A Dictator's Execution Spot, Now Open to Tourists

Romania reopened the site where Nicolae Ceausescu was shot, turning the former cavalry barracks into a museum.

On December 21, 1989, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu took the stage outside Bucharest's Palace (now "Revolution") Square to try and calm the crowd. Decades of brutal oppression had come to a head five days earlier in the city of Timisoara. By the time Ceausescu addressed his audience, rioting had trickled down to the capital.

His speech was interrupted, and his 24-year rule unraveled before his eyes. The Romanian Revolution was underway.

After the speech, Ceausescu and his wife, deputy prime minister Elena Ceausescu, took cover inside the Central Committee building. They escaped the next day by helicopter as the rebellion spread across Bucharest and rest of the country. 

Captured in the city of Targoviste later that day, Nicolae and Elena were put on trial December 25 by a military tribune for genocide and abuse of power. The two-hour trial ended with both Ceausescus being found guilty on all counts and sentenced to death. Shortly after, paratroopers shot them with service rifles in the courtyard right outside the building. Footage of the trial and the executed corpses of Ceausescu and his wife were shown on television

The former military headquarters in Targoviste where the trial and execution took place (about 47 miles northwest of Bucharest) is now a museum. Open to the public, the site now lets tourists explore the well-preserved site of the trial and the courtyard where the Ceausescus were then executed. You can still see the bullet holes from Christmas day, 1989, white outlines of where Nicolae and Elena laid after the execution since added.

Below, what the site looks like today, now filled with tourists, guides, and guest speakers to explain one of the more important moments of Romania's modern history:

Ovidiu Carstina, director of the local museum, points to bullet holes at the spot where Romania's late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena were executed on Christmas Day in 1989 at a former military barracks in Targoviste, about 47 miles northwest of Bucharest September 3, 2013. (REUTERS/Radu Sigheti) 
Bullet holes and body outlines are seen at the spot where Romania's late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena were executed at the former military barracks in Targoviste, September 3, 2013. (REUTERS/Radu Sigheti) 
Visitors take pictures of the spot where Romania's late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena were executed. (REUTERS/Radu Sigheti) 
Bullet holes are seen at the spot where Romania's late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena were executed (REUTERS/Radu Sigheti) 
A sign indicates the spot where Romania's late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena were seated during their trial in 1989. (REUTERS/Radu Sigheti) 
Visitors look inside the room where the trial of Romania's late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena took place. (REUTERS/Radu Sigheti) 
Visitors look inside the room where the trial of Romania's late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena (seated at bottom two chairs) took place in 1989 at a former military barracks in Targoviste. (REUTERS/Radu Sigheti) 
Former majors Ion Mares (L) and Ion Tecu (R) describe the execution of Romania's late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena. (REUTERS/Radu Sigheti) 
Former colonel Andrei Kemenici gestures as he sits at his desk inside the former military barracks where Romania's late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena were executed. (REUTERS/Radu Sigheti) 
Museum official Elena Doinita Simescu arranges a book titled "The revolutionary youth of comrade Nicolae Ceausescu" inside the former military barracks where Romania's late communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena were executed on Christmas Day in 1989. (REUTERS/Radu Sigheti) 

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