Gheorghiu-Dej died in 1965 in unclear circumstances (his death apparently occurred when he was in Moscow for medical treatment) and, after the inevitable power struggle, was succeeded by the previously obscure Nicolae Ceauşescu. Where Gheorghiu-Dej had hewed to a Stalinist line while the Soviet Union was in a reformist period, Ceauşescu initially appeared to be a reformist, precisely as the Soviet Union was headed into its neo-Stalinist era under Leonid Brezhnev. Gheorghiu-Dej exploited the Russian - Chinese dispute in his last two years and began to oppose the hegemony of the Soviet Union from a Romanian national position. Ceauşescu, supported by a part of the former collaborators of Gheorghiu-Dej, like Maurer, continued this line which was naturally very popular in the country. The relations with Western countries, but also with many other states, began to be strengthened in what seemed to be the national interest of Romania. The forced Soviet (mostly Russian) cultural influence in the country which characterized the fifties was stopped.
In 1965, following the example of Czechoslovakia, the name of the country was changed to Republica Socialistă România (The Socialist Republic of Romania) - RSR - and PMR was renamed once again to Partidul Communist Român - The Romanian Communist Party (PCR). In his early years in power, Ceauşescu was genuinely popular, both at home and abroad. Agricultural goods were abundant, consumer goods began to reappear, there was a cultural thaw, and, most importantly abroad, he spoke out against the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. While his reputation at home soon paled, he continued to have uncommonly good relations with Western governments and with institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank because of his independent political line. Romania under Ceauşescu maintained and sometimes improved diplomatic and other relations with, among others, West Germany, Israel, China, Albania, Pinochet's Chile, all for various reasons on the outs with Moscow. However, even at the start, reproductive freedom was severely restricted. Wishing to increase the birth rate, in 1966, Ceauşescu promulgated the decree 770 restricting abortion and contraception: only women over the age of 45 who had at least four children were eligible for either; in 1989, the number was increased to five children. Mandatory gynecological revisions and penalizations against unmarried women and childless couples completed the natalist measures. The birthrate of 1967 was almost double the one of 1966, leaving a decreţei cohort who suffered of crowded public services.
restrictions of human rights were typical of a Stalinist regime: a
massive force of secret police (the "Securitate"), censorship,
relocation, but not on the same scale as in the 1950s. The harsh
persecution that hit most of the intellectuals and elite of Romania
nearly destroyed the creation and development capabilities of the
country. Those who escaped death penalty or the 15 years jail penalty
(common in the 1950 for all class enemy), either left the country
definitely or completely lost their influence on Romanian society,
usually being forbidden to practice their profession for 15 to 20 years.
During the Ceauşescu era, there was a secret ongoing "trade" between Romania on one side and Israel and West Germany on the other side, under which Israel and West Germany paid money to Romania to allow Romanian citizens with certified Jewish or German ancestry to emigrate to Israel and West Germany, respectively.
Ceauşescu's Romania continued to pursue Gheorghiu-Dej's policy of industrialization, but still produced few goods of a quality suitable for the world market. Also, after a visit to North Korea, Ceauşescu developed a megalomaniacal vision of completely remaking the country; this became known as systematization. A significant portion of the capital, Bucharest, was torn down to make way for the Casa Poporului (now House of Parliament) complex and Centrul Civic (Civic Center), but the December 1989 Revolution left much of the huge complex unfinished, such as a new National Library and the National Museum of History. During the huge demolitions in the 1980s, this area was popularly called "Ceauşima" - a bitter satirical allusion of Ceauşescu and Hiroshima. Currently it is being redeveloped as a commercial area known as Esplanada.
Prior to the mid-1970s, Bucharest, as most other cities, was developed by expanding the city, especially towards the south, east and west, by building high density dormitory neighborhoods at the outskirts of the city, some (such as Drumul Taberei) of architectural and urban planning value. Conservation plans were made, especially during the 1960s and early 1970s, but all was halted, after Ceauşescu embarked on what is known as "The Small Cultural Revolution" ("Mica revoluţie culturală"), after visiting North Korea and the People's Republic of China and then delivering a speech known as the July Theses.
