26 January 2009 | Today’s date – now just a regular day for Romanians, used to be one of their biggest national holidays, on which they celebrated the birthday of their totalitarian leader Nicolae Ceauşescu until 1989.
Until the collapse of the communist regime in Romania, the 26 of January was marked by festive events, odes to “the people’s beloved son” and pompous conclusions praising his accomplishments, the national television Realitatea reported today.
Nicolae Ceauşescu, who would have turned 91 today, was Romania’s totalitarian leader between 1965 and 1989, although he officially held the title of President. His rule is mainly remembered for having deviated from the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union and for the way it ended – through the swift deposition, trial and execution of Ceauşescu and his wife Elena.
Romania’s totalitarian regime was also marked by Ceauşescu’s personality cult, which grew and intensified in the latter years of its existence. According to the Realitatea report, all Romanians used to know at least a verse of the songs dedicated to the ‘Great Leader’. The Geniul din Carpaţi, or The Genius of the Carpathians, as he was also referred to, reportedly had a sceptre, like that of a king, made for himself.
And live like a king he did. Known for his luxurious lifestyle, Ceauşescu owned over 15 luxury palaces around Romania, including a riverside villa at Snagov, a lakeside resort at Cernavodă, a mountainside lodge at Braşov and the Primaverii Palace in Bucharest, which reported had rooms and rooms filled with priceless silk, porcelain, marble, silverware, chandeliers and carpets. One supposedly kept Elena’s collection of fur coats while another was filled with Ceauşescu's suits, tuxedos and hunting uniforms.
Ceauşescu alleged misappropriation of gifts from countries and organisations was one of the accusations against him in the hasty military court trial that took place on December 25 of 1989. Found guilty on such and more serious charges, like genocide, he and his wife were sentenced to death and executed by a firing squad. Video images of the trial and the dead couple (but not of the execution itself) were promptly released and screened all over the world.
Out of the thousands of people who used to come out of the factories and school in order to demonstrate their love for Ceauşescu on his birthday, few remain today that remember the past with nostalgia and visit the former dictator’s grave, according to the Realitatea report.
Located in the Ghencea Cemetery in Bucharest, Ceauşescu’s grave and his wife’s one are not grand but remain covered in flowers and symbols of the regime. In the past, there were assertions that the graves do not in fact contain the couple’s bodies and one of their sons, Velentin, lost a lawsuit asking for investigation of the matter in 2007. Their daughter’s and some supporters’ requests to move them to mausoleums or churches built to house their remains, were denied by the government.