Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ceaușescu - the Gaddafi of Romania

This week I'm in the Romanian capital of Bucharest.  I've been here several times before, but on this visit I'm seeing things in a much different light due to the recent death of Muammar Gaddafi.  Nicolae Ceasusescu, Romania's former head of state, lived a life much like Gaddafi's and also died a violent death at the hands of his countrymen. Here is a 1982 youtube time warp covering a state visit by Gaddafi to Romania (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q16gLhh9gKg&feature=related).  It's not in English and is not worth watching very long, but it does document an interesting snippet of history. The following links on Ceausescu are actually much more interesting:


I've had several opportunities during the past few days to talk to Romanians about the country's past and present.  And it reminded me that I indeed had a fortunate birth.  Most Romanians say that life has improved but that the Ceausescu legacy will burden the country for many generations to come.  Although the country now holds membership in the EU, it exports very little and most of its citizens struggle with daily life.  I have seen progress in the nation's infrastructure over the past few years (probably financed by the EU), but most Romanians say they must leave Romania to realize their dreams, unless of course, one is a corrupt politician or businessman -- and there are many here. 

From a tourist point of view, the so-called "People's House" is what one usually remembers most about Bucharest. Ceausescu had it built near the end of his reign and it houses the Romanian Parliament and a few other government offices.  It has several floors below ground and is supposedly the world's largest office building, even larger than the Pentagon. The architecture is appropriately dictator style and ghastly.

Transylvania is supposedly the nicest part of Romania and worth a visit.  Of course the Dracula legend spices it up and the farming communities created by several generations of German settlers are said to be picturesque and quite prosperous.  

Isn't it amazing that Germans always seem to do well, even after their fall from grace during the Nazi years.  Yes, the Marshall Plan helped, but their engineering genius and their determination to keep exporting is what really keeps their economy going.  Today, they seem to be the only country holding the EU together.  A couple of Romanians shared this sentiment with me and one even said he wished Romania had been annexed by Germany or Austria. Obviously he wasn't a Jew or a Gypsy!

Here are a few more links on Romania for anyone interested:


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