TV Travel Editor and Host, Rick Steves gives a good summary of what happened in Romania and particularly Bucharest in the 1980s.
From “Rick Steve’s Europe” Romania Episode 9 Season 5 11\5\2016
Transcript of Segment on Bucharest (my own)
“Bucharest’s Old Town is lucky to survive the Communist Period. Most of the historic center was wiped out by the dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu so he could build a grandiose new town perfect for a megalomaniac. Ceausescu took power in 1965 and through his 24 year dictatorship his ego ballooned. He became addicted to massive projects without budgets.
After a visit to North Korea, Ceausescu returned inspired to transform his city. He ripped out most of Bucharest’s historic core to create, this, his enormous civic center. Its wide boulevards and stone faced apartment blocks all have a distinctive Pyongyang aesthetic. The culmination of his master plan was, this, an immense palace with more than a thousand rooms fit for a dictator gone wild. Ceausescu literally starved his people to build his dream. Over six years from 1983-1989 thousands of laborers worked on it 24-7. When it finally opened to the public in 1994; that was five years after Ceausescu died, the Romanian people were both wonderstruck and repulsed.
Today guided tours lead gawking visitors around these vast and empty spaces. You feel small exploring its grand halls, huge staircases and mega ballrooms. Ceausescu demanded the ideal balcony from which to deliver speeches while looking out over his new town with a boulevard grand enough to match his ego.
This palace and similarly extravagant projects all around the downtrodden country created a powerful anti-Ceausescu sentiment that ultimately led to his downfall. In late 1989 with winds of change sweeping the Eastern Block, armed revolution spread across Romania. An angry populace filled the square in front of the Communist Party Headquarters. They arrested their dictator and shot him on Christmas Day. This Monument honors more than 1000 Romanians who died in the struggle to overthrow the Tyrant and free their country.
Today Ceausescu feels like ancient history and Romania is proud to be part of the European Union. Joining local families on a Saturday afternoon you feel optimistic while Romania’s challenges are significant, it’s clear Romania is headed in the right direction” (Written by Rick Steves, of TV travel series fame. Click this link to see the documentary on YouTube.)