Communism Unwrapped: Consumption in Cold War Eastern Europe

By Paulina Bren; Mary Neuburger | Go to book overview

9
From Black Caviar to
Blackouts
Gender, Consumption, and Lifestyle
in Ceauşescu’s Romania

Jill Massino

In 1963, or whenever Ceauşescu came to power, until 1970–72, it was a time
of blossoming. One began to find everything. One even found black caviar
in the grocery stores. You found it by the kilogram. You found everything
that you had: whiskey, gin, bitters, everything that was over there [the West]
was over here. And at affordable prices. But I didn’t ask myself—people
didn’t ask themselves—what the use of this was, why did this happen?
1

—G. N., interview with author

Postwar Romania is rarely imagined to be a place of abundance, let alone affordable black caviar. Instead, it is most often remembered for the latter years of the period, when unlit streets, empty shelves, cold apartments, and the Securitate were common features of everyday life. As communist rule in the region entered its final decade and most countries began to embrace liberalization—especially after the advent of Gorbachev—Romania became increasingly nationalist, repressive, and isolated, and daily life more difficult and desperate. Because of the shortages of these later years, and the role this played in the ultimate downfall of the regime and the brutal end of the Ceauşescus, analyses of consumption in the region tend to bypass Romania. Yet in the years after Stalin’s death, the Romanian party-state employed strategies similar to its Bloc neighbors to legitimate communist rule, among

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