Romanian Revolution of 1989
Overview
 
The Romanian Revolution of 1989 was a series of riots and clashes in December 1989. These were part of the Revolutions of 1989
Revolutions of 1989
The Revolutions of 1989 were the revolutions which overthrew the communist regimes in various Central and Eastern European countries.The events began in Poland in 1989, and continued in Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and...

 that occurred in several Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

 countries. The Romanian Revolution was the only one of these revolutions that forcibly overthrew a Communist government and executed the country's head of state.

The Revolution marked the end of the Communist regime
Communist Romania
Communist Romania was the period in Romanian history when that country was a Soviet-aligned communist state in the Eastern Bloc, with the dominant role of Romanian Communist Party enshrined in its successive constitutions...

 of Nicolae Ceaușescu
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...

. Street protests and violence in several Romanian cities over the course of roughly a week led the Romanian dictator to abandon power and flee Bucharest
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....

 with his wife, Elena Ceaușescu
Elena Ceausescu
Elena Ceaușescu was the wife of Romania's Communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu, and Deputy Prime Minister of Romania.-Background:She was born Elena Petrescu into a peasant family in Petrești commune, Dâmboviţa County, in the informal region of Wallachia. Her family was supported by her father's job...

.
Encyclopedia
The Romanian Revolution of 1989 was a series of riots and clashes in December 1989. These were part of the Revolutions of 1989
Revolutions of 1989
The Revolutions of 1989 were the revolutions which overthrew the communist regimes in various Central and Eastern European countries.The events began in Poland in 1989, and continued in Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and...

 that occurred in several Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

 countries. The Romanian Revolution was the only one of these revolutions that forcibly overthrew a Communist government and executed the country's head of state.

The Revolution marked the end of the Communist regime
Communist Romania
Communist Romania was the period in Romanian history when that country was a Soviet-aligned communist state in the Eastern Bloc, with the dominant role of Romanian Communist Party enshrined in its successive constitutions...

 of Nicolae Ceaușescu
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...

. Street protests and violence in several Romanian cities over the course of roughly a week led the Romanian dictator to abandon power and flee Bucharest
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....

 with his wife, Elena Ceaușescu
Elena Ceausescu
Elena Ceaușescu was the wife of Romania's Communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu, and Deputy Prime Minister of Romania.-Background:She was born Elena Petrescu into a peasant family in Petrești commune, Dâmboviţa County, in the informal region of Wallachia. Her family was supported by her father's job...

. Captured in Târgoviște
Târgoviste
Târgoviște is a city in the Dâmbovița county of Romania. It is situated on the right bank of the Ialomiţa River. , it had an estimated population of 89,000. One village, Priseaca, is administered by the city.-Name:...

, they were tried in a show trial
Show trial
The term show trial is a pejorative description of a type of highly public trial in which there is a strong connotation that the judicial authorities have already determined the guilt of the defendant. The actual trial has as its only goal to present the accusation and the verdict to the public as...

 by a military tribunal on charges of genocide
Genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

, damage to the national economy and abuse of power to execute military actions against the Romanian people. They were found guilty of all charges, and immediately executed on December 25, 1989.

The Romanian Revolution caused 1,104 deaths, 162 of these occurring in the protests that took place from 16 to 22 December 1989 and brought an end to the Ceaușescu regime and the remaining 942 in the riots before the seizure of power by a new political structure, the National Salvation Front
National Salvation Front
The National Salvation Front was the governing body of Romania in the first weeks after the Romanian Revolution of 1989, subsequently turned into a political party...

. Most deaths occurred in cities such as Timişoara
Timisoara
Timișoara is the capital city of Timiș County, in western Romania. One of the largest Romanian cities, with an estimated population of 311,586 inhabitants , and considered the informal capital city of the historical region of Banat, Timișoara is the main social, economic and cultural center in the...

, Bucharest, Sibiu
Sibiu
Sibiu is a city in Transylvania, Romania with a population of 154,548. Located some 282 km north-west of Bucharest, the city straddles the Cibin River, a tributary of the river Olt...

 and Arad
Arad, Romania
Arad is the capital city of Arad County, in western Romania, in the Crişana region, on the river Mureş.An important industrial center and transportation hub, Arad is also the seat of a Romanian Orthodox archbishop and features two universities, a Romanian Orthodox theological seminary, a training...

. The number of injured reached 3,352, of which 1,107 are for the period in which Ceaușescu still held power, and the remaining 2,245 are for the period after the seizure of power by the National Salvation Front.

Background

Three major components provided reasons for and provoked the Romanian Revolution:

1. The secret police
Secret police
Secret police are a police agency which operates in secrecy and beyond the law to protect the political power of an individual dictator or an authoritarian political regime....

 (Securitate
Securitate
The Securitate was the secret police agency of Communist Romania. Previously, the Romanian secret police was called Siguranţa Statului. Founded on August 30, 1948, with help from the Soviet NKVD, the Securitate was abolished in December 1989, shortly after President Nicolae Ceaușescu was...

) had become so ubiquitous as to make Romania essentially a police state
Police state
A police state is one in which the government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic and political life of the population...

. Free speech was limited and opinions that did not favor the Communist Party
Romanian Communist Party
The Romanian Communist Party was a communist political party in Romania. Successor to the Bolshevik wing of the Socialist Party of Romania, it gave ideological endorsement to communist revolution and the disestablishment of Greater Romania. The PCR was a minor and illegal grouping for much of the...

 were forbidden. It was believed that one out of every four Romanians was a Securitate informer. While the ratio was probably smaller than that, it was certainly large enough to make organized dissent nearly impossible. The regime deliberately played on this sense that everyone was being watched in order to make it easier to bend the people to the Party's will. Even by Soviet bloc standards, the Securitate was exceptionally brutal.

2. Nicolae Ceaușescu's draconian austerity program, designed to enable Romania to liquidate its entire national debt in only a few years, plunged the population into painful shortages and increasing poverty. Romanian TV was reduced to a single channel that transmitted only two hours per day; electricity was interrupted for hours (mostly at night); and there were long lines at grocery stores because electricity, food, clothes and other Romanian domestic production was exported in exchange for international currency to pay the country's debt.

3. Ceaușescu created a cult of personality, with weekly shows in stadiums or on streets in different cities dedicated to him, his wife and the Communist Party. There were megalomaniac projects, such as the construction of the grandiose House of the Republic (today the Palace of the Parliament
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...

