The Romanian Revolution (Romanian: Revoluția Română), also known as the Christmas Revolution (Romanian: Revoluția de Crăciun), was a period of violent civil unrest in Romania during December 1989 as a part of the Revolutions of 1989 that occurred in several countries around the world. The Romanian Revolution started in the city of Timișoara and soon spread throughout the country, ultimately culminating in the drumhead trial and execution of longtime Romanian Communist Party (PCR) General Secretary Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife Elena, and the end of 42 years of Communist rule in Romania. It was also the last removal of a Marxist–Leninist government in a Warsaw Pact country during the events of 1989, and the only one that violently overthrew a country's leadership and executed its leader; according to estimates, over one thousand people died and thousands more were injured.
|Part of the Revolutions of 1989|
The Revolution Square of Bucharest during the revolution, photographed from a broken window of the Athénée Palace Hotel. Tanks can be seen flooding the square.
After 22 December 1989:
|Commanders and leaders|
Nicolae Ceaușescu |
Elena Ceaușescu Constantin Dăscălescu Emil Bobu Victor Stănculescu (AWOL) Vasile Milea †
Iulian Vlad Tudor Postelnicu
|Protesters (no centralised leadership) Members of the National Salvation Front Council|
|Casualties and losses|
|History of Romania|
|Part of a series on the|
|Socialist Republic of|
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Following World War II, Romania was placed under the Soviet sphere of influence in 1947 with Communist rule implemented. When Romania seceded from Soviet influence in April 1964, Nicolae Ceaușescu became the country's leader the following year. Under his rule, Romania experienced a brief waning of internal repression that led to a positive image both at home and in the West. However, repression again intensified by the 1970s. Amid tensions in the late 1980s, early protests occurred in the city of Timișoara in mid-December on the part of the Hungarian minority in response to an attempt by the government to evict Hungarian Reformed Church pastor László Tőkés. In response, Romanians sought the deposition of Ceaușescu and a change in government in light of similar recent events in neighbouring nations. The country's ubiquitous secret police force, the Securitate, which was both one of the largest in the Eastern Bloc and for decades had been the main suppressor of popular dissent, frequently and violently quashing political disagreement, ultimately proved incapable of stopping the looming, and then highly fatal and successful revolt.
Social and economic malaise had been present in the Socialist Republic of Romania for quite some time, especially during the austerity years of the 1980s. The austerity measures were designed in part by Ceaușescu to repay the country's foreign debts. Shortly after a botched public speech by Ceaușescu in the capital Bucharest that was broadcast to millions of Romanians on state television, rank-and-file members of the military switched, almost unanimously, from supporting the dictator to backing the protesters. Riots, street violence and murder in several Romanian cities over the course of roughly a week led the Romanian leader to flee the capital city on 22 December with his wife, Elena. Evading capture by hastily departing via helicopter effectively portrayed the couple as both fugitives and also acutely guilty of accused crimes. Captured in Târgoviște, they were tried by a drumhead military tribunal on charges of genocide, damage to the national economy, and abuse of power to execute military actions against the Romanian people. They were convicted on all charges, sentenced to death, and immediately executed on Christmas Day 1989, and were the last people to be condemned to death and executed in Romania, as capital punishment was abolished soon after. For several days after Ceaușescu fled, serious fighting and street battles took place between revolutionary soldiers and remaining pro-Ceaușescu Securitate, who were skilled fighters. Hospitals in Bucharest were treating as many as thousands of civilians. Following an ultimatum, many Securitate members turned themselves in on 29 December with the assurance they would not be tried.
Present-day Romania has unfolded in the shadow of the Ceaușescus along with its Communist past, and its tumultuous departure from it. After Ceaușescu was toppled, the National Salvation Front (FSN) quickly took power, promising free and fair elections within five months. Elected in a landslide the following May, the FSN reconstituted as a political party, installed a series of economic and democratic reforms, with further social policy changes being implemented by later governments.