7 Grand communist legacies – why Ceausescu built them and what’s happend to them
By Andreea Campeanu
I did something for this country! The People’s House beats the Taj Mahal! – said Ceausescu to architect Anca Petrescu. Perseverant and tenacious in his centralizing megalomania, Ceausescu wanted to build as much as possible, on the largest scale possible, in order to show how much power the Romanian people had.
Grand Communist Legacies or Ceausescu’s 7 Obsessions
1. The People’s House (The Palace of Parliament)
Goal: To show the world what the Romanians were capable of; he would gather the state leadership institutions in one place.
Construction: It was built in only 5 years by an army of 400 architects and 20,000 construction workers, sacrificing one fifth of the historic areas of Bucharest. Only Romanian materials were used. The bill: $2 billion; work continued for 7 years after Ceausescu’s death.
Today: The second largest administrative building in the world, after the Pentagon in Washington; 332,000 sq m (3,573,600 sq ft); houses the Parliament, the Constitutional Court, the Official Gazette, the International Convention Center, the National Museum of Contemporary Art, conference halls, restaurants, and clubs.
2. The Transfagarasan (DN 7C)
Goal: Planned as a strategically important road for the passage of Romanian armored cars in case of an attack on the western front.
Construction: Built in 4 years (1970 – 1974); dynamited three times a day; has a maximum altitude of 2,042 m (6,700 ft), length of 91.5 km (56.8 mi), and a tunnel 887 m (2,910 ft) long. Built primarily by a military workforce.
Today: Tourist attraction during the summer; closed from October through June due to snow; currently in bad condition.
3. Hunger Circuses (Agro-alimentary Complexes)
Goal: Were to be large canteens for residents of Bucharest, eliminating their need to cook at home.
Construction: Began at the end of the 1980s; in 1989, only two “circuses” were finished
Today: After 1989, they were abandoned; later turned into malls or modern commercial complexes.
4. The Danube – Black Sea Canal
Goal: Shortening the way to the Port of Constanta by approximately 400 km (248 mi).
Construction: Began in 1949, but was interrupted in 1955 and recommenced on June 13, 1973; inaugurated on May 26, 1984. 64 km (39.7 mi) long, 7 m (23 ft) deep, and 70 m (230 ft) wide. Cost: 2 billion euros; the recuperation of the investment was predicted to take 50 years.
Today: The third largest construction of its kind, after the Suez and Panama canals. The canal brings in an average of 3,160,000 euros annually: the investment can be repaid in 633 years.
5. The Bucharest Subway
Goal: Smoother traffic in the capital.
Construction: Intense pace; problems insulating the tunnels; the first sections were dug as ditches on the banks of the Dambovita river, later covered with concrete; construction began on February 3, 1975; the first section went into use in November of 1979.
Today: 75 km (46.6 mi) long; 50,000 passengers/hour is the maximum capacity, circa 50 trains (on average 300,000 passengers/day).
6. Casa Radio
Goal: Ceausescu wanted to bring all of Romania’s museums under one roof as a museum of the Communist Party, a Trajan’s column; planned to have seven floors.
Construction: Began in 1986; would have been finished in 1992; the second largest building in Bucharest after the House of the People; 110,000 sq m (1,184,000 sq ft); basement finished, ground floor almost finished; it took a long time because Ceausescu kept coming up with new ideas.
Today: Contracted for 49 years to Turkish investors; 70% of it will be demolished and remodeled; 450 million-euro investment; ready in 8 years; there will be stores, a hotel, offices, casinos: Dambovita Center.
7. The National Library
Goal: A central location for the National Library of Romania; a depository of books in a single place.
Construction: Began in 1986; 57,000 sq m (613,500 sq ft); in 1990, the funds for its finalization were redistributed.
Today: book depository; has undergone remodeling for 33 months, keeping its communist façade.