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
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, from 1974 concurrently as President of the Republic, until
his overthrow in the
Romanian Revolution in 1989.
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
Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia
Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in his speech on 21 August
1968, which resulted in a surge in popularity. The resulting period of
stability was very brief, however; his government very soon became
severely authoritarian, and was considered one of the most repressive
in Eastern Europe. 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 upheaval of a communist
government in the turn of the Revolutions of 1989. Ceaușescu and
his wife, Elena, fled the capital in a helicopter, but were captured
by the armed forces after the armed forces changed sides. On 25
December, after being tried and convicted of economic sabotage and
genocide, they were immediately executed by firing squad, and
Ceaușescu was succeeded as President by Ion Iliescu, who had played a
major part in the revolution.
Capital punishment was abolished shortly
1 Early life and career
2 Leadership of Romania
2.1 The 1966 decree
2.2 Speech of 21 August 1968
2.3 July Theses
2.4 President of the Socialist Republic of Romania
2.5 Oil embargo, strike and foreign relations
2.6 Pacepa defection
2.7 Foreign debt
2.8 1984 failed coup d'état attempt
3 Revolution and death
3.2.1 Speech on 21 December
3.2.2 Flight on 22 December
3.3.1 Exhumation and reburial
4 "Ceaușism": Ceaușescu's policies
4.1 Non-aligned policy feats
4.2 Personality cult and authoritarianism
6 Cultural depictions
7 Honours and awards
8 Selected published works
10 See also
13 External links
Early life and career
Arrested in 1936 when he was 18 years old, Ceaușescu was imprisoned
for two years at
Doftana Prison for Communist activities.
Ceaușescu was born in the small village of Scornicești, Olt County,
on 26 January 1918, being one of the nine children of a poor peasant
family (see Ceaușescu family). His father, Andruță, owned 3
hectares (7.4 acres) of agricultural land and a few sheep, and he
supplemented his large family's income through tailoring. Nicolae
studied at the village school until at the age of 11, when he ran away
from his extremely religious, abusive and strict father to Bucharest.
He initially lived with his sister, Niculina Rusescu, and then became
an apprentice shoemaker.
He worked in the workshop of Alexandru Săndulescu, a shoemaker who
was an active member in the then-illegal Communist Party.
Ceaușescu was soon involved in the Communist Party activities
(becoming a member in early 1932), but as a teenager, he was given
only small tasks. He was first arrested in 1933, at the age of 15,
for street fighting during a strike and again, in 1934, first for
collecting signatures on a petition protesting the trial of railway
workers and twice more for other similar activities. By the
mid-1930s, he had been in missions in Bucharest, Craiova, Câmpulung,
and Râmnicu Vâlcea, being arrested several times.
The profile file from the secret police, Siguranța Statului, named
him "a dangerous Communist agitator" and "distributor of Communist and
antifascist propaganda materials". For these charges, he was
convicted on 6 June 1936 by the Brașov Tribunal to 2 years in prison,
an additional 6 months for contempt of court, and one year of forced
residence in Scornicești. He spent most of his sentence in
Doftana Prison. While out of jail in 1939, he met Elena Petrescu,
whom he married in 1947 and who would play an increasing role in his
political life over the years.
Ceaușescu and other Communists at a public meeting in Colentina,
Red Army as it entered
Bucharest on 30 August 1944
Soon after being freed, he was arrested again and sentenced for
"conspiracy against social order", spending the time during the war in
prisons and internment camps: Jilava (1940), Caransebeș (1942),
Văcărești (1943), and
Târgu Jiu (1943). In 1943, he was
Târgu Jiu internment camp, where he shared a cell with
Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, becoming his protégé. Enticed with
substantial bribes, the camp authorities gave the Communist prisoners
much freedom in running their cell block, provided they did not
attempt to break out of prison. At Târgu Jiu, Gheorghiu-Dej ran
"self-criticism sessions" where various Party members had to confess
before the other Party members to misunderstanding the dogma of
Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin as interpreted by Gheorghiu-Dej; journalist
Edward Behr claimed that Ceaușescu's role in these "self-criticism
sessions" was that of the enforcer, the young man allegedly beating
those Party members who refused to go with or were insufficiently
enthusiastic about the "self-criticism" sessions. These
"self-criticism sessions" not only helped to cement Gheorghiu-Dej's
control over the Party, but also endeared his protégé Ceaușescu to
him. It was Ceaușescu's time at
Târgu Jiu that marked the
beginning of his rise to power. After World War II, when
beginning to fall under Soviet influence, Ceaușescu served as
secretary of the
Union of Communist Youth
Union of Communist Youth (1944–1945).
After the Communists seized power in
Romania in 1947, he headed the
ministry of agriculture, then served as deputy minister of the armed
forces under Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, becoming a major-general. In
1952, Gheorghiu-Dej brought him onto the
Central Committee months
after the party's "Muscovite faction" led by
Ana Pauker had been
purged. In the late 1940s-early 1950s, the Party had been divided into
the "home communists" headed by Gheorghiu-Dej who remained inside
Romania prior to 1944 and the "Muscovites" who had gone into exile in
the Soviet Union. With the partial exception of Poland, where the
Polish October crisis of 1956 brought to power the previously
imprisoned "home communist" Władysław Gomułka,
Romania was the only
Eastern European nation where the "home communists" triumphed over the
"Muscovites". In the rest of the Soviet bloc, there were a series of
purges in this period that led to the "home communists" being executed
or imprisoned. That Stalin decided in favor of the "home communists"
Romania stemmed largely out of anti-Semitism as Pauker, the leader
of the "Muscovites" was Jewish, and thus unacceptable to an
increasingly anti-Semitic Stalin. Like his patron
Gheorghiu-Dej, Ceaușescu was a "home communist" who benefited from
the fall of the "Muscovites" in 1952. In 1954, Ceaușescu became a
full member of the Politburo and eventually rose to occupy the
second-highest position in the party hierarchy.
