Coordinated by Aurelian GIUGĂL




The pro-natalist policy in Romania reflected in the media of the time


Marinela ISTRATE




University “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” of Iași, Romania



Abstract: Our article is intended to be an excursion on the pro-natalist policy performed by the communist regime (in its last years of existence) emphasizing, by means of a quantitative methodology and a trans-disciplinary support, both the role played by mass-media in disseminating the proliferation of the number of families with more children and the means and ways in which the Romanian society reacted in those years of economic, social, moral and political difficulty. In Romania the (in)coherence of the communist regime “required” the intrusion of the government authorities in the most intimate aspects of the life of both the individual and the couple. The natalist behaviour of the population was handled in a forced and aggressive way in the direction of having more and more children, the strategy of bringing into force this desideratum acting including at the psychological level by decreeing reproduction as a patriotic responsibility, women being granted a noble mission from this point of view. The “mobilizing” discourse of mass-media during the last years of the communist regime on the triple role of woman in society (worker, life companion and mother) certainly played an important part in the drastic decrease of fertility in Romania after 1989, when it stabilized around the rate of 1.3 children per woman, without real chances of recovering in the near future.

Keywords: pro-natalist policy, communism, Romania, female magazine.





After the establishment of communism in East European countries, one of the main processes that took place was the homogenization and equalization of the population, a process which was meant to remove all social (including genre) differences in order to build “the new, socialist man”[i]. This ideology, together with the need for an increased volume of labour force intended to serve the interests of industrialization, led to the massive (sometimes coercive) integration of women within the employed population, but also to a limited freedom of choosing the number of wanted children within the family.

For Romania too, the communist period involved the activation of an intense policy of industrialization and urbanization women were compelled to participate at. Far from being the key element of the emancipation and genre equality the theoreticians of communism had dreamt of, women’s complete involvement in the labour field (women being called “equal socialist workers” – a conception based on an androcentristic notion[ii]) became an instrument of consolidation of the political power of the time and of creating a consistent basin of labour force recruitment. At the same time, women preserved almost exclusively the responsibility for housework and child raising. Consequently, domestic labour division was never essentially transformed by the socialist state. On the whole, communism burdened women with extra duties and newly structured images: of mother, worker, life comrade, housekeeper[iii]. Although they obstinately pointed out women’s promotion in leading positions, their presence was symbolical, the measure being applied in the same duplicitous manner as in the case of the equality between spouses within a family[iv].

We considered necessary extending the analysis outside the period of study in order to set out the premises for the present evolution of the demographic indicators. In this way, the period after World War II can fall into three stages, according to the type of policy that characterized the system at a certain point[v].

1.                  1948 -1957 – a period during which we cannot talk about a demographic policy of the state but during which, joining the Soviet model, certain measures were taken in order to increase the fertility rate; getting divorced was a difficult and heavy process and abortions were allowed only in exceptional cases. This lapse of time was characterized by a high birth rate and a falling death rate, in relation to certain signs of social and economic incipient modernisation.

2.                  1957-1966 – a period of relative liberalisation (also inspired by the Soviet model), during which performing an abortion upon request was permitted.

3.                  1966 -1989 – the period of Nicolae Ceauşescu’s leadership, during which the demographic pro-natalist policy (often evoked in specialty paper) was aimed at increasing Romania’s population. In its turn, this period can be divided in two sub-periods[vi]:

a) 1966 -1985 – on October 1st, 1966, without any previous warning, they banned abortions almost completely, except for certain exceptional situations: in case of women aged more than 45, mothers of at least 4 children, serious medical recommendations. For the next 23 years, Romania would experience one of its most difficult periods because of numerous severe restrictions and an extremely rigid pro-natalist policy.

b) 1986 -1989 – in December, 1985, Ceauşescu strengthened the limitations on performing legal abortions: it was no longer enough to already have 4 children but 5, all of them aged under 18; they also generalized compulsory gynaecological controls for all women aged 16-45 in order to trace early potential pregnancies; furthermore, they set up the so called “celibacy tax” (10% of the monthly salary for people aged more than 25 who had not got married or who had been married for two years but did not have any children).



In what regards the Romanian state policy vision on maternity, two stages can be identified[vii].

1.                       The pattern of the “fighting”- woman or “motherhood as second-rate issue” (1948-1965). Starting with 1948, there began a process of emancipation of women, which were warranted the labour right. This triggered significant changes in many aspects of life, including in respect of the number of children, which was continuously decreasing. All of a sudden, woman became man’s comrade, his partner in the struggle meant to build socialism. Femininity and maternity hanged into second-rate issues, the emphasis being laid on physical endurance.

