There’s no better place to visit in Romania than Ceausescu Mansion to understand the double standards of the communist regime or the absurd cult of personality of one of its most ruthless dictators.
Opened in 2016 for visitors, Ceausescu Mansion was back in the dark and freezing communist days one of the best-kept secrets of the regime. Only the closest members of the family and the highest rank party members had access to Ceausescu’s residence. Why all the secrecy you wonder if he was ‘the first son of the nation’ who was guiding Romania to the ‘Golden Age’?
To make the best out of your visit, you should know a few things about Nicolae Ceausescu before. Born in 1918, in a poor family of peasants, young Ceausescu aspired to be a shoemaker and didn’t complete more than his primary education studies. That didn’t prove to be a big problem for his future career as most communist party members had a complete lack of academic education.
He never got to practice his shoemaking skills as very soon after he moved to Bucharest, he became a communist activist. The Romanian Communist Party was already illegal, since 1924, by the time Ceausescu joined its very heterogeneous lines. He was imprisoned a few times, but not for such a long time as other preeminent members of the party, and many legends exist regarding his time in prison, from who his cellmates were to his love life.
Later in life, he made up for his scarce illegality activity through falsification, a preferred practice of the party. He even falsified photos to make sure he had proof of his revolutionary past that became a national celebration during his cult of personality days.
After 1948, Ceausescu meticulously created a network of supporting members at local and central level. In 1965, he was the unlikely successor of dying Gheorghe Gheorghiu Dej – the first communist dictator –, but he was clever enough to surprise everyone when he won the nomination.
For over three decades, he was in complete control of all the decisions made in communist Romania. Posing as a rebel of the communist world to get funding and attention from the US, Ceausescu had life and death power in Romania and no moral or fear of God stopped him from using it.
He invented the President function for himself and awarded his ignorant, evil and revengeful wife, Elena, with the third position in the state, although she was de facto the second most powerful person of Romania and the most detested one. Even the party members hated and despised her. So bad that leaving her in charge in the days of the 1989 Revolution led to their betrayal by the army and the party.
While posing in humble and down to earth people, Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu lived in ostentatious contrast to the values they were preaching and the lack of space and basic resources the Romanian people were enduring. Their top-secret residence was off the radar and off limits because the communist ideology of equality came with a stunning indoor swimming pool, a spa, thousands of dresses, a cinema room and much more. Some were more equals than others in communist Romania.
The home of the dictatorial couple from 1965 until their execution in December 1989, Ceausescu Mansion was, in fact, built for the first communist leader, Gheorghe Gheorghiu Dej, who didn’t get to use it during his life.
Located on one of the most expensive streets in Bucharest, Primaverii, in a neighborhood where only the most trusted party member had their residences, the mansion also known as Primaverii Palace hides more history than we can possibly imagine.
The original construction was enlarged for the Ceausescu family and decorated with luxurious furniture, original Iranian carpets and many paintings of important Romanian artists like Dumitru Ghiata, Octav Bancila, Camil Ressu, hand-made tapestries that decorate entire walls and expensive porcelain vases. The most impressive space, the swimming pool hall, is an enormous mosaic puzzle created in two years by artists Olga Porumbaru and Florin Parvulescu.
The guided tour of the house will take you seeing the home office of Nicolae Ceausescu, his three children’s apartments, the apartment he shared with his wife and also their famous golden bathroom. The cinema room with original Phillips technology, the dining space, the cellar, the winter garden with tropical plants, an impressive wardrobe, a spa area, a day apartment for Elena Ceausescu and the incredible swimming pool complete the tour. The bunker and the portraits’ gallery are included in the private tour visits.
The summer garden you’ll see on your way out is the home for the peacocks Ceausescu loved so much. The original birds’ descendants still live here, and, throughout the house, you’ll notice many objects decorated with the peacock symbol, from custom Delf vases to wall tapestries.
Decorated and organized according to the preferences of Elena Ceausescu, the house is a declaration of power represented in this case through ample spaces ornate with expensive furniture in a time when most Romanian were living in small and overcrowded communist apartments known also as ‘matchboxes’.
Luckily enough, but also with the help of the armed guards, the former Primaverii Palace survived almost intact in the violent days of the Romanian Revolution. It’s today a unique place to visit in Romania, one you shouldn’t miss if you want to know more about the perverted values of the communist regime in Romania.
You can visit Ceausescu Mansion from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 5 pm. It’s best to book your visit online.
All visits are guided by the staff of the museum, and their guides are doing a great job.
Continue with a visit to the Parliament, the final dream Ceausescu didn’t get to live.