The Romanian Revolution of 1989 overthrew the communist regime and its dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. On 15 December, in the town Timisoara, a battle was sparked between the riot police and thousands of Romanians inspired by Father Laszlo Tokes, a former member of the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania, who spoke out against Ceausescu and his dictatorship of Romania.
Under Ceausescu's rule the people of Romania had experienced severe food rationing, power cuts and fuel shortages, the abolishment of contraception and abortion, state controlled censorship of the media, visitors and travel restricted, and the 'systematisation' of half of Romania's villages which involved the elimination of a village and the repositioning of their residents into 'Agrarian-industria' centres. Totally manipulated and controlled, the Romanian people suffered oppression for 21 years, disciplined and monitored by the 'Securitate'. Ceausescu's secret police.
The week long revolution was one of Europe's most bloody and hostile revolutions since World War II. Any acts of aggression or placation by the Government only seemed to fuel and anger the Romanian people, led by Revolutionary leader, Ion Iliescu. On 21 December, Ceausescu made a televised speech to reason with crowds in Bucharest, but it only served to incense the crowd which became violent and riots continued throughout the day between the army and police. The following day, the army joined the demonstrators and by the Christmas Eve, Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife had fled Romania, only to be caught and executed by firing squad on Christmas Day.
After the Revolution and consequent fall of communism, Ion Iliescu was democratically elected to President of Romania. Under his Government, Romanian politics grew more stable and Romania joined North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), although there are continuing problems with Government corruption.
Day-by-day history of the Romanian Revolution
|15 December 1989
||Father Laszlo Tokes speaks out publicly against Ceausescu in the town of Timisoara. Backed by thousands, the riot police arrived to try and remove Tokes and disperse the crowd. A noisy, and at times bloody, battle ensued in the streets
|16 December 1989
||Relative calm, as the Securitate and the army were called in to restore order. The United States State Department reacts with, "It looks like Romania's time may have finally come" although the majority of the world still believed that Ceausescu will successfully maintain control
|17 December 1989
||A huge crowd amassed in Timisoara. The crowd became aggressive and marched on the Communist Headquarters at city hall. The demonstration was severely anti-government, as portraits of Ceausescu were burned and thrown from the building. The army used tanks, tear gas and water cannons against the crowd
|18 December 1989
||The Executive Political Committee in Bucharest ordered the army to begin firing real bullets into the demonstrators. Civilian casualties ran high in Timisoara and the dead were collected by the army and either thrown in mass graves or burned
|19 December 1989
||The resistance continued in western Romania, and the death count rose. The United States condemned the Romanian government for the use of "brutal force". It is believed that some of the army began to switch over to the side of the demonstrators on this day, although that is unconfirmed
|20 December 1989
||Negotiators from Bucharest were sent to Timisoara, but really only to buy time so that new elite troops could arrive to "crush the rebellion". The Securitate continued firing on demonstrators in the street.Ceausescu arrived home from a visit to Iran and proclaimed martial law. He also blamed the uprising on Hungarian Fascists
|21 December 1989
||Ceausescu addresses a crowd in Bucharest in a televised speech. Unexpectedly, the crowd became violent and tried to break police lines. A violent clash ensued in which at least 13 youths were killed.
Protests began breaking out all over the capitol, and the police began arresting these demonstrators. The crowds refused to disperse and the police used gunfire and armoured cars against the people
|22 December 1989
||Even more demonstrators began to reassemble early in the morning. Huge crowds were locked in a standoff with the army in the main square of Bucharest. Reports of dissidence between Ceausescu and his army caused the crowd to start chanting, "The army is with us!" The crowd offered the soldiers cigarettes and flowers and the battle seemed to be shifting to one between the army and Ceausescu's security police. In a last ditch effort, Ceausescu tried to speak from a balcony, but was shouted down. He and his wife fled the capital and made plans to leave Romania
|23 December 1989
||The fighting and brutality escalated in the streets, as confusion reigned. Some of the army had switched over to the side of the people and continued to battle security forces. Ceausescu and his wife were captured and returned to Bucharest. Ion Iliescu emerged as a leader of the National Front and made a list of demands on the government
|24 December 1989
||The army continued to battle and gain on the Securitate in Bucharest. The National Front claimed control of the revolution and established a provisional government. Uncertainty and terror still prevailed in the streets, although it is known that the Ceausescus' were tried and shot in a very speedy trial
|25 December 1989
||The Ceausescu's bodies were exhibited on TV, marking "the end" of these initial stages of revolution. Ceausescu was described as unapologetic and refused to recognise the decision of the courts. Despite this, fighting continued both in the capitol and in Timisoara. It is unclear when complete order was restored and even more unclear when Romania was able to regroup after these 11 days of revolution.
Taken from: Christman, Jonathan, comp. Day-by-Day History of the Romanian Revolution Theatre Resources. 16 Oct. 1998. Wake Forest University.