Is Communism still a taboo topic in Romania?

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Part of the promotion activities for the Tour of Communism involves partnering with hotels and souvenir shops to help spread the word to tourists visiting the country. Usually, all they have to do is to allow a few flyers about the tour to be placed in the lobby or by the counter. However, when I mention what the tour is about, many employees (all of them Romanian) have a visible knee-jerk reaction. Their faces turn white and they seem in shock, as if I’m trying to place a bomb in the hotel lobby. They ask me in complete disbelief: “What do you mean about Communism?” or they try to find an excuse along the lines of “My manager does not allow me” or “We only have a business clientele! They’re not interested in tours”. If I explain that the tour talks about the People’s House (among many other things), they heave a sigh of relief.

However, if I change strategy completely, and just mention that I’d like to promote some tours (without mentioning what kind of tours), the staff is cooperative and shows no opposition to the idea. I find this behavior to be at least strange, given that almost 25 years passed since the fall of communism. However, this kind of attitude is not isolated to the tours I’m promoting. Unfortunately, many Romanians refuse to talk openly and objectively about our Communist history. For many of my Romanian friends, it is unbelievable that someone (especially foreigners!) could ever be interested in such a topic, let alone pay money to learn about Romania’s Communist past.

For a while, I also contemplated doing a version of the tour for Romanians. However, from what I can tell, many Romanians have a pre-conceived opinion about Communism, having only a superficial knowledge of the actual facts and characters (which usually doesn’t go beyond the last 1-2 decades of the regime), despite many of them having the first-hand experience of living during the regime. Or maybe that’s exactly the reason for this attitude (“I lived through those days, so don’t tell me about them!” attitude). Maybe it’s too early to discuss this openly, as the scars are still fresh in people’s minds, souls (and sometimes bodies), but I believe the younger generations will eventually need to learn an objective, non-sugar-coated, ego-free version of our Communist history, if we don’t want to repeat the same mistakes again.

Enjoyed this article? Listen to more Communist stories and see Bucharest’s landmarks in one of our upcoming walking tours!

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