The Romanian Revolution (Romanian: Revoluția Română) was a period of violent civil unrest in the Socialist Republic of Romania in December 1989 and part of the Revolutions of 1989 that occurred in several countries. The Romanian Revolution started in the city of Timișoara and soon spread throughout the country, ultimately culminating in the show trial and execution of longtime Communist Party General Secretary Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife Elena, and the end of 42 years of Communist rule in Romania. It was also the last removal of a Marxist-Leninist government in a Warsaw Pact country during the events of 1989, and the only one that violently overthrew a country's government and executed its leader.
Early protests occurred in the city of Timișoara in mid-December on the part of the Hungarian minority in response to an attempt by the government to evict Hungarian Reformed church pastor László Tőkés. In response, Romanians sought revolution and a change in government in light of similar recent events in neighbouring nations. The country's ubiquitous secret police force, the Securitate, which was both one of the largest in the Eastern Bloc and for decades had been the main suppressor of popular dissension, frequently and violently quashing political disagreement, ultimately proved powerless in stopping the looming, and then highly fatal and successful revolt.
Social and economic malaise had been present in socialist Romania for quite some time, especially during the austerity years of the 1980s. The austerity measures were designed in part by Ceaușescu to repay foreign debts. Shortly after a botched public speech by Ceaușescu in Bucharest (Romania's capital city) that was broadcast to millions of Romanians on state television, rank-and-file members of the military switched, almost unanimously, from supporting the dictator to backing the protesting population. Riots, street violence and murder in several Romanian cities over the course of roughly a week led the Romanian strongman to flee the capital city on 22 December with his wife, Deputy Prime Minister Elena Ceaușescu. Evading capture by hastily departing via helicopter effectively portrayed the couple as both fugitives and also acutely guilty of accused crimes. Captured in Târgoviște, they were tried by a drumhead military tribunal on charges of genocide, damage to the national economy and abuse of power to execute military actions against the Romanian people. They were convicted on all charges, sentenced to death, and immediately executed on Christmas Day 1989, and to this day, are the last people to be condemned to death and executed in Romania.
Present-day Romania has unfolded in the shadow of the Ceaușescus along with its communist past, and the tumultuous departure from it. The National Salvation Front quickly took power after Ceaușescu was toppled, promising free and fair elections within five months. Elected in a landslide the following May, the National Salvation Front, reconstituted as a political party, installed a series of economic and democratic reforms, with further social policy changes being implemented by later governments. Since that point Romania has become far more integrated with the West than its former, albeit tepid, relations with Moscow. Romania became a member of NATO and the European Union in 2004 and 2007, respectively. Democratic reforms have proven to be moderately successful, though issues with corruption remain. Economic reforms continue, with Romania still possessing, for example, one of the highest child poverty rates in the developed world.
|Part of the Revolutions of 1989|
|Date||16–27 December 1989|
|Resulted in||Overthrow of the Socialist Republic of Romania, capture and execution of Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu|
|Parties to the civil conflict|
In 1981 Ceaușescu began an austerity programme designed to enable Romania to liquidate its entire national debt ($10 billion). To achieve this, many basic goods—including gas, heat and food—were rationed, which drastically reduced the standard of living and increased malnutrition. The infant mortality rate also grew to be the highest in Europe.
The secret police, Securitate, had become so omnipresent that it made Romania essentially a police state. Free speech was limited and opinions that did not favour the Communist Party were forbidden. The large numbers of Securitate informers made organised dissent nearly impossible. The regime deliberately played on this sense that everyone was being watched to make it easier to bend the people to the Party's will. Even by Soviet-bloc standards, the Securitate was exceptionally brutal.
Ceaușescu created a cult of personality, with weekly shows in stadiums or on streets in different cities dedicated to him, his wife and the Communist Party. There were several megalomaniac projects, such as the construction of the grandiose House of the Republic (today the Palace of the Parliament)—the biggest palace in the world—the adjacent Centrul Civic and a never-completed museum dedicated to communism and Ceaușescu, today the Casa Radio. These and similar projects drained the country's finances and aggravated the already dire economic situation. Thousands of Bucharest residents were evicted from their homes, which were subsequently demolished to make room for the huge structures.
Unlike the other Warsaw Pact leaders, Ceaușescu had not been slavishly pro-Soviet but rather had pursued an "independent" foreign policy; Romanian forces did not join its Warsaw Pact allies in putting an end to the Prague Spring—an invasion Ceaușescu openly denounced—while Romanian athletes competed at the Soviet-boycotted 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles (receiving a standing ovation at the opening ceremonies and proceeding to win 53 medals, trailing only the US and West Germany in the overall count). Conversely, while Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev spoke of reform, Ceaușescu maintained a hard political line and cult of personality.
The austerity programme started in 1981 and the widespread poverty it introduced made the Communist regime very unpopular. The austerity programmes were met with little resistance among Romanians and there were only a few strikes and labour disputes, of which the Jiu Valley miners' strike of 1977 and the Brașov Rebellion of November 1987 at the truck manufacturer Steagul Roșu were the most notable. In March 1989 several leading activists of the Romanian Communist Party (PCR) criticised Ceaușescu's economic policies in a letter, but shortly thereafter he achieved a significant political victory: Romania paid off its external debt of about US $11 billion several months before the time that even the Romanian dictator expected. However, in months following the announcement austerity and a shortage of goods remained the same as before.
