Urban reconstruction and autocratic regimes: Ceausescu's Bucharest in its historic context
In December 1989 the Ceausescu regime was overthrown, leaving behind the grandiose urban and architectural legacy of the Victoria Socialismului civic centre, which resulted from Ceausescu's plans for the large-scale reconstruction of Bucharest's historic centre. This type of urban intervention, which started in the second half of the nineteenth century, has often been associated with political regimes sharing in common a highly centralized structure of power, whereby policy is determined and executed by government unrestricted by any legal or social institutions. These are called autocratic regimes. Previous research in the field of city planning has dealt with distinct examples of autocratic, politically oriented urban transformation of historic city centres such as those of Paris, Berlin, Rome and Moscow, but there is a lack of knowledge of any analytical enquiry into the underlying motives, the major factors in the planning process and of the effects of such operations. This paper identifies the main motives which led the Ceausescu regime to undertake the urban reconstruction of Bucharest's historic centre. It points out the major factors in the planning process according to which the urban reconstruction of Bucharest's historic centre took place. The effects of such an intervention on Bucharest's pre-existing built environment are examined, as is the extent to which the urban reconstruction of Bucharest under Ceausescu compares with the other examples mentioned.