The Legacy of the Communist Nationalization

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We’ve written about the Communist Nationalization before. The confiscation of private property more than 60 years ago by the Communist authorities still has a very painful legacy today, as the folks from the “Bucharest Housing Stories” project show in this 3-episode documentary. A toxic mix of confusing legislation, corruption, neglect, and administrative indolence still creates many social tensions today, as squatters occupy abandoned property (episode 1), owners reclaim their houses (episode 2), and tenants are evicted on the streets (episode 3).

Watch the 3 episodes with English subtitles below, and join one of our upcoming walking tours of Communism to witness more experiences like these:

How Ideology Recycles Statues

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If you’ve taken a stroll through Bucharest’s Revolution Square, you might have noticed this daring gentleman riding his horse:

New statue of Carol I
New statue of Carol I

This was King Karl I (in Romanian, Carol I), who ruled Romania for almost 48 years (from 1866 to 1914). However, you should know that what you see is not the original, but merely a copy. The original statue that used to be placed here was designed by Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović, and looked slightly different.

Old statue of Carol I
Old statue of Carol I

So what happened to the original? In the wake of World War II, as the communists came to power, they started destroying all symbols that reminded people of the “old world”. This included any monuments dedicated to monarchs or statesmen that the communists deemed as “bourgeois”, “class enemies” or “opponents of socialism”. Hence, the statue of Carol I was destroyed during the night of December 30-31 1947, following the forced abdication of the last king of Romania, King Michael I. Another sculptor witnessed the destruction: the horse was tied to a tank, and pulled down from the pedestal, and then the statue was dragged through the streets to a warehouse.

However, this was not the end of the statue. The metal has been recycled by the communists and used to build another statue, in line with the new regime and ideology: the statue of Lenin, designed by sculptor Boris Caragea, and placed for many years in front of the communist printing house (“Casa Scânteii”).

Statue of Lenin (from recycled bronze)
Statue of Lenin (from recycled bronze)

Of course, the Anti-communist Revolution of December 1989 brought a similar end to Lenin’s statue: it was pulled down from its pedestal using a construction crane, and stored in a museum warehouse outside Bucharest. Ironically, the guy who pulled down the statue – Gheorghe Gavrilescu – was a representative of the working class, which Lenin claimed to fight for. Even more ironically, Gavrilescu committed suicide just 4 years later, after becoming disillusioned with the newly installed Neo-Communist regime in Romania.


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