It initially appeared that Ceaușescu would weather the wave of revolution sweeping across Eastern Europe. He was formally re-elected for another five-year term as General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party on 24 November at the party's XIV Congress. On the same day, Ceaușescu's counterpart in Czechoslovakia, Miloš Jakeš, resigned along with the entire Communist leadership, effectively ending Communist rule in Czechoslovakia. On 11 November 1989, before the party congress, on Bucharest's Brezoianu Street and Cogălniceanu Boulevard students from Cluj-Napoca and Bucharest demonstrated with placards saying, "We want reforms against Ceaușescu government."
The students—including Mihnea Paraschivescu, Grațian Vulpe and the economist Dan Căprariu-Schlachter from Cluj—were detained and investigated by the Securitate at the Rahova Penitentiary on suspicion of propaganda against the socialist society. They were released on 22 December 1989 at 14:00. There were other letters and attempts to draw attention to the economic, cultural and spiritual oppression of Romanians, but they served only to intensify the activity of the police and Securitate.
Another factor in the revolution was the Decreței policy, a policy banning contraception and abortion. This policy, which began in 1967, resulted in a baby boom, but also resulted in high rates of poverty and child mortality. By 1989 these children had all reached adulthood, and many of them were among the students who started the revolution that overthrew Ceaușescu.
On 16 December 1989 the Hungarian minority in Timișoara held a public protest in response to an attempt by the government to evict Hungarian Reformed church Pastor László Tőkés. In July of that year Tőkés had criticised the regime's Systematisation policy in an interview with Hungarian television, and complained that Romanians did not even know their human rights. As Tőkés described it later, the interview, which had been seen in the border areas and was then spread all over Romania, had "a shock effect upon the Romanians, the Securitate as well, on the people of Romania. […] [I]t had an unexpected effect upon the public atmosphere in Romania."
The government then alleged that Tőkés was inciting ethnic hatred. At the behest of the government, his bishop removed him from his post, thereby depriving him of the right to use the apartment to which he was entitled as a pastor, and assigned him to be a pastor in the countryside. For some time his parishioners gathered around his home to protect him from harassment and eviction. Many passersby spontaneously joined in. As it became clear that the crowd would not disperse, the mayor, Petre Moț, made remarks suggesting that he had overturned the decision to evict Tőkés. Meanwhile, the crowd had grown impatient and, when Moț declined to confirm his statement against the planned eviction in writing, the crowd started to chant anti-communist slogans. Subsequently, police and Securitate forces showed up at the scene. By 19:30 the protest had spread and the original cause became largely irrelevant.
Some of the protesters attempted to burn down the building that housed the district committee of the Romanian Communist Party (PCR). The Securitate responded with tear gas and water jets, while police beat up rioters and arrested many of them. Around 21:00 the rioters withdrew. They regrouped eventually around the Romanian Orthodox Cathedral and started a protest march around the city, but again they were confronted by the security forces.
Riots and protests resumed the following day, 17 December. The rioters broke into the district committee building and threw party documents, propaganda brochures, Ceaușescu's writings and other symbols of communist power out of the windows.
The military were sent in to control the riots because the situation was too large for the Securitate and conventional police to handle. The significance of the army presence in the streets was an ominous one: It meant that they had received their orders from the highest level of the command chain, presumably from Ceaușescu himself. The army failed to establish order; and chaos ensued including gunfire, fights, casualties and burned cars. Transportor Amfibiu Blindat (TAB) armoured personnel carriers and tanks were called in.
After 20:00, from Piața Libertății (Liberty Square) to the Opera there was wild shooting, including the area of Decebal bridge, Calea Lipovei (Lipovei Avenue) and Calea Girocului (Girocului Avenue). Tanks, trucks and TABs blocked the accesses into the city while helicopters hovered overhead. After midnight the protests calmed down. Ion Coman, Ilie Matei and Ștefan Gușă (Chief of the Romanian General Staff) inspected the city. Some areas looked like the aftermath of a war: destruction, rubble and blood.
On the morning of 18 December the centre was being guarded by soldiers and Securitate agents in plainclothes. Mayor Moț ordered a party gathering to take place at the university, with the purpose of condemning the "vandalism" of the previous days. He also declared martial law, prohibiting people from going about in groups of larger than two.
Defying the curfew, a group of 30 young men headed for the Orthodox cathedral, where they stopped and waved a Romanian flag from which they had removed the Romanian Communist coat of arms. Expecting that they would be fired upon, they started to sing "Deșteaptă-te, române!" ("Awaken thee, Romanian!"), an earlier patriotic song that had been banned since 1947. They were, indeed, fired upon; some died and others were seriously injured, while the lucky ones were able to escape.
