BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) – What did they give the dictator who had everything?
An African leopardskin or a silver dove _ a novel offering from the former Shah of Iran _ are just two examples of gifts received by Nicolae Ceausescu that will be auctioned off Thursday, on what would have been the late Romanian leader’s 94th birthday.
The auction which is billed “the Golden Age” is a reference to the final years of Ceausescu’s rule, when Communist Party officials painted a rosy picture of life in Romania, while, in reality, people struggled with food shortages, power outages and the dreaded Securitate secret police which kept tabs on the population of 23 million with an army of 760,000 informers.
Ceausescu, known as “the Genius of the Carpathians,” was overthrown during the 1989 anti-communist uprising and executed with his wife Elena after a summary trial on Christmas Day, 1989.
“This auction is first of its kind gathering together objects from private collections and items that belonged to the family which were sold by the state,” Mihail Stomff, head of private sales at Artmark auction house told the Associated Press. “The value is foremost a historical one.”
So what’s on offer Thursday and at what price?
There’s a carpet depicting the family of the dictator that should have had pride of place in the People’s Palace, a giant building that now serves as Romania’s Parliament and was inspired from a visit to North Korea in the 1971, that has a starting price of euro800 ($1,035), a swanky pen that will go under the hammer for at least euro2,000 ($2,585) which Ceausescu received during a visit to Japan in 1975, and an assortment of furs which will sell for at least euro1,200 ($1,555).
Among the more eccentric items is a bronze yak given to Ceausescu by China’s Mao Tse-tung and or gold-plated silver and enameled doves that Ceausescu received from the Shah of Iran in 1977.
There are also Communist-era posters, medals, photos and flags, up to 70 years old, some extolling Lenin and Stalin. A Time magazine from 1948 has Ana Pauker, a Romanian Communist Party leader on the front cover.
Some of the objects were initially auctioned in by the state organization charged with dealing with the dictator’s goods and came back on the market through private owners.
Fascination with the former Romanian leader his lavish lifestyle is nothing new, but Thursday’s sale is the first public sale of Ceausescu memorabilia in a decade.
In the past, auctioneers have offered custom-made sports utility vehicles which were used by the Ceausescu couple, and even pajamas which were snapped up, with unsold items donated to an old people’s home.
Buyers from Japan, the U.S. and Britain have been among those that bought the dictator’s memorabilia, and foreigners still appear to be fascinated with Ceausescu.
“The posters are superb. They reflect an era,” said a Canadian buyer late Wednesday, who declined to give his name. “It will be interesting to see the profile of buyers tomorrow.”
Alina Wolfe Murray contributed to this report from Bucharest.