Ceauşima is a vernacular word construction in Romanian
Romanian language
Romanian Romanian Romanian (or Daco-Romanian; obsolete spellings Rumanian, Roumanian; self-designation: română, limba română ("the Romanian language") or românește (lit. "in Romanian") is a Romance language spoken by around 24 to 28 million people, primarily in Romania and Moldova...

, sarcastically linking former Communist leader Nicolae Ceauşescu
Nicolae Ceausescu
Nicolae Ceaușescu was a Romanian Communist politician. He was General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party from 1965 to 1989, and as such was the country's second and last Communist leader...

 to Hiroshima
is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture, and the largest city in the Chūgoku region of western Honshu, the largest island of Japan. It became best known as the first city in history to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon when the United States Army Air Forces dropped an atomic bomb on it at 8:15 A.M...

. This portmanteau term was sometimes coined in the 1980s to describe the huge urban areas of Bucharest
Bucharest is the capital municipality, cultural, industrial, and financial centre of Romania. It is the largest city in Romania, located in the southeast of the country, at , and lies on the banks of the Dâmbovița River....

 that Ceauşescu ordered torn down, comparing the results with the nuclear attack on Hiroshima
Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
During the final stages of World War II in 1945, the United States conducted two atomic bombings against the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, the first on August 6, 1945, and the second on August 9, 1945. These two events are the only use of nuclear weapons in war to date.For six months...

. It has also been used to describe other actions of Ceauşescu not linked to the demolition of Bucharest, such as intense pollution in the Transylvania
Transylvania is a historical region in the central part of Romania. Bounded on the east and south by the Carpathian mountain range, historical Transylvania extended in the west to the Apuseni Mountains; however, the term sometimes encompasses not only Transylvania proper, but also the historical...

n city of Copşa Mică
Copsa Mica
Copşa Mică is a town in Sibiu County, Transylvania, Romania, located north of Sibiu, 33 km east of Blaj, and 12 km southwest of Mediaş. According to the town's website, its population in 2000 was 5189, down 23% from its population in 1989, the year communism collapsed in Romania.The town...


During the final few years of Ceauşescu's tenure , significant portions of the historic center of Bucharest were demolished to accommodate standardized apartment blocks and government buildings, including the grandiose Centrul Civic and the palatial House of the People, now the Palace of the Parliament.


Ceauşescu considered it necessary to his program of systematization
Systematization (Romania)
Urban planning in communist countries was subject to the ideological constraints of the system. Except for the Soviet Union where the communist regime started in 1917, in Eastern Europe communist governments took power after World War II....

 to demolish vast portions of the historic and central parts of Bucharest and replace them with giant representation buildings and high-density standardized apartment blocks. The latter rooted in the ideology of "edifying the multilaterally developed socialist society" and it was considered an epitome of the Leninist
In Marxist philosophy, Leninism is the body of political theory for the democratic organisation of a revolutionary vanguard party, and the achievement of a direct-democracy dictatorship of the proletariat, as political prelude to the establishment of socialism...

 formula of the "fight between old and new" (see Historical materialism
Historical materialism
Historical materialism is a methodological approach to the study of society, economics, and history, first articulated by Karl Marx as "the materialist conception of history". Historical materialism looks for the causes of developments and changes in human society in the means by which humans...


Started in 1974, and implemented some six years later, the program implied a comprehensive nationwide campaign of demolition, resettlement, and reconstruction. Historian Dinu C. Giurescu writes:
"The urban systematization conducted by the communist regime has destroyed 29 traditional towns to 85-90% and also has heavily mutilated other 37 cities, including Bucharest."

The main target of the systematization was Bucharest.

The triggering event of systematization in Bucharest was the major earthquake of 1977
1977 Bucharest Earthquake
The 1977 Vrancea Earthquake occurred on Friday, 4 March 1977, 21:20 local time and was felt throughout the Balkans. It had a magnitude of 7.2 with an epicenter in Vrancea at a depth of ....

