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Cold War Files: All Units: Events: Nicolae Ceauşescu and wife executed in Romania

December 25, 1989
Nicolae Ceauşescu and wife executed in Romania

The regime Nicolae Ceauşescu collapsed after he ordered regular military forces and the Securitate to fire on anti-Communist demonstrators in the city of Timişoara on December 17, 1989. The demonstrations were triggered by the government-sponsored attempt to evict a popular church minister. The rebellion spread to Bucharest, perhaps aided by Ceauşescu's ill-advised decision to hold a mass rally, which turned into a protest demonstration.

On the same day Ceauşescu and his wife Elena Ceauşescu fled the presidential palace in a helicopter—an aide held a gun to the pilot's head. The pilot landed near a farm-house after falsely claiming the helicopter was being targeted by anti-aircraft radar. The presidential couple continued fleeing through the countryside more or less aimlessly. The flight included grotesque episodes: a car chase to evade citizens attempting an arrest, the desertion of the aides, a short stay in a school. The Ceauşescus were finallly held in a police car for several hours, while the policemen listened to the radio, presumably in order to understand which political option is about to win. Police eventually turned the presidential couple to the army.

On December 25, the two were condemned to death by a military kangaroo court on a range of charges including genocide, and were executed by firing squad in Târgovişte.

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