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Romania to Open Communist Leader Ceausescu's Execution Site to Tourists

According to reports in the Romanian press, Romania is about to turn the former military base Targoviste, the site where former Romanian communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu was executed, into a tourist attraction.

The execution site of Ceausescu, deemed by many to have been a notorious Romanian dictator, will be open to the public next month.

Italian journalist Giampaolo Poniciappi was among those who announced the unusual news on Twitter:

#Romania, the barracks where the #Ceausescu‘s were shot turns into a museum open to tourists

— Giampaolo Poniciappi (@Infoconte) August 10, 2013

Ceausescu became general secretary of the Romanian Communist Party in 1965 and served as Romania’s President from 1967 to 1989, during which time he suppressed any and all opposition using brutal force.

photo used under Creative Commons license.

Archive photo of Ceausescu during is days as President of Romania; photo used under Creative Commons license.

Ceausescu and his wife Elena fled Bucharest in a helicopter after angry crowds gathered in front of the Communist Party headquarters in the final days of the Romanian Revolution on December 22, 1989. The army soon intercepted them and ordered a three-day trial by a special military tribunal. The main charge was genocide, and Ceausescu was blamed for the deaths of some 60,000 people — though historians have disputed that figure. The court sentenced the pair to death by firing squad on Christmas Day in 1989.

A soldier standing guard in the proceedings was ordered to take the Ceaușescus out back one by one and shoot them, but the Ceaușescus demanded to die together. The soldiers agreed to this and began to tie their hands behind their backs, which the Ceaușescus protested against, but were powerless to prevent. A TV crew who were to film the execution only managed to catch the end of the terrible event, as the Ceaușescus lay on the ground shrouded by dust that was kicked up by the bullets striking the wall and ground.

Before his sentence was carried out, Nicolae Ceaușescu sang “The Internationale” while being led to stand against the wall before the firing squad. After the shooting, the bodies were covered with canvases.

The Ceaușescus were the last people to be executed in Romania before the abolition of capital punishment on 7 January 1990. Their graves are located in Ghencea Cemetery in Bucharest. They are buried on opposite sides of a path. The graves themselves are unassuming, but they tend to be covered in flowers and symbols of the regime. More than 20 years after their death, the Ceausescu couple has not ceased to attract the attention of the public.

Elena Ceausescu was the object of a personality cult as intense as that of her husband, which exalted her as the “Mother of the Nation.” By all accounts, her vanity and desire for honors exceeded that of her husband. As with her husband, Romanian Television was under strict orders to take great care portraying her on screen. For instance, she was never supposed to be shown in profile because of her homely appearance (though it's been said she had been very attractive in her youth) and large nose. Publicly, Ceaușescu said that it was an honor to be referred to as “comrade”, but Romanian expatriates in the United States frequently referred to her as “Madame Ceaușescu” with great disdain.

The huge interest in this bizarre tourist destination is shown in the reactions of netizens, who conveyed this on social networks. However, there aren't either positive or negative reactions concerning this unusual decision by the Romanian government yet. Interest among netizens is certainly large, but most seem to be simply surprised and waiting to see what will happen in September when it opens.

Laura Desere, a journalist covering international affairs, tweeted the news:

An Egyptian Twitter user, Essam Man, said:

@AlMasryAlYoum: #Romania #Ceausescu The opening of the place where the execution of Ceausescu and his wife took place, venue open in Septhttp://t.co/e3kfug0quG@M_abd_elkhalek

— daydreamer … (@EssamMan) August 11, 2013

Teacher and translator Paul-Sorin Tita from Romania added:

Twitter user Antonio Silva:

Italian jornalist Matteo Pazzaglia has a rarely seen opinion:

In good and bad, Nicolae #Ceausescu was the onl president to secure a strong identity for #Romania. http://t.co/Hl39l1IwqC

— Matteo Pazzaglia (@cimbolano) July 24, 2013

In the meantime, in Romania, workers have completely restored the unlikely attraction near the central Romanian town of Targoviste to its original state so it will look just as it did when Ceausescu and his wife Elena met their end at the hands of a firing squad and, reportedly, some 120 bullets.

“Visitors will be able to see the wall where the Ceausescus were shot,” Ovidiu Carstina, the director of the museum site, told Bucharest-based Mediafax news agency. “The inside of the building has been repainted in the same colors as in 1989, and the furniture will be the same. We are recreating both the room where the improvised trail took place and the bedroom where they spent their last night.”

The site will also feature an exhibition detailing the structure’s earlier history as a cavalry school from 1893 to 1914. Officials said they decided to open it to the public this September after growing demand from foreign tourists. Tickets will go for just seven Romanian leu (two US dollars).

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