, which predominantly struck edifices built before World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 (preceded by another major earthquake, that of November 10, 1940), while the structures dating from the communist era held out well. This was interpreted by the communist regime as a proof of its superiority over the pre-war regimes
Kingdom of Romania
The Kingdom of Romania was the Romanian state based on a form of parliamentary monarchy between 13 March 1881 and 30 December 1947, specified by the first three Constitutions of Romania...

, and led to a paradigm change in its urban development policy. Up to that time, the communist regime had concentrated on the clearance and redevelopment of slums like Groapa Floreasca or Groapa lui Ouatu (1950s) as well as on new high-density urban settlements in the suburbs, such as Bucureştii Noi
Bucurestii Noi
Bucureştii Noi is a district situated in north-west of Bucharest and of Sector 1.-Overview: Bucurestii Noi district is growing by housing and supermarkets...

(1950s), Balta Albă (later Titan
Titan, Bucharest
Titan is a neighborhood of Eastern Bucharest, part of Sector 3. It surrounds the Alexandru Ioan Cuza Park, formerly known as "Titan", "I.O.R." , and "Balta Albă" ....

), Berceni
Berceni, Bucharest
Berceni is a district of southern Bucharest.-Location:Geographically, it has a trapezoidal shape, bordered by Oltenitei Road and Turnu Magurele Street in the north and south, respectively. Built during the 1960s, it is a typical Communist-era working class district, lacking any major green spaces...

or Drumul Taberei
Drumul Taberei
Drumul Taberei is a neighbourhood located in the south-west of Bucharest, Romania, roughly between Timişoara Avenue and Ghencea Avenue, neighboring Militari to the North, Panduri to the East and Ghencea and Rahova to the South and South-East.It is one of the few examples of successful urban...

(1960s), while the city remained basically untouched. The impacts of the earthquake, more severe in the central city, provided both ideological and technical arguments for urban intervention in historical Bucharest.

The immediate consequences of this new urban policy were the demolition of monuments like Enei Church (founded 1611, rebuilt 1723; with murals by Gheorghe Tattarescu
Gheorghe Tattarescu
Gheorghe Tattarescu was a Moldavian-born Romanian painter and a pioneer of neoclassicism in his country's modern painting.-Early life and studies:...

), the Neo-gothic Casa Cerchez or the elegant Baia Centrală public bath house
Public bathing
Public baths originated from a communal need for cleanliness. The term public may confuse some people, as some types of public baths are restricted depending on membership, gender, religious affiliation, or other reasons. As societies have changed, public baths have been replaced as private bathing...

 and the suppression of the Authority for the National Heritage. However, the most pervasive consequence was the commitment of Ceauşescu to accomplish his earlier vision of the monumental Centrul Civic ("civic centre"), which would concentrate and symbolize the emblems of his power.

Though the decision to build the new civic centre in the very heart of Bucharest was made in 1978, it took some six years for Ceauşescu to impose a wide-ranging reshaping. During that period, interventions in historical Bucharest, like rebuilding the traditional Calea Moşilor with uniform concrete apartment blocks, were still carried out respecting the pre-existing urban configuration. This can be explained by the significant opposition the project encountered from a majority of leading experts. To realize his project, Ceauşescu brought together some 400 urban planning
Urban planning
Urban planning incorporates areas such as economics, design, ecology, sociology, geography, law, political science, and statistics to guide and ensure the orderly development of settlements and communities....

 professionals, visiting them at least once a week during the 1980s and providing what the press called "valuable instructions" (indicaţii preţioase) in front of a large scale model of Bucharest.

Since Ceauşescu succeeded in quelling disagreement and opposition expressed by authoritative architects, art historians and intellectuals, a coherent reshaping project never came to light. Instead, through what was largely a step-by-step approach, the implementation of Casa Poporului
Palace of the Parliament
The Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest, Romania is a multi-purpose building containing both chambers of the Romanian Parliament. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Palace is the world's largest civilian administrative building, most expensive administrative building, and...

