Video: Video: 1989: The moment a dictator realizes his time is over

In December 1989 Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu gave this, his last public speech, in Bucharest. Riots broke out in the crowd and Ceausescu was forced to interrupt his speech and flee. He was arrested and executed within days. Graphic footage of Ceausescu's sentencing and execution can be seen at Ceausescu was the Stalinist dictator of Romania for more than three decades, until his removal in 1989. Born into a peasant family in southern Romania, Ceausescu became involved in communist groups through his father. By the late 1930s Ceausescu was wanted by state authorities; he was arrested and spent most of World War II in prisons or concentration camps. When communists seized control of Romania in 1947, Ceausescu was given a junior ministry and later a seat in the Politburo. Though never publicly prominent or an obvious candidate for leadership, Ceausescu was, like Stalin, a skillful manipulator who formed alliances and harvested supporters behind the scenes. In 1965 he was elected general secretary of the Romanian Communist Party and the de facto national leader. In the first few years of Ceausescu's rule he differentiated himself from other Soviet bloc leaders by embracing open trade and communication with western Europe. Ceausescu also refused to commit Romanian forces to Warsaw Pact operations, like the 1968 suppression of the Prague Spring. But while Ceausescu was being hailed by the West, within Romania he was suffocating his people with destructive economic policies and social restrictions (such as Ceausescu's notorious 'menstrual police') designed to increase the population. By the mid-1980s Romania was exporting large amounts of food to eliminate its foreign debt, while its people endured shortages and oppressive social policies. For more information on the Cold War, visit Alpha History's comprehensive online resource, containing topic pages, documents, graphics, learning resources and more.
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1989: The moment a dictator realizes his time is over