On this date in 1989, 71-year-old dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena were condemned by a secret military tribunal and immediately shot in Targoviste as Communism in Romania suddenly, stunningly collapsed.
The last of the Revolutions of 1989 that toppled Communism through much of Eastern Europe in a matter of weeks left the indelible image of the man who had dominated Romanian politics since the mid-60’s bewildered as a party-summoned mass rally at Bucharest’s Revolution Square turned against him.
It was to be Ceausescu’s last public address. Within a day, the country had slipped from his control; before week’s end, he would face a firing squad with “The Internationale” on his lips at the conclusion of a drumhead trial.
In a confused political situation — the police who intercepted Ceausescu and his wife held them for several hours, attempting to divine which way the winds were blowing before handing them over to the mutinous army — Romanian state television would soon broadcast footage of the trial and the first couple’s corpses (though not the execution itself).
Caution: This video contains graphic footage
Immediately afterwards, Romania abolished the death penalty. Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu remain the last people executed in that country.