), the biggest palace in the world, the adjacent Centrul Civic, and a never-completed museum dedicated to communism and Ceaușescu, today the Casa Radio
Casa Radio
Dâmbovița Center is an unfinished Romanian building in Bucharest, Romania, near Cotroceni, on the shore of the Dâmboviţa River. It was erected during the late 1980s by the Communist regime over the terrain which used to be the Bucharest Hippodrome before World War II, and was intended to serve as a...

. These and similar projects drained the country's finances and aggravated the already embattled economic situation. Thousands of Bucharest residents were evicted from their homes, which were subsequently demolished to make room for the huge structures.

As in neighboring countries, by 1989 the bulk of the Romanian population was dissatisfied with the Communist regime.

Unlike the other Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

 leaders, Ceaușescu had not been slavishly pro-Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, but rather had pursued an "independent" foreign policy; Romanian forces did not join their Warsaw Pact allies in putting an end to the Prague Spring
Prague Spring
The Prague Spring was a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia during the era of its domination by the Soviet Union after World War II...

 - an invasion
Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia
On the night of 20–21 August 1968, the Soviet Union and her main satellite states in the Warsaw Pact – Bulgaria, the German Democratic Republic , Hungary and Poland – invaded the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic in order to halt Alexander Dubček's Prague Spring political liberalization...

 Ceaușescu openly denounced - while Romanian athletes
Romania at the 1984 Summer Olympics
Romania competed at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, United States. 124 competitors, 71 men and 53 women, took part in 86 events in 13 sports. Notably, Romania was the only Eastern Bloc nation to participate at these Games; all others followed the Soviet Union's boycott of the Games...

 competed at the Soviet-boycotted 1984 Summer Olympics
1984 Summer Olympics
The 1984 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXIII Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event held in Los Angeles, California, United States in 1984...

 in Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

 (receiving a standing ovation at the opening ceremonies and proceeding to win 53 medals, trailing only the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

 in the overall count). Conversely, while Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the last head of state of the USSR, having served from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991...

 spoke of reform, Ceauşescu maintained a hard political line and cult of personality.

The austerity program started in 1980 and because of the widespread poverty it introduced, made the Communist regime very unpopular. By mid 1989, Ceaușescu achieved a significant political victory with Romania paying off its external debt of about US$
United States dollar
The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

11 billion several months before even he had expected. However, in the months following the announcement the austerity and the shortage of goods remained the same as before.

Brașov riot

December 1989 was the last act of a sequence of events that started with the anti-Ceauşist riot in Brașov
Brasov
Brașov is a city in Romania and the capital of Brașov County.According to the last Romanian census, from 2002, there were 284,596 people living within the city of Brașov, making it the 8th most populated city in Romania....

 on 15 November 1987. The revolt started at the enterprise of the truck manufacturer Steagul Roșu, where a strike began in the night of 14 November, on the night-shift, and continued the next morning with a march downtown. Romanians had heard about this event through Radio Free Europe
Radio Free Europe
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is a broadcaster funded by the U.S. Congress that provides news, information, and analysis to countries in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East "where the free flow of information is either banned by government authorities or not fully developed"...

. Emil Hurezeanu
Emil Hurezeanu
Emil Horaţiu Hurezeanu is a Romanian journalist and writer.- Education :He attended the law faculty at Babeş-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca . Then, he worked as jurist in Alba County and Mediaş and at Eminescu Bookshop in Sibiu...

 recounts: "I remember that Neculai Constantin Munteanu, the moderator of the show, started the broadcast: 'Braşov! So Brașov! Now it started!' This was the tone of the whole broadcast. We had interviews, information, interpretations of some political interpretations, older press articles announcing open street protests against Ceauşescu."

The reprisals against strikers were rapid. The workers were arrested and imprisoned and their families terrorized, but this act of courage on the part of the workers of Brașov set the stage for future mass revolts. In this sense, from Radio Free Europe, Emil Hurezeanu says: "... All these have been turned into an offensive. The reaction of the regime was expected... Very soon it was seen that the regime wants to hide it, to cancel it, practically not to respond to claims, not to take measures, to change anything, not to turn this protest into a public debate or even inside the party, in the Political Executive Committee. And then, the recipe of street confrontations with the regime became the only...possible [response]. It became the leitmotif of all the media analysis. [...] It was the beginning of an action against the system that comprises more items. It was a labor protest in a citadel of Ceaușescu, it was an antidictatorial message, it was a clear political context: the pressures of Moscow, Ceaușescu's refusal to accept the demands of Gorbachev, the breaking with the West, who changed the views towards the regime – all these have made us to believe that the beginning of the end was coming”.

In March 1989, several leading activists of the Romanian Communist Party
Romanian Communist Party
The Romanian Communist Party was a communist political party in Romania. Successor to the Bolshevik wing of the Socialist Party of Romania, it gave ideological endorsement to communist revolution and the disestablishment of Greater Romania. The PCR was a minor and illegal grouping for much of the...

 (PCR) protested in a letter that criticized the economic policies of Nicolae Ceaușescu, but shortly thereafter Ceaușescu achieved a significant political victory: Romania paid off its external debt of about US$11 billion several months before the time that even the Romanian dictator expected.

Ceaușescu was formally reelected secretary general of the Romanian Communist Party—the only political party of the Romanian Socialist Republic—on November 14 at the party's XIV Congress. On 11 November 1989, before the party congress, on Bucharest's Brezoianu Street and Kogălniceanu Boulevard, students from Cluj-Napoca
Cluj-Napoca
Cluj-Napoca , commonly known as Cluj, is the fourth most populous city in Romania and the seat of Cluj County in the northwestern part of the country. Geographically, it is roughly equidistant from Bucharest , Budapest and Belgrade...

 and Bucharest demonstrated with placards “We want Reforms against Ceaușescu government."

The students — including Paraschivescu Mihnea, Vulpe Gratian, and the economist Dan Caprariu from Cluj — were detained and investigated by the Securitate at the Rahova Penitentiary, on suspicion of propaganda against the socialist society. They were released on 22 December 1989 at 14.00.

There were other letters and other attempts to draw attention to the economic, cultural, and spiritual oppression of Romanians, but they served only to intensify the activity of the communist police and Securitate.

Timișoara protests

On 16 December a protest broke out in Timișoara
Timisoara
Timișoara is the capital city of Timiș County, in western Romania. One of the largest Romanian cities, with an estimated population of 311,586 inhabitants , and considered the informal capital city of the historical region of Banat, Timișoara is the main social, economic and cultural center in the...

 in response to an attempt by the government to evict a dissident, Hungarian Reformed church
Reformed churches
The Reformed churches are a group of Protestant denominations characterized by Calvinist doctrines. They are descended from the Swiss Reformation inaugurated by Huldrych Zwingli but developed more coherently by Martin Bucer, Heinrich Bullinger and especially John Calvin...

 pastor László Tőkés
László Tokés
László Tőkés is a Romanian politician of Hungarian ethnicity, currently serving as a Member of the European Parliament and Vice President of the European Parliament ....

. Tőkés had recently made critical comments against the regime to the Hungarian media, and the government alleged that he was inciting ethnic hatred. At the behest of the government, his bishop removed him from his post—thereby depriving him of the right to use the apartment to which he was entitled as a pastor—and assigned him to be a pastor in the countryside. For some time, his parishioners gathered around his home to protect him from harassment and eviction. Many passers-by, including religious Romanian students, spontaneously joined in.

As it became clear that the crowd would not disperse, the mayor, Petre Moț, made remarks suggesting that he had overturned the decision to evict Tőkés. Meanwhile, the crowd had grown impatient, and when Moț declined to confirm his statement against the planned eviction in writing, the crowd started to chant anticommunist slogans. Subsequently, police and Securitate forces showed up at the scene. By 7:30 p.m., the protest had spread, and the original cause became largely irrelevant.

Some of the protesters attempted to burn down the building that housed the District Committee of the Romanian Communist Party
Romanian Communist Party
The Romanian Communist Party was a communist political party in Romania. Successor to the Bolshevik wing of the Socialist Party of Romania, it gave ideological endorsement to communist revolution and the disestablishment of Greater Romania. The PCR was a minor and illegal grouping for much of the...

 (PCR). The Securitate responded with tear gas and water jets, while the police beat up rioters and arrested many of them. Around 9:00 p.m., the rioters withdrew. They regrouped eventually around the Romanian Orthodox Cathedral
Timisoara Orthodox Cathedral
The Timişoara Orthodox Cathedral is a Romanian Orthodox cathedral in Timişoara, Romania. It was built between 1937 and 1940. It is dedicated to the Three Holy Hierarchs, Saints Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom...

 and started a protest march around the city, but again they were confronted by the security forces.

Military crackdown

Riots and protests resumed the following day, 17 December. The rioters broke into the District Committee building and threw Party documents, propaganda brochures, Ceaușescu's writings, and other symbols of communist power out the windows. Again, the protesters attempted to set the building on fire, but this time they were stopped by military units.

Since Romania did not have a riot police (Ceaușescu, who believed the Romanian people loved him, never saw the need for the formation of one), the military were sent in to control the riots, since the situation was too large for the Securitate and police to handle. The significance of the army presence in the streets was an ominous one: it meant that they had received their orders from the highest level of the command chain, presumably from Ceaușescu himself. The army failed to establish order and chaos ensued with gunfire, fights, casualties, and burned cars. Transportor Amfibiu Blindat (TAB) armored personnel carriers and tanks were called in.

After 8:00 p.m., from Piața Libertății (Liberty Square) to the Opera there was wild shooting, including the area of Decebal bridge, Calea Lipovei (Lipovei Avenue), and Calea Girocului (Girocului Avenue). Tanks, trucks, and TABs blocked the accesses into the city while helicopters hovered overhead. After midnight the protests calmed down. Ion Coman, Ilie Matei, and Ştefan Guşă
Stefan Gusa
Ştefan Guşă or Guşe was a Romanian general who was the Chief of the General Staff of the Romanian Armed Forces between 1986 and 1989....

 (Chief of the Romanian General Staff) inspected the city, in which some areas looked like the aftermath of a war: destruction, ash, and blood.

The morning of 18 December the centre was being guarded by soldiers and Securitate-agents in plainclothes. Mayor Moț ordered a Party gathering to take place at the University, with the purpose of condemning the "vandalism" of the previous days. He also declared martial law
Martial law
Martial law is the imposition of military rule by military authorities over designated regions on an emergency basis— only temporary—when the civilian government or civilian authorities fail to function effectively , when there are extensive riots and protests, or when the disobedience of the law...

, prohibiting people from going about in groups larger than two people.

Defying the curfew, a group of 30 young men headed for the Orthodox Cathedral, where they stopped and waved a Romanian flag from which they had removed the Romanian Communist coat of arms. Expecting that they would be fired upon, they started to sing "Deșteaptă-te, române!
Desteapta-te, române!
"Deșteaptă-te, române" is Romania's national anthem....

" ("Wake up, Romanian!"), an earlier national song that had been banned since 1947. They were, indeed, fired upon and some died, and others were seriously injured, while the lucky ones were able to escape.

On 19 December, Radu Bălan and Ştefan Gușă visited the workers in the city’s factories, but failed to get them to resume work. On 20 December massive columns of workers were entering the city. About 100,000 protesters occupied Piața Operei (Opera Square — today Piața Victoriei, Victory Square) and started to chant anti-government protests: "Noi suntem poporul!" ("We are the people!"), "Armata e cu noi!" ("The army is on our side!"), "Nu vă fie frică, Ceaușescu pică!" ("Have no fear, Ceaușescu is falling!").

Meanwhile, Emil Bobu (Secretary to the Central Committee) and Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Romania
The Prime Minister of Romania is the head of the Government of Romania. Initially, the office was styled President of the Council of Ministers , when the term "Government" included more than the Cabinet, and the Cabinet was called The Council of Ministers...

 Constantin Dăscălescu
Constantin Dascalescu
Constantin Dăscălescu was a Romanian politician who served as Prime Minister of Romania during the communist rule of Nicolae Ceauşescu until the 1989 Romanian Revolution.In 1991, after the revolution, he was sentenced to life in prison...

 were sent by Elena Ceauşescu (Nicolae Ceauşescu being at that time in Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

), to solve the situation. They met with a delegation of the protesters and accepted freeing the majority of the arrested protesters. However, they refused to comply with the protesters’ main demand (resignation of Ceauşescu), and the situation remained essentially unchanged.

