30 years ago Romania was going through one of the most groundshaking changes in the last half century. The communist regime was about to come to an end after more than 40 years of dictatorship and 24 years of having infamous Nicolae Ceausescu in power.
The first events that triggered the revolution in December 1989 started on the 16th of December in the city of Timisoara, ignated by the communist persecution of a local priest. On the 21st of December, Bucharest was rising against Ceausescu during one of his public speaches that traditionally took place in the city center.
One of the key locuses, 30 years later, is the Revolution square, the place shown in the article picture above, with the oversized vintage phone dialling '89. The massive building behind the phone, with the flag on top, used to be Ceausescu's headquarters, the Central Comitee of the Communist Party. On the 21st of December the dictator had his final speech from the balcony facing the square, and tried to escape the revolution in a helicopter, from the rooftop of the building on the 22nd of December. The attempt was unsuccesfull, both him and his wife were captured by the military forces, and 3 days later the couple was executed on Christmas day 1989, after being found guilty of crimes against humanity.
A terrific story that changed the fate of the country and granted freedom to its citizens. There are many scars still visible all around the country and the city. Especially in Bucharest's Revolution square you'll find links and memorials to those specific days and times.
If you walk around the Revolution Square today you'll find some important buildings and monuments that tell painful stories about the past:
The Memorial of Rebirth
The monument stands in the middle of the Revolution Square since 2005
The memorial displays the names of all 1,058 victims of the revolution, all of the names are written on the horizontal brass plates
The controversial design was critisized heavily by the locals as well as the exaggerated cost, being nicknamed with a lot of nasty or funny names and damaged with graffiti
The picture was taken a few months ago, today you would find it under restauration
The marble pyramid is 25m high and the "crown" at the top is symbolizing the sacrifice and the memory of the fallen, which must remain alive in the Romanian consciousness.
The former HQ of Secret Services
The building with the most obvious traces of bullets in the square
Allegedly home of the most dangerous department of the secret services during Ceausescu's dictatorship - Direction 5 of "Securitate"
The hybrid architecture makes it easy to notice, it's home to the Union of Architects today, who are responsible for the "facelift"
The lower part is a historical monument dating back to the 19th Century, the upper levels were added in 2003
It's a symbol of the transition from communism to a capitalist world, reflected by the hybrid look of a new world built on top of the old fragile ashes.
Statue of Iuliu Maniu
Standing right in front of Ceausescu's balcony, the statue shows the most vocal leader of the anti-communist resistence
Iuliu Maniu helped build modern Romania, and served as a prime minister of the country during the Kingdom of Romania
He protested against the abusive instauration of the communist goverment in 1945, he was arrested and imprisoned by the new communist authorities for "high treason"
He dies in Sighet prison in 1953, at the age of 80, his body is thrown into a grave in the Cemetery of the Poor, on the outskirts of Sighet.
Religion was censored during communism in Romania and many churches were demolished, but this one managed to survive right in the main square
The different color bricks tell the stories of the violent attacks in the square, because of the shootings some of the bricks had to be replaced
The church is known for the specific local architectural style - Brancovenesc, developed in the early 18th century
Rumor has it that the local priest used to colaborate with the secret services and that might be a reason why the church was spared from demolition
Palace of the Ministry of Internal Affairs
The story of the place is shown on the boards, illustrated by a few relevant pictures
Ceausescu's balcony can be seen above the flags, it's his most well known stance, where the revolution began
The balcony was the hotspot of a different famous speech in 1968, when he earned international glory after criticising the soviets for invading Cehoslovakia
These places help reflect a dark history that made possible the real change in the country. The memories of all the Romanians joining forces to make the revolution happen are passed on from generation to generation and remembered every December. Remembering is essential in order to cherish the privilleges of today, earned with the sacriface of more than 1,000 human lives.
If you visit Bucharest and pass by the Revolution square I'm sure you'll remember the sights mentioned above, but if you're looking for an in depth experience of learning about how communism changed Romanian realities and want to explore more corners of the city that were reinvented during communism, check out the upcoming tour for next season:
The Communist Food Tour - or tailor your own with Bucharest Vibes City Tours.