Twenty years ago today the world watched in disbelief as the fall of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was beamed around the world. He had tried to escape the capital after demonstrations against his rule turned into a bloody revolution in which hundreds were killed.
Ceausescu and his wife were tried in front of a special military court, reportedly for just 90 minutes, and then quickly executed by firing squad.
All these years later, however, there is still debate about whether the Ceausescus were given a real chance to legally defend themselves. And some historians say the euphoria felt among ordinary people after the fall of the regime was shortlived.
Historian Bogdan Murgescu said: “After Ceausescu disappeared, disruption followed. Different points of view regarding the revolution and the direction we would take in the future emerged. The revolution became the subject of political and ideological disputes.”
Sympathisers of Ceausescu claim Romania was looted by a new elite of super-rich who took advantage of the chaos that followed the revolution.
Others argue that the move to democracy and EU membership has not resulted in better stability.
One resident in Bucharest said: “Now after 20 years I notice the reverse of the situation, where people have become victims of spending fever, losing some of their social ideals, no longer calling themselves socialist.”
Another resident said: “I have moments of regret about Ceausescu. In his time there was discipline, imposed, not freely accepted, but in the end it was discipline. Now we don’t have this. Liberty is misunderstood. Everybody is only doing what is good for them, and not what they should be doing.”
But those who do not regret what happened say Ceausescu was guilty of corruption, and undermining the economy and the country with his rigid control. Other experts say the road to an open, successful economy is proving to be long.
Journalist Raico Cornea said: “In the early days of the revolution, we said to ourselves: we will live like in America. The majority said this. As time went by we said: we will live like in Germany. After one year, two, three, five: it’s fine to live like it is in Austria. In the end, after twenty years, who we are comparing ourselves to? Hungary!”