Nicolae Ceausescu

Born in Scornicesti, Romania. Joined the Romanian Workers party as a youth member in the 1930s and as a consequence was imprisoned six times (including one spell at the Tirgu Jiu concentration camp) under the fascist rule of Ion Antonescu (qv). While in prison Ceausescu fell under the influence of the leading light of the Romanian Communist party, Gheorghe Gheorghiu Dej and on account of this friendship Ceausescu worked his way up the party to become secretary of the Union of Communist Youth in the later war years. When the Communists took power in the country he was well positioned to take up cabinet positions. He became a full member of the politburo in 1955, serving as deputy agriculture minister and deputy minister of the armed forces. Gheorghiu-Dej died in early 1965 opening up the party leadership to Ceausescu; he immediately became First Secretary, then General Secretary and finally head of state in 1967.

Upon taking power Ceausescu changed the name of the country from the People's Republic of Rumania to the Socialist Republic of Romania and while his rule was unceasingly communistic he was anything but predictable. His seemed to relish defying the USSR - breaking with the Warsaw Pact, condemning the invasions of Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan, maintaining relations with China and even sending a team to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics despite a Soviet boycott. He established a rapport with Marshal Tito (qv) but allowed nothing like the economic or political freedom established in Yugoslavia; instead he modelled his leadership style on the personality cults of Mao (qv) and Kim Il Sung (qv). This became manifest on March 28 1974 when he had the position of President of the Republic created especially for himself and then had his rubberstamp Grand National Assembly name him President for life.

As one would expect from a country that was now a best friend of the West and a socialist republic that was overtly resisting the Soviets Western leaders were falling over themselves to visit Bucharest, while Western banks could not lend the regime money fast enough. What followed was the usual spiral of debt and short term, high profile bombastic public works projects. Ceaucescu upgraded his armed forces with outrageous amounts of spending, gave his securitate forces all their hearts desired, built a string of palaces and houses for himself throughout the country and then embarked on a bizarre rehousing project where every citizen was expected to give up their house in return for an apartment in a series of huge residential blocks. Of course all of this had to be paid for and when the economy shrank following the twin oil shocks of 1973 and '79 Ceaucescu exported almost the entire country's agricultural production, resulting in near famine, electricity rationing and an absence of almost all basic supplies for this formerly self sufficient nation.

The population stumbled through the 1980s until mid December 1989 when the residents of Timisoara staged a series of anti government protests that spread to the capital and very soon overtook the entire country. Sporadic fighting continued for a number of days between members of the armed forces and Securitate loyal to the President and those who had joined the demonstrators. The President attempted to flee but was tracked down and brought back to the capital where, following a perfunctory trial both he and Elenor were shot by a machine gun-wielding firing squad.

Length of Rule - Twenty Four years

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