Nicolae Ceausescu and the Cult of Personality

Today in introduction to comparative we discussed various coercive tactics available and generally used by authoritarian and dictatorial leaders.  One of them is the cultivation of a “cult of personality.”  Nobody was better at it than the late (executed) Romanian Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.  This clip from youtube is a treasure as it shows the dictator’s last public speech; within hours both he and his equally loathsome spouse, Elena, had been executed.

Note a couple of things; first, the dramatic banners, huge photographs of the ruling couple, and other similar accoutrements of the public celebrations of a totalitarian regime.  Note also the massive crowds. In totalitarian systems (as opposed to authoritarian ones), every thing is politicized and one’s presence at events such as this would be expected.  Apathy is not allowed, and it is considered reactionary.

The second fascinating phenomenon is when the crowd (or portions thereof) begins to whistle and jeer its disapproval while Ceausescu is speaking.  The voice on his face as he realizes that he has lost the crowd is absolutely fascinating.  Rarely in history is an event like this captured for posterity.