2.                       The pattern of the “mother”- woman or “maternity as state issue” (1966-1989). Animated by the desire to lead larger and larger masses of people towards “the glorious achievements of communism”, Nicolae Ceauşescu banned abortions and all contraceptive means, on the background of a strongly decreasing birth rate. The “fighting” woman was replaced by the mother and working woman. We face a change in the propagandistic speech, which was now centred upon motherhood and securing the gold future of the nation.

This pro-natal policy represents a Romanian characteristic often mentioned in the specialty papers[viii]. “The well-known” decree 770/1966 completely forbade abortion and laid down measures with a view to punishing women who would have tried to put an end to the evolution of pregnancy. The contraceptive methods were completely lacking or they were only accessible on the black market, thus becoming a luxury good. “Improvements” were subsequently brought to the existent legislation (1973, 1974, 1984), also the doctors who did not show enough interest in applying the pro-natal policy being under scrutiny. The 1966 Decree practically doubled the number of live births: 520,000 in 1967, as opposed to 270,000 in 1966. All of a sudden, the birth rate increased from 14.3‰ in 1966 to 27.4‰ in 1967, but, in the following years, it would gradually go down to 14.3‰ in 1983 (approaching the 1966 statistics).

In the same time, this decree was to bring the beginning of a black period in the history of Romania: 10,000 women who died as a consequence of the medical complications which appeared after the illegal and primitive pregnancy interruptions, tens or hundreds of women remained with physical or psychical sequelae as a result of using some medieval methods and instruments for abortion. The pro-natalist demographic policy in the communist period practically represented the legitimization of the interference of the state in the personal life of citizens, while giving birth to children was imposed to all women as a state obligation.


3. Communist speech on genre equality AND THE PRO-NATALIST POLICY 

Our article is intended to represent an incursion in the communist discourse, more exactly in the written media, by means of which the social identity is explained and made public. Starting from woman’s inferior social status in comparison to man (similar, from this point of view, to the status of the working class in relation to the bourgeoisie[ix]), communists assume the responsibility of emancipating women both through work, through their active participation in building the multi-developed communist society, by strengthening their role of mothers and by obsessively pointing out the necessity of giving birth to as many children as possible.

On the whole, the communist discourse stands out through an extremely uniform discursive practice (that is a certain manner of writing, distributing, receiving/consuming the text). The roles designed in the text for the speaker and the receivers are very stable and reflect the imbalanced communicational situation of the communist speech. The one who speaks is always in control of the one who listens (the receiver). The discourse practiced by most written media of those times must be regarded as a strategic component of the totalitarian policy, performing specific functions[x]: coercion, dissimulation, legitimization/de-legitimization, passivation etc.

The communist pro-natalist policy was spread by all means, including the written press and the audio-visual. All programs abounded in information on the importance of children in a family and the feeling of unfulfillment that should have been experienced by childless or by one-child families.

Women’s magazines, set under the control of the central authorities, brought their contribution to the shaping of these images. They revealed inaccessible images of women who managed, apparently without efforts, to be engineers, wives, mothers, fashionably dressed women, political activists. They were the superwomen who could meet the expectations of a socialist type of femininity and who represented the woman’s new, excessively powerful and yet inadequate image. At the same time, we must emphasize the fact that the masculine image did not undergo a spectacular change as it happened in the case of women, men preserving their monopole both on the labour market and within the family, where they continued to be loyally served, domestic labour sex division changing but little during the communist period. Policies were generally aimed at changing women’s and not men’s behaviour. We cannot deny an obvious improvement of women’s situation within the society in comparison to the period before World War II, but we must also point out the fact that the notion of gender equality never really became operational in communist Romania, the power disequilibrium between men and women not being substantially changed[xi].

One of the means of aggressive propaganda was also “Femeia” magazine (which first came out in the year 1948) – an engine of intense propagation of the pro-natalist policy, a magazine with obvious political implications in the shaping of the “new man”, which would have secured the success of the socialist state. It was a monthly publication, enjoying a good distribution both in the urban and rural environment and which was accessible to all social classes. All the numbers of the magazine aligned the same predefined pattern: the first pages were dedicated to the presidential couple; there followed rubrics dedicated to the accomplishments recorded in the labour field (where women stood out in jobs such as welders, crane drivers or in working places on the hydropower construction sites, in the huge heavy industrial plants etc), invariably “accessorized” with references to the satisfaction status triggered by the “chance” of living and working in such good conditions. Of course, they were all fulfilled at the family level too, having a husband (often working in the same place) and at least two or three children, who most of the time dreamt of embracing their parents’ professions. The deeper and deeper appeal to propaganda was necessary in order to mask the negative effects of the communist policy, felt especially in the economic and reproductive field.




