Nicolae Ceaușescu

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Nicolae Ceaușescu

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 – 28 March 1974
Preceded by Chivu Stoica
Succeeded by Himself as President of Romania

In office
28 March 1974 – 22 December 1989
Preceded by Himself as President of the State Council
Succeeded by Ion Iliescu

Born 26 January 1918(1918-01-26)
Scornicești, Olt, Romania
Died 25 December 1989 (aged 71)
Târgoviște, Dâmbovița, Romania
Nationality Romanian
Political party Communist Party of Romania
Spouse(s) Elena Ceaușescu (m. 1946–1989)
Children Valentin Ceaușescu, Zoia Ceaușescu, Nicu Ceaușescu
Religion None (atheist)

Nicolae Ceaușescu (Romanian pronunciation: [nikoˈla.e t͡ʃe̯a.uˈʃesku]; 26 January 1918 – 25 December 1989) was a Romanian Communist politician. He was Secretary General 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.

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 its troops from Romania in 1958.[1]

Ceaușescu's second decade was characterized by an increasingly brutal and repressive regime—by some accounts, the most rigidly Stalinist regime in the Soviet bloc. It was also marked by an ubiquitous personality cult, nationalism and a deterioration in foreign relations with the Western powers as well as the Soviet Union. Ceaușescu's government was overthrown in the December 1989 revolution, and he and his wife were executed following a televised and hastily organised two-hour court session.[2]

Early life and career

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

Born in the village of Scornicești, Olt County, Ceaușescu moved to Bucharest at the age of 11 to work in the factories. He was the son of a peasant (see Ceaușescu 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 street fighting 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, whom he married in 1946 and who would play an increasing role in his political life over the years. 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

Meeting between US president Richard Nixon, US vice president Gerald Ford and Nicolae Ceaușescu in 1973
Ceauşescu spending time with Jacques Chirac at the Romanian seaside in Neptun (1975)
The presidential couple is received by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in June 1978
Ceaușescu is greeted by King Juan Carlos I of Spain in Madrid, 1979
Nicolae Ceauşescu and his wife with Emperor Hirohito during a visit in Tokyo in 1975

Ceaușescu was not the obvious successor to Gheorghiu-Dej when he died on 19 March 1965, despite his closeness to the longtime leader. However, amid widespread infighting among older and more connected officials, the Politburo turned to Ceaușescu as a compromise candidate.[4] He was elected general secretary on March 22, 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 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, Ceaușescu 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 eased press censorship and 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. He even traveled to Prague a week before the invasion to offer moral support to his Czechoslovak counterpart, Alexander Dubcek. Although the Soviet Union largely tolerated Ceaușescu's recalcitrance, his seeming independence from Moscow earned Romania maverick status within the Eastern Bloc.[4]

During the following years Ceaușescu 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.[5] In 1971 Romania became a member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Romania and Yugoslavia were also the only East European countries that entered into trade agreements with the European Economic Community before the fall of the Communist bloc.[6]

A series of official visits to Western countries (including the US, France, United Kingdom, Spain) helped Ceaușescu 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.[7] 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.[8]

The 1966 decree

In 1966, the Ceaușescu regime, in an attempt to boost the country's population, made abortion illegal, and introduced other policies 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. However, few women ever sought this status; instead, the average Romanian family during the time had two to three children (see Demographics of Romania).[9] Furthermore, a considerable number of women either died or were maimed during clandestine abortions.[10]

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). The transfusions of untested blood, led to Romania accounting for many 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.[11][12]

July Theses

Main article: July Theses

Ceaușescu visited the People's Republic of China, North Korea, 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 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 and anti-revisionism.

In 1974, Ceaușescu became President of the Socialist Republic of Romania, further consolidating his power. He continued to follow an independent policy in foreign relations—for example, in 1984, Romania was one of only three communist states (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 Socialist Republic of Romania was the first of the Eastern bloc to have official relations with the Western bloc and 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 Hirohito.

Pacepa defection

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 Ceaușescu to overhaul the architecture of the Securitate. 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.

After Pacepa's defection, the country became more isolated and economic growth faltered. Ceaușescu's intelligence agency became subject to heavy infiltration by foreign intelligence agencies[citation needed] 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[citation needed].

