Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Nicolae Ceauşescu

Nicolae Ceauşescu was the Secretary General of the Romanian Communist Party from 1965 to 1989. He was the last dictator in Eastern Europe and the only Iron Curtain leader to be violently overthrown.

He was a maverick who often stood up to the Soviet Union. He really became popular, both at home and abroad, when he denounced the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Romania had long been a poor country and his policies made it so much worse for the people.

He wanted to increase the country's population so, in 1966, contraception and abortion were banned. Α 10-20% income tax was imposed on people who were childless after 25. And it didn't matter if you were single or not. Mothers of at least 5 children were entitled to significant benefits. He also made it virtually impossible to get a divorce. So with a growing population and rising poverty, the number of abandoned children, began to grow in urban areas. Orphanages were seriously overcrowded.

In order to build the perfect socialist society, over 11 million people were resettled from private houses in 7,000 villages to apartment buildings in 550 standardised "agro-industrial centers".

Ceauşescu borrowed around $13 billion from the West to finance economic development programs. In the 1980's he began exporting most of the country's agricultural and industrial production in order to repay its debts. But this created domestic shortages and caused extreme hardship for the people. Food rationing was introduced and it was common everyday to have heating, gas and electricity black-outs. The foreign debt was finally paid in 1989, right before the revolution.

Plus the Securitate, Romania's secret police, was ruthless. Relative to the country's size, the Securitate was the largest security agency in Europe.

In 1989, there was a violent revolution in Romania and the government was overthrown. Ceauşescu and his wife Elena fled the capital but were eventually caught, given a show trial and executed on Christmas Day. Footage of the trial and the post-execution were broadcast on Romanian television.

The Peasant Museum has an exhibition of communist iconography. There's really not a lot to see but there are lots of pictures of Stalin and Lenin. It was interesting to me that there is not one word or picture of Ceauşescu when he ruled the country for over 20 years. I wonder if it's because the people have had their fill of the Ceauşescu personality cult. Or maybe he is just so despised that they don't want to think about him anymore.

The BBC ran a show called "The King of Communism" that is pretty interesting. Here's the first part of the show. You can find the rest of the documentary available on YouTube.


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for writing this post! It is painful part of Romanian history, not many people from Western Europe and US know about it.