The present paper is intended to analyze the articles published in this magazine during the last 5 years of communist regime (1985-1989) and to assess the degree in which official representations reflected the reality lived by the women of those times. By studying the contents of these issues, we identified seven major themes, ardently developed in all the numbers of the magazine in order to enforce the natalist propaganda, according to which women could not have other desires and aims in life than becoming mothers and raising children.


4.1. Editorials in which specialists in various fields speak about procreation, children, abortion, divorce etc. Under the “shelter” of their official position, declarations are many times categorical, more or less subtly threatening, laying a huge psychical pressure on the female.

The young family – an interview with Dr. V. C., State Secretary in the Ministry of Health, who unequivocally states that:

It has been undoubtedly proved that a family can fully fulfil itself only by having children…Family’s complete achievement and woman’s biological and psychical fulfilment get stronger with each new born, brought up and educated child. (...) That woman who has not faced motherhood yet, has experienced neither physical nor affective self-fulfilment and, as time passes, she gets a stronger and stronger feeling of unfulfillment” (3/1985, page 9).

Children, the supreme duty towards the future (1/1986, pages 12-13) – an editorial dedicated to the enforcement of a decree stipulating:  the increase of the benefit paid to mothers who gave birth at least to a second child;  the increase of the benefit paid to mothers  of three - four children (400 lei/month) and of five or more than five children (500 lei/month); the increase of children’s allowance with 26.8% (without clearly specifying what this means). The article ends in an eloquent way:

“Profoundly grateful to our loving leader for the new measures meant to directly support families and mothers with more children, the women in our country feel obliged to obey the wonderful and noble urge of giving birth, just like our parents and ancestors, to as many children as possible, to the joy of their own family and securing the country’s youthfulness”.

Rendering homage to mothers: a duty of conscience, a social duty (3/1986, pages 6-7) – an interview with dr. M. M., manager of “Cantacuzino” Hospital in Bucharest, who begins unequivocally: “We militate for the continuation of the old Romanian tradition according to which any family should desire and bring into the world as many children as possible”, insisting on the very good conditions that the state provides to the pregnant woman and mother of infants. The conclusions of the article (written by V. T., journalist) are:

In our country, the mother-woman is and has also been venerated; furthermore we want this veneration to come up to the standards of the present educative and social demands so that women, surrounded by the esteem and appreciation of both the collective bodies they work in and of the whole society, should achieve their supreme mission of bringing into the world and raise in life, to the happiness of their own families and country, as many children as possible”.


4.2. Debates, meetings, gatherings. Pro-natalist propaganda

Throughout the whole country permanent debates and meetings were organized, even during the work program, in factories, women being forced to attend them, lacking any chance of missing such events. They were initiated by the local branches of the Romanian Communist Party and especially by the local branches of the Communist Youth Union (CYU) together with the Women’s organizations (for whom such missions were a party duty), the results of these manifestations being afterwards largely developed in the pages of “Femeia” magazine. In order to deliver lectures, they invited gynaecologists, legal experts and even employees of the Ministry of Home Affairs, all of them expressing their opinions on the efficiency of fighting against illegal abortions and on the measures to be taken in order to trace out and punish those who practiced such deeds which were prohibited by law.

A prodigious symposium dedicated to the part a family plays in preserving the youthfulness and vigour of the nation (4/1986, page 5) – Slatina; it brought together “personalities of the political life, famous medical, legal or educational experts”; Exchange of experience on birth rate increase as a fundamental element of saving the youthfulness of our nation (11/1986, page 15) – Tulcea, event organized by CYU and other institutions; Family – the fundamental nucleus of our society (10/1989, page 15) – round-table debate organized by “Femina” Club and the CYU organization of “Tricoul Roşu” Factory in Arad; The supreme responsibility of securing the youthfulness and development of our socialist nation (6/1988) – Baia Mare, meeting of more women‘s organizations of 15 counties; its main topic was “the implementation of the medical and demographic policy promoted by our party and state”.


