BUCHAREST, Romania, October 23, 2017—The legacy of Romanian Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu is Bucharest’s Palace of the Parliament. Ceausescu was the general secretary of the Romanian Communist Party and last Communist leader of Romania.
He was also the country’s head of state from 1967, serving as President of the State Council, from 1974 concurrently as President of the Republic, until his overthrow in the Romanian Revolution in 1989.
The dictator named the building the House of the Republic. After the Romanian Revolution in 1989, it became the Palace of the Parliament informally known as the People’s House.
It is simply an incredible structure, impressive in photos but unbelievable in person.
Tour guides told us that at first, the resident’s of Bucharest felt that communism wasn’t so bad. People had food to eat, no small thing after the devastation of World War II. But then Ceausescu, who came to power in 1965, began to get visions of grandeur.
It is said that Ceausescu’s megalomania stemmed from visits to Pyongyang, North Korea, and Cuba.
Leveling Bucharest’s History
In March 1977, Ceaușescu started a reconstruction plan for central Bucharest. His People’s House was to be the center of this frand project. In order to make room for the new construction, seven square kilometers (over 1700 acres) of the old city center was demolished and 40,000 people were relocated.
As Bucharest’s historic district was demolished, lost were 19 Orthodox Christian churches, six synagogues, three Protestant churches and more than 30,000 homes. Also destroyed were the National Archives, Văcărești Monastery, and Brâncovenesc Hospital, as well as about 37 old factories and workshops.
The Uranus Neighborhood was leveled beginning in 1982 with the construction of the Palace starting on June 25th 1984.
The high cost of the Bucharest’s Palace
Ceausescu building is massive in every way imaginable. With 1,100 rooms, 2 underground parking garages, the building is 12 stories tall, with four underground levels currently available for the general public. Four levels are still under construction. The floor space is 3,700,000 sq ft.
Anca Petrescu, the chief architect of the project, was just 28 years old when she began the work. She supervised a team of 10 architects, who supervised an additional 700 architects. Between 20,000 and 100,000 people worked on the site, often working in three shifts.
Thousands of people died during construction, some estimate as many as 3,000. Many of the workers were from the military.
The building was initially estimated to be completed in only two years, with a finish date in 1984. The term was then extended until 1990, but even now only 400 rooms and two meeting rooms are finished and used out of a total the 1,100 rooms. Twenty percent of the building is in use and tours show the visitor only 5%.
But that 5% is enough to stun and amaze.
Bucharet’s Palace of the Parliment is bigger than the Pyramids at Giza
The building is the world’s second-largest administrative building, after The Pentagon. In terms of volume, it is the third most massive, after the Vehicle Assembly Building of the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the Temple of the Feathered Serpent in Teotihuacan, Mexico.
The building exceeds by 2% the volume of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Bucharest’s Palace sinks 6 mm each year under the weight of its massive stone and marble structure.
The building was constructed almost entirely from materials of Romanian origin. The only exceptions are the doors of Nicolae Bălcescu Hall. These were received by Ceaușescu as a gift from his friend Mobutu Sese Seko, the President of Zaire.
Among the materials: 3,500 tons of crystal – 480 chandeliers, 1,409 ceiling lights and mirrors; 700,000 tons of steel and bronze for monumental doors and windows, chandeliers and capitals; 1,000,000 cubic meters of marble, 900,000 cubic meters of wood for parquet and wainscoting, including walnut, oak, sweet cherry, elm, sycamore maple; 200,000 square meters of carpets of various dimensions (machines had to be moved inside the building to weave some of the larger ones); velvet and brocade curtains adorned with embroideries and passementeries in silver and gold.
Romania is an agriculturally rich country, but its harvest was exported to earn currency for Ceaușescu to pursue his massive projects while the Romanian people starved. No wonder that he and his wife Elena were executed by firing squad during the December 1989 revolution.
What to do with the still unfinished building?
Many people wanted to tear Bucharest’s Palace down but it was decided that it would cost more to do that than to keep it. Today the cost of heating and lighting alone exceeds $6 million per year. As of 2008, it is valued at €3 billion ($3.4 billion), making it the most expensive administrative building in the world.
The tour ends with a view from a balcony down a massive boulevard designed to replicate the Champs Elysees in Paris—only longer. Surrounding the palace itself are more massive buildings designed to house the administrative apparatus of the state. Along the boulevard are houses built to house top government officials.
Inside Bucharest’s Palace of the Parliament, besides the official government offices are three museums and an international conference center.
One of these museums is the Museum of Communist Totalitarianism, an apt description for Bucharest’s Place of the Parliament.