On 19 December Radu Bălan and Ștefan Gușă visited workers in the city's factories, but failed to get them to resume work. On 20 December massive columns of workers entered the city. About 100,000 protesters occupied Piața Operei (Opera Square – today Piața Victoriei, Victory Square) and chanted anti-government slogans: "Noi suntem poporul!" ("We are the people!"), "Armata e cu noi!" ("The army is on our side!"), "Nu vă fie frică, Ceaușescu pică!" ("Have no fear, Ceaușescu is falling!")
Meanwhile, Emil Bobu (Secretary to the Central Committee) and Prime Minister Constantin Dăscălescu were sent by Elena Ceaușescu (Nicolae being at that time in Iran) to resolve the situation. They met with a delegation of the protesters and agreed to free the majority of the arrested protesters. However, they refused to comply with the protesters' main demand (resignation of Ceaușescu) and the situation remained essentially unchanged.
The next day trains loaded with workers from factories in Oltenia arrived in Timișoara. The regime was attempting to use them to repress the mass protests, but after a brief encounter they ended up joining the protests. One worker explained, "Yesterday our factory boss and a party official rounded us up in the yard, handed us wooden clubs and told us that Hungarians and 'hooligans' were devastating Timișoara and that it is our duty to go there and help crush the riots. But I realised that wasn't the truth."
On 18 December Ceaușescu had departed for a visit to Iran, leaving the duty of crushing the Timișoara revolt to his subordinates and his wife. Upon his return on the evening of 20 December the situation became even more tense, and he gave a televised speech from the TV studio inside the Central Committee Building (CC Building) in which he spoke about the events at Timișoara in terms of an "interference of foreign forces in Romania's internal affairs" and an "external aggression on Romania's sovereignty."
The country, which had no information about the Timișoara events from the national media, heard about the Timișoara revolt from Western radio stations like Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, and by word of mouth. A mass meeting was staged for the next day, 21 December, which, according to the official media, was presented as a "spontaneous movement of support for Ceaușescu," emulating the 1968 meeting in which Ceaușescu had spoken against the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact forces.
On the morning of 21 December, Ceaușescu addressed an assembly of approximately 100,000 people to condemn the uprising in Timișoara. Party officials took great pains to make it appear that Ceaușescu was still immensely popular. Several busloads of workers, under threat of being fired, arrived in Bucharest's Piața Palatului (Palace Square, now Piața Revoluției – Revolution Square) and were given red flags, banners and large pictures of Ceaușescu. They were augmented by bystanders who were rounded up on Calea Victoriei.
The speech was typical of most of Ceaușescu's speeches over the years. Making liberal use of Marxist-Leninist rhetoric, he delivered a litany of the achievements of the "socialist revolution" and Romanian "multi-laterally developed socialist society". He blamed the Timișoara uprising on "fascist agitators". However, Ceaușescu was out of touch with his people and completely misread the crowd's mood. The people remained unresponsive, and only the front rows supported Ceaușescu with cheers and applause. About two minutes into the speech, some in the crowd actually began to jeer, boo, whistle and yell insults at him, a reaction unthinkable for most of his rule. Workers from a Bucharest power plant started chanting "Ti-mi-șoa-ra! Ti-mi-șoa-ra!", which was soon picked up by others in the crowd. In response, Ceaușescu raised his right hand in hopes of silencing the crowd; his stunned expression remains one of the defining moments of the end of Communism in Eastern Europe. He then tried to placate the crowd by offering to raise workers' salaries by 200 lei per month (about 9 U.S. dollars at the time, yet a 5%–10% raise for a modest salary) and student scholarships from 100 to 110 lei while continuing to praise the achievements of the Socialist Revolution. However, a revolution was brewing right in front of his eyes.
As Ceaușescu was addressing the crowd from the balcony of the Central Committee building, sudden movement came from the outskirts of the massed assembly, as did the sound of (what various sources have reported as) fireworks, bombs or guns, which together caused the assembly to break into chaos. Initially frightened, the crowds tried to disperse. Bullhorns then began to spread the news that the Securitate was firing on the crowd and that a "revolution" was unfolding. This persuaded people in the assembly to join in. The rally turned into a protest demonstration.
The entire speech was being broadcast live nationwide. Censors attempted to cut the live video feed and replace it with Communist propaganda songs and video praising the Ceaușescu regime, but parts of the riots had already been broadcast and most of the Romanian people realised that something unusual was in progress. Ceaușescu and his wife, as well as other officials and CPEx members, panicked; Ceaușescu's bodyguard hustled him back inside the building.
The jeers and whistles soon erupted into a riot; the crowd took to the streets, placing the capital, like Timișoara, in turmoil. Members of the crowd spontaneously began shouting anti-Ceaușescu slogans, which spread and became chants: "Jos dictatorul!" ("Down with the dictator"), "Moarte criminalului!" ("Death to the criminal"), "Noi suntem poporul, jos cu dictatorul!" ("We are the People, down with the dictator"), "Ceaușescu cine ești?/Criminal din Scornicești" ("Ceaușescu, who are you? A criminal from Scornicești").
