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Nicolae Ceauşescu


General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party
In office
22 March 1965 – 22 December 1989
Preceded by Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej
Succeeded by party abolished

In office
9 December 1967 – 22 December 1989
Preceded by Chivu Stoica
Succeeded by none

In office
28 March 1974 – 22 December 1989
Preceded by none
Succeeded by Ion Iliescu

Born 26 January 1918(1918-01-26)
Scorniceşti, Olt, Romania
Died 25 December 1989 (aged 71)
Târgovişte, Dâmboviţa, Romania
(Execution by Firing Squad)
Nationality Romanian
Political party Communist Party of Romania
Spouse(s) Elena Ceauşescu
Children Valentin Ceauşescu, Zoia Ceauşescu, Nicu Ceauşescu
Religion Unknown
Signature

Nicolae Ceauşescu (Romanian pronunciation: [nikoˈla.e tʃa.uˈʃesku]; 26 January 1918 – 25 December 1989) was a Romanian politician who was the Secretary General of the Romanian Communist Party from 1965 to 1989, President of the Council of State from 1967, and President of Romania from 1974 to 1989.

His rule was marked in the first decade by an open policy towards Western Europe and the United States, which deviated from that of the other Warsaw Pact states during the Cold War. He continued a trend first established by his predecessor, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, who had tactfully coaxed the Soviet Union into withdrawing troops from Romania in 1958.[1]

Ceauşescu's second decade was characterized by an increasingly erratic personality cult, nationalism and a deterioration in foreign relations with the Western powers as well as the Soviet Union. Ceauşescu's government was overthrown in a December 1989 military coup, and he and his wife were executed following a televised two-hour session by a kangaroo court.[2]

Contents

Early life and career

Arrested in 1933, when he was 15 years old, for "active distribution of communist and anti-fascist propaganda"

Born in the village of Scorniceşti, Olt County, Ceauşescu moved to Bucharest at the age of 11 to work in the factories. He was the son of a peasant (see Ceauşescu family for descriptions of his parents and siblings.) He joined the then-illegal Communist Party of Romania in early 1932 and was first arrested, in 1933, for agitating during a strike. He was arrested again, in 1934, first for collecting signatures on a petition protesting the trial of railway workers and twice more for other similar activities. These arrests earned him the description "dangerous communist agitator" and "active distributor of communist and anti-fascist propaganda" on his police record. He then went underground, but was captured and imprisoned in 1936 for two years at Doftana Prison for anti-fascist activities.[3]

While out of jail in 1940, he met Elena Petrescu (they married in 1946) —she would play an increasing role in his political life over the decades. He was arrested and imprisoned again in 1940. 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).[3]

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. 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.[3]

Leadership of Romania

Three days after the death of Gheorghiu-Dej in March 1965, Ceauşescu became first secretary of the Romanian Workers' Party. One of his first acts was to change the name of the party to The Romanian Communist Party, and declare the country the Socialist Republic of Romania rather than a People's Republic. In 1967, he consolidated his power by becoming president of the State Council.

Initially, Ceauşescu became a popular figure in Romania and also in the Western World, due to his independent foreign policy, challenging the authority of the Soviet Union. In the 1960s, he ended Romania's active participation in the Warsaw Pact (though Romania formally remained a member); he refused to take part in the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact forces, and actively and openly condemned that action. Although the Soviet Union largely tolerated Ceauşescu's recalcitrance, his seeming independence from Moscow earned Romania maverick status within the Eastern Bloc.

Meeting between Nixon and Ceauşescu in 1973

During the following years Ceauşescu pursued an open policy towards the United States and Western Europe. Romania was the first communist country to recognize West Germany, the first to join the International Monetary Fund, and the first to receive a US President, Richard Nixon. [4] In 1971 Romania became a member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Also Romania and Yugoslavia were the only East European countries that entered into trade agreements with the European Economic Community before the fall of the Communist bloc. [5]

Ceauşescu is greeted by King Juan Carlos I of Spain in Madrid, 1979
Josip Broz Tito and Nicolae Ceauşescu

