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Birthplace of the Revolution
- Piata Victoriei
- Reformed Church
- Stay in Ceausescu's Villa
- 1989 Memorial Museum
- Monuments of the Martyrs

- Palace of Parliament
- Piata Revolutiei
- National Library
- former Central Committee building
- Ghencea Cemetery


Memorial Sighet
(former Prison of the Ministers)

Doftana Prison near Ploiesti
Petrisani, Pitesti


Red Horizons (Ion Pacepa)
The Lost Footsteps (Silviu Craciunas)
Looking for George
Land of Green Plums (Herta Muller)
The Passport (Herta Muller)
Kiss the Hand you cannot Bite
(John Sweeney)
The Life & Evil Times of
Nicolae Ceausescu (Edward Behr)
Stealing from a Depp Place (Brian Hall)
Once upon Another Time
(Jessica Douglas-Home)
In Another Europe (Georgina Harding)
The Long Shadows (Alan Brownjohn)

NEW Theft of a Nation (Tom Gallagher)

Several titles are also available in
the Romanian Language


22 December 1989

Ceausescu's "Era of Light"
Epoca Lumioasa - Epoca Ceausescu
Life in Romania under Nicolae Ceausescu


Romanian Revolution 1989 (Timisoara, Bucharest, Tours) 1989 REVOLUTION

Ana Blandiana's poem TOTUL TOTUL

Prison of the Ministers, Sighet - Maramures

Memorial Museum to the 1989 Romanian Revolution, Timisoara MUSEUM 1989

Flights to Romania with Transylvania Uncovered FLIGHTS


Nicolae Ceausescu came to power in 1965 after the death of
Gheorghe Gheorgiu-Dej. At first he gained popular support
from his rather national stance, demonstrating a degree of
independence from Moscow and even condemning the Warsaw Pact
invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. This also gained him new friends
abroad resulting in state visits to the USA, France and the UK
when he stayed as a Royal guest at Buckingham Palace in 1979.
Romania was even granted "Most Favoured Nation"
status by the USA.

However, hidden behind this veneer, was a more sinister face
- a Stalinist state with the worst Human Rights record in the
Warsaw Pact. Inspired by visits to China and North Korea,
Ceausescu embarked on massive industrialisation, greater austerity
and social engineering measures aimed at the blending of
town and country into a soulless, agro-industrial community.
At the same time the personality cult of Nicolae Ceausescu and
"Doctor, Engineer, Academician" Elena Ceausescu came to the fore.

CONTACT US (Transylvania Uncovered - Romania Travel Specialists) CONTACT US


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+44 (0)1539 531258

>>1970s - Decline

The economy began to fail in the 1970s - by 1979 the huge, uneconomic oil refineries were functioning at 10% or their capacity, unrealistic targets were set for factory and agricultural workers alike and the standard of living plummeted. Despite Romania having been the bread basket of Eastern Europe production continued to fall as a result of collectivisation and rigid Stalinist policies which even placed quotas on food produced on individual plots. By 1981 bread rationing had been introduced and there were severe shortages resulting in hours of standing in queues. Meanwhile, Ceausescu dismissed the problems with comments that Romanians eat too much and in 1985 announced a "scientific diet" for all Romanians, controlling nutrition. In reality food supplies fell short even of this!

Here are just a few examples
relating to life under the
latter years of Ceausescu:


Many foodstuffs were rationed
including meat, bread, sugar,
and vegetable oil - despite this
shortages ensured empty shelves
in foodstores. Queues would
immediately form whenever there
was a food delivery,
however poor the quality.

>>1980s - "Era of Light"!

By the 1980s life for the average person was very difficult as Austerity measures became ever more severe - food, oil and all quality goods were all exported to provide hard currency to repay international debts. However, the fear of the Securitate , the secret police, ensured that any criticism of the regime or uprising was immediately suppressed. They pervaded all aspects of society, it was often quoted that as many as 1 in 3 people were Securitate or informers of the Securitate, so you couldn't even trust close friends or family members. The reality was that the population was suppressed more by carefully spread rumour and the threat of arrest and imprisonment for the most trivial of reasons. Phones were routinely bugged and calls taped, though mainly in the workplace. Control was virtually total yet it was not until the latter years of the decade when Gorbachev began to bring a degree of liberalisation, that human rights abuses in Romania began to receive press attention in the West. By then Romania had served its purpose as a thorn in the side of the Soviet Union.


