Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Ceauşescu’s Romania

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For many years, he was a Communist dictator the West could agree with: he first decade in power was marked by an open policy towards the West, and independence from the Soviet Union’s policies. Nicolae Ceausescu presented himself as a reforming communist in his highly publicized (and eccentric, of which more will be said later) state visits to the US, France, UK and Spain. Under him, Romania was the first European communist state to recognize West Germany, the first to join the International Monetary Fund, and the first to receive a US President (Nixon in 1973).

Above was the picture of Ceausescu together with French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing in Bucharest. When when Ceausescu’s Communist Party officials saw the topmost photo, they were horrified to find out that not only did their revered leader appear short compared to towering d’Estaing, but Giscard was also wearing a hat. Ceausescu, who was carrying his, looked like he was begging. The images were doctored for the official party daily, adding a few extra centimetres to Ceausescu and putting a hat on his head. Except no one remember to airbrush out the hat in his hands. When the mistake was spotted, police were sent across the country charged with securing every copy of the paper and its front-page image of the dictator with two hats. (Ceausescu like many dicators was touchy about his height. At group portrait sessions of the communist parties, the members had to respect a certain hierarchy and no one of the group was allowed to surpass Ceausescu in height. They either had to knee or the photos had to be tempered).

Such was a chaotic Romania under Ceausescu.  In 1978, he ordered a new entrance to metro filled up within twelve hours after it was dug just to have a better background for one of his speeches. Although he was feted from the White House to China’s Great Hall of the People, but Ceausescu was so paranoid that foreigners would poison his clothes that he started wearing only clothes that had been under surveillance in a specially constructed warehouse, and each item of clothing would be worn only once, and then burned. To Buckingham Palace, he took his own sheets, and paranoid that he would catch a fatal disease from shaking hands, he washed his hands with alcohol after shaking Queen Elizabeth’s hand.

Like Caligula before him, he made his black Labrador Corbu a colonel in the Romanian Army. Corbu was driven through Bucharest in a limousine; it had its own motorcade, and mansion. The dog being a present from British Liberal Party leader David Steel, the Romanian ambassador in London was under official orders to go to Sainsbury’s every week to buy British dog biscuits which were then sent back in the diplomatic bag.

Perhaps the crowning eccentricity of Ceausescu was his idea to build the Palace of the Parliament, the world’s largest, most expensive and heaviest administrative building. The old city of Bucharest was lain waste by the construction of this and the Boulevard of Socialist Victory leading to the Parliament. Both were never finished. He ordered that typewriters be registered, noting that they were in possession of citizens who pose a “danger to public order or state security”.

Ceauşescu’s government was overthrown in a December 1989 military coup, and he was shot following a televised two-hour session by a kangaroo court, ending two decades of his farcical rule.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

October 22, 2009 at 9:59 am

10 Responses

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  1. If I recall, he was publicly executed on Christmas Day in 1989, and his dead body shown on television.


    October 23, 2009 at 3:30 am

  2. I’m not sure Ceausescu was any worse then Bush Jr…who was able to reap a lot more harm to the world and it’s people in his eight years than Ceausescu was ever able to do in his own private dictatorship in decades…GW’s damage is more far reaching and horrifying than C’s was.
    Ceausescu was a piker compared to Bushie…


    October 25, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    • Well, I truly disagree. On what do you base your comment? Have you been here in Romania during Ceausescu (I am from Cluj, Transylvania.) I have been to the States. Trust me, it is a different galaxy. There was no way Bush could do so much harm to you, that this ass to our country and population. I mean, no mass murders in the US, isn’t it? No 15 eggs/month/person in the US, isn’t it? No 1 liter of milk per person per week, isn’t it? No 5 chickens per person per month, I suppose. Even the toilet paper was “rationalized”, so we had 5 rolls per month per person. I was 18 years old, when that ass falled. And never happier since then.


      October 30, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    • Come one you cant be serious. I would suggest you to wake at 5 in the morning at -20 degrees celsius, wait in a line for 2 hours for milk and an additional hour for bred, return home and find there is no electricity an heating for the rest of the day. Try to live in a country where you do not know if your neighbour is a collaborator or not. Where for the fuel you stay in line for 11-12 houes and you can drive your car every other weekend. Thry to live in acountry where your passport is taken and you have to ask the authorithies to release it, by the way you may only once in two years to do so. Try to live in a country where if you are God forbid a minority you are opressed. do you want me to continue??? When you tried all that you can speak about the US.


      January 21, 2012 at 10:20 am

  3. >Under him, 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 (Nixon in 1973).

    I don’t think that last factoid is true. First and for all, Nixon visited China in Feb. 1972. Secondly, I’m fairly confident a US Pres prolly visited some other country first, but I could be wrong. I know Eisenhower planned but due to the U2 crisis never got to visit the USSR, and I don’t know if JFK or LBJ ever did much sight seeing.


    October 27, 2009 at 6:01 am

  4. China joined the IMF on December 27, 1945, as one of its 35 original members. Another lie. Romania joined in December 15, 1972

    Florin O.

    October 28, 2009 at 12:28 pm

  5. “Like Caligula before him, he made his black Labrador Corbu a colonel in the Romanian Army.”. Be serious, this is not true…


    November 20, 2010 at 10:53 am

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