Ceauçescu, Nicolae (1918–1989)
Romanian statesman, secretary-general of the Romanian Communist Party (1965–89) and the first president of the Socialist Republic of Romania (1974–89). His repressive and totalitarian regime ended with his execution.
Born in Scornicesti-Olt, the son of a peasant, Ceauçescu was a factory worker in Bucharest at the age of eleven. In 1932 he became a member of the Workers' Movement, joining the illegal Union of Communist Youth (UCY) and the Romanian Communist Party (RCP) in 1933. Imprisoned for antifascist activities (1936–38; 1940–44), he spent this time studying for a degree from the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest.
After the communists assumed power, Ceauçescu was appointed secretary of the UCY central committee (1944–45) and elected as a deputy to the Grand National Assembly (1946). He became a member of the RCP central committee (1945–48; 1952–89), deputy minister of agriculture (1948–50), and deputy minister of the armed forces (1950–54). He continued to rise through the party ranks from his appointment as secretary of the RCP central committee in 1954 to his election as RCP secretary-general in 1965. In 1967 he became chairman of the state council and supreme commander of the armed forces, converting this office into president of the Republic of Romania in 1974.
Ceauçescu maintained and developed Romanian independence from the Soviet Union by increasing trade with the West and by not participating in Warsaw Pact military manoeuvres; Romania did not take part in the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. At the same time he sought a role in the international community: Romania was the only eastern bloc country to establish diplomatic relations with West Germany (1966), maintain them with Israel (1967), and to attend the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
At home, Ceauçescu pursued an ineptly planned economic policy of forced growth and repayment of western debts; by the 1980s this had resulted in Romania's having the lowest standard of living of any eastern European country. His attempt at creating a uniform Romanian state caused considerable hardship to the ethnic minorities, particularly the large Hungarian population, whose villages were systematically destroyed and their inhabitants forcibly rehoused in modern urban complexes. All signs of political opposition were ruthlessly suppressed through the activities of his hated secret police, the Securitate. Ceauçescu deliberately fostered his own personality cult, maintaining his complete hold on power by the appointment of his wife Elena and other family members to politically influential positions. Widespread discontent finally erupted in December 1989 with a bloody revolution in which thousands died; Ceauçescu and his wife were captured, tried, and executed by firing squad on Christmas Day.