Leadership of Romania
When Gheorghiu-Dej died on 19 March 1965, Ceaușescu was not the
obvious successor despite his closeness to the longtime leader.
However, widespread infighting by older and more connected officials
made the Politburo turn to Ceaușescu, as a compromise candidate.
He was elected general secretary on 22 March 1965, three days after
One of his first acts was to change the name of the party from the
Romanian Workers' Party back to the Communist Party of
Romania and to
declare the country a socialist republic, rather than a people's
republic. In 1967, he consolidated his power by becoming president of
the State Council, making him de jure head of state. His political
apparatus sent many thousands of political opponents to prison or
Initially, Ceaușescu became a popular figure, both in
Romania and in
the West, because of his independent foreign policy, which challenged
the authority of the Soviet Union. In the 1960s, he eased press
censorship and ended Romania's active participation in the Warsaw
Romania formally remained a member. He refused to take part
in the 1968 invasion of
Warsaw Pact forces and even
actively and openly condemned that action in his 21 August 1968
speech. He travelled to
Prague a week before the invasion to offer
moral support to his Czechoslovak counterpart, Alexander Dubček.
Soviet Union largely tolerated Ceaușescu's
recalcitrance, his seeming independence from
maverick status within the Eastern Bloc.
Ceaușescu's main aim as leader was to make
Romania a world power, and
all of his economic, foreign and demographic policies were meant to
achieve Ceaușescu's ultimate goal: turning
Romania into one of the
world's great powers. For the
Conducător (the "Leader"), as
Ceaușescu liked to call himself, "demography was destiny" and
countries with rising populations were rising powers. In October
1966, Ceaușescu banned abortion and brought in one of the world's
harshest anti-abortion laws.
Ceaușescu spending time with French prime minister
Jacques Chirac at
the Romanian seaside in Neptun (1975)
During the following years Ceaușescu pursued an open policy towards
the United States and Western Europe.
Romania was the first Warsaw
Pact country to recognize West Germany, the first to join the
International Monetary Fund, and the first to receive a US President,
Richard Nixon. In 1971,
Romania became a member of the General
Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
Yugoslavia were also the
only Eastern European countries that entered into trade agreements
European Economic Community
European Economic Community before the fall of the Eastern
The presidential couple is received by Queen
Elizabeth II at
Buckingham Palace in June 1978
A series of official visits to Western countries (including the US,
France, the United Kingdom, and Spain) helped Ceaușescu to present
himself as a reforming Communist, pursuing an independent foreign
policy within the Soviet Bloc. He also became eager to be seen as an
enlightened international statesman, able to mediate in international
conflicts, and to gain international respect for Romania.
Ceaușescu negotiated in international affairs, such as the opening of
US relations with
China in 1969 and the visit of Egyptian president
Anwar Sadat to
Israel in 1977. Also
Romania was the only country in
the world to maintain normal diplomatic relations with both
the PLO. In 1980,
Romania participated in the
1980 Summer Olympics
1980 Summer Olympics in
Moscow with its other Soviet bloc allies, but in 1984 was one of the
few Communist countries to participate in the
1984 Summer Olympics
1984 Summer Olympics in
Los Angeles when most of the Eastern Bloc's nations boycotted this
The 1966 decree
In 1966, Ceaușescu, in an attempt to boost the country's population,
made abortion illegal and introduced
Decree 770 to reverse the low
birth rate and fertility rate. Mothers of at least five children would
be entitled to significant benefits, while mothers of at least ten
children were declared "heroine mothers" by the Romanian state. Few
women ever sought this status. Instead, the average Romanian family
during the time had two to three children (see Demographics of
The government targeted rising divorce rates, and made divorce more
difficult—it was decreed that a marriage could be dissolved only in
exceptional cases. By the late 1960s, the population began to swell.
In turn, a new problem was created by child abandonment, which swelled
the orphanage population (see Cighid). Transfusions of untested blood
Romania accounting for many of Europe's pediatric HIV/AIDS
cases at the turn of the 21st century despite having a population that
only comprises 3% of Europe's population.
Speech of 21 August 1968
Main article: Ceaușescu's speech of 21 August 1968
Ceaușescu's speech of 21 August 1968
Ceaușescu's speech of 21 August 1968 represented the apogee of
Ceaușescu's rule. It marked the highest point in Ceaușescu's
popularity, when he openly condemned the
Warsaw Pact invasion of
Main article: July Theses
Ceaușescu meeting with North Korea's "Great Leader"
Kim Il-sung in
Ceaușescu visited China, North Korea, the Mongolian People's Republic
North Vietnam in 1971. He took great interest in the idea of total
national transformation as embodied in the programs of North Korea's
Juche and China's Cultural Revolution. He was also inspired by the
personality cults of North Korea's
Kim Il-sung and China's Mao Zedong.
Journalist Edward Behr claimed that Ceaușescu admired both Mao and
Kim as leaders who not only totally dominated their nations, but had
also used totalitarian methods coupled with generous shots of
ultra-nationalism mixed in with communism in order to transform both
North Korea into major world powers. Furthermore, that
Kim and even more so Mao had broken free of Soviet control were
additional sources of admiration for Ceaușescu. According to Behr,
Elena Ceaușescu allegedly bonded with Mao's wife, Jiang Qing. The
British journalist wrote that the possibility that what Ceaușescu had
seen in both
North Korea were "vast Potemkin villages for
the hoodwinking of gullible foreign guests" was something that never
seemed to have crossed his mind. Shortly after returning home, he
began to emulate North Korea's system. North Korean books on Juche
were translated into Romanian and widely distributed inside the
On 6 July 1971, he delivered a speech before the Executive Committee
of the PCR. This quasi-Maoist speech, which came to be known as the
July Theses, contained seventeen proposals. Among these were:
continuous growth in the "leading role" of the Party; improvement of
Party education and of mass political action; youth participation on
large construction projects as part of their "patriotic work"; an
intensification of political-ideological education in schools and
universities, as well as in children's, youth and student
organizations; and an expansion of political propaganda, orienting
radio and television shows to this end, as well as publishing houses,
theatres and cinemas, opera, ballet, artists' unions, promoting a
"militant, revolutionary" character in artistic productions. The
liberalisation of 1965 was condemned and an index of banned books and
authors was re-established.