A series of official visits to Western countries (including the US, France, United Kingdom, Spain) helped Ceauşescu to present himself as a reforming Communist, pursuing an independent foreign policy within the Soviet Bloc. Also he became eager to be seen as an enlightened international statesman, able to mediate in international conflicts and to gain international respect for Romania. [6] Ceauşescu negotiated in international affairs, such as the opening of US relations with China in 1969 or the visit to Israel of president Anwar Sadat of Egypt in 1977. Also Romania was the only country in the world to maintain normal diplomatic relations with both Israel and the PLO [7]

In 1974, Ceauşescu became "President of Romania", further consolidating his power. He followed an independent policy in foreign relations—for example, in 1984, Romania was one of only three Communist-ruled countries (the others being the People's Republic of China, and Yugoslavia) to take part in the American-organized 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Also, the country was the first of the Eastern Bloc to have official relations with 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. However, Ceauşescu refused to implement any liberal reforms. The evolution of his regime followed the Stalinist path already traced by Gheorghiu-Dej. Their opposition to Soviet control was mainly determined by the unwillingness to proceed to de-Stalinization. The secret police (Securitate) maintained firm control over speech and the media, and tolerated no internal opposition.

Nicolae Ceauşescu visiting Maputo, Mozambique, in April 1979, hosted by Samora Machel and his wife Graça Machel.

Beginning in 1972, Ceauşescu instituted a program of systematisation. Promoted as a way to build a "multilaterally developed socialist society", the program of demolition, resettlement, and construction began in the countryside, but culminated with an attempt to reshape the country's capital completely. Over one fifth of central Bucharest, including churches and historic buildings, was demolished in the 1980s, in order to rebuild the city in his own style. The People's House ("Casa Poporului") in Bucharest, now the Palace of the Parliament, is the world's second largest administrative building, after The Pentagon. Ceauşescu also planned to bulldoze many villages in order to move the peasants into blocks of flats in the cities, as part of his "urbanisation" and "industrialisation" programs. An NGO project called "Sister Villages" that created bonds between European and Romanian communities may have played a role in thwarting these plans.

The 1966 decree

In 1966, the Ceauşescu regime, in an attempt to boost the country's population banned all abortion, and introduced other policies to reverse the very low birth rate and fertility rate - including a special tax amounting to between ten and twenty percent on the incomes of men and women who remained childless after the age of twenty-five, whether married or single. The inability to procreate due to medical reasons did not make a difference. Abortion was permitted only in cases where the woman in question was over forty-two, or already the mother of four (later five) children. 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. However, few women ever sought this status; instead, the average Romanian family during the Communist era had two to three children (see Demographics of Romania).[8] Furthermore, a considerable number of women either died or were maimed during clandestine abortions.[9]

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, accompanied by rising poverty and increased homelessness (street children) in the urban areas. In turn, a new problem was created by uncontrollable child abandonment, which swelled the orphanage population (see Cighid). The regime did not acknowledge the existence of HIV/AIDS. It outlawed contraception in 1966, a policy situation that on its own would probably have led to an increase in HIV/AIDS in the 1980s. However the situation in Romania was exacerbated by the provision of blood transfusions to young orphans and hospital patients with the aim of improving their strength. The transfusions of untested blood, often completed on multiple infants or children using a single syringe, led to Romania accounting for 60% of Europe's paediatric HIV/AIDS cases at the turn of the century despite having a population that only makes up around 3% of Europe.[10][11]

July Theses

Kim Il-sung with Nicolae Ceauşescu in North Korea in 1971

Ceauşescu visited the People's Republic of China, North Korea and North Vietnam in 1971 and was inspired by the hardline model he found there. He took great interest in the idea of total national transformation as embodied in the programs of the Korean Workers' Party and China's Cultural Revolution. Shortly after returning home, he began to emulate North Korea's system, influenced by the Juche philosophy of North Korean President Kim Il Sung. North Korean books on Juche were translated into Romanian and widely distributed in 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.

Pacepa defection

Ceauşescu with East German Leader Erich Honecker in East Berlin

In 1978, Ion Mihai Pacepa, a senior member of the Romanian political police (Securitate), defected to the United States. A 2-star general, he was the highest ranking defector from the Eastern Bloc in the history of the Cold War. His defection was a powerful blow against the regime, forcing Ceauşescu to overhaul the architecture of the Securitate. Pacepa's 1986 book, Red Horizons: Chronicles of a Communist Spy Chief (ISBN 0895265702), claims to expose details of Ceauşescu's regime, such as massive espionage on American industry and elaborate efforts to rally Western political support.