4.3. Reportages in the maternity hospitals of the country

In the pages of “Femeia” magazine, readers could also find reportages made in the Romanian maternity hospitals, which used to depict the excellent conditions enjoyed by the working class, the abnegation of the medical staff, as well as the happiness of the young patients. The pro-natalist education and responsibility was popularized by means of such articles as:

The waiting – a reportage made in Titan Maternity Hospital in Bucharest (11/1985, page 13); it comprises interviews with doctors, nurses and mothers. What strikes the reader is the early age of becoming a mother (G. C., age 19 – first child, C. A., age 22 – second child).

Here, where life and health triumph (10/1986, page 6) – a reportage carried out in the maternity of the Municipal Hospital in Bucharest, revealing the good conditions in which 3,000 children are given birth every year. Everything excels here, except for mothers, who are often criticized by the medical staff - “Most of them are exaggeratedly emotional and fastidious, others are incredibly ignorant”

Life, Its Majesty (6/1986, page 8) – a reportage made in the new maternity in Botoşani (endowed with 400 beds)

They give birth to LIFE! (9/1985, page 12) – an article on Buftea Maternity Hospital, 5 years after inaugurating the institution, now modernly equipped and (undoubtedly!) providing excellent conditions. The article is accompanied by a picture of more new-born children, lying one near the one on the same bed and more interviews with the mothers in the hospital wards (aged 27 –  third child; aged 33 – a worker, tenth child (7 boys and 3 girls); a nurse – seventh child). Perhaps the most touching case (precisely in terms of present-day life) is that of a young woman aged 17, herself coming from a numerous family (being the eldest of 8 children), who declares:

“We were 8 children in mother’s home and we have all grown up and have become good people. If I am healthy, my house will be full of children, too. For they bring joy and give a sense to family.”


4.4. Brothers. Single child vs. more children

A significant component of the pro-natalist policy was the change of the fertility rate by rank: an increase in the percentage of third and third+ ranks. The measures of strengthening the enforcement of the anti-abortion law taken in 1984 had as main effect, in 1985, the prolongation of the fertile age (three quarters of the +4th children were born by mothers aged +40). By contrast, nowadays, more than four births record smaller percentages in all age groups. The liberalization of abortions at the end of 1989 materialized in the decrease in the number of births and not in giving up having children.

Another approach of the pro-natalist policy assumed the accentuation of the importance of the large number of children within a family. It was not seldom that they pointed out this idea (“the larger the number of children, the happier the families”), underlining the fact that one child is not enough to provide parents’ equilibrium and fulfilment. These became obsessively repeated topics: “more children, not only one!”, laying the emphasis on the tradition of the Romanian people of having more children, although post-studies revealed the fact that, for most families, the ideal number of children is two[xii].

Brothers (4/1985, page 13) – an article that insists on the fact that “the quality of family life, its harmony and stability depend on the number of children in a family”. It promotes the idea that a single child brings about “permanent anxiety” (?!!), being spoiled and unadapted. Only children who have at least one brother acquire such fundamental features as altruism, solidarity, responsibility etc. All these are accompanied by case studies in which parents speak about their children, about the eagerness of existing brothers of having a newborn in the family etc

Meaningful youth (9/1985, page 16) – an article that presents the story of M.Z., a sub-engineer working in the oil and gas field, mother of four children, all of them glad to have just received aflat in Tg. Cărbuneşti (Gorj county) - “I was a single child and all my childhood I longed for either a brother or a sister. I had my first child at age 18...”

With each new child, you live one more life (10/1985, page 13) – a reportage that depicts the life of a Romanian teacher, aged 43, mother of seven children aged between 5 and 22 and wife of a Maths teacher, aged 45. She underlines the fact that she chose to be a young mother - on university graduation, she already had two children. She also provides information on her family’s daily necessary food: 7 kg of potatoes/meal, 5 loaves of bread, 4 litres of milk, 9 yoghurts etc.

            They often published articles on “competitions” between families of workers to have as many children as possible, an illusion bombastically supported by the similar pattern fecundity – wealth[xiii] [15].

Two mothers chatting (11/1989, page 10) – the first mother - aged 36, a woman welder, mother of three children, herself coming from a numerous family with eleven children; the second mother - aged  36, a crane driver, mother of four children. They both suggest that they are young and that they “are not going to stop here”....

Children – windows open towards the sun (6/1987, page 21) – an article in which is stated that:

“Many mothers think that by having a single child they can more carefully look after him/her. In fact, the second and the ones to come after are better physically and psychically developed, since they benefit from the experience their parents gained with the first child”.