The Theses heralded the beginning of a "mini cultural revolution" in
Romania, launching a Neo-Stalinist offensive against cultural
autonomy, reaffirming an ideological basis for literature that, in
theory, the Party had hardly abandoned. Although presented in terms of
"Socialist Humanism", the Theses in fact marked a return to the strict
guidelines of Socialist Realism, and attacks on non-compliant
intellectuals. Strict ideological conformity in the humanities and
social sciences was demanded. Competence and aesthetics were to be
replaced by ideology; professionals were to be replaced by agitators;
and culture was once again to become an instrument for
political-ideological propaganda and hardline measures. In a 1972
speech, Ceaușescu stated he wanted " a certain blending of party and
state activities...in the long run we shall witness an ever closer
blending of the activities of the party, state and other social
bodies." In practice, a number of joint party-state organizations
were founded such as the Council for Socialist Education and Culture,
which had no precise counterpart in any of the other communist states
of Eastern Europe, and the
Romanian Communist Party
Romanian Communist Party was embedded into
the daily life of the nation in a way that it never had been
before. In 1974, the party programme of the Romanian Communist
Party announced that structural changes in society were insufficient
to create a full socialist consciousness in the people, and that a
full socialist consciousness could only come about if the entire
population was made aware of socialist values that guided society.
The Communist Party was to be the agency that would so "enlighten" the
population and in the words of the British historian Richard Crampton
"...the party would merge state and society, the individual and the
collective, and would promote 'the ever more organic participation of
party members in the entire social life'".
President of the Socialist Republic of Romania
Standard as President of Romania
In 1974, Ceaușescu converted his post of president of the State
Council to a full-fledged executive presidency. He was first elected
to this post in 1974, and would be reelected every five years until
Although Ceaușescu had been nominal head of state since 1967, he had
merely been first among equals on the State Council, deriving his real
power coming from his status as party leader. The new post, however,
made him the nation's top decision-maker both in name and in fact. He
was empowered to carry out those functions of the State Council that
did not require plenums. He also appointed and dismissed the president
of the Supreme Court and the prosecutor general whenever the
legislature was not in session. In practice, from 1974 onward
Ceaușescu frequently ruled by decree. For all intents and
purposes, Ceaușescu now held all governing power in the nation;
virtually all party and state institutions were subordinated to his
Oil embargo, strike and foreign relations
Starting with the 1973–74 Arab oil embargo against the West, a
period of prolonged high oil prices set in that characterised the rest
of the 1970s.
Romania as a major oil producer greatly benefited from
the high oil prices of the 1970s, which led Ceaușescu to embark on an
ambitious plan to invest heavily in oil-refining plants.
Ceaușescu's plan was to make
Romania into Europe's number one oil
refiner not only of its oil, but also of oil from Middle Eastern
states like Iraq and Iran, and then to sell all of the refined oil at
a profit on the Rotterdam spot market. As
Romania lacked the money
to build the necessary oil refining plants and Ceaușescu chose to
spend the windfall from the high oil prices on aid to the Third World
in an attempt to buy
Romania international influence, Ceaușescu
borrowed heavily from Western banks on the assumption that when the
loans came due, the profits from the sales of the refined oil would be
more than enough to pay off the loans. A major problem with
Ceaușescu's oil-refining plan which led to
Romania taking enormous
loans was the low productivity of Romanian workers, which meant that
the oil-refining plants were finished years behind schedule. The
1977 earthquake which destroyed much of
Bucharest also led to delays
in the oil plan. By the time the oil refining plants were finished
in the early 1980s, a slump in oil prices had set in, leading to major
financial problems for Romania.
In August 1977 over 30,000 miners went on strike in the Jiu river
valley complaining of low pay and poor working conditions. The Jiu
valley miners' strike was the most significant expression of
opposition to Ceaușescu's rule prior to the late 1980s. The striking
miners were inspired by similar strikes along Poland's Baltic coast in
December 1970, and just as in Poland in 1970, the striking Romanian
miners demanded face-to-face negotiations with their nation's
leader. When Ceaușescu appeared before the miners on the third
day of the strike, he was greeted in the words of the British
historian Richard Crampton "... once again á la polonaise, with cries
of 'Down with the Red Bourgeoisie!'". Hearing reports that his
soldiers were reluctant to fire on fellow
Romanians led Ceaușescu to
negotiate a compromise solution to the strike. In the years after
the strike, the majority of its leaders died of cancer. After 1989, it
was revealed that the
Securitate had doctors give the strike leaders
5-minute chest X-rays to ensure the development of cancer.
He continued to follow an independent policy in foreign
relations—for example, in 1984,
Romania was one of few communist
states (notably including the People's Republic of China, and
Yugoslavia) to take part in the American-organized 1984 Summer
Olympics in Los Angeles.
Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife with Emperor
Hirohito during a visit
in Tokyo in 1975
Socialist Republic of Romania
Socialist Republic of Romania was the first of the Eastern
bloc nations to have official relations with the
Western bloc and the
European Community: an agreement including
Romania in the Community's
Generalised System of Preferences was signed in 1974 and an Agreement
on Industrial Products was signed in 1980. On 4 April 1975, Ceaușescu
visited Japan and met with Emperor Hirohito.
In June 1978, Ceaușescu made a state visit to the UK where a £200m
licensing agreement was signed between the Romanian government and
British Aerospace for the production of more than eighty BAC
One-Eleven aircraft. The deal was said at the time to be the biggest
between two countries involving a civil aircraft.
In 1978, Ion Mihai Pacepa, a senior member of the Romanian political
police (Securitate, State Security), defected to the United States. A
three-star general, he was the highest ranking defector from the
Eastern Bloc during the Cold War. His defection was a powerful blow
against the administration, forcing Ceaușescu to overhaul the
architecture of the Security. Pacepa's 1986 book, Red Horizons:
Chronicles of a Communist Spy Chief (ISBN 0-89526-570-2), claims
to expose details of Ceaușescu's government activities, such as
massive spying on American industry and elaborate efforts to rally
Western political support.
