Ceausescu execution site in Romania becomes a museum

Barracks where Romania's Nicoalae Ceausescu and wife were shot feature in'dictator tourism'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 August, 2013, 3:29am


The grim barracks where Romania's brutal communist despot Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, were executed are to be opened to the public in the latest bid to boost "dictator tourism".

The former military unit at Targoviste, 100 kilometres northwest of Bucharest, is to be turned into a museum and is due to welcome its first visitors in early September.

Many Romanians and foreigners said they wanted to see the wall against which Ceausescu and his wife Elena were shot on December 25, 1989

"Many Romanians and foreigners said they wanted to see the wall against which Ceausescu and his wife Elena were shot on December 25, 1989," said Ovidiu Carstina, director of the museum.

The death of the Ceausescus became one of the defining images of the revolutions which convulsed eastern and central Europe in 1989.

On December 22, as angry crowds gathered in front of the Communist Party headquarters, they fled the capital, Bucharest, in a helicopter. It was to be their final journey. They were stopped by the army, detained in Targoviste and shot after a makeshift trial.

It brought to a grisly end more than 20 years of repressive rule, aided by a huge security apparatus, under which free speech was ruthlessly suppressed.

The population suffered from food and power shortages and on top of that, Ceausescu's rule was marked by nepotism, paranoia and a deeply ingrained personality cult. Wife Elena was seen as the regime's second most powerful figure.

"Our aim is to present events as they unfolded, without making comments on the trial, the Ceausescus' life or the cult of personality," said Carstina.

In the barracks, built in 1907, time seems to have stood still.

The walls are painted a greyish yellow and the iron beds complete with dirty mattresses where the Ceausescus slept have remained there ever since.

The makeshift dock where Nicolae and Elena, dressed in their winter coats, sat listening to the charges against them will be put back in the very place where the couple were tried and sentenced to death.

Outside, the wall against which they were shot just a few minutes later still carries the bullet holes.

Footage of the trial and execution, broadcast all over the world in December 1989, drawing criticism over the summary judicial proceedings, will run on a black and white TV set.

"We do not wish to stir a controversy but only to speak of a landmark in Romania's history," Carstina stressed.

Sociologist Vasile Dancu said: "Every nation must acknowledge its history, without trying to hide certain events."

"No matter what we do, we cannot erase the image of that sham trial which only speaks of the collapse of a system," he said.

A group of Swedish tourists has already booked tickets.

Lucia Morariu, head of the local tour operators' association, felt turning Ceausescu into a tourist brand was not a good idea.

"Why encourage those who mourn him? Romania boasts other highlights," she said, citing the Danube delta, part of Unesco's heritage, or the picturesque natural reserve of the Retezat mountains, home to Europe's biggest populations of bears and wolves.