We are so happy with them, with our children (8/1989, page 13) – a reportage on a five-child family living in a 4-room flat (father – an electrician, mother – a spinner); they defend the idea that “A family with many children gives you a feeling of perennially, that your life runs in a beautiful way, that you step forward proudly, like a stag in an oak forest...”

Family Sunday (4/1989, page 12) – the story of a family with nine children who live with their parents (father – a foreman, mother – a housewife) and grandmother. It points out the idea that children tend to take up their father’s job as a worker, a highly appreciated and valued profession in the communist epoch (the eldest ones are a milling machine operator, a locksmith, a mechanic and a manufacturer, respectively; the smallest ones are pupils at industrial high schools; all of them are good, hardworking children...).

The home with 4 fairies (8/1986, page 10) – mother - aged 36, a nurse (coming from a numerous rural family with nine children), father – aged 39, a public prosecutor. They live in Dorohoi (Botosani County) with their four girls; their fifth child is to be born soon.

Besides these detailed editorials, usually covering one whole page, they also included short mentions of similar cases mailed by readers (the “Talking to female readers” rubric): The home with 11 flowers (1/1985, page 17): father – a tractor driver; mother – a housewife; they have eleven children like “11 flowers, all beautiful and healthy”. Father misses from the picture attached, being at work;        The home with 9 girls (5/1985, page 17): father – a tractor driver; he has got nine girls who set up a folk singing and dancing group, enjoying much success in the village.



4.5. Illegal abortion and refuse of forced motherhood

Under Ceauşescu’s regime, women fell into two categories: already mother-women and future mother-women (the sooner, the better). Decree 770/1966 completely banned abortions, stipulating severe punishments for women and people who helped them. However, the year 1984 brought a new hardening of the legislation and the pages of the magazine fully reflected this process. The fight against abortions changed into a frenzied battle, under the circumstances in which the living standard in late 80’s Romania had become dramatic because of a generalized lack of minimum products and services meant to provide a civilized living – light, heat, bread, meat etc.

The pages of the magazine included study-cases of women who had lost their lives following an illegal abortion, offering terrifying details: Beyond tears (10/1986, page 11) – mother aged 31, seven children – dies after an illegal abortion; Too late (10/1988, page 11) – R.T. – mother aged 27, three children – dies after an illegal abortion; her husband says he has not known anything; his attitude is also blamed, for he should have prevented her from passing through an abortion; C.Z. – mother of two children, dies after an illegal abortion operated in her fifth month of pregnancy. The article also offers the names of the people who induced these abortions, as well as the prison punishments they received; Where are you, mummy? (7/1988, page 10) – mother aged 24, one child – dies after an illegal abortion; the woman who caused was sentenced to spend 11 years in prison.

            Official data certify the dramas we can infer from the pages of the magazine. While during the period 1960 – 1965, before Ceauşescu banned abortions and contraceptive means, there were about 72 maternal deaths per year (mainly triggered by septic abortion complications), between 1966 – 1989 the average was of 302 maternal deaths per year, particularly as a consequence of illegal abortions[xiv]. The highest values were scored in 1982 (1.48/1,000 live-births) and 1989 respectively (1.49/1,000 live-births).

The condemnation of abortion was quasi-generalized, the articles written by doctors insisting on the negative impact of an abortion, which was compared to a suicide, a thoughtless act, women who appealed to it being not only legally punished but also morally condemned for life. Of course, we cannot ignore the fact that such opinions were partly medically reasoned, but the insistence with which the negative effects of abortions were emphasized reflects duplicity under the circumstances in which an abortion was the only way of getting rid of a pregnancy. Almost each number of the magazine included a gynaecologist’s article explaining over and over again what giving birth meant to a woman’s organism and what the consequences of an abortion were, reaching exaggerated statements such as “women must preserve and bring to an end at least the first 4-5 pregnancies”.

Consequences of abortion (3/1989, page 21) – prof. dr. docent I. N. on “delictual abortion”:

Each woman must understand that becoming a mother is everything a young married girl can desire….A woman who induced herself an abortion, if still alive, will be forever haunted by the idea of the crime she committed”.

            Pregnancy – this fulfilment (2/1986, page 21) – an article providing advice to young women, but also speaking about pregnancy symptoms and prenatal controls. Of course, it supports the necessity of having as many children as possible:

“Fruit of love, the first new-born in the family will strengthen the affective relationship between husband and wife, bringing a plus of maturity. Afterwards, with each new child, the young family will feel more and more fulfilled through the years, living again a new and beautiful youth beside the children they gave birth to”.

