Build This and the People Will Kill You: Bucharest, Romania

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For once I'm writing as I travel. Today I took this photo of the world's second largest administrative building. The largest is the Pentagon in Washington D.C. The building you see here is the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest, Romania. It was ordered in 1983 and is still not completed. But it houses the two houses of government and has somewhat endless meeting rooms. It is so large that a good part of its space is empty.

The Palace, which covers 82 acres and is 15 stories high (five underground) is the last effigy of the now dead president of Romania, Nicolae Ceausescu. He and his wife Elena (the Prime Minister) were shot by a firing squad immediately after a trial that lasted less than two hours on Christmas Day 1989. Their story and that of Romania during their “reign” as self-appointed king and queen of Romania is a tough story. This is a rough photo scooped from YouTube, but it shows the primitive nature of the killing of the President and the Prime Minister.

I want to give you a sense of how crazy the Palace of Parliament is before we turn to the execution of the people who built it (largely for their honor). The building shows a massive failure of sensibility to fight against arrogance and ego. Once the Ceausescu's took control of Romania (he was in charge starting in 1965 and she joined in later) their policy moved from a rather balanced international perspective (he opposed the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968) to a megalomaniacal view of self. The people of Romania suffered because of these egomaniacs.

Now, 14 or so years after the two leaders were executed, the people take some pride in the building. And they should. It is built only of (or primarily of) Romanian products and only by Romanians. It is a colossal masterpiece of marble.

Here's a photo scooped from google that gives an aerial view.

Here's some insane facts about the place: it has more than 1,000 rooms; it's space is 340,000 square meters, or 3,700,000 square feet; it has at least 6,000,000 cubic meters of marble; 3,500 tones of crystal to make 480 chandeliers; and more than 2,200,000 square feet of carpet (several of which had to be made inside the large halls, since they would be too large to transport).
Moreover, since the place was built in the centre of Bucharest, a huge space had to be cleared. That process meant the destruction of some 30,000 residences and 30 religious buildings.
These are some photos I caught today while taking a tour of this building. It is one of the most strange places I've ever been. Once the Ceausescu's were executed in 1989, construction stopped for a few years, but then the Romanian government decided to complete the palace. That happened in the mid 1990s, but things are still not complete. What's spooky about the place is that it is built on such a huge scale, but there's so much vacant space.
I hope with this last series of images you've got my point. It's a stunning building. But buildings don't help the people, if the politicians in the building care little for the fate of the people.
So this is what happened in 1989, when the collapse of the Soviet Union sparked a radical change in Europe.
 

What struck me today as I walked through Bucharest was the sudden change that happened here and throughout the former east block countries. The people had had enough of these arrogant rulers who put money in their own pockets under the guise of being communist.

Here in Romania, once the Soviet Union exploded in 1989, the people, to their credit, quickly protested the Ceausescu regime: he and his wife's grandiose expenses, grandiose propaganda of their great value to Romania, huge control on the media to propagate the myth of the great leaders. They were both caught up in the greatness of their greatness.

But pause for a moment. In the years he was in power, many states supported this guy because he played the game between the Cold War players. Go to Internet, if you will, and you'll see heads of state from all of our so-called democratic countries welcoming the guy. My favorite shows the Queen of England and Prince Phillip with the now dead couple. The Romanians are comparitively short.

In 1989 the government of Ceausescu tried to suppress a spontaneous protest in December. That didn't work. More than 1,000 people died and many were injured. But then the army turned against the president, who tried to flee with his Prime Minister wife in a helicopter going west. They were stopped and held by the army.

This is an ironic photo of an attempt to clean up the situation.

But what follows is a grim series of photos I've scooped from YouTube of the cursory trial of the once dictatorial rulers of Romania from 1965 until their sudden death on Christmas Day 1989:

This is the hastily formed court:

This is the prosecution in action:
Note that the accused have no counsel and the court seems to lack a heating system.

This is the court reading its decision to execute the President and Prime Minister.

They hear the decision.

This soldier arrives to execute the decision. The court said they should be taken out separately to be executed.

But in a moment that hits me harder than anything else, Elena argued that they had the right to die together. They did.

In the video the soldier says he ordered his firing squad to put their weapons on automatic. The photos of the death scene support that.

 

I write this piece to emphasize what injustice is.

Injustice is a dictator who suppresses the people. Who builds great monuments to himself when the people have no food.

Injustice is a place where starvation is ignored. But injustice is also place where tyrants are shot after a non-existent trial. If we do not engage fairness, then we are doomed.

To be frank. I don't care either way.

 









About This Place…

"This website is dedicated to the many people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo who have suffered and died."

 

The writer was a journalist, prosecutor, and Canadian soldier who is now trying to help the people who live in the DR Congo.

 

The photographs and the commentary here are solely those of the writer and his pet dog named "Bark." The United Nations and MONUSCO have nothing to do with this website.

Similarly, the township of Puskokum in eastern Tennessee is equally not interested.