The Massacre

Timisoara’s Opera Square Where Thousands Gathered. 93 or more died in the city of 350,000 in western Romania.
Photo from

Today, December 17, is a day of mourning in Timisoara with ceremonies marking this thirty year anniversary of the massacre including a speech by President Klaus Iohannis, wreath laying and religious services.

On this day in 1989, a huge crowd came together in Timisoara. The crowd marched on the Communist headquarters. They now included university students and workers, who shouted, “Down with Ceausescu!” and the squares had swollen with thousands. Women with their children that had lead a column of demonstrators wishing to speak with the mayor were beaten. After having forced their way into the headquarters, protestors burned portraits of Ceausescu and shops in the square went up in flames. By seven that night the shooting started.

The army used tear gas and water cannons at first as tanks rolled into the square and crushed people and then soldiers fired their machine guns and rifles indiscriminately into the crowd.

The exact number killed is unknown, but is estimated now to be around 100 with 2000 injured.

People in Timisoara faced food rationing, while working at places where their food was exported and there was little meat and always long lines, some waiting up to 15 hours for food. This winter was particularly cold and often they had no heat. Fuel was rationed. Now the military had turned against them. Adding to their outrage were rumors that the military had destroyed the blood supply for the injured and for the fact that 43 of their dead citizens were brought to Bucharest on the eighteenth of December and cremated with their ashes thrown into the sewers on orders of Elena Ceausescu.

The city would be under siege for three more days.

But the regime could not stop the demonstrations that spread like flames, skipping to other cities including Bucharest as news of the massacre filtered across the border from press coverage in Budapest and the Balkan nations. The world was now watching.

Published by Eric Sorlien

I am 51 and live in Philadelphia USA. I traveled to Romania about 30 years ago and I remember it still.

One thought on “The Massacre

  1. Wow that is a powerful account. You report some vivid details. I believe I visited Timisoara in 2010, but need to look on a map to make sure. Keep up the great work on this important anniversary.


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