Protesters eventually flooded the city centre area, from Piața Kogălniceanu to Piața Unirii, Piața Rosetti and Piața Romană. In one notable scene from the event, a young man waved a tricolour with the Communist coat of arms torn out of its centre while perched on the statue of Mihai Viteazul on Boulevard Mihail Cogălniceanu in the University Square. Many others began to emulate the young protester, and the waving and displaying of the Romanian flag with the Communist insignia cut out quickly became widespread.
As the hours passed many more people took to the streets. Later, observers claimed that even at this point, had Ceaușescu been willing to talk, he might have been able to salvage something. Instead, he decided on force. Soon the protesters—unarmed and unorganised—were confronted by soldiers, tanks, APCs, USLA troops (Unitatea Specială pentru Lupta Antiteroristă, anti-terrorist special squads) and armed plainclothes Securitate officers. The crowd was soon being shot at from various buildings, side streets and tanks.
There were many casualties, including deaths, as victims were shot, clubbed to death, stabbed and crushed by armoured vehicles. One APC drove into the crowd around the InterContinental Hotel, crushing people. A French journalist, Jean-Louis Calderon, was killed. A street near University Square was later named after him, as well as a high school in Timișoara. Belgian journalist Danny Huwé was shot and killed on 23 or 24 December 1989.
Firefighters hit the demonstrators with powerful water jets, and the police continued to beat and arrest people. Protesters managed to build a defensible barricade in front of the Dunărea ("Danube") restaurant, which stood until after midnight, but was finally torn apart by government forces. Intense shooting continued until after 03:00, by which time the survivors had fled the streets.
Records of the fighting that day include footage shot from helicopters that were sent to raid the area and record evidence for eventual reprisals, as well as by tourists in the high tower of the centrally located InterContinental Hotel, next to the National Theatre and across the street from the university.
It is likely that in the early hours of 22 December the Ceaușescus made their second mistake. Instead of fleeing the city under cover of night, they decided to wait until morning to leave. Ceaușescu must have thought that his desperate attempts to crush the protests had succeeded, because he apparently called another meeting for the next morning. However, before 07:00, his wife Elena received the news that large columns of workers from many industrial platforms (large communist-era factories or groups of factories concentrated into industrial zones) were heading towards the city centre of Bucharest to join the protests. The police barricades that were meant to block access to Piața Universității (University Square) and Palace Square proved useless. By 09:30 University Square was jammed with protesters. Security forces (army, police and others) re-entered the area, only to join with the protesters.
By 10:00, as the radio broadcast was announcing the introduction of martial law and a ban on groups larger than five persons, hundreds of thousands of people were gathering for the first time, spontaneously, in central Bucharest (the previous day's crowd had come together at Ceaușescu's orders). Ceaușescu attempted to address the crowd from the balcony of the Central Committee of the Communist Party building, but his attempt was met with a wave of disapproval and anger. Helicopters spread manifestos (which did not reach the crowd, due to unfavourable winds) instructing people not to fall victim to the latest "diversion attempts," but to go home instead and enjoy the Christmas feast. This order, which drew unfavourable comparisons to Marie Antoinette's haughty (but apocryphal) "Let them eat cake", further infuriated the people who did read the manifestos; many at that time had trouble procuring such basic foodstuffs as cooking oil.
At approximately 09:30 on the morning of 22 December Vasile Milea, Ceaușescu's minister of defence, died under suspicious circumstances. A communiqué by Ceaușescu stated that Milea had been sacked for treason, and that he had committed suicide after his treason was revealed. The most widespread opinion at the time was that Milea hesitated to follow Ceaușescu's orders to fire on the demonstrators, even though tanks had been dispatched to downtown Bucharest that morning. Milea was already in severe disfavour with Ceaușescu for initially sending soldiers to Timișoara without live ammunition. Rank-and-file soldiers believed that Milea had actually been murdered and went over virtually en masse to the revolution. Senior commanders wrote off Ceaușescu as a lost cause and made no effort to keep their men loyal to the regime. This effectively ended any chance of Ceaușescu staying in power.
Accounts differ about how Milea died. His family and several junior officers believed he had been shot in his own office by the Securitate, while another group of officers believed he had committed suicide. In 2005 an investigation concluded that the minister killed himself by shooting at his heart, but the bullet missed the heart, hit a nearby artery and led to his death shortly afterward.
Upon learning of Milea's death, Ceaușescu appointed Victor Stănculescu minister of defence. He accepted after a brief hesitation. Stănculescu, however, ordered the troops back to their quarters without Ceaușescu's knowledge, and also persuaded Ceaușescu to leave by helicopter, thus making the dictator a fugitive. At that same moment angry protesters began storming the Communist Party headquarters; Stănculescu and the soldiers under his command did not oppose them.
By refusing to carry out Ceaușescu's orders (he was still technically commander-in-chief of the army), Stănculescu played a central role in the overthrow of the dictatorship. "I had the prospect of two execution squads: Ceaușescu's and the revolutionary one!" confessed Stănculescu later. In the afternoon, Stănculescu "chose" Ion Iliescu's political group from among others that were striving for power in the aftermath of the recent events.
