Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Communism to Capitalism: Romania Sees Huge Changes


Romania has changed dramatically in the 25 years since the people rose up against dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, executed him and began the slow transformation to a market economy and democracy.

Here are five ways that daily life has changed:

REGISTERED TYPEWRITERS TO SMART PHONES

Under communism, typewriters could not be bought in the shops, because the regime was fearful of people distributing anti-government manifestos. Those who had typewriters had to register them with the police every year and explain why they needed them.
Today even young children have smart phones and tablets and people enjoy high-speed Internet. One thing that has gone backward? Modern keyboards do not have diacritics and many don't bother to install the software to use the cedillas and accents that Romanian uses, a source of lament for language purists.

CARS BANNED IN WINTER....NOW PARKED ALL OVER THE SIDEWALK

Ceausescu rationed everything from bread to meat and gasoline. The few people who had cars could only get 20 liters (5.3 gallons) a month, often with waits at the pump of up to 48 hours. Private car use was banned altogether in the winter in the 1980s as Ceausescu squeezed people even further to pay off the country's foreign debt.
Today in Bucharest, where more than a tenth of the Romanian population lives, it can take two hours to cross the city when traffic is bad and cars clog the sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to walk in the road. Affluent families often have several cars, with SUVS being a favorite even though Bucharest has no hills or rough terrain. Some SUVS cost as much as an apartment.

TWO HOURS OF TV A DAY

Romanians famously tuned into Serbian, Bulgarian, Hungarian or even Russian television as their own state TV station was so lousy. Two hours of TV, much of that dull "news" about the first couple. In the 1980s, even "Dallas" was taken off the small screen after Ceausescu deemed its values too decadent.
Today, viewers can pick from the national TV broadcaster's five channels and more than a dozen cable television stations offering a round-the-clock staple of news, religion, pop music, reality TV and sport for a small fee. There's huge choice ? but the quality is still questionable.

NORTH KOREA INSPIRED "SHOPPING MALLS"

After a visit to North Korea in 1971, Ceausescu was inspired to build big in Bucharest. He constructed the first "shopping malls" which the population wryly dubbed "hunger circuses" as food was so scarce.
Capitalism has brought a myriad of modern Western-style malls, some inside the malls of old. They are so popular that there is now a name for those who spend too much time in one: a "mallist" or "mallista."

DEMOLISHED CHURCHES TO THOUSANDS OF NEW CHURCHES

Under communism, religion was not banned, but churchgoing was discouraged for Communist Party members and the Securitate secret police. More than a dozen churches were razed or moved in Bucharest for Ceausescu's giant House of the People (also inspired by his trip to Pyongyang).
Religion has flourished since then and the number of churches and other houses of worship has grown from 12,000 to 20,000 today, according to Emil Moise, director of Solidarity for Freedom of Conscience, a non-governmental organization that advocates a separation of church and state.

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