Main article: 1980s austerity policy in Romania
By the 1980s, a personality cult had developed around the Ceaușescus
Ceaușescu's political independence from the
Soviet Union and his
protest against the invasion of
Czechoslovakia in 1968 drew the
interest of Western powers, whose governments briefly believed that he
was an anti-Soviet maverick and hoped to create a schism in the Warsaw
Pact by funding him. Ceaușescu did not realise that the funding was
not always favorable. Ceaușescu was able to borrow heavily (more than
$13 billion) from the West to finance economic development
programs, but these loans ultimately devastated the country's
finances. He also secured a deal for cheap oil from Iran, but that
deal fell through after the Shah was overthrown.
In an attempt to correct this, Ceaușescu decided to repay Romania's
foreign debts. He organised a referendum and managed to change the
constitution, adding a clause that barred
Romania from taking foreign
loans in the future. According to official results, the referendum
yielded a nearly unanimous "yes" vote.
In the 1980s, Ceaușescu ordered the export of much of the country's
agricultural and industrial production in order to repay its debts.
The resulting domestic shortages made the everyday life of
fight for survival as food rationing was introduced and heating, gas
and electricity blackouts became the rule. During the 1980s, there was
a steady decrease in the Romanian population's standard of living,
especially in the availability and quality of food and general goods
in shops. During this time, all regional radio stations were closed,
and television was limited to a single channel broadcasting for only
two hours a day.
The debt was fully paid in the summer of 1989, shortly before
Ceaușescu was overthrown. However, heavy exports continued until
the revolution in December.
1984 failed coup d'état attempt
A tentative coup d'état planned in October 1984 failed when the
military unit assigned to carry out the plan was sent to harvest maize
Revolution and death
Main article: Romanian Revolution
Ceaușescu in 1988
In November 1989, the XIVth Congress of the Romanian Communist Party
(PCR) saw Ceaușescu, then aged 71, re-elected for another five years
as leader of the PCR. During the Congress, Ceaușescu made a speech
denouncing the anti-Communist revolutions happening throughout the
rest of Eastern Europe. The following month, Ceaușescu's government
itself collapsed after a series of violent events in
Demonstrations in the city of
Timișoara were triggered by the
government-sponsored attempt to evict László Tőkés, an ethnic
Hungarian pastor, accused by the government of inciting ethnic hatred.
Members of his ethnic Hungarian congregation surrounded his apartment
in a show of support.
Romanian students spontaneously joined the demonstration, which soon
lost nearly all connection to its initial cause and became a more
general anti-government demonstration. Regular military forces, police
Securitate fired on demonstrators on 17 December 1989, killing and
injuring men, women and children.
On 18 December 1989, Ceaușescu departed for a state visit to Iran,
leaving the duty of crushing the
Timișoara revolt to his subordinates
and his wife. Upon his return to
Romania on the evening of 20
December, the situation became even more tense, and he gave a
televised speech from the TV studio inside
Central Committee Building
(CC Building), in which he spoke about the events at
terms of an "interference of foreign forces in Romania's internal
affairs" and an "external aggression on Romania's sovereignty".
The country, which had little or no information of the Timișoara
events from the national media, learned about the
from radio stations such as
Voice of America
Voice of America and Radio Free Europe,
and by word of mouth. On the next day, 21 December, Ceaușescu staged
a mass meeting in Bucharest. Official media presented it as a
"spontaneous movement of support for Ceaușescu", emulating the 1968
meeting in which Ceaușescu had spoken against the invasion of
Warsaw Pact forces.
Speech on 21 December
Main article: Ceaușescu's final speech
The mass meeting of 21 December, held in what is now Revolution
Square, began like many of Ceaușescu's speeches over the years.
Ceaușescu spoke of the achievements of the "Socialist revolution" and
Romanian "multi-laterally developed Socialist society." He also blamed
Timișoara riots on "fascist agitators who want to destroy
However, Ceaușescu had misjudged the crowd's mood. Roughly eight
minutes into his speech, several people began jeering and booing, and
others began chanting "Timișoara!" He tried to silence them by
raising his right hand and calling for the crowd's attention before
order was temporarily restored, then proceeded to announce social
benefit reforms that included raising the national minimum wage by 200
lei per month. Images of Ceaușescu's facial expression as the crowd
began to boo and heckle him were among the most widely broadcast of
the collapse of
Communism in Eastern Europe.
Failing to control the crowds, the Ceaușescus finally took cover
inside the building that housed the
Central Committee of the Romanian
Communist Party. The rest of the day saw an open revolt of Bucharest's
population, which had assembled in University Square and confronted
the police and army at barricades. The rioters were no match for the
military apparatus concentrated in Bucharest, which cleared the
streets by midnight and arrested hundreds of people in the process.
Flight on 22 December
By the morning of 22 December, the rebellion had already spread to all
major cities across the country. The suspicious death of Vasile Milea,
Ceaușescu's defense minister, later confirmed as a suicide (he tried
to incapacitate himself with a flesh wound but a bullet severed his
artery), was announced by the media. Immediately thereafter,
Ceaușescu presided over the CPEx (Political Executive Committee)
meeting and assumed the leadership of the army. Believing that Milea
had been murdered, rank-and-file soldiers switched sides to the
revolution almost en masse. The commanders wrote off Ceaușescu as a
lost cause and made no effort to keep their men loyal to the
government. Ceaușescu made a last desperate attempt to address the
crowd gathered in front of the
Central Committee building, but the
people in the square began throwing stones and other projectiles at
him, forcing him to take refuge in the building once more. One group
of protesters forced open the doors of the building, by now left
unprotected. They managed to overpower Ceaușescu's bodyguards and
rushed through his office and onto the balcony. Although they did not
know it, they were only a few meters from Ceaușescu, who was trapped
in an elevator. He, Elena and four others managed to get to the roof
and escaped by helicopter, only seconds ahead of a group of
demonstrators who had followed them there. The PCR disappeared
soon afterward; unlike its kindred parties in the former Soviet bloc,
it has never been revived.
