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The Cult of Elena Ceausescu 20/04/2014

Posted by allthingsro in history, politics.
Tags: , , , , , ,

Historical studies have often overlooked Elena Ceausescu. Her limited education made it easy to dismiss her as too ordinary or too stupid. But Cristina Liana Olteanu argues that she is worthy of examination.
This post summarises Olteanu’s study and presents snapshots from the phases that she identified in the development of the cult around Elena Ceausescu.

Phase 1: Wife and mother
In January 1973 Nicolae Ceausescu’s birthday was celebrated publicly on a large scale for the first time. Elena was only mentioned in passing in tributes, although her birthday fell in the same month as his. Olteanu highlights Elena’s appearance in Omagiu (Homage) of 1978, a photobook celebrating Nicolae Ceausescu. Elena, along with the couple’s children, appears in domestic settings showing “the President of Romania in the warmth of his family life”.

Phase 2: The beginnings of a cult
1979 marked the start of official celebrations of Elena Ceausescu’s birthday. The front page of the newspaper Scînteia (The Spark) read “WARM HOMAGE OF THE PARTY, OF THE PEOPLE” on her birthday. The following article presented the two facets of her public image that helped launch her political rise: her activism as a political militant and her work as a scientist.

Phase 3: The technocrat
Science held the key to remedying the legitimacy deficit that Elena’s public image suffered from. Romania’s mission to modernise itself and move away from its pre-war agrarian economy meant that science and research became a central plank in economic planning. Her pronouncements became normative for scientific research and education.

Phase 4: A national heroine
Nicolae Ceausescu’s views set the tone in every domain, from literature to economics and philosophy. Olteanu charts Elena’s rise to a similar level of omnicompetence in the 1980s. One step in this process was her activism for world peace and opposition to nuclear weapons.

Elena Ceausescu overcame her lack of legitimacy to achieve a cult status on a par with her husband. The development this cult, Olteanu maintains, is symptomatic for the development of communism in Romania. Whereas reformists emerged in other communist bloc countries, the cults of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu eclipsed alternative voices in Romania.

© Cristina Liana Olteanu / Universitatea din Bucuresti (2004)




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