The next day, trains loaded with workers originating from factories in Oltenia
Oltenia
Oltenia is a historical province and geographical region of Romania, in western Wallachia. It is situated between the Danube, the Southern Carpathians and the Olt river ....

 arrived in Timişoara. The regime was attempting to use them to repress the mass protests, but they finally ended up joining the protests. One worker explained: "Yesterday, our factory boss and a Party official rounded us up in the yard, handed us wooden clubs and told us that Hungarians and ‘hooligans’ were devastating Timişoara and that it is our duty to go there and help crush the riots. But I realized that wasn't the truth."

On 18 December 1989 Ceauşescu had departed for a visit to Iran, leaving the duty of crushing the Timişoara revolt to his subordinates and his wife. Upon his return on the evening of December 20, the situation became even more tense, and he gave a televised speech from the TV studio inside the Central Committee Building (CC Building), in which he spoke about the events at Timişoara in terms of an "interference of foreign forces in Romania's internal affairs" and an "external aggression on Romania's sovereignty."

The country, which had no information of the Timişoara events from the national media, heard about the Timişoara revolt from Western radio stations like Voice of America
Voice of America
Voice of America is the official external broadcast institution of the United States federal government. It is one of five civilian U.S. international broadcasters working under the umbrella of the Broadcasting Board of Governors . VOA provides a wide range of programming for broadcast on radio...

 and Radio Free Europe
Radio Free Europe
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is a broadcaster funded by the U.S. Congress that provides news, information, and analysis to countries in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East "where the free flow of information is either banned by government authorities or not fully developed"...

, and by word of mouth. A mass meeting was staged for the next day, December 21, which, according to the official media, was presented as a "spontaneous movement of support for Ceauşescu," emulating the 1968 meeting in which Ceauşescu had spoken against the invasion of Czechoslovakia
Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia
On the night of 20–21 August 1968, the Soviet Union and her main satellite states in the Warsaw Pact – Bulgaria, the German Democratic Republic , Hungary and Poland – invaded the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic in order to halt Alexander Dubček's Prague Spring political liberalization...

 by the Warsaw Pact forces.

The revolt spreads across the country

On the morning of 21 December Ceauşescu addressed an assembly of approximately 100,000 people, to condemn the uprising in Timişoara. Party officials took great pains to make it appear that Ceauşescu was still immensely popular. Several busloads of workers, under threat of being fired, arrived in Bucharest's Piaţa Palatului (Palace Square, now Piaţa Revoluţiei
Revolution Square, Bucharest
Revolution Square is a square in central Bucharest, on Calea Victoriei. Known as Piaţa Palatului until 1989, it was later renamed after the 1989 Romanian Revolution....

 — Revolution Square) and given red flags, banners and large pictures of Ceauşescu. They were augmented by several bystanders who were rounded up on Calea Victoriei.

However, Ceauşescu was out of touch with his people and completely misread the crowd's mood. Starting his speech in the usual "wooden language
Wooden language
In rhetoric, wooden language refers to a diverting of attention from reality by using vague and ambiguous words, such as banalities too abstract or pompous, which appeal to sentiment and emotionality rather than to facts.Wooden language was commonly used in political speeches and newspaper...

", spurting out pro-socialist and Communist Party rhetoric, Ceauşescu delivered a litany of the achievements of the "socialist revolution" and Romanian "multi-laterally developed socialist society". He blamed the Timişoara uprising on "fascist agitators."

The people, however, remained unresponsive, and only the front rows supported Ceauşescu with cheers and applause. Eight minutes into the speech, some in the crowd actually began to jeer, boo, whistle and utter insults at him. Workers from a Bucharest power plant started chanting "Ti-mi-şoa-ra! Ti-mi-şoa-ra!"--a chant that was soon picked up by others in the crowd. Ceauşescu's mouth hung open, and raised his right hand in hopes of silencing the crowd, showing his lack of understanding of the recent events and his incapacity to handle the situation. This was further demonstrated when he offered, as an act of desperation, to raise workers' salaries by 100 lei
Romanian leu
The leu is the currency of Romania. It is subdivided into 100 bani . The name of the currency means "lion". On 1 July 2005, Romania underwent a currency reform, switching from the previous leu to a new leu . 1 RON is equal to 10,000 ROL...

 per month (about 9 US dollars at the time, yet a 5–10% raise for a modest salary) and student scholarships from 100 to 110 lei
Romanian leu
The leu is the currency of Romania. It is subdivided into 100 bani . The name of the currency means "lion". On 1 July 2005, Romania underwent a currency reform, switching from the previous leu to a new leu . 1 RON is equal to 10,000 ROL...

 while continuing to praise the achievements of the Socialist Revolution. However, a revolution was brewing right in front of his eyes.

As he was addressing the crowd from the balcony of the Central Committee building, sudden movement came from the outskirts of the massed assembly, as did the sound of (what various sources have reported as) fireworks, bombs, or guns, which together caused the assembly to break into chaos. Initially frightened, the crowds tried to disperse. Bullhorns then began to spread the news that the Securitate was firing on the crowd and that a "revolution" was unfolding. This persuaded people in the assembly to join in. The rally turned into a protest demonstration.

The entire speech was being broadcast live around Romania, and it is estimated that perhaps 76% of the nation was watching. Censors attempted to cut the live video feed, and replace it with communist propaganda songs and video praising the Ceauşescu regime, but parts of the riots had already been broadcast and most of the Romanian people realized that something unusual was in progress.

Ceauşescu and his wife, as well as other officials and CPEx members, panicked, and Ceauşescu's bodyguard hustled him back inside the building.

The reaction of the Ceauşescu couple on the balcony is memorable: They staged futile attempts to regain control over the uprising crowd using phone conversation formulas such as "Alo, Alo" ("Hello, Hello"), Ceauşescu's wife "advised" him how to contain the situation "Vorbeşte-le, vorbeşte-le" ("Talk to them, talk to them"), and they urged the crowd "Staţi liniştiţi la locurile voastre" ("Stay quiet in your places"). In the end Ceauşescu allowed himself to be directed into the Central Committee building by his underlings.