During the course of the revolution, the western press published
estimates of the number of people killed by
Securitate forces in
attempting to support Ceaușescu and quell the rebellion. The count
increased rapidly until an estimated 64,000 fatalities were widely
reported across front pages. The Hungarian military
attaché expressed doubt regarding these figures, pointing out the
unfeasible logistics of killing such a large number of people in such
a short period of time. After Ceaușescu's death, hospitals across the
country reported a death toll of fewer than 1,000, and probably much
lower than that.
Main article: Trial of Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu
Original grave site of Nicolae Ceaușescu, Ghencea Civil Cemetery
Ceaușescu and his wife Elena fled the capital with
Emil Bobu and
Manea Mănescu and headed, by helicopter, for Ceaușescu's Snagov
residence, whence they fled again, this time for Târgoviște. Near
Târgoviște they abandoned the helicopter, having been ordered to
land by the army, which by that time had restricted flying in
Romania's airspace. The Ceaușescus were held by the police while the
policemen listened to the radio. They were eventually turned over to
On Christmas Day, 25 December 1989, in a small room the Ceaușescus
were tried before a court convened on orders of the National Salvation
Front, Romania's provisional government. They faced charges including
illegal gathering of wealth and genocide. Ceaușescu repeatedly denied
the court's authority to try him, and asserted he was still legally
president of Romania. At the end of the quick show trial the
Ceaușescus were found guilty and sentenced to death. A soldier
standing guard in the proceedings was ordered to take the Ceaușescus
out back one by one and shoot them, but the Ceaușescus demanded to
die together. The soldiers agreed to this and began to tie their hands
behind their backs which the Ceaușescus protested against but were
powerless to prevent.
The Ceaușescus were executed by a gathering of soldiers: Captain
Ionel Boeru, Sergeant-Major Georghin Octavian and Dorin-Marian
Cîrlan, while reportedly hundreds of others also volunteered. The
firing squad began shooting as soon as the two were in position
against a wall. A TV crew who were to film the execution only managed
to catch the end of it as the Ceaușescus lay on the ground shrouded
by dust kicked up by the bullets striking the wall and ground. Before
his sentence was carried out,
Nicolae Ceaușescu sang "The
Internationale" while being led up against the wall. After the
shooting, the bodies were covered with canvas.
The hasty show trial and the images of the dead Ceaușescus were
videotaped and the footage promptly released in numerous western
countries two days after the execution. Later that day, it was also
shown on Romanian television.
The manner in which the trial was conducted was widely criticised
inside and outside Romania. However, Ion Iliescu, Romania's
provisional president, said in 2009 that the trial was "quite
shameful, but necessary" in order to end the state of near-anarchy
that had gripped the country in the three days since the Ceaușescus
fled Bucharest. Similarly, Victor Stănculescu, who had been
defense minister before going over to the revolution, said in 2009
that the alternative would have been seeing the Ceaușescus lynched on
the streets of Bucharest.
The Ceaușescus were the last people to be executed in
the abolition of capital punishment on 7 January 1990.
Elena Ceaușescu were originally buried in simple graves
Ghencea Cemetery in Bucharest, on opposite sides of a path; their
graves were often decorated with flowers and symbols of communist
rule. In April 2007, their son, Valentin Ceaușescu, lost an appeal
for an investigation into whether the graves were genuine. Upon his
death in 1996, the younger son, Nicu, was buried nearby in the same
cemetery. According to Jurnalul Național, requests were made
by the Ceaușescus' daughter Zoia and by supporters of their political
views to move their remains to mausoleums or to purpose-built
churches. These demands were denied by the government.
Exhumation and reburial
On 21 July 2010, forensic scientists exhumed the bodies to perform DNA
tests to prove conclusively that they were indeed the remains of the
Ceaușescus. The body believed to be Elena's had decayed too much
to allow for a positive identification, but Nicolae was easily
identifiable, wearing the bullet-riddled black winter coat he had been
wearing when he was killed. DNA was able to conclusively prove his
identity. His family organized a funeral service for the
couple, and they were reburied together at Ghencea, under a modest
"Ceaușism": Ceaușescu's policies
See also: National
Communism in Romania
While the term Ceaușism became widely used inside Romania, usually as
a pejorative, it never achieved status in academia. This can be
explained by the largely crude and syncretic character of the dogma.
Ceaușescu attempted to include his views in mainstream Marxist
theory, to which he added his belief in a "multilaterally developed
Socialist society" as a necessary stage between the Leninist concepts
of Socialist and Communist societies (a critical view reveals that the
main reason for the interval is the disappearance of the State and
Party structures in Communism). A Romanian Encyclopedic Dictionary
entry in 1978 underlines the concept as "a new, superior, stage in the
Socialist development of
Romania [...] begun by the 1971–1975
Five-Year Plan, prolonged over several [succeeding and projected]
Ceaușism's main trait was a form of Romanian nationalism, one
which arguably propelled Ceaușescu to power in 1965, and probably
accounted for the Party leadership gathered around Ion Gheorghe Maurer
choosing him over the more orthodox Gheorghe Apostol. Although he had
previously been a careful supporter of the official lines, Ceaușescu
came to embody Romanian society's wish for independence after what
many considered years of Soviet directives and purges, during and
SovRom fiasco. He carried this nationalist option inside the
Party, manipulating it against the nominated successor Apostol. This
nationalist policy had more timid precedents: for example,
Gheorghiu-Dej had overseen the withdrawal of the
Red Army in 1958.
