Ceaușescu's speech of 21 August 1968

Ceaușescu's speech of 21 August 1968 was a public address by Nicolae Ceaușescu, General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party and President of the State Council of Romania, strongly condemning the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. On the night of 20–21 August 1968, five Warsaw Pact nations - the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Hungary, East Germany, and Poland - invaded Czechoslovakia in an effort to quell the reformist ideology of Alexander Dubček, the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.

On 21 August, in what became his most famous speech,[1] Ceaușescu boldly denounced the invasion in a public address before 100,000 people in Palace Square in Bucharest, and declared that it was a "grave error and constituted a serious danger to peace in Europe and for the prospects of world socialism."[2] His address was perceived as a bold gesture of disobedience to the Soviet Union both at home and abroad. The speech was part of the post-1956 efforts of the communist elite in Bucharest to emancipate their Party from Moscow.

Ceaușescu's response consolidated Romania's independent voice in the next two decades, especially after Ceaușescu encouraged the population to take up arms in order to meet any similar maneuver in the country: he received an enthusiastic initial response, with many people, who were by no means communist, willing to enroll in the newly formed paramilitary Patriotic Guards.

1968 speecha
Ceaușescu gesticulating while giving his speech

See also

References

  1. ^ Conflicted Memories: Europeanizing Contemporary Histories, edited by Konrad H. Jarausch, Thomas Lindenberger, p. 43
  2. ^ Apoteoza lui Ceaușescu – 21 august 1968

External links

Nicolae Ceaușescu

Nicolae Ceaușescu (; Romanian: [nikoˈla.e t͡ʃe̯a.uˈʃesku] (listen); 26 January 1918 – 25 December 1989) was a Romanian communist politician. He was the general secretary of the Romanian Communist Party from 1965 to 1989 and hence the second and last Communist leader of Romania. He was also the country's head of state from 1967, serving as President of the State Council and from 1974 concurrently as President of the Republic until his overthrow in the Romanian Revolution in December 1989, part of a series of anti-Communist and anti-Soviet Union uprisings in Eastern Europe that year.

Born in 1918 in Scornicești, Olt County, Ceaușescu was a member of the Romanian Communist youth movement. Ceaușescu rose up through the ranks of Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej's Socialist government and, upon Gheorghiu-Dej's death in 1965, he succeeded to the leadership of Romania’s Communist Party as General Secretary.Upon his rise to power, he eased press censorship and openly condemned the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in his speech on 21 August 1968, which resulted in a surge in popularity. However, the resulting period of stability was very brief as his government very soon became severely totalitarian and was considered the most repressive in Eastern Europe of the time. His secret police, the Securitate, was responsible for mass surveillance as well as severe repression and human rights abuses within the country and he suppressed and controlled the media and press, implementing methods that were among the harshest, most restrictive and brutal in the world. Economic mismanagement due to failed oil ventures during the 1970s led to skyrocketing foreign debts for Romania. In 1982, he exported much of the country's agricultural and industrial production in an effort to repay them. The shortages that followed drastically lowered living standards, leading to heavy rationing of food, water, oil, heat, electricity, medicine and other necessities. His cult of personality experienced unprecedented elevation, followed by extensive nepotism and the intense deterioration of foreign relations, even with the Soviet Union.

As anti-government protesters demonstrated in Timișoara in December 1989, he perceived the demonstrations as a political threat and ordered military forces to open fire on 17 December, causing many deaths and injuries. The revelation that Ceaușescu was responsible resulted in a massive spread of rioting and civil unrest across the country. The demonstrations, which reached Bucharest, became known as the Romanian Revolution—the only violent overthrow of a communist government in the turn of the Revolutions of 1989. Ceaușescu and his wife Elena fled the capital in a helicopter, but they were captured by the armed forces after the armed forces changed sides. After being tried and convicted of economic sabotage and genocide, they were immediately executed by firing squad on 25 December and Ceaușescu was succeeded as President by Ion Iliescu, who had played a major part in the revolution. Capital punishment was abolished shortly thereafter.

Revolution Square, Bucharest

Revolution Square (Romanian: Piața Revoluției) is a square in central Bucharest, on Calea Victoriei. Known as Piața Palatului (Palace Square) until 1989, it was later renamed after the Romanian Revolution in 1989.

The former Royal Palace (now the National Museum of Art of Romania), the Athenaeum, the Athénée Palace Hotel, the University of Bucharest Library and the Memorial of Rebirth are located here. The square also houses the building of the former Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party (from where Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife fled by helicopter on December 22, 1989). In 1990, the building became the seat of the Senate and since 2006 it houses the Ministry of Interior and Administrative Reform.Prior to 1948, an equestrian statue of King Carol I of Romania stood there. Created in 1930 by the Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović, the statue was destroyed in 1948 by the Communists, who never paid damages to the sculptor. In 2005, the Romanian Minister of Culture decided to recreate the destroyed statue from a model that was kept by Meštrović's family. In 2007, the Bucharest City Hall assigned the project to the sculptor Florin Codre, who is going to design an original statue of Carol inspired by Meštrović's model (most consider it a plagiarism).In August 1968 and December 1989, the square was the site of a two mass meetings which represented the apogee and the nadir of Ceaușescu's regime. Ceaușescu's speech of 21 August 1968 marked the highest point in Ceaușescu's popularity, when he openly condemned the invasion of Czechoslovakia and started pursuing a policy of independence from Kremlin. Ceaușescu's final speech, 1989 was meant to emulate the 1968 assembly and presented by the official media as a "spontaneous movement of support for Ceaușescu", erupting in the popular revolt which led to the end of the regime.

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