Between 1947 and 1989, many incorrect ideas about the communist regime spread, many of which remain in the collective consciousness of Romanians to this day. Let’s debunk together 5 of these myths about communism in Romania.

#1 “Everyone had a job” During the communist era, the concept of “vagrancy” was introduced, defining any adult without employment. To ensure everyone could work, the regime constantly created new jobs, but these were often redundant. Unlike the private sector, where productivity is key, the communist state created a surplus of human resources, leading to lower wages for employees and higher maintenance costs for the state. As a result, many enterprises operated without profit and could not invest in modernization, leading to the closure of many during the ’90s. This created strong resentments among Romanians affected by this phenomenon. Imagine if the 6% unemployment rate today were employed in redundant state functions—the efficiency of the state apparatus wouldn’t increase, but the maintenance costs paid by Romanians would.

#2 “The economy was much more prosperous than today” Official numbers show that the GDP has tripled since 1989. Additionally, Romania exports nearly four times more than in 1989. The average salary was around 3000 lei (equivalent to about 1900 lei today), meaning today’s average salary is about two and a half times higher. For example, while it took around 25 salaries to buy a Dacia car in the ’80s, today a similar car requires only about 14 salaries. Regarding food, today’s average salary allows buying about three times more than in the ’80s. Moreover, many basic products like oil, gasoline, bread, and meat were rationed, meaning people could buy limited quantities and often had to wait in long lines or buy products on the black market. Imported products like coffee, chocolate, bananas, and oranges were very hard to procure, unlike today.

#3 “Ceaușescu was the only one who managed to pay off all of Romania’s external debt” While true, this was achieved through the enormous sacrifice of the population, while Nicolae Ceaușescu lived in his mansion in the Primăverii neighborhood. In the ’80s, the communist state exported a large part of the country’s production and significantly limited imports. Thus, Romanians faced acute shortages of many consumer goods, including food, fuel, and electricity. Throughout the ’80s, queues at shops and gas stations lengthened, power outages became more frequent, winter temperatures in apartments dropped, and hot water and gas deliveries were increasingly limited in the dictator’s attempt to “tighten the belt.” Ending the communist period with zero external debt did not benefit the Romanian population, who were left hungry and humiliated. In contrast, some of the most developed countries today, like the USA, UK, and Japan, are among those with the highest debts in the world. Romania’s absurd effort to pay off the debt was all the more futile as many former communist countries were helped to pay off their external debts after 1991, with some debts even being completely forgiven.

#4 “In the communist era, education was better than today” The first post-revolution census in 1992 found that nearly 1 million Romanians had not completed primary school, and 4.5 million people had only completed four grades. These educational shortcomings were especially prevalent in rural areas, where the lack of investment during the communist era was evident even after the regime fell. Access to universities was highly restricted, often reserved for those whose parents held important state positions. Moreover, the history taught in schools was altered to fit the communist regime’s ideals. The monarchy period in Romania (1866 – 1947) was entirely omitted, with emphasis placed on historical figures like Ștefan cel Mare and Mircea cel Bătrân, with Ceaușescu constantly seeking to emulate these national heroes. Children were indoctrinated from a young age, with the most deserving rewarded with positions in youth propaganda organizations like the Pioneers or the Union of Communist Youth. Students were also required to perform unpaid agricultural work for the state, with refusal bringing severe repercussions.

#5 “Ceaușescu gave homes to the Romanians” To bring people from rural areas to major industrial centers, many apartment blocks were built on the outskirts of major cities during the communist era. Those living in these apartments paid rent to the state, becoming owners after about 20 years. Thus, it’s false to say that people received homes for free. Like today, those with stable incomes could buy a home over time, paying a monthly sum. The communist regime did not allow people to choose their exact apartment. Options were strictly limited based on family size and whether family members held special state functions. Most apartments for ordinary people were very small and had thin walls, ironically called “matchboxes.” Even so, it’s true that housing prices were lower during communism than today and bureaucratic formalities were less complicated.

Read our article on communist nostalgia:
Also, visit the Museum of Communism in Bucharest, located at 6 Covaci Street, in the Old Town. Tickets:

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