Following Ceaușescu's second failed attempt to address the crowd, he and Elena fled into a lift (elevator) headed for the roof. A group of protesters managed to force their way into the building, overpower Ceaușescu's bodyguards and make their way through his office before heading onto the balcony. They didn't know it, but they were only a few metres from Ceaușescu. The lift's electricity failed just before it reached the top floor, and Ceaușescu's bodyguards forced it open and ushered the couple onto the roof.
At 11:20 on 22 December 1989, Ceaușescu's personal pilot, Lt. Col. Vasile Maluțan, received instructions from Lt. Gen. Opruta to proceed to Palace Square to pick up the president. As he flew over Palace Square he saw it was impossible to land there. Maluțan landed his white Dauphin, #203, on the terrace at 11:44. A man brandishing a white net curtain from one of the windows waved him down.
Maluțan said, "Then Stelica, the co-pilot, came to me and said that there were demonstrators coming to the terrace. Then the Ceaușescus came out, both practically carried by their bodyguards . . . They looked as if they were fainting. They were white with terror. Manea Mănescu [one of the vice-presidents] and Emil Bobu were running behind them. Mănescu, Bobu, Neagoe and another Securitate officer scrambled to the four seats in the back . . . As I pulled Ceaușescu in, I saw the demonstrators running across the terrace . . . There wasn't enough space, Elena Ceaușescu and I were squeezed in between the chairs and the door . . . We were only supposed to carry four passengers . . . We had six."
According to Maluțan, it was 12:08 when they left for Snagov. After they arrived there, Ceaușescu took Maluțan into the presidential suite and ordered him to get two helicopters filled with soldiers for an armed guard, and a further Dauphin to come to Snagov. Maluțan's unit commander replied on the phone, "There has been a revolution . . . You are on your own . . . Good luck!". Maluțan then said to Ceaușescu that the second motor was now warmed up and they needed to leave soon but he could only take four people, not six. Mănescu and Bobu stayed behind. Ceaușescu ordered Maluțan to head for Titu. Near Titu, Maluțan says that he made the helicopter dip up and down. He lied to Ceaușescu, saying that this was to avoid anti-aircraft fire, since they would now be in range. Ceaușescu panicked and told him to land.
He did so in a field next to the old road that led to Pitești. Maluțan then told his four passengers that he could do nothing more. The Securitate men ran to the roadside and began to flag down passing cars. Two cars stopped, one of them driven by a forestry official and one a red Dacia driven by a local doctor. However, the doctor was not happy about getting involved and, after a short time driving the Ceaușescus, faked engine trouble. A car of a bicycle repair man was then flagged down and he took them to Târgoviște. The driver of the car, Nicolae Petrișor, convinced them that they could hide successfully in an agricultural technical institute on the edge of town. When they arrived, the director guided the Ceaușescus into a room and then locked them in. They were arrested by local police at about 15:30, then after some wandering around transported to the Târgoviște garrison's military compound and held captive for several days until their trial.
On 24 December Ion Iliescu, head of the newly formed Council of the National Salvation Front, signed a decree establishing the Extraordinary Military Tribunal, a drumhead court-martial to try the Ceaușescus for genocide and other crimes. The trial was held on 25 December, lasted for about two hours and delivered death sentences to the couple. Although nominally the Ceaușescus had a right of appeal, their execution followed immediately, just outside the improvised courtroom, being carried out by three paratroopers with their service rifles.
Footage of the trial and of the executed Ceaușescus was promptly released in Romania and to the rest of the world. The actual moment of execution was not filmed since the cameraman was too slow, and he managed to get into the courtyard just as the shooting ended.
In footage of the trial, Nicolae Ceaușescu is seen answering the ad hoc tribunal judging him and referring to some of its members—among them Army Gen. Victor Atanasie Stănculescu and future Romanian Secret Service head Virgil Măgureanu—as "traitors". In this same video Ceaușescu dismisses the "tribunal" as illegitimate and demands his constitutional rights to answer to charges in front of a legitimate tribunal.
After Ceaușescu left, the crowds in Palace Square entered a celebratory mood, perhaps even more intense than in the other former Eastern Bloc countries because of the recent violence. People cried, shouted and gave each other gifts mainly because it was also close to Christmas Day, which was a long suppressed holiday in Romania. The occupation of the Central Committee building continued.
People threw Ceaușescu's writings, official portraits and propaganda books out the windows, intending to burn them. They also promptly ripped off the giant letters from the roof making up the word "comunist" ("communist") in the slogan: "Trăiască Partidul Comunist Român!" ("Long live the Communist Party of Romania!"). A young woman appeared on the rooftop and waved a flag with the coat of arms torn out.
At that time fierce fights were underway at Bucharest Otopeni International Airport between troops sent against each other under claims that they were going to confront terrorists. Early in the morning troops sent to reinforce the airport were fired upon. These troops were from the UM 0865 Campina military base, and were summoned there by Gen. Ion Rus, the commander of the Romanian Air Force. The confrontation resulted in the deaths of 40 soldiers as well as eight civilians. The military trucks were allowed entrance into the airport's perimeter, passing several checkpoints. However, after passing the last checkpoint, being on their way to the airport, they were fired upon from different directions. A civilian bus was also fired upon during the firefight. After the firefight the surviving soldiers were taken prisoner by the troops guarding the airport, who seemed to think that they were loyal to Ceausescu's regime.
