Scholar Interviews

How do you help students understand Ceausescu's last speech?


The only way that I can try to convey the depth, the richness of this moment is by contrasting it with other moments in this kind of public speech-making by Ceausescu, so what I do is I show them a clip of another meeting in the same square where you can see the crowds basically chanting doing what they’re supposed to be doing and Ceausescu looking very confident and speaking with a different kind of voice and so giving them that kind of, you know, other context. Then I ask them to contrast it with, well how is this different.

The parts of the clip that the students understand on the basis of the contrasting between before and during 1989 are Ceausescu’s persona looking very different, they don’t pick up necessarily on the voice and kind of his tone, because when it’s a foreign language it’s harder. Sometimes they pick up on the body language and I try to exaggerate it by picking a previous clip where he is very dapper looking. What they don’t pick up because they really can’t is this notion of how the Securitate is part of the crowd and how people are kind of made to participate in this so I have to describe it to them. That’s not something that would be apparent to them.

Um, and, of course, that issue of the Securitate being present there does raise the question of how is it that the booing starts and how does the Securitate react to that? How is that part of the story and sometimes they do ask about it, so, okay, so what happens to the Securitate if I tell them the story, you know, after they start booing? Of course, that’s something that there’s a lot of contention about. Some historians think that actually it’s some Securitate folks who start the booing, but it can’t be proven.

How to Cite

Maria Bucur, interview, "How do you help students understand Ceausescu's last speech?" Making the History of 1989, Item #607, (accessed May 28 2021, 3:25 pm).