| Join the party!|
|Opiates for the masses|
Ceauşescu initially came to prominence with the image of a reformer: he became popular with Romanians and the West when he gave a speech denouncing the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. After this he was feted by Richard Nixon, as well as by China and North Korea (who also opposed the Soviet invasion). Ceauşescu was soon taking large loans from the West, and at home he set out to imitate China's Cultural Revolution and North Korea's nepotist personality cult. He created a cult around himself and his wife, Elena Ceauşescu. Elena, an uneducated peasant, was promoted to the people as a scientist with a Ph.D. in chemistry.
Nicolae Ceauşescu even resuscitated the legend of Dracula for the purpose of stimulating the tourist trade and Romanian nationalism. At the same time, he badly mistreated the large Hungarian minority and was nicknamed "Draculescu" both within Hungary, and amongst persons connected to Hungary. This mistreatment would contribute to his demise, but not until December 1989.
During the 1980s Ceauşescu decided to quickly pay off Romania's debts to the West by ordering the mass export of goods from the country and by putting Romanian citizens on a severe austerity programme. While food, fuel, and electricity were strictly rationed and Romanians were living at barely subsistence level, Ceauşescu was also ordering the demolition of blocks of houses, evicting the residents, and replacing them with apartment buildings. At this time a pro-natal policy of enforced large families was in place which people could not support. This all added up to a humanitarian disaster. Ceauşescu destroyed the Romanian economy, uprooted farmers from lands they had occupied for generations, and infected orphans with AIDS. (It was the policy of the Ceauşescu regime to inject the inmates of state orphanages with blood purchased from donors in the cities. Most of the people who ended up selling their blood were prostitutes and drug users, and the blood was not screened for disease before being distributed to the orphanages. Ceausescu did not believe in AIDS. Not in the sense of HIV denialism, but worse - he was completely in denial of AIDS even existing, so the blood was not tested and no precautions were taken). Eventually, even inner-circle members of his party got pissed off with him. Open rebellion started in Timișoara (in western Romania) and soon spread to the capital, Bucharest.
In Ceauşescu's final public speech on the morning of December 21, 1989 he was stunned into silence when the crowd started booing and jeering. By the very next day the people had taken over the streets of Bucharest. Ceauşescu ordered the Romanian Army to fire onto peaceful protesters, and the Romanian Army turned on him. Nicolae and Elena Ceauşescu escaped the capital by helicopter. Stupidly, they had overloaded the helicopter with loot for starting new lives — too much to permit getting out of Romania and crashing into the Black Sea, let alone being caught and arrested in some country now hostile to the former dictator (like the Soviet Union or Turkey, whose governments condemned his criminal orders to fire upon peaceful protesters).
They were captured and shot dead on Christmas Day, 1989 after being convicted of genocide and plunder in a hasty show trial. It is unknown whether Romanians have somehow integrated a celebration of the death of Ceauşescu into their Christmas festivities, but if they have, it's probably pretty bad ass.
Ceauşescu served as the model for Tim LaHaye's antichrist in the Left Behind series (he is named Nicolae Carpathia, a name roughly equivalent to someone in Alaska naming their kid Joe Denali, but whatever).
Sometimes, when a communist government comes to power, they quickly enact a set of policies aimed at some degree of equality for women. Romania was not such an occasion.
Ceauşescu's regime was known for some extremely restrictive policies on abortion; prior to his taking power, Romania had three to four abortions per live birth. Ceauşescu put the kibosh on this recklessness, banning abortion entirely, advocating vigorously for Catholic-sized families and imposing an almost self-parodically stupid enforcement regime whereby women in the workplace were regularly rounded up and given pregnancy tests by government agents referred to (where they couldn't hear) as the "menstrual police". Women without a threshold number of children who repeatedly failed to conceive were required to pay a steep "celibacy tax."
- Nicolae Ceausescu: a profile of the former communist dictator
- See the Wikipedia article on Natalism.