– Radio Austria International – Panorama – Romania Revolution – 1989 –
The Romanian Revolution started in the city of Timișoara on December 16, as one ethnic Hungarian pastor spoke out against regime policies. This led to massive protests and a crackdown by the military. Ceaușescu then made a speech at Palace (now Revolution) Square, on December 21, where people in the crowd, who had been bussed in to show support, began openly booing him and chanting “Timisoara!”
Rank-and-file members of the military switched, almost unanimously, from supporting the dictator to backing the protesting population. Rioting in several Romanian cities forced Ceausescu and his wife Elena, who was also Deputy Prime Minister, to flee the next day. They were quickly captured, tried, and then executed on Christmas Day 1989. The death penalty was then abolished by the new government.
Fixated on paying off foreign debts in the 1980s, Ceausescu set about a series of austerity measures that plunged the country and its people into economic hardship.
The appalling economic situation was only exacerbated as Ceausescu splurged cash on megalomaniac projects such as the construction of the People’s Palace, even today one of the largest buildings in the world.
Blighted by a lack of basics, such as food, heating, and lighting, dissent was building up in the isolationist state as Ceausescu and Elena lived in luxurious, palatial homes.
In the Securitate, Romania had one of the Eastern Bloc’s largest and most feared secret police forces, and talking freely under the Ceausescu regime was a dangerous endeavor.
With more than 1,000 people killed, and a ruthless end for the Ceausescus, Romania’s revolution stunned the world for its violence. But hand-wringing over the murky details of the uprising would come later. On December 25, celebrations erupted across Romania as, for the first time in some 40 years, people openly celebrated Christmas Day.
Here is a special broadcast from Austrian Radio on the occasion of the one-year anniversary of the revolt and overthrow.
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