Romanian life under communism was brutal, dreary and lacking in any of the traditional freedoms that are the norm in most Western countries. Romanians could not speak out against the government, practice their religion or change jobs or homes freely. They spent long hours in lines for even the most basic necessities of life, such as bread, milk or public transportation. The political leadership and the internal security apparatus, under strict Soviet guidance, controlled every aspect of Romanian life.

Communism Comes to Romania

For the first half of the 20th century, Romania had a small but relatively insignificant communist party. Communism was imposed on Romania, as it was on much of Eastern and Central Europe, at the end of World War II. Romania was in chaos after the war, during which it sided with Germany in hopes of avoiding a Russian takeover. Those hopes were dashed when the Soviet Army occupied Bucharest near the end of the war and brought with it heavy Soviet political influence. By the spring of 1945, Moscow had successfully intervened in Romanian political affairs to install the country's communist party in power, under the rule of their approved puppet, Petru Groza.

Communism, Romanian Style

During the late 1940s, the communists consolidated their hold over the security apparatus and political levers of power in Romania. The political opposition was completely suppressed and the once-powerful king was forced to abdicate the throne. Soviet-backed Romanian leaders imposed upon their countrymen the hallmarks of Moscow's communist state: collectivized agriculture and development, show trials, fealty to Moscow's dictates and isolation from the West. Political and religious freedoms were all but obliterated, poverty and privation became the norm and a vast and powerful internal security force controlled all aspects of Romanians' lives.

New Daily Realities

Romanians were forced to carry out virtually all their normal activities according to strict communist ideology. The economy shifted to a centrally-planned, Stalin-style model, focused on heavy industry and the forced collectivization of agriculture. For the average citizen, this meant a constant dearth of even basic consumer goods, forced moves to jobs at factories or collective farms and menial pay for even highly-skilled positions. Belonging to the communist party increasingly became a requirement for meaningful employment, preferred housing or getting kids into a decent school. Children were indoctrinated in school and through organized youth groups into communist and pro-Soviet beliefs.

Ceausescu Dictatorship

Romanian political life from the mid-1960s until 1989 was dominated by Nicolae Ceausescu. Like communist leaders throughout the region, Ceausescu ruled with an iron fist and enjoyed the perks of leadership that communism's egalitarian philosophy denied the general populace. In the 1960s he flirted with a so-called "national communism," which included minor efforts to distance Romania from Moscow's rule, but by 1971, Ceausescu imposed a harsh new set of rigid controls reminiscent of Stalinism. His brutal dictatorship ensured a life of poverty, misery and paranoia for all Romanians. When communism ended in most of the region in the late 1980s, Romania was the last domino to fall. Ceausescu and his wife were arrested and executed on Christmas in 1989.