And none of it had been good whatever lies he had spun. Kemenici is convinced that the reason the chief judge killed himself a decade later is because he felt guilty. And in Romania, unlike elsewhere, the last days of communism would prove violent. In an effort to pay off the large foreign debt that his government had accumulated through its mismanaged industrial ventures in the 1970s, Ceauescu in 1982 ordered the export of much of the countrys agricultural and industrial production. Those debts were largely the result of Nicolae Ceausescu's overreaching industrial and infrastructure projects. The police thought they had put the lid back on the simmering dissent in Timisoara but the following day protests resumed. 2022 BBC. Fixated on paying off foreign debts in the 1980s, Ceausescu set about a series of austerity measures that plunged the country and its people into economic hardship. To this day, some Romanians still think the entire revolution was a planned coup d'etat, especially since many members of the communist regime became part of the new government. After the Communists full accession to power in Romania in 1947, he first headed the ministry of agriculture (194850), and from 1950 to 1954 he served as deputy minister of the armed forces with the rank of major general. "Fear of talking was there since the early '80s," the former student remembers. Hoping to boost Romanias population, in 1966 Ceauescu issued Decree 770, a measure that effectively outlawed contraception and abortion. And we needed to air our grievances. Their fate was sealed. "From then on, Ceausescu called me Comrade Colonel.". Nicolae Ceausescu shouted: "I have the right to do what I want! It was crude. The charges included genocide by starvation and subversion of state power. We could never come to terms with the collective guilt. "The only thing on the table were the glasses of the chief judge," he says. But still Ceausescu refused to compromise and again sent in the military. It has been said that Elena called the firing squad sons of bitches but elsewhere she can be heard begging them: Why, why? This meant food, clothing and fuel were rationed. It was on Christmas Day 30 years ago that Romania's tyrannical communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was executed by firing squad after a summary trial. "I was no longer his slave," Kemenici says. A member of the Romanian Communist youth movement during the early 1930s, Ceauescu was imprisoned in 1936 and again in 1940 for his Communist Party activities. Read about our approach to external linking. hide caption. Why more than 25 countries are moving to let travelling workers put down roots, How genius TV drama Better Call Saul improved on its forebear Breaking Bad, Half of over-30s have an oral disease that can go undiagnosed for decades. "The Christmas tree which my father bought for our family ended up in his coffin like flowers. It had the opposite effect. It is likely apocryphal, but the story goes that all 80 guards present fired and that more than 120 bullets struck their targets. Christianity owed him nothing, says churchgoer Elena Teodoroiu, 68. Romanians burn a portrait of Nicolae Ceausescu in Denta on Dec. 22, 1989, as residents take to the streets to celebrate the downfall of the dictator. Their son Nicu is also buried alongside. Formerly faithful supporters were invited, and others it has been reported under threat of losing their jobs if they did not give outward shows of support when he spoke. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. On 25 December an extraordinary military tribunal under 10 military judges was convened at Targoviste. The first protests on 16 December in the western city of Timisoara were by members of Romanias Hungarian minority, demonstrating against the removal of a Hungarian clergyman Laszlo Tokes who had spoken out against the Romanian government. The speech was being broadcast nationwide in an attempt to show that Ceausescu retained control. They hastily arranged a military trial at the base that was video-recorded. It was not just, but it was necessary. As many as four million people have left Romania in search of better lives and higher wages since it joined the EU. In addition to violent political oppression, Romanians suffered repeated food shortages under Ceausescu's rule because he exported most of Romania's harvest and took drastic steps to curb the country's heavy debts. In Romania it wasnt just the ideology, which can to a certain extent be defended in the abstract, it was more what Ceausescu deliberately chose to inflict on his people, while giving no impression of sharing the nations ordeal. His rule was essentially a cult of personality. And those who carried it out were never brought to justice so we sit and fester.. Did the manner of his downfall, and concurrent violence the only communist nation in 1989 to experience a murderous overthrow of its regime create a legacy that differed from its erstwhile socialist allies? The resulting extreme shortages of food, fuel, energy, medicines, and other basic necessities drastically lowered living standards and intensified unrest. When columns of workers were seen heading for the city on the night of 21 December the Ceausescus had no option but to flee. As an emblematic image from that momentous year, it is the equal of the man atop the Berlin Wall with a pickaxe or Lech Walesa surrounded by Solidarnosc supporters in the shipyards of Gdansk. The trial was illegitimate, the immediate executions shocking. I was there when the people turned. The victims of their regime would disagree vehemently and with justification. My parents were poor before and poor after the revolution, says Maria Fieraru, an office worker aged 42 who now lives in London. Joel Robine/AFP/Getty Images Want to bookmark your favourite articles and stories to read or reference later? In fact there were more Romanians than Hungarians, says Toth. Resentful anger, not surprisingly, was rife. Updates? Standing outside Bucharest's Supreme Court