 ("House of the People", now Palatul Parlamentului, "Palace of the Parliament") could be imposed. The subsequent opening of the oversized Boulevard of the Victory of Socialism was but the consequence of architectural requirements aiming at creating a congruent perspective to the colossal House of the People. The final result was compared to both the Pyongyang
Pyongyang is the capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, commonly known as North Korea, and the largest city in the country. Pyongyang is located on the Taedong River and, according to preliminary results from the 2008 population census, has a population of 3,255,388. The city was...

 of Kim Il Sung and Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

's Germania
Welthauptstadt Germania
Welthauptstadt Germania refers to the projected renewal of the German capital Berlin during the Nazi period, part of Adolf Hitler's vision for the future of Germany after the planned victory in World War II...


After the project had been officially finalised, the frequent interventions of Ceauşescu continued to modify the situation on the ground, leading mostly to further demolitions.

The mass destructions in Bucharest began in 1983 and continued up until late 1988. Construction was very intense during the first year, so that in June 1984 the Ceauşescus could inaugurate the workings of what would become the House of the People.

Areas of demolition

The destroyed urban areas extended over several informal districts (cartiere), some of exceptional architectural and/or historical significance. Since both the urban project and its execution were much of a trial-and-error process, demolitions were often arbitrary. However, a certain west to east pattern of demolition can be ascertained: the western area of Uranus as well as approximately 92% of the adjoining eastern area of Văcăreşti
Vacaresti, Bucharest
Văcăreşti is a neighbourhood in south-eastern Bucharest, located near Dâmboviţa River and the Văcăreşti Lake. Nearby neighbourhoods include Vitan, Olteniţei and Berceni. Originally a village, it was included in Bucharest as it expanded...

 were destroyed, while the areas situated farther east like Dudeşti
Dudesti, Bucharest
Dudeşti is a neighbourhood in south-eastern Bucharest, along the Calea Dudeşti. Nearby neighbourhoods include Vitan, Văcăreşti and Dristor....

 and Theodor Speranţia were demolished only along the large boulevards which had to be created there.

Uranus area

The Uranus district was the foremost target of the flattening, since it had an exceptional geographic value, being situated on the most prominent height of Bucharest; this was where the House of the People was to be placed. The height on which the Uranus city district was located, called Dealul Spirii
Dealul Spirii
Dealul Spirii is a hill in Bucharest, Romania, upon which, currently, the Palace of the Parliament is located....

, was radically reshaped in order to make it bear the House of the People. Another height belonging to the Uranus area, of lesser dimensions, was the Mihai Vodă Hill.

The destruction of the Uranus area reached the shore of the Dâmboviţa River
Dâmbovita River
Dâmbovița is a river in Romania. It has its sources in the Făgăraş Mountains, on the Curmătura Oticu. The upper reach of the rivers, upstream of the confluence with the Boarcăşu River is also known as Izvorul Oticului River or Oticu River....

 (Splaiul Independenţei) on the north side, the streets Haşdeu and Isvor on the east side, Sabinelor and Calea Rahovei streets on the south side, cutting a straight line of some 1,200 meters on the north-south axis through a dense urban area along the streets Bateriilor and Logofătul Nestor. Other important streets of the Uranus district were: Uranus, Mihai Vodă, Puţul cu Apă Rece, Cazărmii, Militari, Schitul Maicilor, Banul Mihalcea, Meteorilor, Minotaurului, Arionoaia. The entire demolished area covered approximately 154 hectares.

The Uranus neighbourhood is remembered for its special atmosphere; the area was both residential and monumental: many elegant houses and villas, as well as some low-density apartments blocks constructed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, coexisted with salient historical and architectural monuments. Thus, the fortified Mihai Vodă Monastery, founded by the Wallachia
Wallachia or Walachia is a historical and geographical region of Romania. It is situated north of the Danube and south of the Southern Carpathians...

n Prince Michael the Brave in 1589-1591, and housing the State Archives since 1866) was pulled down. Moreover, the entire Mihai Vodă Hill has been leveled to open the view on the House of the People, while the Mihai Vodă Church was moved to a new location nestled between concrete blocks of flats.

Among other edifices of cultural and/or historical significance torn down in the Uranus area were: the Central Military Museum, the old Arsenal, the Art deco
Art Deco
Art deco , or deco, is an eclectic artistic and design style that began in Paris in the 1920s and flourished internationally throughout the 1930s, into the World War II era. The style influenced all areas of design, including architecture and interior design, industrial design, fashion and...

 Stadium of the Republic
Stadionul Republicii
Stadionul Republicii, was a multi-use stadium in Bucharest, Romania. It was used mostly for football matches. The stadium was able to hold 28,026 spectators at its height and originally opened in 1948...

 (1926), the Army Theatre, Casa Demetriade, the Operetta Theatre, the higher education Institute for Physical Education, the Athletes' Hospital, the Lahovary Fountain, and the "Isvor" open air bath. Among the churches torn down in the Uranus district were included: the Albă Postăvari Church (donated in 1568 by a Doamna Caplea), the Spirea Veche Church (founded by a doctor Spiridon Christofi in 1765), the Isvorul Tămăduirii Church (a guild
A guild is an association of craftsmen in a particular trade. The earliest types of guild were formed as confraternities of workers. They were organized in a manner something between a trade union, a cartel, and a secret society...

s' foundation of 1794), and the Old Saint Spiridon Church (1668).

The demolition of the churches was done with the approval of the Romanian Orthodox Church leaders. For instance, in 1989, Bishop Nifon answered the questions of western reporters by claiming the churches demolished had not much historical interest and they were too close to others.

Relocating churches and cutting them off from their architectural and cultural context to be reinserted into a narrowing neighbourhood is another expression of the strategy that created "Ceauşima". Some examples of churches that were relocated: the Saint Ilie Rahova Church (1745), the Schitul Maicilor Church (1726), the Domniţa Bălaşa Church (founded in 1751 by Bălaşa Lambrino, daughter of Constantin Brâncoveanu
Constantin Brâncoveanu
Constantin Brâncoveanu was Prince of Wallachia between 1688 and 1714.-Ascension:A descendant of the Craioveşti boyar family and related to Matei Basarab, Brâncoveanu was born at the estate of Brâncoveni and raised in the house of his uncle, stolnic Constantin Cantacuzino...

), the Sfântul Ioan Nou Church (18th century) and the entire outstanding monastic complex of Antim Monastery
Antim Monastery
The Antim Monastery is located in Bucharest, Romania on Mitropolit Antim Ivireanu Street, no. 29. It was built between 1713 and 1715 by Saint Antim Ivireanu, at that time a Metropolitan Bishop of Romania. The buildings were restored by Patriarch Justinian Marina in the 1950s. As of 2005, there are...

 (1713–1715). A similar type of urban intervention cut entire quarters out of their surroundings. Thus, the city area located south of the Dâmboviţa between Podul Isvor and Piaţa Unirii
Piata Unirii
Piața Unirii is one of the largest squares in central Bucharest, located in the center of the city where Sectors 1, 2, 3, and 4 meet. It is bisected by Unirii Boulevard, originally built during the Communist era as the Boulevard of the Victory of Socialism, and renamed after the Romanian...

and up to Antim Monastery was hedged in by a large triangle of standardized concrete blocks of flats.

Piaţa Unirii

The creation of the huge Boulevard of Socialism's Victory imposed additional demolitions in areas adjacent to the Uranus district. Piaţa Unirii was doubled in size. Excepting the Art nouveau
Art Nouveau
Art Nouveau is an international philosophy and style of art, architecture and applied art—especially the decorative arts—that were most popular during 1890–1910. The name "Art Nouveau" is French for "new art"...

 metal structure of the Halele Unirii allegedly built by Gustave Eiffel
Gustave Eiffel
Alexandre Gustave Eiffel was a French structural engineer from the École Centrale Paris, an architect, an entrepreneur and a specialist of metallic structures...

