Elena Ceausescu

Romanian Dictatorship: Enabler, Participant

Elena Ceausescu at the Opening of Romanian Communist Party Convention
Elena Ceausescu at the Opening of Romanian Communist Party Convention. Sygma via Getty Images / Getty Images

Known for: role of influence and power in her husband's dictatorship in Romania

Occupation: politician, scientist
Dates: January 7, 1919 - December 25, 1989
Also known as: Elena Petruscu; nickname Lenuta

Elena Ceausescu Biography

Elena Ceausescu came from a small village where her father was a farmer who also sold goods out of the home. Elena was failing in school and left after the fourth grade; according to some sources, she was expelled for cheating.

She worked in a lab then in a textile factory.

She became active in the Union Communist Youth and then in the Romanian Communist Party.

Marriage

Elena met Nicolai Ceausescu in 1939 and married him in 1946. He was a staff member with the army at the time. She worked as a secretary in a government office as her husband rose to power.

Nicolai Ceausescu became first secretary of the party in March 1965 and president of the State Council (head of state) in 1967. Elena Ceausescu began to be held up as a model for women in Romania. She was officially given the title "The Best Mother Romania Could Have."  From 1970 to 1989, her image was carefully created, and a cult of personality was encouraged around both Elena and Nicolai Ceausescu.

Given Recognition

Elena Ceausescu was given many honors for work in polymer chemistry, claiming education from the College of Industrial Chemistry and the Polytechnic Institute, Bucharest.

She was made chairman of Romania's main chemistry research lab. Her name was put on academic papers actually written by Romanian scientists. She was chairman of the National Council of Science and Technology. In 1990, Elena Ceausescu was named deputy premier.  The power wielded by the Ceausescus led the University of Bucharest to grant her a Ph.D.

in chemistry

Elena Ceausescu's Policies

Elena Ceausescu is usually assumed to be responsible for two policies which in the 1970s and 1980s, coupled with some of her husband's policies, were disastrous.

Romania under the Ceausescu regime outlawed both abortion and birth control, with Elena Ceausescu's urging. Women under the age of 40 were required to have at least four children, later five

Nikolai Ceausescu's policies, including that of exporting much of the agricultural and industrial output of the country, caused extreme poverty and hardship for most citizens. Families could not support so many children. Women sought illegal abortions, or gave children up to state-run orphanages.

Eventually, parents were paid to give children to the orphanages; Nikolai Ceausescu planned to create a Romanian Workers Army from these orphans. However, the orphanages had few nurses and had food shortages, causing emotional and physical problems for the children.

The Ceausescus endorsed a medical answer to the weakness of many children: blood transfusions. The poor conditions in orphanages meant that these transfusions were often done with shared needles, resulting, predictably and sadly, in AIDS being widespread among the orphans.

Elena Ceausescu was head of the state health commission which concluded that AIDS could not exist in Romania.

Collapse of the Regime

Anti-government demonstrations in 1989 led to a sudden collapse of the Ceausescu regime, and Nikolai and Elena were tried on December 25 by a military tribunal and executed later that day by a firing squad.

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Elena Ceausescu." ThoughtCo, Dec. 30, 2016, thoughtco.com/elena-ceausescu-biography-3528718. Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2016, December 30). Elena Ceausescu. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/elena-ceausescu-biography-3528718 Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Elena Ceausescu." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/elena-ceausescu-biography-3528718 (accessed April 20, 2018).