This Romanian politician was born in the last year of the Great War. His was a poor family working mostly on the land, and young Nicolae was pleased to leave the grinding poverty behind and join the Communist Party in 1936 when he was just eighteen years old.
He was thrown into prison in the same year for ‘anti-government activities’, which could mean anything. There he languished furiously for two long years, before being released. He became a member of the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party in 1952. Then he moved into the Politburo (1955)
Ten years of plotting and planning followed, and in 1965 he became effective Party leader at less than fifty years of age. He was General-Secretary of the RCP in that year and its first President in 1967. He was flying high, and under his leadership Romania became increasingly independent of Soviet Russia (not an easy task, and dangerous as well). His foreign policy drew the admiration of other European states; but his internal affairs programme, however, was as Stalinist in concept as had been that of his predecessor Gheogio-Dej, or more so. Things started to go wrong, as they always seem to, when he began filling important government posts with members of his family, including his not terribly popular wife Elena.
He was eager to manipulate Romanian nationalism and forced racial minorities to adapt to Rumanian culture, language and education. He ‘systemized’ (his word) the country, uprooting whole villages, and there was an international outcry against his policies in late 1985.
Ceausescu went too far, as his kind always seem to, and he was summarily deposed in 1989, almost certainly with the clandestine help of certain powerful nations which had been closely observing the Ceausescu regime. A popular revolt led by elements in the Army put him and others on trial before a military tribunal. Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena, whom he had put into the number two position of power in the country, were later shot, with plenty of cameras present to record their death.