, the most notable demolition in this area was the Brâncovenesc Hospital (Aşezămintele Brâncoveneşti – Brâncoveanu's Foundations, founded in 1835 by Safta Brâncoveanu) – an architectural monument and one of the most venerable, most ample and best-equipped medical institutions of Bucharest and Romania.

Văcăreşti area

Located eastwards of Piaţa Unirii, the Văcăreşti
Vacaresti, Bucharest
Văcăreşti is a neighbourhood in south-eastern Bucharest, located near Dâmboviţa River and the Văcăreşti Lake. Nearby neighbourhoods include Vitan, Olteniţei and Berceni. Originally a village, it was included in Bucharest as it expanded...

 area definitely belonged to the old Bucharest. The demolished area was located between Calea Călăraşilor on the north, the shore of the Dâmbovita on the west and south sides, and Mircea Vodă and Calea Văcăreştilor streets in the east. The architecture of the area was eclectic, bearing witness to successive cultural and historical strata, which resulted in a mixture of 18th- to 19th-century edifices (inns, stores) and more recent buildings from the early 20th century. Other significant streets of this area were: Căuzaşi, Olteni, Iuliu Barasch
Iuliu Barasch
Iuliu Barasch or Baraş was a Galician-born Jewish physician and writer who made his career in Romania.-Biography:Born in Brody into a Hasidic family as Yehuda ben Mordehai Barasch...

, Banul Mărăcine, Sf. Ioan Nou, Mămulari, Sfânta Vineri, Negru Vodă, Haiducul Bujor, Clucerul Udricani, Pitagora. The total area razed covered approximately 66 hectares.

Among the most notable destroyed edifices were: the Sfânta Vineri-Herasca Church (founded in 1645), Olteni Church (1696), the historical Vechea Agie (Old Police Prefecture), the Paediatrics Hospital, the Mina Minovici Forensic Institute, Al. I. Cuza College, a monumental Courthouse, the historical Town Hall of the former Blue Sector
Sectors of Bucharest
The Municipality of Bucharest is divided into six administrative sectors , each of which has their own mayor and council, and has responsibility over local affairs, such as secondary streets, parks, schools and the cleaning services.Each of the six sectors contains a number of informal districts ...

, several old inns and stores (underneath a UU-shaped commercial complex dating from the mid 19th century) and other characteristic edifices. Unlike in the Uranus area, a very few buildings could be rescued; these included two synagogue
A synagogue is a Jewish house of prayer. This use of the Greek term synagogue originates in the Septuagint where it sometimes translates the Hebrew word for assembly, kahal...

s in Mămulari Street, the little Udricani Church and the neighbouring State Jewish Theatre
State Jewish Theater (Romania)
Teatrul Evreiesc de Stat in Bucharest, Romania is a theater specializing in Jewish-related plays. Its contemporary repertoire includes plays by Jewish authors, plays on Jewish topics, and plays in Yiddish...

, formerly the Baraşeum Theatre, on Iuliu Barasch Street.

Dudeşti area

Dudesti, Bucharest
Dudeşti is a neighbourhood in south-eastern Bucharest, along the Calea Dudeşti. Nearby neighbourhoods include Vitan, Văcăreşti and Dristor....

 is situated eastwards of Văcăreşti. Before the 1980s, its boundaries ran along Matei Basarab and Labirint streets on the north, Popa Nan and Th. Speranţa streets on the east side, Moruzi Voevod and Papazoglu streets in the south, Olteni and Mircea Vodă streets on the west side. The central axis of the district ran along the streets Calea Dudeşti and Avraam Goldfaden, with other important streets being Traian, Nerva Traian, Bradului, and Dr. Popper.

