Timisoara, located in the western part of the country, close to the border to Serbia, is today most famous for two things: being at the origins of the Romanian revolution and becoming an economic success story since then.
Timisoara was where the Romanian revolution began in 1989. It all started with Laszlo Tökes, a pastor of the reformed Hungarian Church, who used his sermons to encourage resistance to a government programme that consisted of razing entire villages and resettling their populations in newly created socialist towns.
In December 1989, on the instigation of the Securitate, Tökes' bishop ordered him to move to a small parish in northern Transylvania. Tökes refused, and civil proceedings to evict him from his apartment were launched. His parishioners rallied around him. Their protest quickly attracted people of different faiths and ethnicities, and rapidly grew into a mass rally involving all segments of Timisoara's society. Tökes recalls:
"A demonstration of solidarity became a revolt in solidarity. I could not have imagined this. Hungarians and Romanians had always been opposed to each other. The regime had fostered real hatred between the two peoples. The support I received from the ethnic Romanians during those days was an overwhelming experience. How moving to see the Romanian crowd under my windows chanting their national hymn. Until that day, the hymn had separated us. From that day on, it united us."
The demonstrations grew so big that on 17 December 1989 tanks had to be deployed to Timisoara. Security forces opened fire on the demonstrators. The protests immediately spread to Bucharest and other cities. Ceausescu had lost control. Attempting to flee the country, he was arrested and turned over to the army. He was executed on Christmas Day 1989.
More recently, Timisoara has become famous for a different reason: motored by strong FDI inflows and domestic entrepreneurship, the city has emerged as one of Romania's first thriving business centres. Timis County, an area inhabited by some 680,000 people, is now home to international companies such as Alcatel, Continental, Siemens, Procter & Gamble, Flextronics, Linde Gas, as well as more than 2,500 Italian and 1,500 German SMEs.
Timisoara's dramatic economic and social progress is an example of Romania's overall development. Over the past few years salaries in the region have been rising, as have people's living standards. In 2007/8 unemployment in Timis County was under 2 percent.
ESI Literary Walk: Awake Romania - 1989