Foreign debt

Ceaușescu'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. 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. 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. 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 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. 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 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.[citation needed]

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


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

By early 1989, Ceaușescu 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 well-fed cows would even be transported across the country in anticipation of his visits to farms. In at least one emergency, he inspected (and approved) a display of Hungarian produce, which apart from some corn and several melons, was largely constructed of painted plastic and/or polystyrene. Meanwhile, 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, collective farms) with alleged record harvests, in blatant contradiction to the shortages experienced by the average Romanian at the time.

Some people, believing that Ceaușescu was not aware of what was going on in the country outside of Bucharest, 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 Ceaușescu ever read any of these letters will probably remain unknown. It was common knowledge that people attempting to hand letters directly to Ceaușescu risked adverse consequences[citation needed], courtesy of the Securitate. People were strongly discouraged from addressing him directly[citation needed] and there was a general sense that morale in Romania had reached an overall low.


Nicolae Ceaușescu flees Bucharest by helicopter on 22 December 1989

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. But the following month, Ceaușescu's regime collapsed after a series of violent events in Timișoara and Bucharest in December 1989.


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 Securitate fired on demonstrators on 17 December 1989, killing and wounding many. 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, a mass meeting was staged. 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.


The mass meeting of 21 December, held in what is now Revolution Square, began like many of Ceaușescu's speeches over the years. With the usual Marxist-Leninist "wooden language", Ceauşescu delivered a litany of the achievements of the "socialist revolution" and Romanian "multi-laterally developed socialist society".

However, he'd seriously misjudged the crowd's mood. Several people began jeering, booing and whistling at him. Others began chanting "Ti-mi-şoa-ra! Ti-mi-şoa-ra!" Ceaușescu's uncomprehending expression as the crowd began to boo and heckle him remains one of the defining moments of the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe. He tried to silence them by raising his right hand, and when that didn't work, offered them a raise of 100 lei per month.[4] Failing to control the crowds, the Ceaușescus finally took cover inside the building, where they remained until the next day. The rest of the day saw an open 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, Ceaușescu's reaction to the events had already been imprinted on the country's collective memory. 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.

However, believing that Milea had been murdered, the rank-and-file soldiers went over virtually en masse to the revolution. Ceaușescu made a desperate attempt to address the crowd gathered in front of the Central Committee building. However, the people in the square began throwing rocks 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 didn't 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'd followed them there.[4] Shortly afterward, the PCR disappeared.

During the course of the revolution, the western press published estimates of the number of people killed by the Securitate in attempting to support Ceaușescu and quash 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 an actual death toll of less than one thousand, and probably much lower than that.[13]


Nicolae Ceaușescu's grave in Ghencea cemetery

Ceaușescu and his wife Elena fled the capital with Emil Bobu and Manea Mănescu and headed, by helicopter, for Ceaușescu's Snagov residence, from where 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 air space. 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, the two were tried in a brief show-trial and sentenced to death by a military court on charges ranging from illegal gathering of wealth to genocide, and were executed in Târgoviște. During the trial, Ceaușescu repeatedly denied the court's authority to try him, and asserted he was still legally president of Romania. 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 Ceaușescus were executed by a firing squad consisting of elite paratroop regiment soldiers: Captain Ionel Boeru, Sergant-Major Georghin Octavian and Dorin-Marian Cirlan,[14] 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.[15] 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. Later that day, it was also shown on Romanian television.[16][17]

The Ceaușescus were the last people to be executed in Romania before the abolition of capital punishment on 7 January 1990.[18]

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. 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 Național,[19] 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 have been denied by the government. On 21 July 2010, forensic scientists exhumed the bodies of Nicolae and Elena to perform DNA tests.[20][21] Later it was determined that they were indeed the remains of Nicolae and Elena.[22]

Personality cult and authoritarianism

Ceaușescu created a pervasive personality cult, giving himself such titles as "Conducător" ("Leader") and "Geniul din Carpați" ("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.

The most important day of the year during Ceaușescu's rule was his birthday, on 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 far too risky to even contemplate.[4]

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 scepter." 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 pictures 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 Ceaușescu's short stature—he was only 5 ft 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.[4]


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 Communist 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 neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. Ceaușescu 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.