While the central part of the district has been completely bulldozed to clear the way for the Boulevard of the Victory of Socialism, its northern and southern sections suffered to a lesser extent. The urban texture of the district was characteristic of housing patterns of the late 19th-early 20th century, consisting of family houses set along old tree-lined streets. Neo-classical ornaments, typical for middle class residences, were more frequent in the northern zone of the neighbourhood, while more modest dwelling structures prevailed in the southern area, where lower middle class
Lower middle class
In developed nations across the world, the lower middle class is a sub-division of the greater middle class. Universally the term refers to the group of middle class households or individuals who have not attained the status of the upper middle class associated with the higher realms of the middle...

es lived. Both the Dudeşti and Văcăreşti neighbourhoods were also notable for a traditional and significant Jewish presence
History of the Jews in Romania
The history of Jews in Romania concerns the Jews of Romania and of Romanian origins, from their first mention on what is nowadays Romanian territory....

. The total area razed covered approximately 110 hectares.

Theodor Speranţia area

The Theodor Speranţia area was a residential area from the interwar period
Interwar period
Interwar period can refer to any period between two wars. The Interbellum is understood to be the period between the end of the Great War or First World War and the beginning of the Second World War in Europe....

, mixing middle with lower class dwelling structures. As in the case of Dudeşti, this neighbourhood was only partially erased. The total demolished surface was of approximately 50 hectares.

Summarizing "Ceauşima"

See also: History of Bucharest
History of Bucharest
The history of Bucharest covers the time from the early settlements on the locality's territory until its modern existence as a city, capital of Wallachia, and present-day capital of Romania.-Ancient times:...

The areas completely destroyed amounted to some 380 hectares. In fact, the destroyed urban substance was more considerable, if isolated building clusters and town spots are added, such as the partial demolition of Ştirbei Vodă street. Another outstanding example is the destruction of the vast monastic complex of Văcăreşti (1722) and of the Pantelimon Monastery
Pantelimon, Bucharest
Pantelimon is a working-class neighborhood located in south-eastern Bucharest, Romania, in Sector 2. Outside Bucharest, there is an adjacent town named Pantelimon, administered separately....

 (1750). Overall, the bulldozed area was approximately five kilometres long by one kilometre wide. It was one of the largest peacetime urban destructions at the hands of humans in recorded history. The bombardments in Bucharest
Bombing of Bucharest in World War II
The Bucharest World War II bombings were primarily Allied bombings of railroad targets and those of the Oil Campaign of World War II, but included a bombing by Nazi Germany after the royal coup. Bucharest stored and distributed much of Ploiești's refined oil products....

 and the 1977 earthquake
1977 Bucharest Earthquake
The 1977 Vrancea Earthquake occurred on Friday, 4 March 1977, 21:20 local time and was felt throughout the Balkans. It had a magnitude of 7.2 with an epicenter in Vrancea at a depth of ....

 together caused only 18% of the damage produced by the demolition campaign in the 1980s. Out of the 500 hectares accounted as "Ceauşima", 250 hectares were urban districts of historical significance, representing some 20–25% of historic Bucharest.

Among other destroyed monuments were 27 Orthodox Christian
Romanian Orthodox Church
The Romanian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox church. It is in full communion with other Eastern Orthodox churches, and is ranked seventh in order of precedence. The Primate of the church has the title of Patriarch...

 churches (counting eight relocated churches), six synagogue
A synagogue is a Jewish house of prayer. This use of the Greek term synagogue originates in the Septuagint where it sometimes translates the Hebrew word for assembly, kahal...

s and Jewish temples, and three Protestant
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...


Further reading

  • Lidia Anania, Cecilia Luminea, Livia Melinte, Ana-Nina Prosan, Lucia Stoica, Neculai Ionescu-Ghinea, Bisericile osândite de Ceauşescu: Bucureşti 1977–1989, Editura Anastasia, Bucharest, 1995
  • Matei Lykiardopol, Mutilation of Bucharest, in UNESCO Courier, January 1991, pp.26–27
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