However, the seizure of power by the new political structure National Salvation Front (FSN), which "emanated" from the second tier of the Communist Party leadership with help of the plotting generals, was not yet complete. Forces considered to be loyal to the old regime (spontaneously nicknamed "terrorists") opened fire on the crowd and attacked vital points of socio-political life: the television, radio and telephone buildings, as well as Casa Scânteii (the centre of the nation's print media, which serves a similar role today under the name Casa Presei Libere, "House of the Free Press") and the post office in the district of Drumul Taberei; Palace Square (site of the Central Committee building, but also of the Central University Library, the national art museum in the former Royal Palace, and the Ateneul Român (Romanian Athaeneum), Bucharest's leading concert hall); the university and the adjoining University Square (one of the city's main intersections); Otopeni and Băneasa airports; hospitals and the Ministry of Defence.
During the night of 22–23 December Bucharest residents remained on the streets, especially in the attacked zones, fighting (and ultimately winning, even at the cost of many lives) a battle with an elusive and dangerous enemy. With the military confused by contradictory orders, true battles ensued with many real casualties. At 21:00 on 23 December, tanks and a few paramilitary units arrived to protect the Palace of the Republic. Meanwhile, messages of support were flooding in from all over the world: France (President François Mitterrand) ; the Soviet (President Mikhail Gorbachev); Hungary (the Hungarian Socialist Party); the new East German government (at that time the two German states were not yet formally reunited); Bulgaria (Petar Mladenov, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Bulgaria); Czechoslovakia (Ladislav Adamec, leader of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, and Václav Havel, the dissident writer, revolution leader and future president of the Republic); China (the Minister of Foreign Affairs); the United States (President George H.W. Bush); Canada (Prime Minister Brian Mulroney); West Germany (Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher); NATO (Secretary General Manfred Wörner); the United Kingdom (Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher); Spain; Austria; the Netherlands; Italy; Portugal; Japan (the Japanese Communist Party); SFR Yugoslavia government and Moldavia.
In the following days, moral support was followed by material support. Large quantities of food, medicine, clothing, medical equipment, and other humanitarian aid were sent to Romania. Around the world, the press dedicated entire pages and sometimes even complete issues to the Romanian revolution and its leaders.
On 24 December Bucharest was a city at war. Tanks, APCs and trucks continued to patrol the city and surround trouble spots in order to protect them. At intersections near strategic objectives, roadblocks were built; automatic gunfire continued in and around University Square, the Gara de Nord (the city's main railroad station) and Palace Square. Yet amid the chaos, some people were seen clutching makeshift Christmas trees. "Terrorist activities" continued until 27 December, when they abruptly stopped. Nobody ever found out who conducted them, or who ordered their termination.
The total number of deaths in the Romanian Revolution was 1,104, of which 162 were in the protests that led to the overthrow of Nicolae Ceaușescu (16–22 December 1989) and 942 in the fighting that occurred after the seizure of power by the new political structure National Salvation Front (FSN). The number of wounded was 3,352, of which 1,107 occurred while Ceaușescu was still in power and 2,245 after the FSN took power. Official figures place the death toll of the revolution at 689 people, many of whom were civilians.
The Revolution brought Romania vast attention from the outside world. Initially, much of the world's sympathy went to the National Salvation Front government under Ion Iliescu, a former member of the Communist Party leadership and a Ceaușescu ally prior to falling into the dictator's disfavour in the early 1980s. The National Salvation Front, composed mainly of former members of the second echelon of the Communist Party, immediately assumed control over the state institutions, including the main media outlets such as the national radio and television networks. They used their control of the media in order to launch attacks against their political opponents, newly created political parties that claimed to be successors to those existing before 1948.
Much of that sympathy was squandered during the Mineriad. Massive protests erupted in downtown Bucharest as political rallies organised by the opposition parties during the presidential elections, with a small part of the protesters deciding to stand ground even after Iliescu was re-elected with an overwhelming majority of 85%. Attempts by police to evacuate the remaining protesters resulted in attacks on state institutions, prompting Iliescu to appeal to the country's workers for help. Infiltrated and instigated by former Securitate agents, in the following days a large mass of workers, mainly miners, entered Bucharest and attacked and fought with anti-government protesters and gathered bystanders.
On the eve of the first free post-communist elections day (20 May 1990), Silviu Brucan—who was part of the National Salvation Front (FSN)--argued that the 1989 Revolution was not anti-communist, being only against Ceauşescu. He stated that Ion Iliescu made a "monumental" mistake in "conceding to the crowd" and banning the Romanian Communist Party.
Iliescu remained the central figure in Romanian politics for more than a decade, losing the presidency in 1996 before regaining it in 2000; he retired for good in 2004.
While other former ruling Communist parties in the Soviet bloc reconfigured themselves into social democratic or democratic socialist parties, the PCR melted away in the wake of the revolution. However, a number of former PCR politicians remain prominent on Romania's political scene; until the election of Klaus Iohannis in 2014, every post-1989 president was a former PCR member.