The big earthquake of 1977 shocked Bucharest, many buildings collapsed, and many others were weakened. This was the backdrop that led to a policy of large-scale demolition which affected monuments of historical significance or architectural masterpieces such as the monumental Vǎcǎreşti Monastery (1722), the "Sfânta Vineri" (1645) and "Enei" (1611) Churches, the Cotroceni (1679) and Pantelimon (1750) Monasteries, the art deco "Republic's Stadium" (ANEF Stadium, 1926). Even the Palace of Justice - built by Romania's foremost architect, Ion Mincu, was scheduled for demolition in early 1990, according to the systematisation papers. Yet another tactic was abandoning and neglecting buildings and bringing them into such a state that they would require being torn down.
Thus, the policy towards the city after the earthquake was not one of reconstruction, but one of demolition and building anew. Post-earthquake estimates commissioned by the office of the city's mayor judged that only 23 buildings were beyond repair, none of them of any historic value. An analysis by the Union of Architects, commissioned in 1990, claims that over 2000 buildings were torn down, with over 77 of very high architectural importance, most of them in good condition. Even Gara de Nord (the city's main train station), listed on the Romanian Architectural Heritage List, was scheduled to be torn down and replaced in early 1992.
Despite all of this, and despite the appalling treatment of HIV-infected orphans, the country continued to have a notably good system of schools. Also, not every industrialization project was a failure: Ceauşescu left Romania with a reasonably effective system of power generation and transmission, gave Bucharest a functioning subway, and left many cities with an increase in habitable apartment buildings.
In the 1980s, Ceauşescu became simultaneously obsessed with repaying Western loans and with building himself a palace of unprecedented proportions, along with an equally grandiose neighborhood, Centrul Civic, to accompany it. These led to a shortage of available goods for the average Romanian. By 1984, despite high crop yield and food production, food rationing was introduced on a wide scale (the government promoted it as "a means to reduce obesity" and "rational eating"). Bread, milk, butter, cooking oil, sugar, pork, beef, chicken, and in some places even potatoes were rationed in most of Romania by 1989, with rations being made smaller every year (by 1989, a person could legally buy only 10 eggs per month, half to one loaf of bread per day, depending on the place of residence, or 500 grams of any kind of meat). Most of what was available were export rejects, as most of the quality goods were exported, even underpriced, in order to obtain hard currency, either to pay the debt, or to push forward in the ever-growing pursuits of heavy industrialisation.
Romanians became accustomed to "tacâmuri de pui" (chicken wings, claws and so on), mixed cooking oil (mostly unrefined, dark, soy oil, of the poorest grade), "Bucureşti Salami" (consisting of soy, bonemeal, offal and pork lard), ersatz coffee (made of corn), oceanic fish and sardines as a meat replacement, cheese mixed with starch or flour, untasty juices as Cil-Cola or Cireşica. Even these products were in very scarce supply, with queues whenever such products were available. All quality products, such as Sibiu and Victoria Salami, high- and mid-grade meats, and Dobrudja peaches were designated as "export-only", and were available to Romanians only on the thriving black market.
1985, despite Romania's huge refining capacity, petrol was strictly
rationed, with supplies drastically cut, a Sunday curfew was instated,
and many buses and taxis converted to methane propulsion (they were
mockingly named "bombs"). Electricity was rationed to divert supplies
to heavy industry, with a maximum monthly allowed consumption of 20 kWh
per family (everything over this limit was heavily taxed), and very
frequent blackouts (generally 1-2 hours daily) Only one in five
streetlights were to be kept on, and television was reduced to a 2
hours each day, mostly propaganda.
Gas and heating were also turned off; people in cities had to turn to natural gas containers ("butelii"), or charcoal stoves, even though they were connected to the gas mains. According to a decree of 1988, all public spaces had to be kept to a temperature of no more than 16 degrees Celsius (about 63 degrees Fahrenheit) in winter (the only institutions exempted were kindergartens and hospitals), with some (such as factories), kept at no more than 14 degrees (about 59 degrees Fahrenheit). All shops were to close no later than 5:30 p.m., in order to preserve electricity. A thriving black market appeared, with Kent cigarettes becoming Romania's second currency (it was illegal and punished with up to ten years imprisonment to own or trade any foreign currency), used to purchase everything, from food to clothes or medicine. Health care dropped substantially, as drugs were no longer imported
Control over society became stricter and stricter, with an East German-style phone bugging system installed, and with Securitate recruiting more agents, extending censorship and keeping tabs and records on a large segment of the population. By 1989, according to CNSAS (the Council for Studies of the Archives of the Former Securitate), one in three Romanians was an informant for the Securitate. Due to this state of affairs, income from tourism dropped substantially, the number of foreign tourists visiting Romania dropping by 75%, with the three main tour operators that organized trips in Romania leaving the country by 1987.