Exorcising Romania's Communist Past in Museums, Memorials and Monuments
Exhibitions on the communist1 past are scarce in Romanian museums. In contrast to this scarcity, the commemoration of the “communist tragedy” through memorials, monuments and the hybrid species of memorialmuseum is disproportionately present. Only a very skilled and determined museumgoer will be able to discover the few places where aspects of the communist past are permanently exhibited in Romanian museums.2 In Bucharest, the visitor should be prepared to go underground to find the only permanent exhibition dedicated to Communism, in the unexpected location of the Romanian Peasant Museum.3 Outside Bucharest, he or she will have to travel 700 kilometers to the Signet Memorial Museum, located near the Ukrainian border. This former political prison is the most elaborate visual discourse on Romanian Communism, with its fifty rooms dedicated to the victims of Communism, a memorial in the courtyard and a cemetery outside the city of Sighet. A visitor who is unfamiliar with Romanian public discourse, will probably be struck by the abundance of crosses and other religious symbols and metaphors embedded in or framing the visual discourse on Communism.
1 Unlike many other Central and Eastern European countries, Romanians (academics
included) prefer to call the pre-1989 period Communism, disregarding alternative de-
nominations such as Socialism, “Real Socialism” or “actually existing Socialism.”
2 This paper is concerned only with permanent exhibitions on the communist regime.
Temporary exhibitions were organized in the 1990s, although rarely. Their number has
recently increased as the topic of Communism is becoming almost fashionable. Another
important spot where Communism is visually represented is the Leisure Park near
Craiova, where the businessman Dinel Staicu built a hotel called RSR (Romanian Socia-
list Republic) near a swimming pool and a football field. In the same location there is a
church and a memorial dedicated to the tragic death of the Ceauşescu couple.
3 The National History Museum has not been able so far to organize a permanent exhibi-
tion on Romania's recent history. At the time of writing (2007) the museum offers ac-
cess only to the historical treasury and a replica of Trajan's Column, the rest of the
building being under reconstruction.