After Pacepa's defection, the country became more isolated and economic growth faltered. Ceauşescu's intelligence agency became subject to heavy infiltration by foreign intelligence agencies and he started to lose control of the country. He tried several reorganizations in a bid to get rid of old collaborators of Pacepa, but to no avail.

Foreign debt

A propaganda poster on the streets of Bucharest, 1986

Despite his increasingly totalitarian rule, Ceauşescu's political independence from the Soviet Union and his protest against the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 drew the interest of Western powers, who briefly believed he was an anti-Soviet maverick and hoped to create a schism in the Warsaw Pact by funding him. Ceauşescu did not realise that the funding was not always favorable. Ceauşescu 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. In an attempt to correct this, Ceauşescu 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 debts in the future. The referendum yielded a nearly unanimous "yes" vote.

In the 1980s, Ceauşescu 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 black-outs became the rule. During the 1980s, there was a steady decrease in the living standard, especially the availability and quality of food and general goods in stores. The official explanation was that the country was paying its debts and people accepted the suffering, believing it to be for a short time only and for the ultimate good.

The debt was fully paid in summer 1989, shortly before Ceauşescu was overthrown, but heavy exports continued until the revolution in December.

Tensions

Stamp commemorating the 70th birthday of Nicolae Ceauşescu, 1988

By 1989, Ceauşescu was showing signs of complete denial of reality. While the country was going through extremely difficult times with long bread queues in front of empty food shops, he was often shown on state TV entering stores filled with food supplies, visiting large food and arts festivals, while praising the "high living standard" achieved under his rule.

Special contingents of food deliveries would fill stores before his visits, and even well-fed cows would be transported across country in anticipation of his visits to farms. Staples such as flour, eggs, butter and milk were difficult to find and most people started to depend on small gardens grown either in small city alleys or out in the country. In late 1989, daily TV broadcasts showed lists of CAPs (kolkhozes) with alleged record harvests, in blatant contradiction to the shortages experienced by the average Romanian at the time.

Some people, believing that Ceauşescu was not aware of what was going on in the country, attempted to hand him petitions and complaint letters during his many visits around the country. However, each time he got a letter, he would immediately pass it on to members of his security. Whether or not Ceauşescu ever read any of them will probably remain unknown. It was common knowledge that people attempting to hand letters directly to Ceauşescu risked adverse consequences, courtesy of the secret police Securitate. People were strongly discouraged from addressing him and there was a general sense that things had reached an overall low.

Revolution

Nicolae Ceauşescu flees Bucharest by helicopter on December 22, 1989

Ceauşescu's regime collapsed after a series of violent events in Timişoara and Bucharest in December 1989. In November 1989, the XIVth Congress of the Romanian Communist Party (PCR) saw Ceauşescu, then aged 71, re-elected for another 5 years as leader of the PCR.

Timişoara

Demonstrations in the city of Timişoara 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 Securitate fired on demonstrators on December 17, 1989. On December 18, 1989, Ceauşescu departed for a visit to Iran, leaving the duty of crushing the Timişoara revolt to his subordinates and his wife. Upon his return on the evening of December 20, 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 Timişoara 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 no information of the Timişoara events from the national media, learned about the Timişoara revolt from western radio stations such as Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, and by word of mouth. On the next day, December 21, a mass meeting was staged. Official media presented it as a "spontaneous movement of support for Ceauşescu", emulating the 1968 meeting in which Ceauşescu had spoken against the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact forces.

Overthrow

The mass meeting of December 21, held in what is now Revolution Square, degenerated into chaos. The image of Ceauşescu's uncomprehending expression as the crowd began to boo him remains one of the defining moments of the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe. The stunned couple (the dictator and his wife), failing to control the crowds, finally took cover inside the building, where they remained until the next day. The rest of the day saw a revolt of the Bucharest population, which had assembled in University Square and confronted the police and army at barricades. The unarmed rioters, however, were no match for the military apparatus concentrated in Bucharest, which cleared the streets by midnight and arrested hundreds of people in the process. Nevertheless, these seminal events are regarded to this day as the de facto revolution.