The jeers and whistles soon erupted into riot; the crowd took to the streets, placing the capital, like Timişoara, in turmoil. Members of the crowd spontaneously began shouting anti-Ceauşescu slogans, which spread and became chants: "Jos dictatorul!" ("Down with the dictator"), "Moarte criminalului!" ("Death to the criminal"), "Noi suntem poporul, jos cu dictatorul!" ("We are the People, down with the dictator"), "Ceauşescu cine eşti?/Criminal din Scorniceşti" ("Ceauşescu, who are you? A criminal from Scorniceşti
Scornicesti
Scornicești is a town in Olt County, Romania with a population of 12,802. The town administers 13 villages and has a total area of 170 km², being the locality with the largest area in the county of Olt, surpassing even its capital...

").

Protesters eventually flooded the downtown area, from Piaţa Kogălniceanu to 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...

, Piaţa Rosetti
Piata Rosetti
Piaţa Rosetti is a small square in Sector 2 of Bucharest, 250 metres from Piaţa Universităţii. It is named after former mayor, politician, and 1848 revolutionary C. A. Rosetti. The square was designed as part of the modernization efforts of mayor Pache Protopopescu in 1888. A statue of Rosetti...

, and Piaţa Romană
Piata Romana
Piaţa Romană is a major traffic intersection in Sector 1, central Bucharest.Two major boulevards intersect in Piaţa Romană: Lascăr Catargiu Boulevard and Magheru Boulevard . The two roads also coincide geographically with the Bucharest Metro Line M2...

. In one notable scene from the event, a young man waved a tricolour
Tricolour
A tricolour is a flag or banner more-or-less equally divided into three bands of differing colours...

 with the Communist coat of arms torn out of its centre, while perched on the statue of Mihai Viteazul on Boulevard Mihail Kogălniceanu in the University Square
University Square, Bucharest
University Square is located in downtown Bucharest, near the University of Bucharest.Four statues are located in the University Square, in front of the University; they depict Ion Heliade Rădulescu , Michael the Brave , Gheorghe Lazăr and Spiru Haret .The square was the site of the 1990 Golaniad,...

. Many others began to emulate the young protester, and the waving and displaying of the Romanian flag with the Communist insignia cut out quickly became widespread.

Street confrontations

As the hours passed, many more people took to the streets. Later, observers claimed that even at this point, had Ceauşescu been willing to talk, he might have been able to salvage something. Instead, he decided on force. Soon the protesters — unarmed and unorganized — were confronted by soldiers, tanks, TABs, USLA
Brigada Antiterorista
Brigada Antiteroristă is a tactical special operations unit of the Romanian Intelligence Service .-History:...

 troops (Unitatea Specială pentru Lupta Antiteroristă, anti-terrorist special squads), and armed plain-clothes Securitate
Securitate
The Securitate was the secret police agency of Communist Romania. Previously, the Romanian secret police was called Siguranţa Statului. Founded on August 30, 1948, with help from the Soviet NKVD, the Securitate was abolished in December 1989, shortly after President Nicolae Ceaușescu was...

officers. The crowd was soon being shot at from various buildings, side streets, and tanks. There were many casualties, including deaths, as victims were shot, clubbed to death, stabbed, and crushed by armored vehicles (one TAB drove into the crowd around the InterContinental Hotel
InterContinental Bucharest
The InterContinental Bucharest is a highrise five star hotel situated near University Square, Bucharest, in sector 1 and is also a landmark of the city...

, crushing people — a French journalist, Jean Louis Calderon, was killed; a street near University Square was later named after him, as well as a high school in Timişoara). Firefighters hit the demonstrators with powerful water jets and the police continued to beat and arrest people. Protesters managed to build a defensible barricade in front of Dunărea ("Danube") restaurant, which stood until after midnight, but was finally torn apart by government forces. Intense continuous shooting continued until after 3:00 a.m., by which time the survivors had fled the streets.

Records of the fighting that day include footage shot from helicopters — sent to raid the area and to record evidence for eventual reprisals — as well as by tourists in the high tower of the centrally located InterContinental Hotel, next to the National Theater and across the street from the University.

It is likely that in the small hours of 22 December the Ceauşescus made their second mistake of the day: Instead of fleeing the city under cover of night, they decided to wait until morning to leave. Ceauşescu must have thought that his desperate attempts to crush the protests had succeeded, because he apparently called another meeting for the next morning. However, before 7:00 a.m., his wife Elena received the news that large columns of workers from many industrial platforms (large communist-era factories or groups of factories concentrated into industrial zones) were heading towards downtown Bucharest to join the protests. The police barricades that were meant to block access to Piaţa Universităţii
University Square, Bucharest
University Square is located in downtown Bucharest, near the University of Bucharest.Four statues are located in the University Square, in front of the University; they depict Ion Heliade Rădulescu , Michael the Brave , Gheorghe Lazăr and Spiru Haret .The square was the site of the 1990 Golaniad,...

 (University Square) and Palace Square proved useless. By 9:30 a.m., University Square was jammed with protesters. Security forces (army, police and others) re-entered the area, only to join with the protesters.

By 10 A.M., as the radio broadcast was announcing the introduction of martial law and of a ban on groups larger than five persons, yet hundreds of thousands of people were gathering for the first time, spontaneously, in central Bucharest (the previous day's crowd had come together at Ceauşescu's orders). Ceauşescu attempted to address the crowd from the balcony of the Central Committee of the Communist Party building, but his attempt was met with a wave of disapproval and anger. Helicopters spread manifestos (which did not reach the crowd, due to unfavourable winds) instructing people not to fall victim to the latest "diversion attempts," but to go home instead and enjoy the Christmas feast. This order, which drew unfavorable comparisons to Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette ; 2 November 1755 – 16 October 1793) was an Archduchess of Austria and the Queen of France and of Navarre. She was the fifteenth and penultimate child of Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I....

's haughty (but apocryphal) "Let them eat cake
Let Them Eat Cake
"Let them eat cake" is the traditional translation to English of the French phrase "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche", supposedly spoken by "a great princess" upon learning that the peasants had no bread...

", further infuriated the people who did read the manifestos; many people at that time had trouble procuring such basic foodstuffs as cooking oil.

Defection of the Army and Ceauşescu's fall

On the morning of 22 December sometime around 9:30 a.m., Vasile Milea
Vasile Milea
Vasile Milea was Nicolae Ceauşescu's minister of defense during the Romanian Revolution of 1989 and was involved in the reprisal phase of the revolution that took 162 lives....