Moldovan workers during Ceaușescu's visit to Soviet Moldavia in 1972
It had also engineered the publishing of several works that subverted
the Russian and Soviet image, such as the final volumes of the
official History of Romania, no longer glossing over traditional
points of tension with Russia and the
Soviet Union (even alluding to
an unlawful Soviet presence in Bessarabia). In the final years of
Gheorghiu-Dej's rule, more problems were openly discussed, with the
publication of a collection of Karl Marx's writings that dealt with
Romanian topics, showing Marx's previously censored, politically
uncomfortable views of Russia.
Ceaușescu was prepared to take a more decisive step in questioning
Soviet policies. In the early years of his rule, he generally relaxed
political pressures inside Romanian society, which led to the late
1960s and early 1970s being the most liberal decade in Socialist
Romania. Gaining the public's confidence, Ceaușescu took a clear
stand against the 1968 crushing of the
Prague Spring by Leonid
Brezhnev. After a visit from
Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle earlier in the same
year, during which the French President gave recognition to the
incipient maverick, Ceaușescu's public speech in August deeply
impressed the population, not only through its themes, but also
because, uniquely, it was unscripted. He immediately attracted Western
sympathies and backing, which lasted well beyond the 'liberal' phase
of his rule; at the same time, the period brought forward the threat
of armed Soviet invasion: significantly, many young men inside Romania
joined the Patriotic Guards created on the spur of the moment, in
order to meet the perceived threat. President
Richard Nixon was
Bucharest in 1969, which was the first visit of a United
States president to a Socialist country after the start of the Cold
Alexander Dubček's version of
Socialism with a human face was never
suited to Romanian Communist goals. Ceaușescu found himself briefly
aligned with Dubček's
Czechoslovakia and Josip Broz Tito's
Yugoslavia. The latter friendship was to last until Tito's death in
1980, with Ceaușescu adapting the Titoist doctrine of "independent
Socialist development" to suit his own objectives.
itself a "Socialist" (in place of "People's") Republic to show that it
was fulfilling Marxist goals without Moscow's oversight.
The system's nationalist traits grew and progressively blended with
Juche and Maoist ideals. In 1971, the Party, which had
already been completely purged of internal opposition (with the
possible exception of Gheorghe Gaston Marin), approved the July
Theses, expressing Ceaușescu's disdain of Western models as a whole,
and the reevaluation of the recent liberalisation as bourgeois. The
1974 XIth Party Congress tightened the Party's grip on Romanian
culture, guiding it towards Ceaușescu's nationalist principles.
Notably, it demanded that Romanian historians refer to
having "an unorganised State", part of a political continuum that
culminated in the Socialist Republic. The government continued its
cultural dialogue with ancient forms, with Ceaușescu connecting his
cult of personality to figures such as Mircea cel Bătrân (lit.
"Mircea the Elder", whom he styled "Mircea the Great") and Mihai
Viteazul (Michael the Brave). It also started adding Dacian or Roman
versions to the names of cities and towns (Drobeta to Turnu Severin,
Napoca to Cluj). Although Ceaușescu maintained an independent,
"national Communist" course, his absolute control over the country, as
well as the intensity of the personality cult surrounding him, led
many non-Romanian observers to describe his rule as one of the closest
things to an old-style Stalinist regime. The last edition of the
Country Study on Romania, for instance, referred to the PCR's
"Stalinist repression of individual liberties." A new generation
of committed supporters on the outside confirmed the administration's
character. Ceaușescu probably never emphasized that his policies
constituted a paradigm for theorists of
National Bolshevism such as
Jean-François Thiriart, but there was a publicised connection between
him and Iosif Constantin Drăgan, an Iron Guardist Romanian-Italian
émigré millionaire (Drăgan was already committed to a Dacian
Protochronism that largely echoed the official cultural policy).
Nicolae Ceaușescu had a major influence on modern-day Romanian
populist rhetoric. In his final years, he had begun to rehabilitate
the image of pro-Nazi dictator Ion Antonescu. Although Antonescu's
image was never a fully official myth in Ceaușescu's time, today's
politicians such as
Corneliu Vadim Tudor
Corneliu Vadim Tudor have coupled the images of
the two leaders into their versions of a national Pantheon. The
conflict with Hungary over the treatment of the Magyar minority in
Romania had several unusual aspects: not only was it a vitriolic
argument between two officially Socialist states, it also marked the
moment when Hungary, a state behind the Iron Curtain, appealed to the
Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe
Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe for sanctions to
be taken against Romania. This meant that the later 1980s were marked
by a pronounced anti-Hungarian discourse, which owed more to
nationalist tradition than to Marxism, and the ultimate isolation
Romania on the world stage.
The strong opposition to Ceaușescu on all forms of perestroika and
glasnost placed Ceaușescu at odds with Mikhail Gorbachev. He was very
displeased when other
Warsaw Pact countries decided to try their own
versions of Gorbachev's reforms. In particular, he was incensed when
Poland's leaders opted for a power-sharing arrangement with the
Solidarity trade union. He even went as far as to call for a Warsaw
Pact invasion of Poland—a significant reversal, considering how
violently he opposed the invasion of
Czechoslovakia 20 years earlier.
For his part, Gorbachev made no secret of his distaste for Ceaușescu,
whom he called "the Romanian führer." At a meeting between the two,
Gorbachev upbraided Ceaușescu for his inflexible attitude. "You are
running a dictatorship here," the Soviet leader warned.
In November 1989, at the XIVth and last congress of the PCR,
Ceaușescu condemned the
Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and asked for the
annulment of its consequences. In effect, this amounted to a demand
for the return of
Bessarabia (most of which was then a Soviet republic
and since 1991 has been independent Moldova) and northern Bukovina,
both of which had been occupied by the
Soviet Union in 1940 and again
at the end of World War II.
Non-aligned policy feats
Warsaw Pact leaders, 1987 (from left): Husák of Czechoslovakia,
Zhivkov of Bulgaria, Honecker of East Germany, Gorbachev of the Soviet
Union, Ceaușescu, Jaruzelski of Poland, and Kádár of Hungary.
Romania was the only
Eastern Bloc country that retained
diplomatic relations with
Israel and did not sever diplomatic
relations after Israel's pre-emptive strike against
Egypt at the start
Six-Day War in 1967. Ceaușescu made efforts to act as a
mediator between the
PLO and Israel.