Although the television broadcasts of the "support meeting" and subsequent events had been interrupted, Ceauşescu's reaction to the events had already been imprinted on the country's collective memory. By the morning of December 22, the rebellion had already spread to all major cities. The suspicious death of Vasile Milea, the defence minister, was announced by the media. Immediately thereafter, Ceauşescu presided over the CPEx (Political Executive Committee) meeting and assumed the leadership of the army. He made a desperate attempt to address the crowd gathered in front of the Central Committee building. This was rejected by the rioters who forced open the doors of the building, by now left unprotected, forcing the Ceauşescus to flee by helicopter.

During the course of the revolution the western press published estimates of the number of people killed by the Securitate in supporting Ceauşescu. 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 Ceauşescu's death hospitals across the country reported an actual death toll of less than one thousand, and probably much lower than that.[12]

Death

Nicolae Ceauşescu's grave in Ghencea cemetery

Ceauşescu and his wife Elena fled the capital with Emil Bobu and Manea Mănescu and headed, by helicopter, for Ceauşescu's Snagov residence, from where they fled again, this time for Târgovişte. Near Târgovişte they abandoned the helicopter, having been ordered to land by the army, which by that time had restricted flying in Romania's air space. The Ceauşescus were held by the police while the policemen listened to the radio. They were eventually turned over to the army. On Christmas Day, December 25, the two were sentenced to death by a military court on charges ranging from illegal gathering of wealth to genocide, and were executed in Târgovişte. The video of the trial shows that after sentencing they had their hands tied behind their backs and were led outside the building to be executed.

The Ceauşescus were executed by a firing squad consisting of elite paratroop regiment soldiers Captain Iomel Boeru, Sergant-Major Georghin Octavian and Dorin-Marian Cirlan[13], while reportedly hundreds of others also volunteered. The firing squad began shooting as soon as they were in position against a wall. The firing happened too soon for the film crew covering the events to record it.[14] After the shooting the bodies were covered with canvas. The hasty trial and the images of the dead Ceauşescus were videotaped and the footage promptly released in numerous western countries. Later that day it was also shown on Romanian television.[15][16]

The Ceauşescu couple were the last people to be executed in Romania before the abolition of capital punishment on 7 January 1990.[17]

The Ceauşescu couple's graves are located in Ghencea cemetery in Bucharest. Nicolae and Elena 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. Some allege that the graves do not, in reality, contain their bodies. As of April 2007, their son Valentin has lost an appeal for an investigation into the matter. Upon his death in 1996 the elder son, Nicu, was buried nearby in the same cemetery. According to Jurnalul Naţional,[18] requests were made by the Ceauşescus' daughter Zoia and by supporters of their political views to move their remains to mausoleums or to purpose-built churches. These have been denied by the government.

Personality cult and authoritarianism

Ceauşescu created a pervasive personality cult, giving himself the titles of "Conducător" ("Leader") and "Geniul din Carpaţi" ("The Genius of the Carpathians"), with help from Proletarian Culture (Proletkult) poets such as Adrian Păunescu and Corneliu Vadim Tudor, and even had a king-like sceptre made for himself. Such excesses prompted the painter Salvador Dalí to send a congratulatory telegram to the "Conducător." The Communist Party daily Scînteia published the message, unaware that it was a work of satire. To avoid new treasons after Pacepa's defection, Ceauşescu also invested his wife Elena and other members of his family with important positions in the government.

Statesmanship

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

Ceauşescu's Romania was the only Communist country that retained diplomatic relations with Israel and did not sever diplomatic relations after Israel's launch of the pre-emptive Six-Day War in 1967 against neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. Ceauşescu made efforts to act as a mediator between the PLO and Israel.

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

Ceauşescu tried to play a role of influence and guidance to South American countries. 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 Ceauşescu's death played a role in influencing Mobutu to "democratize" Zaïre in 1990.[19] Also, France granted Ceauşescu the Legion of Honour and in 1978 he became an Honorary British Knight[20] (GCB, removed) in the UK, whereas the illiterate Elena Ceauşescu was arranged to be 'elected' to membership of a Science Academy in the USA; all of these, and more, were arranged by the Ceauşescus as a propaganda ploy through the consular cultural attachés of Romanian embassies in the countries involved.

Ceauşescu's Romania was the only Warsaw Pact country that did not sever diplomatic relations with Chile after Augusto Pinochet's coup.[21]

Weaknesses

Ceauşescu's control of every aspect of religious, educational, commercial, social, and civic life[22] further aggravated the situation. In 1987, an attempted strike at Braşov failed: the army occupied the factories and crushed the workers' demonstrations.

