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Systematization (Romania)

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Systematization (Romania)

The skyline of many cities became dominated by standardized apartment blocks, like this row in Bucharest

Systematization (Romanian: Sistematizarea) in Romania refers to a program of urban planning carried out under Nicolae Ceaușescu's communist regime. Ceauşescu was impressed by ideological mobilization and mass adulation in North Korea's Juche ideology during his Asia visit in 1971, and began the campaign shortly afterwards.

Beginning in 1974, systematization consisted largely of the demolition and reconstruction of existing villages, towns, and cities, in whole or in part, with the stated goal of turning Romania into a "multilaterally developed socialist society".

Collectivisation programme

Respecting neither traditional rural values nor a positive ethic of urbanism, systematization is considered by some observers to be a major contributing factor to the uncommonly violent fall of the Ceaușescu regime during the Revolution of 1989.

Systematization began as a programme of rural resettlement. The original plan was to bring the advantages of the modern age to the Romanian countryside. For some years, rural Romanians had been migrating to the cities (including Ceaușescu himself). Systematization called for doubling the number of Romanian cities by 1990. Hundreds of villages were to become urban industrial centres via investment in schools, medical clinics, housing, and industry.

As part of this plan, smaller villages (typically those with populations under 1,000) were deemed "irrational" and listed for reduction of services or forced removal of the population and physical destruction. Often, such measures were extended to the towns that were destined to become urbanized, by demolishing some of the older buildings and replacing them with modern multi-story apartment blocks. Many rural Romanians were displeased with these policies.

Although the systematization plan extended, in theory, to the entire country, initial work centred in Moldavia. It also affected such locales as Ceauşescu's own native village of Scorniceşti in Olt County: there, the Ceaușescu family home was the only older building left standing. The initial phase of systematization largely petered out by 1980, at which point only about 10 percent of new housing was being built in rural areas.

Given the lack of budget, in many regions systematization did not constitute an effective plan, good or bad, for development. Instead, it constituted a barrier against organic regional growth. New buildings had to be at least two storeys high, so peasants could not build small houses. Yards were restricted to 250 square metres and private agricultural plots were banned from within the villages. Despite a perceived impact of such a scheme on subsistence agriculture, after 1981 villages were mandated to be agriculturally self-sufficient.

Bucharest urban plan

In the mid-1980s the concept of systematization found new life, applied primarily to the area of the nation's capital, Bucharest. Nearby villages were demolished, often in service of large scale projects such as a canal from Bucharest to the Danube - projects which were later abandoned by Romania's post-communist government. Eight square kilometers in the historic centre of Bucharest were levelled.

The demolition campaign erased many monuments including 3 monasteries, 20 churches, 3 synagogues, 3 hospitals, 2 theatres and a noted Art Deco sports stadium. This also involved evicting 40,000 people with only a single day's notice and relocating them to new homes, in order to make way for the grandiose Centrul Civic and the immense Palace of the People, usually claimed to be the second largest building in the world behind the Pentagon.

Reactions

Systematization, especially the destruction of historic churches and monasteries, was protested by several nations, especially Hungary and West Germany, each concerned for their national minorities in Transylvania. Despite these protests, Ceaușescu remained in the relatively good graces of the United States and other Western powers almost to the last, largely because his relatively independent political line rendered him a useful counter to the Soviet Union in Cold War politics.

See also

Eastern bloc housing:

Bibliography

  • Anania, Lidia; Luminea, Cecilia; Melinte, Livia; Prosan, Ana-Nina; Stoica, Lucia; and Ionescu-Ghinea, Neculai, Bisericile osândite de Ceaușescu. București 1977–1989 (1995). Editura Anastasia, Bucharest, ISBN 973-97145-4-4. In Romanian. Title means "Churches doomed by Ceaușescu". This is very much focused on churches, but along the way provides many details about systematization, especially the demolition to make way for Centrul Civic.
  • Bucica, Cristina. Legitimating Power in Capital Cities: Bucharest - Continuity Through Radical Change? (PDF), 2000.

References

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