On Christmas Day, 1989 the past violently caught up with Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife.
In a small courtyard outside a building in Targoviste, Romania’s tyrannical communist dictator was executed by firing squad.
The military had apprehended the couple just a few days before, and after a summary trial, the end was inevitable. The execution was also the symbolic punctuation point for one of Europe’s most repressive communist regimes.
For many years the building was left to rot. Now, however, the Romanian government have opened the residence where Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife were killed as the “Museum of Communism”.
You can visit the courtyard where the execution took place and among the exhibits, you can see the beds that the couple slept in the night before they were shot.
The History: Last Speech, Trial and Execution
Decades of brutal oppression under the Ceausescu regime came to a head in Timisoara, earlier that same December.
Fuelled by the events taking place in Berlin (the wall had come down just a few weeks before) and the ripple impact of the weakening Iron Curtain, Romanians had taken to the streets in protest of their own dictator.
Rioting was spreading throughout the country, and by the time Nicolae Ceausescu took the stage outside of Bucharest’s Palace to calm the crowds, the writing was very much on the wall.
His planned speech was cut short and Nicolae along with deputy prime minister Elena Ceausescu took refuge in the Central Committee building before later escaped via helicopter.
The Romanian Revolution had begun.
The couple didn’t make it very far. On the same day as their escape, they were captured just 47 miles away at the former military headquarters in Targoviste.
The trial took place on December 25 and lasted just 2 hours. They were tried under a military tribune for genocide and abuse of their executive powers and were found guilty on all counts.
The rebellion wasted no time on the execution either.
Shortly after the verdict, Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu were dragged into the courtyard outside the military building where paratroopers shot them with service rifles.
Footage of the trial and the executed corpses of Ceausescu and his wife even made it onto national television.
A jubilant nation was in full approval of the dictator’s demise.
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Where is the Targoviste Museum of Communism
- Address: Bulevardul Regele Carol I, Targoviste 130010 Romania
- Phone: +40 245 613 946
The Museum Today
Visiting the Museum of Communism and the death spot of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu is an interesting experience.
Those in charge of restoring the building and setting the museum have done it in a very understated fashion.
It echoes the utilitarian nature of how the building looked at the time the trial and execution took place.
Furniture, photographs, and exhibits are sparse. You can walk into the room where the couple had their medical before the trial.
Everything feels stark. The trial room is set out as it was in 1989, with just a few chairs and tables. The two chairs in the corner of the room are where the Ceausescus sat as they listened to the verdict.
The other furniture would have been used by the defense, prosecutors, and guards.
You can enter another room where the couple ate and slept during their short time in Targoviste, (as mentioned above, the original beds remain).
Finally, you can head outside into the courtyard and see the white lines that mark the fallen positions of the executed couple. Bullet holes can also be seen in the wall behind.
For a dark tourist in Romania, the museum is definitely worth a visit.
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Featured Image: Knudsen, Robert L. (Robert LeRoy), 1929-1989, Photographer / Public domain