Obituary: Nicu Ceausesecu

As the Communist era in eastern Europe drew to a close in the late 1980s, few regimes were more brutal, obnoxious and surreal than that of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu in Romania. And of all the characters who walked that nightmarish stage, few were regarded as more brutal, obnoxious and surreal than Nicu Ceausescu, the dictator's youngest child, who died yesterday in a Vienna hospital at the age of 45.

Stories abounded in Communist times of Ceausescu's almost manic indulgence in women, alcohol, fast cars, expensive clothes and jewellery, at a time when ordinary Romanians were reduced to living on scraps of meat and nettle soup in unheated, unlit apartments. Ion Pacepa, a Romanian intelligence service chief who later defected to the West, told in his memoirs of a banquet at which he saw Nicu pour Scotch over the foreign minister's head, urinate over a platter of oysters and start to rape a waitress.

He also alleged that Nicu had raped a classmate at the age of 14, acquired his first boat at 15, and turned into a drunken hooligan at 16, causing car accidents all over Bucharest. Yet some of Pacepa's episodes sound too lurid to be true, and Ceausescu's reputation as a louche and loathsome lunatic was in all probability exaggerated. In the aftermath of the December 1989 revolution, it suited Romania's post- Communist rulers to keep alive his image as a wicked degenerate who abused women and drank spectacular quantities of whisky. By demonising Ceausescu, President Ion Iliescu and his followers sought to focus public discontent on the past, conceal the shortcomings of the post-Communist government, and put distance between the late dictatorship and Romania's new rulers, many of whom had in fact been intimately associated with the Ceausescu regime.

Though the youngest of the three Ceausescu children, Nicu was groomed in the 1980s to be his father's successor, a prospect that gave rise to the quip that Romania was developing "socialism in one family". After serving as head of the Com- munist youth movement, a stepping-stone to the party leadership, he was transferred in 1987 to run the party organisation in the medieval city of Sibiu.

For the next two years, according to Sibiu residents, he belied his notoriety by working quietly to circumvent his father's grim austerity measures and provide his city with a modicum of well-being. In the last years of his life, he also claimed to have opposed his father's destruction of the old heart of Bucharest, a rampage that resulted in the construction of a grotesque palace for the Communist leadership and avenues with names such as the Boulevard of the Triumph of Socialism.

When the 1989 revolution broke out, Nicu left Sibiu for Bucharest, but his parents had already fled the capital. Shortly before their execution on Christmas Day, Nicu was arrested and charged with ordering security forces to fire on demonstrators in Sibiu, where almost 100 people had died in the uprising.

Nicu strenuously denied these accusations but, at his trial in 1990, made a joke of them in a way that illustrated the fundamental failings of his character. He apologised to the court for having an incomplete memory of the December events and said that he had been drunk at the time.

Romania's state prosecutors initially charged him with genocide, a manifestly absurd accusation, but eventually changed the indictment to "instigation of aggravated murder". Predictably, he was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison. However, in November 1992, after the charge against him had been changed yet again to mere illegal possession of firearms and his sentence had been reduced to five years, he was quietly set free.

By this time he cut a sorry, gaunt figure, chain-smoking, his life empty of purpose, and his body racked with hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver. Yet although the latter disease may have been caused by years of heavy drinking, Ceausescu had only a mild form of the illness when it was first diagnosed in 1989. Friends of Nicu suspected that the disease acquired fatal dimensions only because Romania's post-Communist rulers denied him access to proper medical treatment.

It was perhaps some consolation, as his life approached its premature end, that many Romanians chose to view Nicu with pity rather than hatred. He is survived by his brother Valentin and his sister Zoia.

Nicu Ceausescu, politician: born 1951; married (marriage dissolved); died Vienna 25 September 1996.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker