Nicolae Ceausescu

Nicolae Ceausescu was a Romanian communist politician and the president of Romania from 1965 to 1989, and as such was the country's last Socialist leader. He was also the country's head of state from 1967 to 1989.

A member of the Romanian Communist youth movement, Ceaușescu rose up through the ranks of Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej's Socialist government and, upon the death of Gheorghiu-Dej in March 1965, he succeeded to the leadership of Romania’s Communist Party as General Secretary. He soon won popular support for his independent, nationalistic political course, which openly challenged the dominance of the Soviet Union over Romania. As a result, Ceaușescu's rule was supported by the United States and Western Europe. Ceaușescu was elected to the newly created post of president of Romania in 1974.

However, Ceaușescu's regime became increasingly brutal and repressive. By some accounts, his rule was the most rigidly Stalinist in the Soviet bloc. His secret police, the Securitate, maintained strict controls over free speech and the media, and internal dissent was not tolerated. In 1982, with the goal of paying off Romania's large foreign debt, Ceaușescu ordered the export of much of the country’s agricultural and industrial production. The resulting extreme shortages of food, fuel, energy, medicines, and other basic necessities drastically lowered living standards and intensified unrest. Ceausescu's regime was also marked by an extensive and ubiquitous personality cult, nationalism, a continuing deterioration in foreign relations with the Soviet Union, and nepotism.

Ceaușescu’s regime collapsed after he ordered his security forces to fire on antigovernment demonstrators in the city of Timișoara on 17 December 1989. The demonstrations spread to Bucharest and became known as the Romanian Revolution of 1989, and was the only violent overthrow of a Socialist government to occur during the revolutions of 1989. Ceaușescu and his wife, Elena, fled the capital in a helicopter but were captured by the armed forces. On 25 December the couple were tried and convicted by a special military tribunal on charges of mass murder in a hastily organised two-hour court session. Ceaușescu and his wife were then shot by a firing squad.