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Last Updated: Friday, 15 August, 2003, 11:14 GMT 12:14 UK
Dictator's double looks back

James Coomarasamy
BBC, Bucharest

Dumitru Burlan retraces the route he took through the Romanian capital Bucharest 20 years ago - when he was a double for communist dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu.

An officer in the securitate - Romania's feared secret police - he was chosen to play the part of Ceaucescu, for 10 days, at a time when there were fears of an assassination plot.

Dumitru Burlan
Burlan took the mission because he feared for his life
And now - 14 years after Ceaucescu was deposed and executed, his alter ego has published his confessions, entitled: Sensational - Ceaucescu's Double is Ready to Confess.

In the cemetery where Ceaucescu is buried in a nondescript grave, he described an experience that he remembers with pride and fear.

"I was very proud that I was chosen, but I also feared for my life," he said. "And I knew that I couldn't refuse the mission because I had three children at home. If I said No, I'd have lost everything."

So, during Nicolae Ceaucescu's rule, even the secret police lived in fear of their leader - a man who was courted in the West, but who presided over one of the communist bloc's most brutal regimes.

'Barely mentioned'

But will the double's tale from the past strike a chord in present-day Romania?

Nicolae Ceaucescu
There is still nostalgia for Ceaucescu
Adrian Ursu, a leading Romanian journalist and deputy editor of Adevarul newspaper, does not think so.

"To young people going into business these days he doesn't mean anything," he said.

"Ceaucescu is hardly even mentioned in the history books these days - just a few lines. And I think that's a very good thing."

He was a little bit tough on the people, but at least he did something for this country
Romanian man
But in the streets of Bucharest, Ceaucescu is not forgotten.

Romania is one of the poorest countries in Eastern Europe, and faces an uncertain economic future. Nostalgia for the past is easy to find.

"Maybe he wasn't good for billionaires and those who don't like working, but for a worker like me, who worked for 28 years, it was good," said one woman.

"He was a little bit tough on the people, but at least he did something for this country," said a man.

Although Ceaucescu's architecture dominates this city, his ideas no longer do.

But as long as the majority of Romanians are not feeling the economic benefits of the revolution which deposed him, there will be nostalgia for the Ceaucescu era, and people who think they can make money from his name.

Romania struggles to escape past
11 Aug 01  |  From Our Own Correspondent
Romania's bloody revolution
22 Dec 99  |  Europe
Country profile: Romania
16 Jul 03  |  Country profiles


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