Romania was the only Soviet bloc country to attend the 1984
Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, which had been boycotted by the
Soviets and the rest of their allies in response to the U.S.-led
boycott of the
1980 Summer Olympics
1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.
Romania was the only
Warsaw Pact country that did not
sever diplomatic relations with Chile after Augusto Pinochet's
Nicolae Ceaușescu was a close ally and personal friend of dictator
Mobutu Sese Seko
Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire. Relations were in fact not just
state-to-state, but party-to-party between their respective political
machineries, the MPR and the Romanian Communist Party. Many believe
that Ceaușescu's death played a role in influencing Mobutu to
"democratise" Zaïre in 1990.
Ceaușescu reduced the size of the
Romanian Army by 15%, for which he
organised a mock referendum. In line with his policy
of keeping a facade of "popular democracy" he also ordered large
rallies for peace to be held.
In August 1976,
Nicolae Ceaușescu was the first high-level Romanian
Bessarabia since World War II. In December 1976, at one of
his meetings in Bucharest,
Ivan Bodiul said that "the good
relationship was initiated by Ceaușescu's visit to Soviet
Moldova". The final volumes of the official History of Romania
alluded to an unlawful Soviet presence in Bessarabia.
Personality cult and authoritarianism
Stamp commemorating the 70th birthday (and 55 years of political
activity) of Nicolae Ceaușescu, 1988
Main article: Nicolae Ceaușescu's cult of personality
Ceaușescu created a pervasive personality cult, giving himself such
titles as "Conducător" ("Leader") and "Geniul din Carpați" ("The
Genius of the Carpathians"), with inspiration from Proletarian Culture
(Proletkult). After his election as President of Romania, he even had
a king-like sceptre made for himself.
The most important day of the year during Ceaușescu's rule was his
birthday, 26 January — a day which saw Romanian media saturated with
praise for him. According to historian Victor Sebestyen (de), it
was one of the few days of the year when the average Romanian put on a
happy face, since appearing miserable on this day was too risky to
Such excesses prompted painter
Salvador Dalí to send a congratulatory
telegram to the "Conducător", in which he sarcastically congratulated
Ceaușescu on his "introducing the presidential sceptre". The
Communist Party daily
Scînteia published the message, unaware that it
was a work of satire. To lessen the chance of further treason after
Pacepa's defection, Ceaușescu also invested his wife Elena and other
members of his family with important positions in the government. This
Romanians to joke that Ceaușescu was creating "socialism in one
Not surprisingly, Ceaușescu was greatly concerned about his public
image. For years, nearly all official photographs of him showed him in
his late 40s. Romanian state television was under strict orders to
portray him in the best possible light. Additionally, producers
had to take great care to make sure that Ceaușescu's height (he was
only 1.68 metres (5 ft 6 in) tall) was never emphasized
on screen. Consequences for breaking these rules were severe; one
producer showed footage of Ceaușescu blinking and stuttering, and was
banned for three months.
As part of a propaganda ploy arranged by the Ceaușescus through the
consular cultural attachés of Romanian embassies, they managed to
receive orders and titles from numerous states and institutions.
Nicolae Ceaușescu the Legion of Honour. In 1978 he
became a Knight Grand Cross of the
Order of the Bath
Order of the Bath (GCB) in the
UK, a title of which he was stripped in 1989.
Elena Ceaușescu was
arranged to be "elected" to membership of a Science Academy in the
His successor, Ion Iliescu, and
Nicolae Ceaușescu in 1976
Elena Ceaușescu had three children: Valentin Ceaușescu
(born 1948), a nuclear physicist;
Zoia Ceaușescu (1949–2006), a
Nicu Ceaușescu (1951–1996), a physicist. After
the death of his parents,
Nicu Ceaușescu ordered the construction of
an Orthodox church, the walls of which are decorated with portraits of
Praising the crimes of totalitarian governments and denigrating their
victims is forbidden by law in Romania; this includes the Ceaușescu
era. Dinel Staicu was fined 25,000 lei (approx. 9,000 United States
dollars) for praising Ceaușescu and displaying his pictures on his
private television channel (3TV Oltenia). Nevertheless, according
to opinion polls held in 2010, 41% of
Romanians would vote for
Ceaușescu and 63% think that their lives were better before
1989. In 2014, the percentage of those who would vote for
Ceaușescu reached 46%.
He was played by Constantin Cojocaru in the 2011 Swiss docudrama, Die
letzten Tage der Ceausescus.
A brand new comedy musical, Ceaușescu the Musical, enjoyed a world
premiere at Se7en Arts in
Leeds on Sunday 21st May 2017. It is written
by Tom Bailey and Greg Jameson, with songs by Allan Stelmach, and it
depicts Nicolae and
Elena Ceaușescu and their son Valentin in a piece
of meta musical theatre that is also a comment upon celebrity culture
and the role social media and political correctness play in creating
Honours and awards
Ceaușescu was made a knight of the Danish Order of the Elephant, but
this appointment was revoked on 23 December 1989 by the queen of
Denmark, Margrethe II.
Ceaușescu was likewise stripped of his honorary GCB (Knight Grand
Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath) status by Queen
Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom on the day before his execution.
Elizabeth II also returned the insignia of the Romanian
order[specify] Ceaușescu had bestowed upon her.
On his 70th birthday in 1988, Ceaușescu was decorated with the
Karl-Marx-Orden by then
Socialist Unity Party of Germany
Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) chief
Erich Honecker; through this he was honoured for his rejection of
Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms.
Romanian orders, decorations and medals
All titles and decorations were revoked by the provisional government
on December 26, 1989.
Commemorative Medal of the 5th Anniversary of the Republic of Romania
Commemorative Medal of the 35th Anniversary of the Liberation of
Hero of Romania, three times (1971, 1978 and 1988)
Hero of Socialist Labour (Romania) (1964)
Military Merit Medal (Romania)
Order of the Victory of Socialism (accompanied each Hero of Romania)
Order of Labour
Order of Homeland Defence
Order of the Star of the Republic of Romania
Foreign state orders, decorations and medals
Several foreign decorations were revoked at the time of the collapse
of Ceaușescu's rule.