The National Salvation Front chose between the two economic models that political elites claimed were available to post-Communist Eastern European countries: shock therapy or gradual reforms. The NSF chose the latter, slower reforms, because it would have not been possible to convince the people who were already "exhausted" after Ceaușescu's austerity to undergo further sacrifices.
Nevertheless, the neoliberal reforms were implemented, although not all at once: by the end of 1990, the prices were liberalised and a free currency exchange rate, devaluing the leu by 60%. The land of the state-owned collective farms was distributed to private owners and a list of 708 large state-owned enterprises to be privatised was devised.
In 1991 Romania signed an agreement with the IMF and began the privatisation of state-owned enterprises, with the first privatisation law being passed in 1991. In 1992, the Stolojan government began an austerity plan, limiting wages and further liberalising prices. The economic situation deteriorated and inflation as well as unemployment increased substantially. The austerity measures, which by 1995 included a decrease in social spending, led to an increase in poverty.
The neoliberal reforms were accelerated after the Democratic Convention won the 1996 elections, the government using its prerogatives to pass a package of laws, removing subsidies, passing reforms on unemployment benefits and greatly increasing the number of privatised companies.
A constitutional referendum was held in Romania on 8 December 1991. The new constitution was approved by 79.1% of voters.Constantin Dăscălescu
Constantin Dăscălescu ([konstanˈtin dəskəˈlesku]; 2 July 1923 – 15 May 2003) was a Romanian communist politician who served as Prime Minister of Romania (21 May 1982 – 22 December 1989) during the communist rule of Nicolae Ceaușescu until the Romanian Revolution.
In 1991, after the revolution, he was sentenced to life in prison. After five years he was released on medical grounds.Corneliu Mănescu
Corneliu Mănescu (8 February 1916 – 26 June 2000) was a Romanian diplomat born in Ploiești. He served as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania from 1961 to 1972 and as President of the United Nations General Assembly from 19 September 1967 to 23 September 1968.Editura Curtea Veche
Editura Curtea Veche (Curtea Veche Publishing House) is a Romanian publishing house with a tradition in editing works of Romanian literature. After the Romanian Revolution of 1989, Curtea Veche started editing more foreign books, such as BBC reports or The Complete Idiot's Guide to....Elena Ceaușescu
Elena Ceaușescu (Romanian pronunciation: [eˈlena t͡ʃe̯auˈʃesku]; née Lenuța Petrescu; 7 January 1916 – 25 December 1989) was a Romanian communist politician who was the wife of Nicolae Ceaușescu, General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party and leader of the Socialist Republic of Romania. She was also the Deputy Prime Minister of Romania.First Roman cabinet (Romania)
This article describes the cabinet of Romania under the first administration of Prime Minister Petre Roman which was formed 26 December 1989 and dissolved 28 June 1990.Hinduism in Romania
There is relatively little history of active practice of Hinduism in Romania, although many prominent Romanian thinkers have had an interest in Hindu thought, and since the Romanian Revolution of 1989 there have been some converts.Humanitas (publishing house)
Humanitas (Romanian: Editura Humanitas) is an independent Romanian publishing house, founded on February 1, 1990 (after the Romanian Revolution) in Bucharest by the philosopher Gabriel Liiceanu, based on a state-owned publishing house, Editura Politică. Its slogan is Humanitas, bunul gust al libertăţii ("Humanitas, the good taste of freedom").
During its first years, Humanitas mainly published authors from the Romanian diaspora, whose works had been subject to censorship or banning in Communist Romania; they include Emil Cioran, Mircea Eliade, and Eugène Ionesco.
Currently, Humanitas publishes literature, books on philosophy, religion, social and political sciences, history, memoirs, popular science, children's literature, and self-help books.Ion Iliescu
Ion Iliescu (Romanian pronunciation: [iˈon iliˈesku] (listen); born 3 March 1930) is a Romanian politician who served as President of Romania from 1989 until 1996, and from 2000 until 2004. From 1996 to 2000 and from 2004 until his retirement in 2008, Iliescu was a senator for the Social Democratic Party (PSD), of which he was honorary president.
He joined the Communist Party in 1953 and became a member of its Central Committee in 1965. However, beginning with 1971, he was gradually marginalized by Nicolae Ceaușescu. He had a leading role in the Romanian Revolution, becoming the country's president in December 1989. In May 1990, he became Romania's first freely elected head of state. After a new constitution was approved by popular referendum, he served a further two terms as president, from 1992 to 1996, and from 2000 to 2004, separated by the presidency of Emil Constantinescu, who defeated him in 1996.
Iliescu is widely recognized as a predominant figure in the first fifteen years of post-revolution politics. During his presidency, Romania joined NATO. In April 2018, Ion Iliescu was charged in Romania with committing crimes against humanity during the deadly aftermath of the country's 1989 revolution.Libertatea
Libertatea (lit. "The Liberty" or "The Freedom") is a Romanian newspaper published in Bucharest. It was the first newspaper to appear after the Romanian Revolution.List of members of the National Salvation Front Council
This is a List of members of the National Salvation Front Council, the governing organization in Romania after the National Salvation Front seized power during the Romanian Revolution of 1989, on December 22, 1989. The list was broadcast on national television and first published in Monitorul Oficial, no. 1 on the same day.
