu". Files. September 2010. Retrieved 28 December 2012. 
  2. ^ Name Withheld (Pavel Câmpeanu), "Birth and Death in Romania, October 1986," Making the History of 1989, Item #694, http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/items/show/694 (accessed 10 April 2013, 1:26 pm).
  3. ^ Boyes, Roger (24 December 2009). "Ceausescu looked in my eyes and he knew that he was going to die". The Times (London). 
  4. ^ a b Gruia, p. 42
  5. ^ Gruia, p. 43
  6. ^ a b Ceausescu.org
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Sebetsyen, Victor (2009). Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire. New York City: Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-375-42532-2. 
  8. ^ "Rumania: Enfant Terrible". Time. 2 April 1973. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  9. ^ Martin Sajdik, Michaël Schwarzinger (2008). European Union enlargement: background, developments, facts. New Jersey, USA: Transaction Publishers. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-4128-0667-1. 
  10. ^ David Phinnemore (2006). The EU and Romania: accession and beyond. London, UK: Federal Trust for Education and Research. p. 13. ISBN 1-903403-79-0. 
  11. ^ 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. ISBN 0-312-12059-1. 
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Ceausescu's Longest-Lasting Legacy – the Cohort of '67
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ (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
  17. ^ [[s:Ceauşescu and the Securitate: Coercion and Dissent in Romania, 1965-1989 By Dennis Deletant, page 351]] [1]
  18. ^ Text of Speech in Revolution Square, 21 December 1989
  19. ^ Aubin, Stephen P (1998). Distorting defense: Network news and national security. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-275-96303-3. Retrieved 28 June 2008. 
  20. ^ 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. 
  21. ^ Daniel Simpson, "Ghosts of Christmas past still haunt Romanians"
  22. ^ The dictator and his henchman
  23. ^ Demian, Sinziana (25 December 2009). "In Romania, Ceausescu's death haunts Christmas". Global Post (Cluj Napoca). Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  24. ^ "Ceausescu execution 'avoided mob lynching'". BBC. 25 December 2009. Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  25. ^ Cdep.ro
  26. ^ a b c Osborn, Andrew (21 July 2010). "Nicolae Ceausescu exhumed 'wearing his black winter coat'". The Telegraph (Moscow). Retrieved 30 March 2013. 
  27. ^ a b Jurnalul Național, 25 January 2005
  28. ^ Referl.org
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ List of honorary British Knights
  31. ^ Valenzuela, J. Samuel and Arturo Valenzuela (eds.), Military Rule in Chile: Dictatorship and Oppositions, p. 321
  32. ^ Romanian-Moldavian SSR relations, by Patrick Moore and the Romanian Section
  33. ^ Official communique of the National Board of the Audio-Visual, originally at cna.org but now removed, accessible through web.archive.org
  34. ^ John Horvath. "Ceausescu – Back from the Dead". Telepolis. Retrieved 2012-12-28. 
  35. ^ a b "In Romania, Opinion Polls Show Nostalgia for Communism". Balkanalysis. 27 December 2011. Retrieved 2012-12-28. 
  36. ^ "Noul Partid Comunist Român, condus de un șofer de taxi". Adevarul. Retrieved 2012-12-28. 
  37. ^ "Every Nation Received a Moon Rock, Some of them Can't Find It" Houston Chronicle, Mike Tolson, 13 May 2010 (Reprint).
  38. ^ Mic Dicționar Enciclopedic
  39. ^ Geran Pilon, Chapter III, Communism with a Nationalist Face, pp. 60–66; Tănase, p. 24
  40. ^ a b Geran Pilon, p.60
  41. ^ Tănase, p.23
  42. ^ Geran Pilon, p.62
  43. ^ a b Geran Pilon, p.61
  44. ^ Geran Pilon, pp. 61–63
  45. ^ Geran Pilon, p.63
  46. ^ The Official Website of the British Monarchy: "Queen and Honours", retrieved on 13 October 2010.
  47. ^ "Reply to a parliamentary question" (PDF) (in German). p. 277. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 

References[edit]

 By Dennis Deletant, page 351 [2] 

External links[edit]

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