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Nicolae Ceausescu - Biography

Updated on December 19, 2015
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Ceausescu's arrest photo at 18 years of age in 1936.Ceausescu in 1966 at 48 years of age
Ceausescu's arrest photo at 18 years of age in 1936.
Ceausescu's arrest photo at 18 years of age in 1936. | Source
Ceausescu in 1966 at 48 years of age
Ceausescu in 1966 at 48 years of age | Source

Political Tyrant and Economic Disaster

Totul la export. Totul era rationalizat! Efectiv, totul la export.” My father sits on the edge of my bed emphasizing the hatred the people of Romania had for Ceauşescu. I can tell from his voice that he vividly remembers what happened during Ceauşescu’s tyranny over Romania. “Everything was exported. Everything was rationed! Literally, everything was exported.” From 1967 to 1989 Romania was under Ceauşescu’s rule. My father was in his early 20’s and serving in the army as a soldier and later as a corporal. He told me Ceauşescu’s history like something you wouldn’t read in a textbook. His comments are the reason I chose to research this, political tyrant and economic disaster, as Silviu Brucan, a Romanian Political Scientist described him.

Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena, standing on the porch of Ceausescu's childhood home in Scornicesti, Romania.
Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena, standing on the porch of Ceausescu's childhood home in Scornicesti, Romania. | Source

Impoverished Beginnings

Ceauşescu was born in 1918 in a poor agricultural background. His parents were peasants and he was the third of ten children to be born. In fact, when deciding on a name for Nicolae, his father Andruță was too drunk to remember that he already had a son named Nicolae, and so he ended up with another. Ceauşescu’s communist ideals were probably influenced by his impoverished lifestyle and owing to the fact that he never associated with others, or made attempts to have friends. At the end of World War II, the Soviet army arrived in Romania’s capital, Bucharest, to the welcoming arms of Ceauşescu. In 1946 with the help of the Red Army, Ceauşescu and his communist colleagues were ready to rise to power. In 1965 Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej Romania’s communist leader since 1947, died of throat cancer. He and Ceauşescu had met in prison some years earlier when communist gatherings were illegal in Romania. Gheorghiu-Dej had taken Ceauşescu as a mentor after realizing his cunning genius and grandiose beliefs. Ceauşescu was now ready to take over as Romania’s first president.2

Detrimental Economic Decisions

The rapid-fire and grand economic decisions made by Ceauşescu would rapidly, but malevolently turn Romania from an agriculturally based country to an industrialized one at the expense of its citizens and immense national debts. In 1965 Romania’s official name was changed from the People’s Republic of Romania to the Socialist Republic of Romania in order to appeal to the status of the West1. Ceauşescu began to pass a series of laws in 1966, all of which were aimed at gaining a tighter economic and moral control over the citizens of Romania. Over the next few years he increasingly challenged the dominance of the Soviet Union over Romania. He ended Romania’s participation in the Warsaw pact, a mutual defense treaty between communist states during the Cold War, and finally prohibited communications between Soviet and Romanian officials. His defiance against the Soviets caught the attention of United States president Richard Nixon who visited Romania in 1969 and granted Romania a “most-favoured-nation” trading status1. These actions against the Soviet Union were critical pieces of Ceauşescu’s plan, as they granted him access to international trade organizations such as the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, which would allow him to take out heavy loans.

Known as: Casa Poporului "Palace of the People" or Palace of the Parliament
Known as: Casa Poporului "Palace of the People" or Palace of the Parliament

Export and Mass Shortages

In 1966 about 10,000 hectares of the land surrounding Bucharest are set to be demolished to make room for the largest reconstruction project in Romania, the “Palace of the People” and a grand boulevard. Ceauşescu forced citizens that were in the way of his building projects to sign contracts allowing the willing demolition of their houses, which they also had to pay for out of pocket. The spending didn’t stop there.

There was no private property.2A vrut sa industrializeze tot,” my father goes on with brisk hand gestures. He wanted to industrialize everything very quickly, and with force: “Cu forţa si foarte repede!” He tells me Ceauşescu made large factories and everybody had a job. There was virtually no such thing as unemployment or inflation. Everybody worked tirelessly and, “pentru nimica,” for nothing, because everything was being exported. The huge national debts that Ceauşescu had accumulated from the World Bank and other sources now had to be paid back. There was nothing left for the citizens. The imbalance created between exports and imports left citizens, “…fara mancare, taia din senin curentul, totul merge pe bonuri,” without food, the electricity was cut without warning, and food was rationed in coupons. Even hospitals lost power since the oil that could be used in backup generators was also exported. I ask my father what the caps on food were. He tells me about the essentials, since that was all most people could afford anyway. A family could claim 12 eggs once, a month. Half a loaf of bread was allowed daily, and milk was allowed to be claimed twice a week.

"Bonuri" A Food Stamp for Bread

A food stamp for bread. Every day is in chronological order and the box would be cut out everyday when bread was redeemed so that nobody could claim more than their allowed supply of bread.
A food stamp for bread. Every day is in chronological order and the box would be cut out everyday when bread was redeemed so that nobody could claim more than their allowed supply of bread. | Source
Ceausescu idolized himself
Ceausescu idolized himself | Source

His oppression didn’t end at starving his citizens. In 1967, a newly created agency “Securitate” became the largest growing agency in Europe relative to the size of Romania’s population. The agents under Securitate, which even included children, were ordered to spy and monitor citizens and neighbors, screen mail, tap telephones, and break into homes and offices if they believed there was reason to do so. The idea was that nobody could be able to hide an extra income, own property, start a business, or plan ideas that went against the ideals of his regime. It became illegal in 1971 to even own a typewriter without a license and any work done had to be submitted for revision before it was released to the public. Ceauşescu took great care to ensure that the media was manipulated with his patriotic commercials and ideals.

Ceausescu's Execution

Perhaps the worst of all offenses was the continued oppression of Romanian citizens even after Romania had finished paying its immense debts back. The goal, which had been reached, was to pay off all $11 billion USD within the decade. Most Romanians continued to live in poverty, starve, and live in the dark and cold while the Ceauşescu family lived in his marble castle surrounded by luxury. In December 1989 several demonstrations and protests broke out throughout major cities in the country until finally the officers and soldiers in the army also turned their back on Ceauşescu by refusing to follow orders and fire into the crowds. George Shultz, the US Secretary of State from 1982 until 1989, claimed that Romania had “possibly the worst” human rights record in Eastern Europe1. I have not studied other tyrants in detail enough to agree or disagree with Shultz’s statement however, Ceauşescu’s trial, once he was caught trying to flee the country, was held in an informal waiting room, lasted less than 90 minutes, and ended with him and his wife Elena being shot by a firing squad on the spot.

Nicolae Ceausescu's Execution


Nicolae Ceausescu." Moreorless Heroe's and Killers of the 20th Century. N.p., 20 Feb. 2001. Web. 02 Mar. 2014.

Ceausescu The Unrepentant Tyrant. The Biography Channel, 1999. DVD.

B. Daniel L. Personal interview. 01 Mar. 2014.


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      EdwardLane 15 months ago

      Great article. Enjoyed it immensely. Love the personal touch of your father's point of view.