Captain Emil Dumitrescu
General Ştefan Guşe
Captain Mihail Lupoi
General Victor-Athanasie Stănculescu
Gelu Voican Voiculescu
General Dan Voinea
Constantin DumitrescuManea Mănescu
Manea Mănescu (9 August 1916 – 27 February 2009) was a Romanian communist politician who served as Prime Minister for five years (29 March 1974 – 29 March 1979) during Nicolae Ceaușescu's Communist regime.
Mănescu's father was a Communist Party veteran from Ploiești, who in the early 1920s supported the transformation of the Socialist Party into the Communist Party. In 1944, after the coup d'état, he worked together with Nicolae Ceaușescu, his future brother-in-law, in the Communist Youth Union. In 1951, Mănescu
was appointed as head of the Department of Economics at Bucharest University and Director General of the Central Directorate of Statistics. He served as Finance Minister from 1955 until 1957.
In December 1967, he was appointed Chairman of the Economic Council. He was promoted to full membership of the Executive Committee in December 1968 and, after holding various positions in the party and government, and in March 1973 he became Prime Minister, a position he held until 1979, when he retired, reportedly due to ill health. He died in 2009, aged 92.Mihai Chițac
Mihai Chiţac (November 4, 1928 – November 1, 2010) was a Romanian general and Interior Minister from 1989 to 1990 during the waning days of the Communist era. In 2008, Chiţac and another general, Victor Stănculescu, were convicted of aggravated manslaughter by the Supreme Court for the shooting deaths of pro-democracy protesters during the Romanian Revolution of 1989.
Communist Romanian security forces fired live ammunition at protesters and civilians between December 17 and 20, 1989, killing 72 civilians and injuring 253 others. Generals Chiţac and Stănculescu were originally convicted and sentenced for multiple aggravated murder charges during a 1999 trial. The trial had found both guilty of ordering troops and security forces to shoot pro-democracy and anti-communist protesters in Timişoara. Chiţac's prison terms were discontinued on six different occasions due to deteriorating health.
The Romanian Supreme Court further sentenced Chiţac and Stănculescu to fifteen years in prison for aggravated manslaughter on October 16, 2008.
Chiţac was admitted to Bucharest Military Hospital on September 19, 2010, for cardiac problems and tumors discovered that same month. He died at his home in Bucharest at 10 a.m. on November 1, 2010, 3 days before his 82nd birthday.National Salvation Front (Romania)
The National Salvation Front (Romanian: Frontul Salvării Naționale, FSN) is the name of a political organization that was the governing body of Romania in the first weeks after the Romanian Revolution in 1989. It subsequently became a political party, and won the 1990 election under the leadership of then-President Ion Iliescu.
In 1992, some members of the Front, including President Iliescu, broke away from it, forming the Democratic National Salvation Front. In 1993 the remaining FSN was renamed as the Democratic Party.
The National Salvation Front is the common ancestor of two of the largest active political parties in Romania today: the Social Democratic Party and the National Liberal Party (after the merger of the Democratic Liberal Party with the National Liberal Party).Revista 22
Revista 22 (22 Magazine) is a Romanian weekly magazine, issued by the Group for Social Dialogue and focused mainly on politics and culture.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.Stadionul Cotroceni
Cotroceni Stadium is a football stadium in Bucharest, Romania. This stadium holds 14,542 people.
At this stadium performed Kylie Minogue, Enrique Iglesias, RBD, Deep Purple, Metallica.
The stadium was built in 1995, being the first stadium built, after the Romanian Revolution of 1989. It was the home ground of Progresul Bucureşti. It was the host for the Romanian Cup Final in 2004 and 2005.
An International rugby union match between France and Romania was played in June, 17 2006 during the 2006 France rugby union tour.The Paper Will Be Blue
The Paper Will Be Blue (Romanian: Hârtia va fi albastră) is a 2006 Romanian film written and directed by Radu Muntean. The story is set on the night between 22 and 23 December 1989, the time of the Romanian Revolution. It follows a Militia unit which one man abandons to take part in the revolution, and the other members have to search for him. The film uses subtle humour and was shot in a cinéma vérité style with handheld camera.
The film premiered in competition at the 2006 Locarno International Film Festival. It received two Gopo Awards and was nominated for nine more.Victor Stănculescu
Victor Atanasie Stănculescu (10 May 1928 – 19 June 2016) was a Romanian general during the Communist era. He played a central role in the overthrow of the dictatorship by refusing to carry out the orders of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu during the Romanian Revolution of 1989. His inaction allowed the citizens demonstrating in Bucharest against the government to seize control. In addition, as a defense minister on 25 December 1989, Stanculescu organized the trial and execution of Nicolae Ceauşescu and Elena Ceauşescu.In 2008, Stănculescu and another general, former Interior Minister Mihai Chițac, were convicted of aggravated manslaughter by the Supreme Court for the shooting deaths of pro-democracy protesters in Timişoara, during the Romanian Revolution of 1989. Sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment, he was freed in 2014.He died in 2016 at age 88.
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