Romania: Ceausescu auction marks centenary of his birth

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A Romanian auction house on Wednesday sold memorabilia belonging to former Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu to mark what would have been his 100th birthday.

The "Golden Era" online auction included some 250 items, like a fur-lined hunting cap worn by Ceausescu, an avid hunter, which sold for 400 euros ($500).

Bespoke shoes and a purse in mint-green leather made for his wife, Elena Ceausescu were snapped up for 600 euros ($750). A single roll of vintage toilet paper, which was scarce in the late days of communism, went for 10 euros ($12.5).

Iulian Plestiu, research director at Artmark auction house , said potential buyers were middle-aged Romanians collecting memorabilia or younger people looking to acquire one of the now-trendy posters from the communist era.

Communism in Romania ended in 1989, when the Ceausescus were executed after a summary trial.

On Jan. 26, Ceausescu's birthday, a small group of die-hard fans gathered to mourn him at his grave in a Bucharest cemetery, but they are not the ones who'd be interested in such an auction, Plestiu said, as they probably already have the dictator's portrait at home and are not rich enough to bid for the items.

Retired television editor Ioana Popescu visited the Cesianu-Racovita Palace with a friend for a preview of the items, most with starting prices of 100 to 200 euros ($125 to $250).

"This is not pleasant to see. It reminds us of an era that wasn't that great," she said. "Still, it may be interesting from a documentary point of view"

Historical items include a 1975 invitation to dinner from the last Shah of Iran, a New Year's card from President Gerald Ford and a photo of President Richard Nixon, who visited Romania the year after Ceausescu condemned the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, earning him a reputation as a maverick leader within the Soviet bloc.

"Nixon didn't have great hopes for Ceausescu," said Plestiu. "He considered him a Marxist, a peasant who trained as a cobbler and then became president."

One of the most expensive items, a large wool carpet featuring a beaming Ceausescu, with Vlad the Impaler and other Romanian historical heroes, with Socialist symbols, tractors and factories woven into the background sold for 1,600 euros ($2,000), twice the starting price.

Ceausescu came to power in 1965 and was popular until the early 1970s. He later came to rule Romania with an iron fist, while many Romanians faced food and power shortages and an army of Securitate secret police agents infiltrated all walks of life.