Petrol was rationed and electricity
consumption severely curtailed
- you could only use one 40 watt
bulb in a room. Only one in every
three streetlamps was
switched on - often less.
In addition powercuts played havoc,
even disrupting industry and
hospitals - operating theatres
would be plunged into darkness
and life support machines would fail.
Fuel shortages lead to
ambulances not attending
emergencies if the patient was
over 70. Heating was minimal and
gas pressure was often so low
that cooking was
virtually impossible.


"Systematisation" was a plan to raze half of Romania's villages and rehouse the inhabitants in new "Agro-industrial" centres where they could be better controlled. The government argued that the villages were decrepit and that these new centres would free valuable land for agriculture and raise the standard of living by better provision of services.

The original plans were formulated in 1972 but the destruction didn't commence until the late 1980s. However, there were intense protests from the West, even from Hungary - unheard of in a Warsaw Pact country. The Germans and Hungarians stood up for the ethnic minorities of Romania ... the ethnic Romanians had no voice outside the country and their own plight was almost ignored. A Belgian organisation, Operation Villages Roumains, came into being with the aim of twinning every village in Romania with a village in the West to offer some rudimentary protection. Despite exaggerated reports of bulldozers flattening historic Saxon and Hungarian villages only two villages were wiped from the face of the map - these were both villages of ethnic Romanians located close to Bucharest. The inhabitants were given just 24 hours before their homes were flattened and the land ploughed over. They were rehoused in jerry-built apartment blocks. Nevertheless, a form of systematisation had been taking place - old houses were demolished in many small towns and the inhabitants rehoused in new apartment blocks


Perhaps the most appalling
policies were those introduced
to "boost" the population.
Abortion and Contraception
were abolished and all women
in factories subjected to monthly
gynaecological examinations
to ensure that the laws were
obeyed. From 1983 it became
the duty of every woman to
produce a minimum of 5 children.
Childless and unmarried women
were subjected to higher taxes
whilst women producing larger
numbers of offspring were
declared "Heroine Mothers".
The results are well known - the
unwanted children of the
orphanages and horrific deaths
from back street abortions.

>>Boulevard of Socialist Victory

Of equal significance to the systematisation was the razing of one quarter of old Bucharest - the Uranus district which included 10 churches, 3 synagogues and a maze of old streets, villas and small houses - to create a palace fit for a megalomaniac.
Now called the "Palace of Parliament", this building of gargantuan proportions, second only to the Pentagon in size, dominates the Bucharest skyline. It was built at the time when austerity measures were at their hardest and was to be the palace of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu. Leading to the "Palace of the People" and lined with apartments for the Party faithful and the Securitate is a Boulevard longer than the Champs Elysee, now renamed the Bulevard Unirii - the project was never completed as can be realised by the rusting cranes at the far end of the Bulevard. The "palace" is open to the public and is used principally for trade shows and conferences.


>>Canalul Mortii - "Canal of Death"

The state controlled media including
the daily newspaper of the party,
"Scinteia" reported in great
detail on Ceausescu, glorifying him
and heaping praise on his wife,
continuously reporting on the
great advances the country was
making in all fields of industry,
agriculture, science and
international relations.
Television was restricted to a
two hour programme, the bulk of
which showed Ceausescu on his
various visits receiving praise
from crowds of people lining the
roads or attending his speeches.
This was "Big Brother" and Romania
was stuck in "1984". Books were
published in his honour heaping
praise on him with (often dubious
or out of context) quotes from
international press and endless
photographs, commissioned
paintings and poems.

History had also been rewritten,
in particular Ceausescu's role in
the rise of Communism. The arrest
of the Iron Guard leader,
Antonescu, and the switch of
alliance from the axis to the
allies by King Michael on
23 August 1944 became a
glorious communist uprising
against imperialist and
fascist forces.

