Romania in 1964, through British Pathe eyes

In this video, you can see the beauty of Romania in 1964, through the excited eyes of visitors from the British Pathe agency. I found it on YouTube as well.

In it, Romania certainly looks like a beautiful, happy country, but the truth lay somewhat to the right of that picture. Romania was under the complete control of a totalitarian Communist regime, which took over at the end of WWII, under the tutelage of the USSR. Its leaders changed over the years, as they tried to slowly dig themselves out from under the heavy boot of the Soviets, and they succeeded to a certain extent to maintain a somewhat independent stance. It all came tumbling down in 1989, while under the rule of Nicolae Ceausescu, Romania’s last dictator, in what is now known to have been a coup d’état.

What the viewers likely did not know, and may not have known even if they visited Romania, was that the camera crew was closely monitored. Everyone who was allowed to be on camera was warned ahead of time to smile and say nothing bad about the regime… or else they’d be persecuted or put in prison.

Among the many persecuted by the Communist regime were Corneliu Coposu, Ticu Dumitrescu, and Traian Dorz (a friend of my father’s). In my family, my grandfather (my father’s father) was imprisoned because he owned too much land, according to the Communists. They called him a “bourgeois” (he was an honest, hard-working farmer), took away all his land, and put him in prison for a year. My father was expelled from school for the entire 5th grade when that happened, because his father was a “bourgeois”.

Romania wanted to appear friendly to foreign eyes. It flirted with foreigners because it wanted their currency. It also wanted to fend off international critique, because it was playing a double game. On one hand, it was trying to distance itself from Russia, to whom it was paying heavy tribute by the trainloads, every week, so it had to court Westerners, but it had to do it slowly, so as not to anger the Russians, or they might risk retaliation and a leadership change. Meanwhile, they were keeping a very close eye on everything going on in Romania. Any dissension was quashed with an iron fist.

This video will give you a better idea of what was really going on at the time.

Also, here’s a this typical propaganda video for the country’s “beloved leader”, Nicolae Ceausescu. Romanians had to watch staged bull like this daily, because all media was controlled by the state. All foreign content was heavily censored, and Romanian movies would go through multiple approval processes in order to get made, shown in cinemas and on TV. The only things I could look forward to on TV as I grew up in Romania were a half hour documentary on Saturday evening, then a movie later that night, and on Sunday morning, 10 minutes of cartoons. Sometimes they’d play Tom and Jerry cartoons, which were my favorite. Most of the time, it was Romanian or Russian cartoons.

Here’s another video from British Pathe, this one from 1961, detailing a fishing trip to the mountains and to the Black Sea. It also shows the idyllic countryside and the beauty of the Romanian wilderness, which can still be seen today. There’s historic value in these British Pathe videos. They show that Romania was a beautiful country indeed. It’s still beautiful today, and that’s why I love to travel and stay in it.


4 thoughts on “Romania in 1964, through British Pathe eyes

  1. I agree with what you guys said previously, however I find it weird that some of these movies are copyrighted by British Pathe, and some of them belong to the Romanian archive… But it does not matter anyways!

    The truth is that in the communist era we didn’t have something worthwhile watching on TV (except few things like: Tele Enciclopedia,Tom & Jerry, few romanian good movies) , but that happens today as well with some of the British channels too. So, it is always a good thing to be aware of this, and disregard useless stuff shown on TV. But now we can watch everything: Tom & Jerry and other much nastier cartoons all day long, what good does it do to us and our children?

    Education is in the gutter now… Why can’t we take the example from the Scandinavian countries where University education is still FREE! And slow learning children are educated at the same level with high performers! (The bar is not lowered! This is what I meant!)

    BUT,

    The country wants YOU, stupid!

    Here is a joke from Radio Erevan, that I liked:
    Q: What is the difference between Communism and Capitalism?
    A: In Communism you have the exploitation of man by man,
    In Capitalism you have the vice-versa …

    All the best & keep your spirit(s) high!
    Bogdan

    PS: Sorry for the length of the post, but this is what came to my mind reading your posts!

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  2. That’s a great post and videos, especially the first. I love old Pathe films. The funny thing is, I don’t remember seeing any of these cheery, colourful and positive films (even if they are staged to a degree) when I grew up in the 70s and 80s. Anything shown on TV was grey, laden with missiles, peasants working in muddy fields, grey concrete tower blocks, poverty stricken citizens with no teeth. That sort of thing. I’m sure you remember them.

    That impression sticks and has left people I know today with the same image stuck in their heads when the word Romania (or other E. Euro country) is mentioned. It’s a shame.

    It would have been easy enough to create a film of Britain with all those negatives. The council blocks in London, the poverty of the unemployed in Liverpool, and, wel…us Brits have never been famous for our dental supremacy!

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    1. Thank you Gary! I remember them. And you probably agree with me when I say a certain agenda was being played out in the West, though I’m not sure why that particular agenda did play out. It seems the intent was to polarize opinion on both sides of the fence, so to speak.

      It made things worse for people inside the Iron Curtain, that’s for sure. Other countries cut off lots of ties, both diplomatic and economic, and there were less things to be found on store shelves in Romania. The dictatorial government bared more of its ugly teeth, quashed dissension even more, until it got to the point that most store shelves were bare on a day-to-day basis. Even internal goods and products were hard to find.

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      1. Couldn’t agree more. The majority of photos and images we were exposed to in the UK were there to reinforce the basic premises. Blue is good, red is bad. Capitalism is cool, commies are evil. Us and them. As a kid, I had a little extra reinforcement – my school’s next door neighbour was one of the key UK military headquarters, and guaranteed recipient of any first wave. Every now and then they’s run a full nuclear attack drill. We wouldn’t see much, but the sirens wailing had an effect.

        Anyway, I am digressing somewhat!

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