Collar of the
Order of the Liberator General San Martín
Order of the Liberator General San Martín (1974)
Great Star of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria
Order of the Southern Cross (1975)
Order of Stara Planina
Order of Stara Planina (1983)
Order of José Martí
Order of José Martí (1973)
Twentieth Anniversary Commemorative Medal of the Assault on the
Moncada Barracks (1976)
Knight of the
Order of the Elephant
Order of the Elephant (1980; subsequently expelled 23
Legion of Honour
– Germany (East)
Karl Marx (German Democratic Republic, 1988)—for his
Marxism by rejecting Gorbachev's reforms
– Germany (West)
Special class of the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal
Republic of Germany (West Germany, 17 May 1971)
Athens Gold Medal (1976)
Commemorative Medal of the 2500th Anniversary of the founding of the
Persian Empire (Empire of Iran, 14 October 1971).
Knight Grand Cross decorated with Grand Cordon of the Order of Merit
of the Italian Republic (21 May 1973)
Honorary Recipient of the
Order of the Crown of the Realm
Order of the Crown of the Realm (1984)
Grand Cross of the
Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olaf
Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olaf (expelled 1989)
Grand Collar of the Ancient
Order of Sikatuna
Order of Sikatuna (1975)
Collar of the
Order of Saint James of the Sword
Order of Saint James of the Sword (14 October 1975)
– Soviet Union: all Soviet decorations were revoked in 1990
Jubilee Medal "Thirty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War
Order of Lenin, twice (Soviet Union, 1973 and 1988)
Order of the October Revolution
Order of the October Revolution (1983)
Knight of the
Royal Order of the Seraphim
Royal Order of the Seraphim (4 November 1980)
– United Kingdom
Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable
Order of the Bath
Order of the Bath (1978;
expelled 24 December 1989)
Foreign non-state decorations
Gold Collar of the
Olympic Order (International Olympic Committee,
1984), for decision not to participate in the boycott of the Los
Gold Medal Plate of the International Relations Institute of Rome, an
Italian non-profit organization (1979)
Honorary degrees from the University of
Bucharest (1973), Lebanese
University of Buenos Aires
University of Buenos Aires (1974), Autonomous
University of Yucatan (1975), University of Nice Sophia Antipolis
University of Liberia
University of Liberia (1988) and
North Korea (1988).
Selected published works
Report during the joint solemn session of the CC of the Romanian
Communist Party, the National Council of the Socialist Unity Front and
the Grand National Assembly: Marking the 60th anniversary of the
creation of a Unitary Romanian National State, 1978
Major problems of our time: Eliminating underdevelopment, bridging
gaps between states, building a new international economic order, 1980
The solving of the national question in
thought of Romania's President), 1980
Ceaușescu: Builder of Modern
Romania and International Statesman,
The nation and co-habiting nationalities in the contemporary epoch
(Philosophical thought of Romania's president), 1983
The history of the Romanian people in the view of the President
(Istoria poporului român în concepția președintelui), 1988
Ceaușescu's visit to
Josip Broz Tito
Josip Broz Tito at the Romanian-Yugoslav friendship
Ceaușescu's visit to
Franz Jonas, the president of Austria, in visit in Bucharest, Romania
Ceaușescu and Indian Prime Minister
Indira Gandhi (1969)
Jean-Bédel Bokassa with
Nicolae Ceaușescu during Bokassa's state
Romania (July 1970)
Kim Il-sung during the party and state visit to the DPR
Fidel Castro visiting Ceaușescu in
Ceaușescu receiving the presidential sceptre from the Chairman of the
Great National Assembly
Great National Assembly (1974)
Yasser Arafat with
Nicolae Ceaușescu during Arafat's visit to
The Romanian presidential couple and Juan Perón and his wife in
Buenos Aires in 1974
Ceaușescu with Somali President
Siad Barre in 1976.
Ceaușescu with US President
Jimmy Carter during a state visit to the
Ceaușescu with Doctor Rudolf Kirchschläger, president of Austria,
during his visit to
Ceaușescu delivering his
New Year's Eve
New Year's Eve message on television and
Ceaușescu's speech in
Moscow in 1982 on the 60th anniversary of the
Formation of the Soviet Union
Mikhail Gorbachev of the
Soviet Union (1985)
Ceaușescu with the 1986 European Champion's Cup winner team Steaua
Ceaușescu with East German Leader
Erich Honecker in East Berlin
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nicolae Ceaușescu.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Nicolae Ceaușescu
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
Transcript of the closed trial of Nicolae and Elena Ceauşescu
Nicolae Ceaușescu at Encyclopædia Britannica
Ceaușescu, Nicolae –
Romania under Communism
Nicolae Ceaușescu's last speech in public
Ceaușescu's trial transcripts (in English)
Ceaușescu's trial transcripts (in Romanian)
Romania's Demographic Policy
The Politicians and the revolution of 1989 (in Romanian)
Gheorghe Brătescu, Clipa 638: Un complot ratat ("A failed scheme").
On how Milea died, probably killed by Stănculescu according to this
writer, and the life of the Ceaușescu family. (In Romanian)
Death of the Father:
Nicolae Ceaușescu Focuses on his death, but also
discusses other matters. Many photos.
"Killer File" entry on Nicolae Andruța Ceaușescu Chronological
overview of important events in his life and rule.
Video on YouTube, Video of the trial and execution of Nicolae and
Genocide of the Souls. The Pitesti Experiment
President of Romania
28 March 1974 – 22 December 1989
President of the State Council
9 December 1967 – 22 December 1989
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22 March 1965 – 22 December 1989
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under regents Prince Nicholas
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Conducător between 1940 and 1944
Romanian People's Republic
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Constantin Ion Parhon
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Ion Gheorghe Maurer
State Council (1961–1974)
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