Romania remembers bloodshed of 1989

Romania remembers bloodshed of 1989

Romania is marking 30 years since the uprising against communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was executed in 1989.

He faced a rapid trial with his wife Elena after 10 days of protests that toppled the last member of the Warsaw Pact. 

Ceausescu took office in 1965 and enforced costly plans to reconstruct Bucharest, creating debts and food, electricity and heating shortages.

There were reports of unrest and massacres in the city of Timisoara, 350km northwest of Bucharest, after December 17, 1989.

Demonstrations were held in Bulgaria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia to condemn the violence.

Ceausescu blamed “fascist, reactionary groups” for the uprising and refused to mention of casualties amid rumours that thousands had been shot by the military.

On December 21, the uprising spread to Bucharest as Ceausescu addressed a supposedly supportive crowd.

Broadcasts of Ceausescu’s speech were stopped as the security forces loyal to the dictator fought the army, which had abandoned him.

Ceausescu and his wife Elena were captured in the city of Targoviste close to Bucharest and faced a military tribune for genocide and abuse of power.

After the two-hour trial, paratroopers shot them in the courtyard with video of their corpses broadcast. It is reported that 1,142 people were killed during the uprising.

On 22 December 1989, Ceausescu gave the order to fire on protesters but most of the victims died after he had been toppled and former president, Ion Iliescu, had taken over. 

His trial started last month following the re-opening of a prolonged investigation and it is expected to hear from more than 5,000 witnesses.

A dictatorial monument 

Bucharest’s Palace of the Parliament (pictured), as it is now called, was completed after Ceausescu was executed.

Planned to host every government ministry under one roof, it now contains Romania’s parliament.

Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu, president of the senate until earlier this year, had the vast office that was meant to belong to Ceausescu.

“When I first came here there was a huge globe and I had this image in my mind of the dictator of [Charlie] Chaplin when he’s sitting on the desk and turning the globe,” the politician said.

He had furniture changed, including an oversized desk that was replaced with one half the size but still several times bigger than any normal desk. 

“The office must be a place where when you invite people and they feel a little bit comfortable, and you can make a friendly atmosphere, but this size is exactly the opposite, it’s creating distance between you and your guests,” Popescu-Tăriceanu said.

The building has 1 million cubic metres of marble, 3,500 tonnes of crystal, 1,100 rooms, silver brocade curtains and gold-leaf ceilings.

Approximately 20 per cent of the city was flattened for the House of the People, its surrounding buildings and the boulevard approaching it, which was designed to be wider and longer than Paris’ Champs-Élysee. 

Around 40,000 people were forcibly rehoused.

Ceausescu laid the cornerstone in 1984 and most of the exteriors were completed by 1989.


Picture credit: Flickr 


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