Ceaușescu's final speech
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In the wake of growing tension over an uprising in Timișoara in which thousands were reportedly killed, Ceaușescu decided to give a nationally televised speech before a crowd in Palace Square (now known as Revolution Square) in Bucharest. This speech was an annual event and carefully scripted by the regime to ensure both success and the appearance of popular support.
Thousands of workers were bussed into the square under threat of being fired. They were given red flags, banners and large pictures of Ceaușescu and his wife Elena. The workers were augmented by bystanders who were rounded up on Calea Victoriei. The crowd, now totaling up to 80,000, were given orders on where to stand, when to applaud and what to sing. The front rows of the assembly were made up of low-level Communist Party officials and members who acted as cheer-leaders. Immediately before them were plainclothes Securitate agents and a row of police militia, who kept the mass of the crowd about thirty meters back from the front of the Central Committee building.
Ceaușescu appeared on the balcony of the Central Committee building and began as he had in years past, with a speech laden with the usual "wooden language." However, he had badly misread the crowd's mood. Only the front rows supported Ceaușescu with cheers and applause, with most of the crowd remaining impassive. Eight minutes into the speech, some in the crowd actually began to scream because there was a shooting that occurred in the background. Workers from a Bucharest power plant started chanting "Ti-mi-șoa-ra! Ti-mi-șoa-ra!"—a chant that was soon picked up by others in the crowd. In response, Ceaușescu raised his right hand in hopes of silencing the crowd; his stunned expression remains one of the defining moments of the end of Communism in Eastern Europe. After many people began to exit the square, Ceaușescu shouted over the public address system for them to "remain seated". He then tried to placate the crowd by offering to raise workers' salaries by 200 lei per month (about 18 U.S. dollars at the time, yet a 10%-20% raise for a modest salary) and student scholarships from 100 to 110 lei while continuing to praise the achievements of the past 42 years. He did not realize, however, that a real revolution was starting right before his eyes. Ion Iliescu was his successor.
His security guard appeared, disappeared and, finally, hustled Ceaușescu off the balcony. At that very moment, many everyday Romanians saw the weakness of Ceaușescu's regime for the first time. Ceaușescu and his wife Elena escaped Bucharest by helicopter, but were captured four days later in Târgoviște, put on trial, and shot by a firing squad.
- Sebestyen, Victor (2009). Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire. New York City: Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-375-42532-2.
- Almond, Mark. The Rise and Fall of Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu. pp. 4–5. ISBN 1-85592-510-9.
- "Video of Ceausescu’s Last Speech, December 1989", Making the History of 1989, Item #696, (accessed November 03 2014)
- Boyes, Roger (24 December 2009). "Ceausescu looked in my eyes and he knew that he was going to die". The Times. London.