THE PROMULGATION of the Constitution of 1965, in which Romania officially proclaimed its status as a socialist republic, was a milestone on its path toward communism. The country had set out on that path in 1945 when the Soviet Union pressured King Michael to appoint communists to key government positions, where they provided the power base for a complete communist takeover and the abolition of the monarchy in December 1947. The political system installed in April 1948, when the Romanian People's Republic was created, was a replica of the Soviet model. The system's goal was to create the conditions for the transition from capitalism through socialism to communism.
The formal structure of the government established by the Constitution of 1965 was changed in a significant way by a 1974 amendment that established the office of president of the republic. The occupant of that office was to act as the head of state in both domestic and international affairs. The first president of the republic, Nicolae Ceausescu, still held the office in mid-1989 and acted as head of state, head of the Romanian Communist Party (Partidul Comunist Romān-- PCR), and commander of the armed forces. His wife, Elena Ceausescu, had risen to the second most powerful position in the hierarchy, and close family members held key posts throughout the party and state bureaucracies. The pervasive presence of the Ceausescus was the distinctive feature of Romania's power structure.
Romania's political system was one of the most centralized and bureaucratized in the world. At the end of the 1980s, the Council of Ministers had more than sixty members and was larger than the council of any other European communist government except the Soviet Union. Joint party-state organizations not envisioned by the Constitution emerged and proliferated. The organizations functioned as a mechanism by which the PCR and the Ceausescus controlled all government activity and preempted threats to their rule.
Despite Ceausescu's tight control of the organs of power and the effectiveness of the secret police, more properly the Department of State Security (Departmentamentul Securitii Statului--Securitate), in repressing dissent, sporadic political opposition to the regime surfaced in the 1980s. The Western media published letters written by prominent retired communist officials accusing Ceausescu of violating international human rights agreements, mismanaging the economy, and alienating Romania's allies.
Although Romania remained in Soviet-dominated military and economic alliances, PCR leader Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and his successor, Ceausescu, pursued a defiantly independent foreign policy. During the 1958-75 period, they successfully cultivated contacts with the West, gaining most-favored-nation trading status from the United States and membership in the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and other international organizations. Romania condemned the Soviet-led Warsaw Treaty Organization (Warsaw Pact) invasion of Czechoslovakia and was the only member of the pact to maintain diplomatic relations with Israel following the June 1967 War. After 1975, however, Romania became increasingly isolated from the West, on which Ceausescu heaped much of the blame for his country's economic dilemma. In the 1980s, international outcries against human rights abuses further isolated the Stalinist Romanian regime from both the West and the East. Relations with Hungary were particularly tense, as thousands of ethnic Hungarians fled across the border. At the close of the decade, Ceausescu's regime was badly out of step with the reform movements sweeping the Soviet Union, Poland, and Hungary.
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