, Ceauşescu's minister of defense, died under suspicious circumstances. A communiqué by Ceauşescu stated that Milea had been sacked for treason, and that he had committed suicide after his treason was revealed. The most widespread opinion at the time was that Milea hesitated to follow Ceauşescu's orders to fire on the demonstrators, even though tanks had been dispatched to downtown Bucharest that morning. Milea was already in severe disfavour with Ceauşescu for initially sending soldiers to Timişoara without live ammunition.

Accounts differ about how Milea died. Milea's family and several junior officers believed he had been shot in his own office by the Securitate, while another group of officers believed he had committed suicide. In 2005 an investigation concluded that the minister killed himself by shooting at his heart, but the bullet missed the heart, hit a nearby artery, and led to his death shortly afterward. Whatever the case, Milea's death is now reckoned as the moment that ended any chance of Ceauşescu staying in power. The rank-and-file soldiers, believing Milea had been murdered, went over virtually en masse to the revolution.

Upon learning of Milea's death, Ceauşescu appointed Victor Stănculescu
Victor Stănculescu
Victor Atanasie Stănculescu was a Romanian general during the Communist era. He played a central role in the overthrow of the dictatorship by refusing to carry out the orders of Romanian dictator Ceauşescu during the Romanian Revolution of 1989...

 as minister of defense. He accepted after a brief hesitation. Stănculescu, however, ordered the troops back to their quarters without Ceauşescu's knowledge, and moreover persuaded Ceauşescu to leave by helicopter, thus making the dictator a fugitive. At that same moment, angry protesters began storming the Communist Party headquarters; Stanculescu and the soldiers under his command did not oppose them.

By refusing to carry out Ceauşescu's orders (he was still technically commander-in-chief of the army), Stănculescu played a central role in the overthrow of the dictatorship. "I had the prospect of two execution squads: Ceauşescu's and the revolutionary one!" confessed Stănculescu later. In the afternoon, Stănculescu "chose" Ion Iliescu
Ion Iliescu
Ion Iliescu served as President of Romania from 1990 until 1996, and from 2000 until 2004. From 1996 to 2000 and from 2004 until his retirement in 2008, Iliescu was a Senator for the Social Democratic Party , whose honorary president he remains....

's political group from among others that were striving for power in the aftermath of the recent events.

Helicopter extraction

Following Ceauşescu's second failed attempt to address the crowd, he and Elena fled into an elevator headed for the roof. A group of protesters managed to force their way into the building, overpower Ceauşescu's bodyguards and make their way through his office before heading onto the balcony. They didn't know it, but they were only a few meters from Ceauşescu. The elevator's electricity failed just before it reached the top floor, and Ceauşescu's bodyguards forced it open and ushered the couple onto the roof.

At 11:20 on 22 December 1989, Ceauşescu's personal pilot, Lieutenant-Colonel Vasile Malutan, received instructions from Lieutenant-General Opruta to proceed to Palace Square to pick up the president. As he flew over Palace Square, he saw it was impossible to land there. Malutan landed his white Dauphin
Eurocopter Dauphin
The Eurocopter SA 365/AS365 Dauphin 2 is a medium-weight multipurpose twin-engine helicopter manufactured by Eurocopter .-Design and development:...

, no. 203, on the terrace at 11:44. A man brandishing a white net curtain from one of the windows waved him down.

Malutan said, "Then Stelica, the co-pilot, came to me and said that there were demonstrators coming to the terrace. Then the Ceauşescus came out, both practically carried by their bodyguards ... They look as if they were fainting. They were white with terror. Manea Mănescu
Manea Manescu
Manea Mănescu was a former Romanian communist politician who served as Prime Minister for five years during Nicolae Ceauşescu's Communist regime....

 (one of the vice-presidents) and Emil Bobu were running behind them. Mănescu, Bobu, Neagoe and another Securitate officer scrambled to the four seats in the back ... As I pulled Ceauşescu in, I saw the demonstrators running across the terrace ... There wasn't enough space, Elena Ceauşescu and I were squeezed in between the chairs and the door .. We were only supposed to carry four passengers .. We had six."

According to Malutan, it was 12:08 when they left for Snagov
Snagov
Snagov is a commune, located 40 km north of Bucharest in Ilfov County, Romania. According to the 2002 census, 99.2% of the population is ethnic Romanian and 0.4% are Roma...

. After they arrived there, Ceauşescu took Malutan into the presidential suite and ordered him to get two helicopters filled with soldiers for an armed guard, and a further Dauphin to come to Snagov. Malutan's unit commander replied on the phone, "There has been a revolution .. You are on your own ... Good luck!". Malutan then said to Ceauşescu that the second motor was now warmed up and they need to leave soon, but he could only take four people not six. Manescu and Bobu stayed behind. Ceauşescu ordered Malutan to head for Titu
Titu
Titu is a town in Dâmboviţa County, southern Romania with a population of 10,226 , best known for its yearly September 14 bâlci .Titu is divided into three main zones...

. Near Titu, Malutan says that he made the helicopter dip up and down. He lied to Ceauşescu, saying that this was to avoid anti-aircraft fire, since they would now be in range. The dictator panicked and told him to land.

He did so in a field next to the old road that led to Piteşti
Pitesti
Pitești is a city in Romania, located on the Argeș River. The capital and largest city of Argeș County, it is an important commercial and industrial center, as well as the home of two universities. Pitești is situated on the A1 freeway connecting it directly to the national capital Bucharest,...

. Malutan then told his four passengers that he could do nothing more. The Securitate men ran to the roadside and began to flag down passing cars. Two cars were flagged down, one of a forestry official and one a red Dacia of a local doctor. However, the local doctor was keen not to get involved and after a short time driving the Ceauşescus faked engine trouble. A car of a bicycle repair man was then flagged down and he took them to Târgovişte
Târgoviste
Târgoviște is a city in the Dâmbovița county of Romania. It is situated on the right bank of the Ialomiţa River. , it had an estimated population of 89,000. One village, Priseaca, is administered by the city.-Name:...

. The driver of the car, Nicolae Petrişor, convinced them that they could hide successfully in an agricultural technical institute on the edge of town. When they arrived, the director guided the Ceauşescus into a room and then locked them in. They were arrested by the local police at about 3:30 p.m., then after some wandering around transported to the Târgovişte garrison's military compound, and held captive for several days, until their trial.