building on a blustery late November day, 46-year-old Alexandru Catalin Giurcanu, whose father was brutally killed during the revolution, is here to seek justice. hide caption, The retired general recalls telling Popa afterward: "You didn't see what you did. Soldiers and armed civilians occupy the office of ousted Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu in the capital Bucharest on Dec. 26, 1989, the day after he was executed. Hours later, they were arrested in Targoviste. There he locked them in a room and called the police who took them to the military base at Targoviste. A visibly shocked Ceausescu attempted to appease demonstrators with promises of higher wages but dissent only grew. One by one Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and East Germany, as evinced by the symbolic dismantling of the Berlin Wall in November, displaced their communist rulers, in the main by peaceful means. While the once solid allies of the USSR declared democratic independence, Ceausescu ignored the pleas of his people and perhaps more significantly the leaders of his former fellow communist nations who urged him to reform. He is retired Gen. Andrei Kemenici, and he lives with his wife in a small apartment a short drive away. It is clear on reading the transcript or watching the video that Elena becomes aware of their fate before her husband. hide caption. Is China really open to making up with Australia? He was a young boy during the revolution. It happened so rapidly that the person delegated to film the execution only saw the last moments and then videoed the doctor showing the faces of the dead couple as proof of their demise. On Christmas Day 1989, after a tumultuous year,Romanianleader NicolaeCeausescuand his wifewere executed by firing squad against a toiletblock. Nicolae Ceauescu, (born January 26, 1918, Scorniceti, Romaniadied December 25, 1989, near Bucharest), Communist official who was leader of Romania from 1965 until he was overthrown and killed in a revolution in 1989. On Christmas Day 1989, after what can best be described as an egregiously conducted summary trial, at worst a kangaroo court, the Ceausescus were dragged into a small square in a military base near Targoviste, lined up against a toilet block and shot. "I think it haunts everybody in my family," she says. Mercy was clearly in short supply. Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies. He adds that Ceausescu didn't believe he was getting due process either, calling it a conspiracy by Kemenici's superiors and other opponents. They were both fortunate to work in industries that expanded after communism ended and can live off their state pensions now. The outcome was already predetermined. Timisoara!". The 78-year-old jokes with a visitor about how he and other retired public servants would have fared better if Romania had remained communist. He says he promised the leader each day that he and his wife would be moved to Bucharest for a proper trial. They were dragged out, begging for mercy, and shot in the freezing courtyard. The situation worsened after he appointed his wife first deputy prime minister. I was there when the people turned.. ceausescu nicolae worth death 1918 born jan nndb "There was blood all over the sidewalk there," Mr Rabagia, told the BBC, standing outside the InterContinental Hotel in central Bucharest. Three decades have passed since the fall of communism and Romania is now a functioning, democratic EU country with a growing economy. But for some, like Mr Giurcanu who lost his father during the revolution, Christmas merely opens up old, unhealed wounds. Kemenici says Ceausescu's attitude softened somewhat the day before his trial, as if the dictator finally realized he'd lost control of Romania. We were glad to see them go, but shooting them on Christmas Day could have made martyrs of them. Other Christians point to the fact that atheist Ceausescu demolished churches during his reign. executed 1989 ceaucescu romanian president As little as two minutes into his speech there were boos, jeers and cries of Timisoara. "He told me that the Americans and Russians got together to do this.". Around 70% of Romania's rural population are living below the poverty line, according to World Bank statistics. Ovidiu Carstina, who is the director of a museum that opened in September 2013 on the base, has similar stories of the detained tyrant's pompous attitude. The hastily appointed defence lawyer Nicu Teodorescu insisted the Ceausescus plead insanity as the only way of avoiding the death penalty. There was more too, much of it linked to a mixture of paranoia and intransigence. "We are here today to start the legal process of a case that has been open since the '90s," he says. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). A visibly emotional Mr Giurcanu, who was just 16 when he took to the streets during the 1989 revolution, recalls his heartbreaking personal story from the night of 23 December 1989. Ceausescus next move cemented his downfall. More than 1,100 people were killed during Romania's 1989 revolution. I raised you like a mother. They both wept as Nicolae sang the Internationale attempting to maintain his socialist credentials until the end. The white lines, added in 2013, show where they fell. It was not just, but it was necessary, he told the BBC before his death in 2016. In a rambling military and civilian cemetery in Bucharests Sector 6 you can find the graves of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu. But, crucially, they delayed. Because of the manner of their deaths, the Ceaucescus will remain martyrs to some. Patrick Hertzog/AFP/Getty Images But the crowd would not play along. Workers bussed in to replace the striking dissidents instead joined them. Blighted by a lack of basics, such as food, heating, and lighting, dissent was building up in the isolationist state as Ceausescu and Elena lived in luxurious, palatial homes. "It was terrible, it changed our lives altogether and we never found out who shot my father after 30 years," he adds. "After 30 years our justice system is struggling to find out who killed all the people during the revolution, who the criminals are," he told the BBC. The costs sank the Romanian standard of living to nearly the bottom of the former Soviet bloc. Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism, By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists, {{#verifyErrors}} {{message}} {{/verifyErrors}} {{^verifyErrors}} {{message}} {{/verifyErrors}}. Whatever ones politics or whatever one thinks of the Ceausescu regime, or the death penalty in general, to see a woman pleading first for her life, and then to be allowed to die beside her husband can never be dressed up as edifying. The trial lasted two hours. When you kill two unarmed people, its a big deal. The military began to switch sides amid confusion in the Defence Ministry. "I felt relief. The museum director says the day before, a Romanian official came from Bucharest and told his colleagues: "We'll do them here." "It was better [during communism] because work was stable.". But he went far beyond bad political judgement it was his stance outside the confines of simple ideology that created such bitterness and seriously impinged on the populations wellbeing. Prosecutors hold Ion Iliescu, now 89 and in poor health, and two of his former peers, responsible for "contributing to the institution of a generalised psychosis" during the 1989 revolution, and for the deaths of 862 people. His wife, Elena, sits next to him (left). Shameful. There has also been re-evaluation of the revolution and its prologue in the intervening 30 years, maybe even anger at how the Ceausescus trial was conducted. One exception, however, was the chief judge Popa who stayed in Kemenici's office and rummaged through a desk. "I was shot from three metres away, from a car," he says, pulling up his right sleeve to reveal a bullet wound on his forearm. With the death of Gheorghiu-Dej in March 1965, Ceauescu succeeded to the leadership of Romanias Communist Party as first secretary (general secretary from July 1965); and with his assumption of the presidency of the State Council (December 1967), he became head of state as well. Youll find the odd tourist in Ghencea trying to find the old dictators graves, but mainly it will be older people, still of the opinion that life was better before 1989, hence the ubiquitous flowers and photographs that wreathe the gravestones. Nicolae refused to accept the legitimacy of the court, and with good reason. Please refer to the appropriate style manual or other sources if you have any questions. One is the commander of the military base in Targoviste, some 50 miles northwest of the capital Bucharest, where the couple spent their final four days. "For everybody else Christmas is Christmas, but for us it's just remembering how our fathers, our sons, our mothers, ended up in coffins," he says. Sitting in their small kitchen in the remote Transylvanian village of Cris, smallholder farmers Marcel and Niculina Taropa, both in their 40s, reflect on 30 years since the fall of communism. It was a machine gun," he says. How had it come to this? I know what happened, even though I was only six at the time, says Maria Radu an English translator. The argument he uses is that the Ceausescus needed to be removed so that nobody would be in a position to fight for them. Romania's economy has grown impressively, but even today it is one of Europe's poorest countries. If we had left it to the people of Bucharest there would have been lynchings. However, his testimony is clouded by the six years he served in jail for ordering his troops to fire on the protestors of Timisoara (before he switched sides), charges he always denied. Gabriel Amza for NPR There was international condemnation of the trial but, on the other hand, little sympathy from foreign governments and democratic nations the world over. A crowd of Romanians gather in front of the Central Committee headquarters in Bucharest on Dec. 26, 1989, demanding a new government after the execution of former leader Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena. Bullet marks from that day are still visible on the wall, which is now part of the museum. 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The revolt against Ceausescu's regime began in mid-December in the western city of Timisoara but was violently quashed on Ceausescu's orders. Ceaucescu and his wife Elena were found guilty by a military tribunal and executed by firing squad, Many in the armed forces turned on Ceausescu and joined the protesters, Traian Rabagia (top, centre) aged 19 with his military service colleagues in Bucharest days after Ceausescu fled, Mr Rabagia said central Bucharest in 1989 was a war zone, The opulence of the Ceausescus - seen here in their dining room at the Spring Palace in Bucharest - was widely resented by Romanians, The flamboyant indoor swimming pool at the Ceausescus' Spring Palace, Alexander Giurcanu (L) and Aurel Dumitrascu (R) commemorate the 1989 uprising at the Supreme Court, Vasile Giurcanu was 50 when he was killed during Romania's 1989 revolution, Niculina and Marcel Taropa say the better times they had hoped for have yet to arrive, Protesters wave Romanian flags at an anti-communist demonstration in Republic Square, Bucharest, 21 December 1989, Why Romanians have not put past behind them, Why prosperity has left some Romanians behind, Somalia drought: I remember at least five children died Video, Somalia drought: I remember at least five children died, Killed for blasphemy: 'Like a spear pierced my heart' Video, Killed for blasphemy: 'Like a spear pierced my heart', the Ceausescus were executed by firing squad, Chappelle show cancelled over joke controversy, New telescope catches dead suns smashing together, Taliban detained and abused me - female journalist, Three dead in 24 hours after Spanish bull runs, Eurozone raises rates for first time in 11 years, Mexican woman dies after being set on fire in park.