When he arrived in the TVR studios at 1930 hours, Nicolae Ceausescu remained ignorant to the signs foretelling of a coming storm. And with good reason. In the final days of peace in early July, 1987 there had been no signs of fomenting internal dissent visible in Romania. The Romanian Communist Party, along with practically every other institution in the nation was subordinated to Ceausescu. His cult of personality remained supreme, at least on the surface. His defiance of Soviet demands to commit the Romanian military to the war only heightened the adoration of his followers. At least in Ceausescu’s mind.
At 2000 he addressed the nation on television. He outlined the present situation and measures being taken by the government to ‘hunt down the criminals responsible for the chaos.’ The dusk-to-dawn curfew that was in effect since the start of the war would be expanded to eighteen hours beginning immediately. Martial law would also go into effect by midnight and public travel between counties was prohibited as a ‘state of inherent national emergency’ was now declared.
As Ceausescu’s speech was being broadcast, Securitate agents and militia conducted raids nationwide. Known and suspected subversives and other types of troublemakers were taken into custody. Around the same time, the Romanian government delivered an official message to the Soviet embassy. The ambassador was informed that he and his staff were being declared persona non grata and would have 24 hours to leave the country. The threat was not taken seriously.
Other figures were making preparations for action in the final hours of D+17. The coup leaders realized time was running out to neutralize Ceausescu. Each hour that went by with him still alive solidified his power. A move against him would have to come within the next twelve hours. Meanwhile, workers loyal to the regime and party members were preparing for a day of street rallies in Bucharest and other cities. Because of the extended curfew, members of the general public would not be in attendance. Or so the party believed. Opponents of the regime and agitators were making plans as well. A climactic battle appeared set to commence in the capital city and around Romania the next day.
Unfortunately for Romania and its citizens, the significance of events to come were destined to be unnoticed. Ceausescu’s struggle to remain in power would be largely forgotten by the world at large on D+18 as the threat of the nuclear genie being unleashed increased with each passing hour.