20 years ago, on this day, Romania’s president at the time, Nicolae Ceauşescu, fled under pressure from the large popular uprise which we call The Revolution.
Three days later, they were executed, after something that pretended to be a trial. Over the past days, a Romanian newspaper ran the timeline of the events, tracking the movements of Ceauşescu and his wife. The trial was filmed, and it exposed the truth about “revolutions”: in order to gain legitimacy, both for the Romanian people and for the foreign governments, they needed to show there was a trial. They also needed the former president executed, partly as an attempt to stop the attacks from terrorists (special forces allegedly trained by the former president as elite units that would protect him) against the population and the military forces.
20 years later, said terrorists are still nowhere to be found. The attacks were just various branches of the military not knowing what to do, and pulling the trigger against each other.
20 years later, the goal of the trial is ever more obvious: the new political class (which was really not that new to begin with) needed no roadblocks from the old president; they wanted the president eliminated, and they came up with a plan that would help their recognition from the rest of the world as a legitimate government.
The accusations against Ceauşescu were not sustainable in a real court. 20 years tend to erase some of the bad memories from the terrible times of his reign, so I may be missing a lot of the details about how bad it used to be (and, believe me, communist Romania was bad). But the new political class decided that the ends justify the means.
In the end, I personally believe that people give the institution of presidency too much credit. (And this applies not just to Romania, pre or post December 1989). I believe Ceauşescu was being presented with a very rosy picture about Romania, by the people around him, some of them who eventually were the ones to kill him. He was an old man, some argue he was senile, and the powers behind the curtain liked the status quo, until it became non-profitable. He was merely a symbol – the symbol of the extreme-left communism, in a Europe that was trying to get rid of the East-West separation. He probably truly believed in his ideas, completely oblivious to the real economic and social facts. His ignorance could be blamed on his age or medical conditions, but I would much rather blame it on his entourage that handled the smoke and mirrors.
December 22, 1989 – I remember that my parents were coming back from a visit from my grandparents, and I was home, alone, vacuuming and cleaning up for Christmas. And, for some unknown reason, I turned on the TV. This makes very little sense now for me, just like it probably does not make any sense for you – but we were only having 2 hours of TV per day, and most of it was just news anyway. There usually was nothing (as in no signal) on a Friday morning. And yet, there he was, talking about something I did not pay attention to. And then the audience (which was normally cheerful and would acclaim him after each sentence) started booing him. That was unheard of! An hour or so later, when my parents came home, they would not believe me.
And from that point on, Romania was glued to the TV – the same thing we all ignored for the most part until that day.