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.