Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Vampire Thing Never Dies: Ceasescu Exhumed

This is possibly the first in an ongoing series of observations about the vampire thing and how it never dies. Then again we are all sick of vampires at this point.

Yesterday the New York Times announced that the remains of Nicolai Ceausescu and his wife were being exhumed to prove that they had been buried where people thought they had been buried after their executions under dubious circumstances in 1989. Some Romanians, including Ceausescu's children, suspect that the couple were not buried in their official graves.

As Romania's dictator for twenty-five years, Ceausescu ruled with an iron fist and favored isolationist politics, keeping the USSR out of his country. The medieval Romanian prince Vlad Tepes ("The Impaler") held a strange fascination for Ceausescu. Vlad, who sometimes called himself "Dracula," is most famously remembered as the very loose inspiration for Bram Stoker's Romanian vampire count of the same name. But among Romanians he was remembered as a ruler with an iron fist who favored isolationist tactics, keeping the Turkish Empire out of his country for most of his rule. Ceausescu worked hard to make Vlad a national hero in his own image, and to make himself a national leader in Vlad's image. He ordered a nation-wide observance of the five-hundredth anniversary of Vlad's death in 1976, and issued stamps bearing Vlad's image. As he fled the mobs that threatened his life in 1989, Ceausescu took refuge in the village of Snagov, where Vlad is said to have been executed and buried under dubious circumstances in 1476. (The location of his grave is still a matter of debate, and attempts to settle the matter through exhumation have proved unsuccessful.)

It should be noted that in European folklore, a vampire could usually only be identified by exhuming his or her grave. A body that had not decayed naturally was presumed to be a vampire.

Some choice quotations from the Times article:

Ceausescu's alleged remains were better preserved than those of his wife...
Ceausescu was toppled Dec. 22, 1989, as Romanians fed up with years of draconian rationing and communist rule revolted. He tried to flee Bucharest by helicopter but his pilot switched sides. After a summary trial, Ceausescu and his wife were executed by a firing squad three days later.

Oprean's wife, Zoia Ceausescu, had sued the defense ministry in 2005, saying she had doubts that her parents were buried in the cemetery. She died of cancer in 2006 and her brother Valentin took up the case. The couple's other son Nicu died of liver cirrhosis in 1996 and is buried in the same Ghencea cemetery.
Ceausescu was also known for the fierce way he stifled dissent with his Securitate secret police, which were believed to have 700,000 informers in the nation of 22 million.
Aurel Chiubasu, 66, a former carpenter in a military unit, heard about the exhumation and rushed over to tend his wife's grave nearby.

''I didn't agree with him being executed but the family has the right to know where he was buried,'' he said. ''People speak like it's not him there and he's buried somewhere else."

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