How Romania broke free from the chains of Communism.

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Nicolae Ceausescu delivering a speech in Bucharest in 1967 | Source: Keystone/Getty Images

As of 30 years ago, Romania was a hardened state ruled by the Communist Party. In 1989 Nicolae Ceausescu, the nation’s dictator, was overthrown and executed by the Romanian people. This brought about a new dawn for the country as Communism was expelled and an adaption to the free market and Capitalism began.

Just how does a regime which has claimed to have created an unquestionable Communist society for several decades become one which is capitalist? It is perhaps easiest to lock down what is generally known by Communism:

“Communism is a Utopian political-economic system where society is reorganised without hierarchy, states, money or class.” — Karl Marx.

It is argued that this ‘Utopian’ system has not yet been seen in history. The Communism of Stalinist Russia and Maoist China are regularly assessed to be not pure Communism because of the sheer brutality inflicted on their own people as well as their lack of conformity to one of the basic principles of Communism: doing away with the power hierarchy. By using these examples from history, it can be shown that true communism has not in fact been affected yet.

A movement towards Capitalism, such as what has happened in Romania, requires the means of production to be owned and controlled by individuals and businesses. As this was in place under that dictatorship of Ceausescu, it means that Romanians were not subjected to genuine Communism. Having responsible and professional people in control of the means of production has allowed Romania to develop into an established capitalist nation with wealth and commodities for all its people.

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Romanian demonstrators gather in front of the headquarters of the Romanian Communist Party in Bucharest.

In Romania under Ceausescu, many factors of Stalinist Russian Communism were in place. Most noticeable was the heavy totalitarianism. Many ways of life have changed for Romanians in the three decades since the Ceausescu regime fell. During communism, many everyday items had restricted access. Even owning a typewriter was strictly monitored, people who wanted to purchase one had to register it with the police and explain once a year what they were using the typewriter for. This was done so to clamp down on any anti-government ‘propaganda’ being printed and distributed amongst the people.

During the communist days, the regime rationed many everyday essentials to the people. For twenty years, items such as bread, meat and fuel were restricted for Romanians. The more affluent economic and social factors of capitalism have made sure that these days continue to remain a thing of the past. They were hard days for Romanians but, like many other countries once behind the iron curtain, the slow walk down the path which they have followed towards political and economic freedom has proved worth it.

Queuing for meat, Bucharest, 1982

Going to church and engaging in religion was not made illegal by the Ceausescu regime, yet it was criticised. Now, thousands of people from Romania and beyond attend the Christmas market in the capital of Bucharest. It is a million miles away from living under the oppression of the old Communist state.

In perspective, Romania’s transition from Communism to Capitalism was relatively swift. Just over 25 years after Ceausescu was disposed of (2007), Romania joined the European Union. As avid promoters of progressive thinking and free trade, Romania has moved a significant amount around the political spectrum. This entrance into the EU saw the last remnants of the Communist regime all but disappear, with capitalism and western ideas being embraced by the people.

Romania is an example of how a nation can be transformed from being left behind by communism to getting catapulted towards the 21st century through capitalism and free trade. It was a further example of how the supporters of Communism are still waiting for the ideal version to come about and, before 1989, it was yet another example of authoritarian regimes crushing a population to the brink.

This story was published in Viewpoint Weekly, we publish stories and send our readers a weekly digest to give you new and unique perspectives on politics, history and culture. If you enjoyed it, give us a follow.

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I am a journalist with an honours degree from Coventry University. Passionate writing about politics, culture, sport, society and more

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