Throughout 1989, Ceauşescu became ever more isolated in the Communist world: in August 1989, he proposed a summit to discuss the problems of Eastern European Communism and defend socialism in these countries, but his proposal was turned down by the Warsaw Pact states and the People's Republic of China. Even after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the downfall of Ceauşescu’s close comrades GDR leader Eric Honecker, who resigned, and Bulgarian leader Todor Zhivkov, who was replaced in November 1989, Ceauşescu ignored the threat to his position as the last old-style Communist leader in Eastern Europe.

Other

His successor, Ion Iliescu, and Nicolae Ceauşescu in 1976

Nicolae and Elena Ceauşescu had three children, Valentin Ceauşescu (born 1948) a nuclear physicist, Nicu Ceauşescu (1951–1996) also a physicist, and a daughter Zoia Ceauşescu (1949–2006), who was a mathematician. After the death of his parents, Nicu Ceauşescu ordered the construction of an Orthodox church, the walls of which are decorated with portraits of his parents.[18]

Ceauşescu is the only recipient of the Danish Order of the Elephant ever to have it revoked. This happened on December 23, 1989, when HM Queen Margrethe II ordered the insignia to be returned to Denmark, and for Ceauşescu's name to be deleted from the official records.

Ceauşescu was likewise stripped of his honorary GCB (Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath) by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom on the day before his execution. Queen Elizabeth also returned the Romanian Order Ceauşescu had bestowed upon her.[23]

On his 70th birthday in 1988 Ceauşescu 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.

In a similar way to some EU countries, praising the crimes of totalitarian regimes and denigrating their victims is forbidden by law in Romania; this includes the Ceauşescu regime. Dinel Staicu was imposed a 25,000 lei (approx. 9,000 United States dollars) fine for praising Ceauşescu and displaying his pictures on his private television channel (3TV Oltenia).[24]

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

"Ceauşism"

While the term Ceauşism became widely used inside Romania, usually as a pejorative, it never achieved status in academia. This feature can be explained taking in view the largely crude and syncretic character of the dogma. Ceauşescu attempted the inclusion of 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 [sic] Five-Year Plan, prolonged over several [succeeding and projected] Five-Year Plans".[25]

The main trait observed was a form of Romanian nationalism,[26] one which arguably propelled Ceauşescu to power in 1965, and probably accounted for the Party leadership that was 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, Ceauşescu came to embody Romanian society's wish for independence after what were broadly considered to have been 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 was not without more timid precedent:[27] for example, the Gheorghiu-Dej regime had overseen the withdrawal of the Red Army in 1958.

As well, it had engineered the publishing of several works that were subversive of the Russian and Soviet image, such as the final volumes of the official History of Romania, no longer glossing over the 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 brought out in the open, 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.

However, Ceauşescu 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,[28] which led to the late 1960s and early 1970s being the most liberal decade in Communist Romania. Gaining the public's confidence, Ceauşescu took a clear stand against the 1968 crushing of the Prague Spring by Leonid Brezhnev. After a visit paid by Charles de Gaulle earlier in the same year (during which the French President gave recognition to the incipient maverick), Ceauşescu's public speech in August deeply impressed the population, not only through its themes, but also by the unique fact that 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.[29] President Richard Nixon was invited to Bucharest in 1969, which was the first visit of a United States president to a Communist country.

Alexander Dubček's version of Socialism with a human face was never suited to Romanian communist goals. Ceauşescu found himself briefly aligned with Dubček's Czechoslovakia and Josip Broz Tito's Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The latter friendship was to last well into the 1980s, with Ceauşescu 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 exacerbated its nationalist traits, which it 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),[27] approved the July Theses, expressing Ceauşescu's disdain of Western models as a whole, and the reevaluation of the recent liberalisation as bourgeois. The 1974 11th Congress tightened the grip on Romanian culture, guiding it towards Ceauşescu's nationalist principles:[30] notably, Romanian historians were demanded to refer to Dacians as having "an unorganised State", part of a political continuum that culminated in the Socialist Republic.[30] The regime continued its cultural dialogue with ancient forms, with Ceauşescu 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).[31]

A new generation of committed supporters on the outside confirmed the regime's character. Ceauşescu probably never gave importance to the fact 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 Ceauşescu had a major influence on modern-day Romanian populist rhetorics. In his final years, he had begun to rehabilitate the image of pro-Nazi dictator Ion Antonescu. Although Antonescu's was never a fully official myth in Ceauşescu's time, today's xenophobic 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 Marxism,[32] and the ultimate isolation of Romania on the World stage.