Ceaușescu 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 Ceaușescu's death played a role in influencing Mobutu to "democratize" Zaïre in 1990.[23] Also, France granted Ceaușescu the Legion of Honour and in 1978 he became an Honorary British Knight[24] (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.[25]

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 Moldavia."[26]


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.[19]

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 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 Ceaușescu had bestowed upon her.[27]

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.

Praising the crimes of totalitarian regimes and denigrating their victims is forbidden by law in Romania; this includes the Ceaușescu regime. Dinel Staicu was imposed a 25,000 lei (approx. 9,000 United States dollars) fine for praising Ceaușescu and displaying his pictures on his private television channel (3TV Oltenia).[28]

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 Ion Iliescu, the then president of Romania who had been visiting Los Angeles at the time.

One unresolved mystery that followed the deaths of Nicolae and Ceaușescu pertains to Romania's Apollo 17 Goodwill Moon rock which was in Nicolae Ceaușescu possessions at the time of his death, but has since disappeared. This moon rock was presented by the Nixon Administration to Romania and is said to be worth 5 million dollars on the black market.[29]


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".[30]

Ceaușism's main trait was a form of Romanian nationalism,[31] 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:[32] 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.

However, 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,[33] which led to the late 1960s and early 1970s being the most liberal decade in Communist 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.[34] 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. 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),[32] 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 grip on Romanian culture, guiding it towards Ceaușescu's nationalist principles:.[35] 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.[35] 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).[36]

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 was never a fully official myth in Ceaușescu'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,[37] 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."[4]

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.

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
  • 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



  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. Boyes, Roger (24 December 2009). "Ceausescu looked in my eyes and he knew that he was going to die". The Times (London). 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 (2009) Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire. New York City: Pantheon Books. ISBN 0375425322. 
  5. "Rumania: Enfant Terrible". Time. Monday, 2 April 1973.,9171,907041-1,00.html. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  6. (2008) European Union enlargement: background, developments, facts. New Jersey, USA: Transaction Publishers, 10. 
  7. David Phinnemore (2006). The EU and Romania: accession and beyond. London, UK,: Federal Trust for Education and Research, 13. 
  8. Romania versus the United States: diplomacy of the absurd, 1985–1989. Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Georgetown University, 1994, 81. 
  9. Communist 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.
  10. Ceausescu's Longest-Lasting Legacy - the Cohort of '67
  11. 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.
  12. 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 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," 8 February 1990, in The New York Times.
  13. Aubin, Stephen P (1998). Distorting defense: network news and national security. Greenwood Publishing Group, 158. ISBN 9780275963033. Retrieved on 28/June/2008. 
  14. 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. 
  15. George Galloway and Bob Wylie, Downfall: The Ceausescus and the Romanian Revolution p. 198-199. Futura Publications, 1991
  16. Daniel Simpson, "Ghosts of Christmas past still haunt Romanians"
  17. The dictator and his henchman
  19. 19.0 19.1 Jurnalul Național, 25 January 2005
  20. Yahoo! News
  21. Nicolae Ceausescu's remains exhumed
  23. 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 15 October 2006.
  24. List of honorary British Knights
  25. Valenzuela, J. Samuel and Arturo Valenzuela (eds.), Military Rule in Chile: Dictatorship and Oppositions, p. 321
  26. Romanian-Moldavian SSR relations, by Patrick Moore and the Romanian Section
  27. The Official Website of the British Monarchy: "Queen and Honours", retrieved on 13 October 2010.
  28. Official communique of the National Board of the Audio-Visual, originally at but now removed, accessible through
  29. "Every Nation Received a Moon Rock, Some of them Can’t Find It" Houston Chronicle, Mike Tolson, 13 May 2010 (Reprint).
  30. Mic Dicționar Enciclopedic
  31. Geran Pilon, Chapter III, Communism with a Nationalist Face, p.60-66; Tănase, p.24
  32. 32.0 32.1 Geran Pilon, p.60
  33. Tănase, p.23
  34. Geran Pilon, p.62
  35. 35.0 35.1 Geran Pilon, p.61
  36. Geran Pilon, p.61-63
  37. Geran Pilon, p.63


External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej
General secretary

of the Romanian Communist Party

Succeeded by
Party dissolved