BUCHAREST, Romania — The late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was deceived by his advisers and still believed Romanians adored him hours before his overthrow, his only surviving child said in a rare interview two decades after the fall of the regime.
Valentin Ceausescu described his father as removed from reality in the hours before a rally organized to show support for the Stalinist leader turned against him, forcing him to flee the capital and leading to his overthrow.
Ceausescu suggested that his father’s advisers kept him in the dark and led him to misjudge popular anger over his misrule, and that his father instead blamed the Soviet Union for trying to overthrow him.
“He was not informed about the (scope of) the discontent,” Valentin told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “Things were kept from him that he wouldn’t like.”
Some 1,100 people were killed during the Dec. 1989 revolt that ended Ceausescu’s 25-year-rule. Most of the deaths occurred between Dec. 22, when the Communist leader fled after the rally, and Christmas Day, when he and his wife, Elena were executed after a hasty trial.
Ceausescu said he would have preferred to see his father killed immediately because hundreds of innocent lives were lost in the interim.
As other Communist regimes collapsed in Eastern Europe, traditionally tolerant Romanians rose up, angered by years of draconian rationing as the dictator tried to pay off the country’s foreign debt. Meat, cooking oil and butter were severely limited and blackouts were common. In winter, Bucharest was the communist bloc’s gloomiest capital, its potholed streets gripped by ice and darkness.
When the elder Ceausescu heard that the revolt that began in Timisoara on Dec. 16 had spread to Bucharest, he believed it was instigated by “the Russians,” angered by his maverick stance in the Warsaw Pact against Moscow, especially his criticism of the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.
“I knew it wasn’t only the Russians,” Valentin said. “It was a rebellion against Ceausescu.”
Valentin, 61, has worked for two decades as a nuclear physicist at the Institute for Nuclear Physics outside Bucharest. He said he followed his parents’ trial on television while he was under arrest for undermining the state economy.
“I just watched it and I felt ashamed I was Romanian. I didn’t feel they were my parents,” he said softly of the trial and its aftermath, including stark black-and-white televised images of his parents slain by a firing squad.
“They should have simply killed him,” after he was captured on Dec. 22, Ceausescu said of the former henchmen who fell out with his father and went on to become national leaders. “They didn’t need a trial.”
Democracy swept away communism in East Germany and Czechoslovakia but the Romanian old guard that took over after Ceausescu perpetuated communist practices, including cronyism and corruption.
“It was not a revolution in the normal sense. It was a mess the way it developed,” Valentin Ceausescu said, chain-smoking Lucky Strikes and drinking unsweetened espresso in a hotel bar.
Today, Romania is mired in debt — with foreign obligations of almost C78 billion ($113 billion) dependent on an International Monetary Fund lifeline and paralyzed by political infighting including a hotly contested presidential election marred by allegation of widespread fraud.
“People hoped for something from this revolution and didn’t really get it,” Valentin said. “I see a lot of disillusioned people and it doesn’t make me happy.”