Bucharest was known between The World Wars as “The Paris of the East” but suffered
the worst of all Eastern Bloc Communist regimes under dictator Nicolae Ceausescu who ruled Romania from 1965 until the Revolution in 1989. Ceausescu controlled the country with his infamous Secutitate (secret police) creating an atmosphere of extreme paranoia.
In the 1980s, in an effort to pay off Romania’s foreign debt, Ceausescu exported vast amounts of food and supplies abroad and the shops were empty and the people starved. At the same time, Ceausescu and his wife Elena, inspired by a visit to North Korea, decided to build The Palace of Parliament, the second largest building on the world. Ceausescu leveled a quarter of historic Bucharest and relocated tens of thousands of people from their beautiful 19the century Parisian-style villas to small apartments in Communist Blocs. By 1989, the country was bankrupt and Bucharest and its citizens had nearly been destroyed.
In the 1990s economic progress was very slow with stores remaining empty of Western goods and the streets full of only Communist-era Dacias. Now, 20 years after the revolution, Bucharest still has roaming packs of wild dogs but is divided between extremely poor people with minimal salaries of 100 euros still driving Dacias and Ladas, and millionaires driving top of the range 100,000 euro+ BMWs and Mercedes.