The Dictators Bright Ideas

In his attempts to eliminate foreign debt and look good in front of the world, in the 1980s Nicolae Ceausescu exported Romania's food while his own people were forced to ration even staple goods (meat was all but unattainable by the mid-1980s) and instituted power cuts to save money. His opponents were at best harassed, at worst killed by experimental methods of torture. One such method was known as Radu, used by Ceaujescu on his political opponents, especially Hungarian nationalists, whom he despised. Radu consisted of bombarding the body with low-level radiation and allowing cancer to settle. Many of those he had arrested eventually died of strange forms of cancer.

In March 1987, Ceau§escu embarked on a rural urbanisation program that would see the total destruction of 8000 villages (mainly in Transylvania) and the resettlement of their (mainly Hungarian) inhabitants. After having bulldozed one-sixth of Bucharest to build his House of the People (p57), no one doubted he'd proceed with his plans. Several dozen villages were razed, but thankfully the project went uncompleted.

1989_

Nicolae Ceau§escu and money-squandering wife Elena are found guilty of genocide by a makeshift tribunal and executed.

1992_

After Moldova's declaration of independence, civil war breaks out between Moldovan authorities and the region of Transdniestr.

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DID YOU KNOW?

Italy is Romania's main trading partner, with annual volumes from €7 billion to €8 billion.

DID YOU KNOW?

Moldova must import all of its natural gas, coal and oil, mainly from Russia.

tin InllowliiH morning thousands more demonstrators took to the In ■ t. itnd a slale of emergency was announced. At noon Ceaujescu H ,i|>|>r,iied on the balcony of the Central Committee building to try to '.|imk again, only to be forced to flee by helicopter from the roof of the building. Ceau^escu and his wife, Elena, were arrested in Targovijte, taken to a military base and, on 25 December, condemned by an anonymous court and executed by a firing squad. Footage of the Ceau^escu family's luxury apartments broadcast on TV showed pure gold food scales in the kitchen and rows of diamond-studded shoes in Elena's bedroom.

While these events had all the earmarks of a people's revolution, many scholars have advanced the notion that they were just as much the result of a coup d'etat as well: the Communist Party, tired of having to bow down to Ceau?escu as royalty, had been planning an overthrow for months before the events of December 1989.

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