Bucharest

Communist Romania

more than a year ago
Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej with Nikita Krushchev in 1960. Nicolae Ceausescu is on Dej's right

At the end of World War II, a semblance of democracy was preserved in Romania by the occupying Soviet Union until the summer of 1947, when the pre-war political parties, who had been harassed and persecuted since 1945, were all banned, and its leaders imprisoned at the notorious prison at Sigheţul Marmaţiei, in the north of Romania. King Michael was given an ultimatum in December 1947: exile or arrest. He chose exile, and abdicated on December 30.

Though Petru Groza was de jure Prime Minister until 1953, real power rested in the hands of Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, General Secretary of the Romanian Workers (Communist) Party. Dej was the leader of a group of communists who had stayed in Romania during the war, and which by the late 1940s had defeated another group, led by Ana Pauker, who had spent the war in Moscow.

Life for most people under Dej was tough: the need to pour resources into industrialization meant that the production of consumer goods was neglected, and there were perennial shortages. The rights of workers were non-existent, and conditions in factories were generally awful. In the countryside collectivization of agriculture had reduced most farmers to a status little better than slaves, though in some remote parts of the country (including parts of the Apuseni and Maramureş) opposition to collectivization had been so strong that local party cadres simply gave up trying to implement it.

Dej died in 1965, just two months before the Ninth Congress of the Romanian Communist Party. The keynote address of the congress was delivered by the relatively youthful (he was 47) Nicolae Ceauşescu, who, to the astonishment of his audience, denounced the abuses of the Dej years. Most delegates left the congress full of hope for a more liberal and open society.

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