The idea to construct a canal to connect the Danube with the Black Sea , and save shipping a considerable journey, was first proposed in 1856 when the Dobrudja region was still under Ottoman rule. It was, however, not until 1949 that such a project was launched by the Communist party. Gheorghiu-Dej declared it would be the "graveyard of reaction"; indeed it was soon dubbed the "Canal of Death" - 60,000 people are said to have perished working on the canal between 1949 and 1954 when the project was abandoned.
Now called the "Palace of Parliament", this building of gargantuan proportions, second only to the Pentagon in size, dominates the Bucharest skyline. It was built at the time when austerity measures were at their hardest and was to be the palace of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu. Leading to the "Palace of the People" and lined with apartments for the Party faithful and the Securitate is a Boulevard longer than the Champs Elysee, now renamed the Bulevard Unirii - the project was never completed as can be realised by the rusting cranes at the far end of the Bulevard. The "palace" is open to the public and is used principally for trade shows and conferences. They came from all parts of society and included peasants and landowners who had resisted collectivisation, priests, businessmen, aristocrats, relatives of prisoners, people who had tried to flee the country ... in effect anybody who may have opposed the new regime. All were labelled as traitors or enemies of the State and were housed in concentration camps at Capul Midia, exposed to the extremes of climate and temperature. In addition, the rock-breaking work, starvation diet, diseases such as TB and dysentery, and the beatings and torture by the Securitate all took their toll.

Ceausescu ordered work on the canal to be resumed in 1973. This time it would follow a more practical route, connecting with the Danube at Cernavoda then running eastwards for 60 km to reach the Black Sea at Agigea to the south of Constanta. The original course had been through the Canara hills to reach Capul Midea near Navodari. Modern machinery was employed but it still required 30,000 workers and was the biggest investment project of its time. It was inaugerated by the Conducator in 1984 but by 1987 was running at only a tenth of its capacity and this grandiouse project, though useful, is widely regarded as another of Ceausescu's "White Elephants".

Even contact with visitors from the West was restricted - any contact had to be reported to the Securitate within 24 hours. Despite all of this the people were not naive,
they no longer believed the propaganda. However, the hardship of life and the constant fear instilled by the Securitate made organised resistance impossible and lead to
a feeling of hopelessness. When the 1989 "Revolution" finally came it was the most bloody of all - once the people saw for themselves how vulnerable Ceausescu was
nothing was going to stop them from gaining their freedom. It is no surprise that it was sparked in Timisoara since the people there had long received outside
information via Yugoslav and Hungarian radio and television. Life under Ceausescu was well illustrated by
Ana Blandiana's poem 'Totul'

Despite the events of the 1989 Revolution, a slow acceptance of true democracy and market economy by early governments, and enormous positive changes,
many problems still persist, partly as a consequence of the experience of the Ceausescu years. This mind-set has enabled the fear and lack of understanding
of democracy amongst the populace to be exploited. Issues of concern include corruption at local and higher levels, a revamped but still active, internal
"Securitate" (the SRI), a lack of a truly free press ( there have been numerous recent cases of journalists being beaten up for speaking out against the previously ruling
PSD party) and an independent judiciary. These need to be addressed if Romania is to progress towards joining the EU by 2007-8. There are positive signs that
some of these issues are finally being addressed and tackled since the election of Traian Basescu as president at the end of 2004, however, due to the lack of
a significant majority progress has been sporadic during 2005. Until corruption is finally tackled and while many of the former ruling communists continue
to pull the strongs on a national and local level it seems unlikely that Romania will achieve EU membership or a higher standard of living for the majority of its citizens.
All efforts are now being made o make the Anti-corruption Court independent enabling trials to commence charging the former prime minister Adrian Nastase, who has acquired considerable wealth and property, the former transport minister Miron Mitrea, and even the former President Ion Iliescu who still has a lot to explain about
the events of the 1989 Revolution, and in particular the way in which it now appeared to have been spectacularly hijacked and for
bringing in the miners to suppress democracy and as a consequence putting back the development of the country by as much as a decade.

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