Nicolae Ceaușescu – President of Romania
With the death of Gheorghiu-Dej in March 1965, Ceaușescu succeeded to the leadership of Romania’s Communist Party as first secretary (general secretary from July 1965); and with his assumption of the presidency of the State Council (December 1967), he became head of state as well. He soon won popular support for his independent, nationalistic political course, which openly challenged the dominance of the Soviet Union over Romania. In the 1960s Ceaușescu virtually ended Romania’s active participation in the Warsaw Pact military alliance, and he condemned the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact forces (1968) and the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union (1979). Ceaușescu was elected to the newly created post of president of Romania in 1974.
While following an independent policy in foreign relations, Ceaușescu adhered ever more closely to the communist orthodoxy of centralized administration at home. His secret police maintained rigid controls over free speech and the media and tolerated no internal dissent or opposition. In an effort to pay off the large foreign debt that his government had accumulated through its mismanaged industrial ventures in the 1970s, Ceaușescu in 1982 ordered the export of much of the country’s agricultural and industrial production. The resulting extreme shortages of food, fuel, energy, medicines, and other basic necessities drastically lowered living standards and intensified unrest. Ceaușescu also instituted an extensive personality cult and appointed his wife, Elena, and many members of his extended family to high posts in the goverment and party. Among his grandiose and impractical schemes was a plan to bulldoze thousands of Romania’s villages and move their residents into so-called agrotechnical centres.
Ceaușescu’s regime collapsed after he ordered his security forces to fire on antigovernment demonstrators in the city of Timișoara on Dec. 17, 1989. The demonstrations spread to Bucharest, and on December 22 the Romanian army defected to the demonstrators. That same day Ceaușescu and his wife fled the capital in a helicopter but were captured and taken into custody by the armed forces. On December 25 the couple were hurriedly tried and convicted by a special military tribunal on charges of mass murder and other crimes. Ceaușescu and his wife were then shot by a firing squad.
Preluare: Ziaristi Online