Trial and execution

On 24 December, Ion Iliescu, head of the newly formed Council of the National Salvation Front signed a Decree on the establishment of the Extraordinary Military Tribunal. The trial was held on December 25, lasted for about 2 hours, and delivered death sentences to the couple. The execution followed immediately, on the spot, being carried out by three paratroopers with their service rifles.

Footage of the trial and of the executed Ceauşescus was promptly released in Romania and to the rest of the world. The actual moment of execution was not filmed since the cameraman was too slow, and he managed to get into the courtyard just as the shooting ended.

Huge controversy surrounds the abnormally brief trial put together in very inappropriate circumstances for the Ceauşescu couple. Many Romanians thought the former dictator and his spouse were unjustly prosecuted and in fact murdered—and not executed as it was claimed by Iliescu's National Salvation Front—in a rush to cover beforehand potential trouble stemming from a Ceauşescu coup d'état attempt against himself and his regime. In footage of the trial, Ceauşescu is seen answering the "tribunal" judging him and referring to some of its members—among them Army General Victor Atanasie Stanculescu and future Romanian Secret Service head Virgil Măgureanu
Virgil Măgureanu
Virgil Măgureanu, is a Romanian sociologist that was the head of the main intelligence service of Romania, Serviciul Român de Informaţii, or SRI between 1990-1997...

—as "traitors". In this same video Ceauşescu dismisses the "tribunal" as illegitimate and demands his Constitutional rights to answer to charges in front of a legitimate tribunal.

The new regime

After Ceauşescu left, the crowds in Palace Square entered a celebratory mood, perhaps even more intense than in the other former Eastern Bloc countries because of the recent violence. People cried, shouted, and gave each other gifts. The occupation of the Central Committee building continued.

People threw Ceauşescu's writings, official portraits, and propaganda books out the windows, intending to burn them. They also promptly ripped off the giant letters from the roof making up the word "comunist" ("communist") in the slogan: "Trăiască Partidul Comunist Român!" ("Long live the Communist Party of Romania!"). A young woman appeared on the rooftop and waved a flag with the coat of arms torn out.

At that time, fierce fights were underway at Bucharest Otopeni International Airport
Henri Coanda International Airport
Henri Coandă International Airport is Romania's busiest international airport, located northwest of the city of Bucharest, within Otopeni city limits. One of two airports serving the Romanian capital, the other being Băneasa, it is named after Romanian flight pioneer Henri Coandă, builder of...

 between troops sent against each other under claims that they were going to confront terrorists. According to a book by Ceauşescu's bodyguard, Securitate Lieutenant Colonel Dumitru Burlan
Dumitru Burlan
Dumitru Burlan is a Romanian former Securitate officer.During the communist period, he worked for the Securitate. He was the chief of bodyguards of President Nicolae Ceauşescu, and served once as his stand-in , but was not able to protect Ceauşescu from arrest and execution during the Romanian...

, the generals who were part of the conspiracy led by General Stănculescu were trying to create fictional terrorism scenarios in order to induce fear and to push the army onto the side of the plotters.

However, the seizure of power by the new political structure National Salvation Front (FSN), which "emanated" from the second tier of the Communist Party leadership with help of the plotting generals, was not yet complete. Forces considered to be loyal to the old regime (spontaneously nicknamed "terrorists") opened fire on the crowd and attacked vital points of socio-political life: the television, radio, and telephone buildings, as well as Casa Scânteii (the centre of the nation's print media, which serves a similar role today under the name Casa Presei Libere
Casa Presei Libere
Casa Presei Libere is a building in northern Bucharest, Romania, the tallest in the city between 1956 and 2007.A horse race track was built in 1905 on the future site of Casa Presei Libere...

, "House of the Free Press") and the post office in the district of 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...

; Palace Square (site of the Central Committee building, but also of the Central University Library
Central University Library of Bucharest
The Central University Library of Bucharest is a library in central Bucharest, located across the street from the National Museum of Art of Romania....

, the national art museum
National Museum of Art of Romania
The National Museum of Art of Romania is located in the former royal palace in Revolution Square, central Bucharest, Romania, completed in 1937...

 in the former Royal Palace, and the Ateneul Român (Romanian Athaeneum), Bucharest's leading concert hall); the university and the adjoining University Square (one of the city's main intersections); Otopeni and Băneasa
Aurel Vlaicu International Airport
-Terminated destinations:-See also:*Aviation in Romania*Transport in Romania*Blue Air-External links:**...

 airports; hospitals, and the Ministry of Defence.

During the night of December 22–December 23, Bucharest residents remained on the streets, especially in the attacked zones, fighting (and ultimately winning, even at the cost of many lives) a battle with an elusive and dangerous enemy. With the military confused by contradictory orders, true battles ensued, with many real casualties. At 9:00 p.m. on December 23, tanks and a few paramilitary units arrived to protect the Palace of the Republic.
Meanwhile, messages of support were flooding in from all over the world: France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 (President
President of the French Republic
The President of the French Republic colloquially referred to in English as the President of France, is France's elected Head of State....

 François Mitterrand
François Mitterrand
François Maurice Adrien Marie Mitterrand was the 21st President of the French Republic and ex officio Co-Prince of Andorra, serving from 1981 until 1995. He is the longest-serving President of France and, as leader of the Socialist Party, the only figure from the left so far elected President...

) ; the Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 (President Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the last head of state of the USSR, having served from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991...

); Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 (the Hungarian Socialist Party
Hungarian Socialist Party
The Hungarian Socialist Party describes itself as a social democratic party in Hungary. It is the partial successor of the communist Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party , which ruled Hungary between 1956 and 1989. The decision to declare the party a successor of the MSZMP was controversial, and...

); the new East German government (at that time the two German states were not yet formally reunited); Bulgaria
Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

 (Petar Mladenov
Petar Mladenov
Petar Toshev Mladenov was a Bulgarian communist diplomat and politician. He was the last Communist leader of Bulgaria from 1989 to 1990, and briefly the first President of democratic Bulgaria in 1990.-Early life and career:...

, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Bulgaria
Communist Party of Bulgaria
The Communist Party of Bulgaria is a communist political party in Bulgaria. It is led by Alexander Paunov.The party was founded in 1996 as the Communist Party. Since 2001 it is part of the Coalition for Bulgaria, an alliance led by the Bulgarian Socialist Party...

); Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

 (Ladislav Adamec
Ladislav Adamec
Ladislav Adamec was a Czechoslovak Communist political figure. Upon the retirement of Prime Minister Lubomír Štrougal in October 1988, Adamec assumed the role, thus serving as the last Communist leader of Czechoslovakia. He served from October 12, 1988 to December 7, 1989...

, leader of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia
Communist Party of Czechoslovakia
The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, in Czech and in Slovak: Komunistická strana Československa was a Communist and Marxist-Leninist political party in Czechoslovakia that existed between 1921 and 1992....

, and Václav Havel
Václav Havel
Václav Havel is a Czech playwright, essayist, poet, dissident and politician. He was the tenth and last President of Czechoslovakia and the first President of the Czech Republic . He has written over twenty plays and numerous non-fiction works, translated internationally...

, the dissident writer, revolution leader and future president of the Republic); China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 (the Minister of Foreign Affairs); the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 (President George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...

) ; West Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

 (Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher); NATO (Secretary General Manfred Wörner
Manfred Wörner
Manfred Hermann Wörner was a German politician and diplomat. He served as the defense minister of West Germany between 1982 and 1988. He then served as the seventh Secretary General of NATO from 1988 to 1994. His term as Secretary General saw the end of the Cold War and the German reunification...

); the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 (Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

 Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

); Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

; Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

; the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

; Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

; Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

; Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 (the Japanese Communist Party
Japanese Communist Party
The Japanese Communist Party is a left-wing political party in Japan.The JCP advocates the establishment of a society based on socialism, democracy and peace, and opposition to militarism...

); and the Moldavian SSR
Moldavian SSR
The Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic , commonly abbreviated to Moldavian SSR or MSSR, was one of the 15 republics of the Soviet Union...

.

In the following days, moral support was followed by material support. Large quantities of food, medicine, clothing, medical equipment, etc., were sent to Romania. Around the world, the press dedicated entire pages and sometimes even complete issues to the Romanian revolution and its leaders.

On December 24, Bucharest was a city at war. Tanks, APCs, and trucks continued to go on patrol around the city and to surround trouble spots in order to protect them. At intersections near strategic objectives, roadblocks were built; automatic gunfire continued in and around University Square, the Gara de Nord (the city's main railroad station), and Palace Square. Yet amid the chaos, some people were seen to be clutching makeshift Christmas trees. "Terrorist activities" continued until December 27, when they abruptly stopped. Nobody ever found who conducted them, or who ordered their termination.

Casualties

The total number of deaths in the Romanian Revolution was 1,104, of which 162 were in the protests that led to the overthrow of Nicolae 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...

 (December 16–22, 1989) and 942 in the fighting that occurred after the seizure of power by the new political structure National Salvation Front (FSN). The number of wounded was 3,352, of which 1,107 occurred while Ceauşescu was still in power and 2,245 after the FSN took power.

Aftermath

The Revolution brought Romania vast attention from the outside world. Initially, much of the world's sympathy went to the National Salvation Front government under Ion Iliescu
Ion Iliescu
Ion Iliescu served as President of Romania from 1990 until 1996, and from 2000 until 2004. From 1996 to 2000 and from 2004 until his retirement in 2008, Iliescu was a Senator for the Social Democratic Party , whose honorary president he remains....

, a former member of the Communist Party leadership and a Ceauşescu ally prior to falling into the dictator's disgrace in the early 1980s. The National Salvation Front, composed mainly of former members of the second echelon of the Communist Party, immediately assumed control over the state institutions, including the main media outlets, such as the national radio and television networks. They used their control of the media in order to launch virulent propaganda-style attacks against their new political opponents, the traditional democratic parties, which re-emerged after more than 50 years of underground activity.

Much of that sympathy was squandered during the Mineriad
Mineriad
See also The 1990s: the rise and decline of miners' unionsA Mineriad is the term used to name any of the successive violent interventions of miners in Bucharest. These interventions were generally seen as aimed at wrestling policy changes or simply material advantages from the current political...

 of January 1990 when miners and police, responding to Iliescu's appeals, invaded Bucharest and brutalized students and intellectuals who protested what they described as the hijacking of the Romanian Revolution by former members of the communist leadership under the auspices of the National Salvation Front, in an attempt to suppress any genuine political opposition.

In May 1990, partly due to the National Salvation Front's use of the media and of the partly preserved Communist Party infrastructure to silence the democratic opposition, Iliescu became Romania's first elected president after the revolution, with a majority of 85%.

Iliescu remained the central figure in Romanian politics for more than a decade, being re-elected for the third time in 2000, after a term out of power between 1996–2000. The survival of Ceauşescu’s former ally demonstrated the ambiguity of the Romanian revolution, at once the most violent in 1989 and yet one that, according to some did not entirely replace the former regime.

While other former ruling Communist parties in the Soviet bloc reconfigured themselves into social democratic or democratic socialist parties, the PCR melted away in the wake of the revolution. It has never been revived, and no present-day party claims to be its successor.

See also

  • Revolutions of 1989
    Revolutions of 1989
    The Revolutions of 1989 were the revolutions which overthrew the communist regimes in various Central and Eastern European countries.The events began in Poland in 1989, and continued in Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and...

  • Braşov Rebellion
    Brasov Rebellion
    The 1987 Rebellion of Braşov was a revolt against Nicolae Ceauşescu's economic policies in Communist Romania.- Prelude :Beginning in late 1986, the seeds of the Romanian Revolution of 1989 were sown, as workers throughout this Soviet Bloc country mobilized in protest of communist leader Nicolae...

  • List of books about the Romanian Revolution of 1989
  • List of films about the Romanian Revolution of 1989


< Communist Romania
Communist Romania
Communist Romania was the period in Romanian history when that country was a Soviet-aligned communist state in the Eastern Bloc, with the dominant role of Romanian Communist Party enshrined in its successive constitutions...

 | History of Romania | Present Romania
History of Romania since 1989
- 1989 revolution :1989 marked the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. A mid-December protest in Timişoara against the eviction of a Hungarian minister grew into a country-wide protest against the Ceauşescu régime, sweeping the dictator from power....

>



External links

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