Places of Torture & Repression during Communism: the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Bucharest

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The building in the photo below has witnessed many important events in the history of the Romanian Communist regime. Its exterior might remind you of the Nazi architecture, and that’s because it was actually built  between 1937-1939, when this architectural influence was prevalent in Romania.

Ministry of Internal Affairs
Ministry of Internal Affairs

The building is primarily known in the Romanian psyche as the starting point of the anti-Communist Revolution in Bucharest in 1989, mainly because the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu held his famous last speech from its balcony. The speech was partially broadcast on national television before being interrupted by protesters. You can see footage of this below:

From the rooftop of the same building, a helicopter rescued the fugitive Nicolae Ceausescu from the raging crowds:

However, long before becoming a symbol of the downfall of Communism, the building was the center of political power during Communism: it housed the headquarters of the “Central Committee of the Communist Party”. However, few people know that its basement was also used to detain and investigate political prisoners between 1945-1964. The basement has two underground levels with detention cells, popularly known among political prisoners as “studios” (for the upper floor) and “submarines” (for the lower floor). Each cell had two bunk beds, a table, two stools, and a lighting bulb, which was always kept on. All furniture pieces were made of concrete, and were sealed to the cell’s walls, so they could not be moved or used for rioting or breaking out. The beds were equipped with a straw mattress and a very old military blanket. The “submarines” were smaller than the “studios”, and had a shared bathroom down the corridor. Each cell was locked with a metal door, and had a glass wall facing the corridor, where guards would be patrolling at all times.

Source: Dictionarul Penitenciarelor din Romania Comunista (1945-1967), Andrei Muraru, Clara Mares, Dumitru Lacatusu, Cristina Roman, Marius Stan, Constantin Petre, Sorin Cucerai.

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