Ceausescu's Legacy

The Balkan problem the West forgot: Ceausescu's shadow and the dilemma of modern Romania.

Issue: Summer 1999

Romania, the largest country in a region of Europe that extends from the Aegean Sea and the mouth of the river Danube to the Carpathian Mountains, has been tarnished in many Western eyes by its proximity to the carnage in neighboring Yugoslavia--and as part, therefore, of that turbulent region, "the Balkans." Yet Romania remains aloof from the tumult across its western border. The most pressing threat to its security comes from within; specifically, from the coal fields of the Jiu Valley, 210 miles west of Bucharest. For ten years the coal fields have existed as a state within a state, where militant miners, earning some of the highest wages in the country, exercise de facto rule. The miners are, in fact, heirs to the hardline communist dictatorship of Nikolai Ceausescu, who from 1965 to 1989 presided over Romania's Marxist-Leninist regime.

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