The strong opposition of his regime to all forms of perestroika and glasnost placed Ceauşescu at odds with Mikhail Gorbachev. In a dramatic twist, Ceauşescu demanded that the Soviet leadership return to its previous stance, even asking for a Soviet crackdown on all Eastern Bloc liberation movements in the second half of 1989.

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

Selected published works

  • 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
  • Ceauşescu: 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 concepţia preşedintelui, 1988

Notes

  1. ^ Johanna Granville, "Dej-a-Vu: Early Roots of Romania's Independence," East European Quarterly, vol. XLII, no. 4 (Winter 2008), pp. 365-404.
  2. ^ Jeri Laber The Courage of Strangers
  3. ^ a b c Ceausescu.org
  4. ^ "RUMANIA: Enfant Terrible". TIME Magazine. Monday, Apr. 02, 1973. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,907041-1,00.html. 
  5. ^ Martin Sajdik, Michaël Schwarzinger. European Union enlargement: background, developments, facts. Transaction Publishers, NJ, USA, 2008. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-4128-0667-1. 
  6. ^ David Phinnemore. The EU and Romania: accession and beyond. Federal Trust for Education and Research,London, UK, 2006. p. 13. ISBN 1-903403-79-0. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ Communist Romania's Demographic Policy, U.S. Library of Congress country studyfor details see Gail Kligman. 1998. The Politics of Duplicity. Controlling Reproduction in Ceausescu's Romania. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  9. ^ Ceausescu's Longest-Lasting Legacy - the Cohort of '67
  10. ^ 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 2006 April 6.
  11. ^ See, for instance, Bohlen, Celestine, In 1966, the first abortion law was passed which declared abortion in that country, illegal. This law was followed by other measures which ensured compliance with the law. These include financial advantages 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 women was unable to attend a medical office, the doctor would make visits to her home. "Upheaval in the East: Romania's AIDS Babies: A Legacy of Neglect," February 8, 1990, in The New York Times.
  12. ^ Aubin, Stephen P (1998). Distorting defense: network news and national security. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 158. ISBN 9780275963033. http://books.google.com/books?id=5YH5rPgWvzUC&pg=PA158&dq=revolution+romania+1989+death+toll&lr=&as_drrb_is=q&as_minm_is=0&as_miny_is=&as_maxm_is=0&as_maxy_is=&as_brr=3. Retrieved 28/June/2008. 
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ George Galloway and Bob Wylie, Downfall: The Ceausescus and the Romanian Revolution p. 198-199. Futura Publications, 1991
  15. ^ Daniel Simpson, "Ghosts of Christmas past still haunt Romanians"
  16. ^ The dictator and his henchman
  17. ^ http://www.cdep.ro/pls/legis/legis_pck.htp_act_text?idt=11033
  18. ^ a b Jurnalul Naţional, January 25, 2005
  19. ^ Relations with the Communist 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 October 15, 2006.
  20. ^ List of honorary British Knights
  21. ^ Valenzuela, J. Samuel and Arturo Valenzuela (eds.), Military Rule in Chile: Dictatorship and Oppositions, p. 321
  22. ^ Tănase, p.24-25
  23. ^ The Official Website of the British Monarchy: Queen and Public - Honours, retrieved on 2008-01-04.
  24. ^ Official communique of the National Board of the Audio-Visual, originally at www.cna.ro/comunicare/comunic/2006/c0207.html but now removed, accessible through web.archive.org
  25. ^ Mic Dicţionar Enciclopedic
  26. ^ Geran Pilon, Chapter III, Communism with a Nationalist Face, p.60-66; Tănase, p.24
  27. ^ a b Geran Pilon, p.60
  28. ^ Tănase, p.23
  29. ^ Geran Pilon, p.62
  30. ^ a b Geran Pilon, p.61
  31. ^ Geran Pilon, p.61-63
  32. ^ Geran Pilon, p.63

References

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej
General secretary

of the Romanian Communist Party
1965–1989

Succeeded by
none; party dissolved


Simple English

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