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Nicolae Ceausescu's Death

Nicolae Ceausescu

The life and death of Nicolae Ceausescu:

He was a Communist politician in Romania and served as the country's leader from 1967 to 1989. However, many of his countrymen considered him a dictator and he and his wife died a dictator's death – executed by a firing squad.

Nicolae Ceausescu was born into a poor peasant family, one of ten children. When he was eleven, he ran away from home to Bucharest, to escape his alcoholic and abusive father. He lived with a sister and learned the shoemaking trade.

But the man he was working for as an apprentice was a member of the illegal Romanian Communist Party and Nicolae was soon an member himself, doing only small things at first.

He was arrested for the first time in 1933 for street fighting during a strike and later for collecting signatures during a railway strike.

Nicolae Ceausescu mugshot

He and his wife Elena…

Nicolae Ceausescu's wife

…had three children.

When he first came into power, Ceausescu was a relatively moderate leader, and popular domestically and with the West for his independent foreign policy – in which he challenged the authority of the Soviet Union. He and Elena are pictured here with Britain's Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace.

Nicolae Ceausescu with Britain's Queen Elizabeth

But as time passed, he became increasingly repressive and brutal. He had very strict controls over the media and speech. He maintained a secret police force and dissent was not tolerated.

Nicolae Ceausescu on cover of TIME Magazine

In 1982, he decided to pay off Romania huge foreign debt, so he ordered that much of the country's farm and factory production be sold overseas. It resulted in extreme shortages of food, energy, medicine and the other basics that the Romanian people need to live.

It led to lower living standards and revolt among the people. He also ruled through nepotism and with himself and his wife as the supreme rulers.

Nicolae Ceausescu Vodka

It all came do a head on December 17, 1989 when he ordered his security police to shoot at demonstrators in the Romanian city of Timisoara. The protests spread to the Romanian capital of Bucharest and became known as the Romanian Revolution.

He and his wife Elena tried to escape the helicopter but were captured by the army.

They were tried on Christmas Day, 1989 by a military tribunal and convicted of genocide and sabotage in a two hour trial. Ceausescu repeatedly said the court had no authority to try him.

Nicolae Ceausescu after he was caught by Romanian Revolution Army

They insisted on dying together and were led away to their deaths, as this video shows.

Nicolae Ceausescu dead

Their graves are located in Ghencea Cemetery in Bucharest.

Nicolae Ceausescu grave

They were the last people to be executed in Romania before capital punishment was abolished on January 7, 1990 – about two weeks after they were shot.