Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej

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Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej : biography

November 8, 1901 – March 19, 1965

By 1964 Gheorghiu-Dej had made a trading agreement with the U.S. that allowed Romania to buy industrial products from them. The agreement came as a result of U.S. businesses’ complaints that they were losing money to Western Europe. During his presidency, President John F. Kennedy, concerned with these businesses’ losses, used his powers to increase trade between the U.S. and Eastern Europe, a policy which President Lyndon B. Johnson also followed.

Thus, Gheorghiu-Dej greatly increased trade with the West, making Romania the first Soviet Bloc country to trade with the West completely independently. Through his policy of national sovereignty, Gheorghiu-Dej increased the popularity of Romania in the West; national U.S. publications moved away from reports in the early 1950s of human rights abuses and oppression, towards articles from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s of Romanian de-satellization. In the early 1960s, The Times also reported often on Gheorghiu-Dej’s and Romania’s increased economic ties with the West. Gheorghiu-Dej’s successful efforts to expand Romania’s foreign relations, especially those with the West, were evident at his March 1965 funeral, attended by 33 foreign delegations, including a special French envoy sent by General Charles de Gaulle. Gheorghiu-Dej’s policies set the stage for his successor, Nicolae Ceauşescu, to carry Romania’s new course even further.

Death and legacy

At Gheorghiu-Dej’s funeral. Soviet stamp featuring Gheorghiu-Dej.

Gheorghiu-Dej died of lung cancer in Bucharest on March 19, 1965. Some claim that he was intentionally irradiated during a visit to Moscow, due to his political stance. Gheorghe Apostol has claimed that he had been appointed successor by Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej himself – in any case many perceived him as such in 1965. But prime-minister Ion Gheorghe Maurer, who had developed a hostility towards Apostol, made sure that he was prevented from gaining power, rallying the Party leadership around Nicolae Ceaușescu – a long-time protégé of Gheorghiu-Dej. Securitate general Ion Mihai Pacepa, who defected to the United States in 1978, wrote that Ceaușescu had allegedly told him about "ten international leaders the Kremlin killed or tried to kill"; Gheorghiu-Dej was among that number. – by Ion Mihai Pacepa, National Review Online, November 28, 2006

Gheorghiu-Dej was buried in a mausoleum in Liberty Park in Bucharest. In 1990, after the Romanian Revolution, his body was exhumed and reburied in a city cemetery. The Polytechnic Institute of Bucharest, renamed to Polytechnic Institute "Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej" Bucharest in his honor, is now known as the Polytechnic University of Bucharest. The city of Oneşti was once named Gheorghe-Gheorghiu Dej. Also, the Russian city of Liski was named, during 1965-1990, Georgiu-Dezh in his honor.

Gheorghiu-Dej was married to Maria Alexe and they had two daughters: Vasilica (1928–1987) and Constantina (born 1931).

Early life

Gheorghe was the son of a poor worker, Tănase Gheorghiu, and his wife Ana. He joined the Communist Party of Romania in 1930. A railway electrician by trade, he was arrested for taking part in the Griviţa Strike of 1933 and sentenced to prison in the same year, serving time in Doftana and other facilities. In 1936 he was elected to the party’s Central Committee and became leader of the prison faction of the party (party members who were incarcerated, a term distinguishing them from party members living in exile in the Soviet Union).

As a known activist, he was detained at Târgu Jiu camp during Ion Antonescu’s regime and most of World War II, escaping in August 1944. He became general secretary in 1944 after the Soviet occupation but did not consolidate his power until 1952 when he purged Ana Pauker and the Muscovite faction from the party. Pauker had been the unofficial leader of the Party since the end of the war.

In 1946-1947, he was a member of Romania’s Gheorghe Tătărescu-led delegation to the Paris Peace Conference.