A family photo archive reveals life behind the public facade of Romania's notorious communist dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu.
These images are some of nearly 6,000 photos released online in a photo archive created by Romania’s National Archives and the country’s Institute for the Investigation of the Crimes of Communism.
The archive focuses largely on the period from 1965, when Romania was ruled over by the Ceausescus, until their overthrow and execution in 1989.
Hundreds of photos in the archive were sourced from the Ceausescus’ personal photo collection and feature the notorious couple and their inner circle in candid moments.
The archive also features thousands of official photos from Ceausescu’s reign.
Ceausescu’s rule began hopefully after he lifted restrictions on freedom of speech, and staunchly opposed the Soviet Union’s 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia, a stance that won him widespread support at home and from the West.
By the 1970s, Ceausescu and his communist regime began steering the country into an era of oppression and near-medieval hardship for ordinary Romanians, who were then forced to cheer their tormentors.
The most unsettling images in the archive are from the Ceausescus’ personal collections, made as they enjoyed themselves between official engagements, sometimes in bizarre and disturbing ways.
The archive features several images of this humiliating ritual, which was dubbed the "hunter's baptism." According to witnesses, no hunting companions escaped the rite, not even Ceausescu’s own son. One official recalled the ruler announcing that "Nicu needs to remember his baptism all his life" before beating his son forcefully with a stick.
Some pictures from the Ceausescus’ collection capture the couple’s younger days as left-wing radicals before their ascent to power.
Almost exactly a year after this photo was taken, the pair were forced to flee enraged crowds following a lethal crackdown on anti-government protesters in the western city of Timisoara.
After attempting to escape to safety by helicopter, the couple were captured and later executed in the yard of a provincial military barracks on Christmas Day, December 25, 1989.