Abortion and its consequences (10/1985, page 21) – Dr. F. R., 23 August Maternity Hospital in Bucharest declares: “Youth is the optimum procreation age for both spouses and this potential must be neither held back nor diminished”. The article speaks about the quasi-generalized consequences of abortion (temporary or permanent sterility, temperature, septicaemia, uterine infections, gangrenes, death) but readers can also infer the psychical repercussions that almost compulsory accompany abortions: eternal regrets, nightmares, permanently destroyed relationships with life partners; the husband and wife will grow old as a “sterile and isolated couple”.

            Abortion and its consequences (2/1986, page 21) – an interview with dr. V. D., “Filantropia” Maternity Hospital in Bucharest:

“For a woman, pregnancy means complete physical and psychical health, a perfect hormone equilibrium. Its brutal delictual interruption causes physical and psychical trauma to that woman. It also represents the starting point of various local and general, earlier or later complications, sometimes even endangering her life”.

Moreover, the doctor finds it appropriate to also refer to a tragic example: R. B. – aged 24, mother of a one year old child – died in hospital after an illegal abortion. The despair of this young woman who can hardly take care of her infant, her fright of again becoming mother so quickly can be read between the lines, being obvious to all the women of those times.


4.6. Rural environment family

Although “Femeia” magazine largely addressed women in the workers’ urban environment, meaning precisely those generations that left villages to work in urban factories (a category very much encouraged and supported by the communist regime, which best complied with the pro-natalist policy of the regime). However, at the same time, it also included articles on the rural environment – traditionally high birth rate areas enjoying a much better welfare standard in comparison to that of the numerous families living in the great working districts.

Village life continued to be idyllically presented, laying the emphasis on the Romanian people’s tradition of having large families, which had always been regarded as something to be proud of. It tried to accredit the (false) idea that in the Romanian traditional mentality the number of children and grandchildren represented the material wealth and prestige of the family[xv].

The 1,000-children village (12/1985, page 12) – an article about Crâmpoaia village in Oltenia, where each family has at least five, quite often even seven or eight children. Even the mayor, aged 47, is father of seven offsprings and grandfather of six grandchildren. There are many relatively young heroine-mothers (aged 29, 33, 36), that is women that have at least 10 children, being rewarded with prizes and special allowances. The reportage also speaks about the welfare of these families, whose households are endowed with furniture, TV sets, fridges, etc. – “A distinct atmosphere of kindness and well understanding; there, where so many children live, there is no room for selfishness or disagreement”.

The flowers in Albac (5/1989, page 12) – a commune inhabited by 3,000 people, out of which 1,000 are children. The article is accompanied by proper photos meant to depict their prosperity and welfare: wealthy houses, flocks of sheep in the streets, children coming from school with pioneer ties over their winter coats.

            More offsprings, more good luck (6/1986, page 6) – an article on Rozavlea, Maramureş, a high birth area (17 % in 1986) where five-six (and even ten) child families are something common; it includes a case-study on a young five-children family suggesting they are not going to stop they are still young (mother, aged 33; father, aged 41)

Humuleşti, symbol of  the everlasting childhood (4/1987, page 13) – a reportage on a well-known high birth rate including a case study of a very happy family made up of: mother – a worker, father – a mechanic and their six children.


4.7. Quiz...contests

Other types of propagandistic materials were the so-called contests, which urged readers to answer a set of questions meant to test their knowledge of the exceptional accomplishments of the communist regime. Of course, questions on family, children, benefits received by mothers of more children etc could not miss.

No. 7/1985, page 13 – on the occasion of celebrating “2 decades of  magnificent achievements” they initiated a contest made up of 20 questions  from various fields (number of newly built flats, number of women working in the factories of the country etc.). One of them particularly stood out through its pragmatism:

Our party and country are very much concerned with mother and child protection, with the permanent improvement of families’ living conditions, with securing the vigour and youthfulness of our people. Can you say which birth rate is our country supposed to score during the following period?”

The possible answers were: A. 15 – 17%; B. 17 – 19%; C. 18 – 20%. The first 3 winners of the contest were: a worker, an accountant and a student.

No. 8/1986, pages 12-13 the contest “Children. Let’s bring them up healthily, with love and skill” comprised 12 grid questions on child upbringing. The winners were a worker, an engineer and an excavator.

No. 9/1987, pages 12-13 – “Budget funds for mothers of more children have risen. How many mothers yearly benefit from these allowances?”: A. 555,000 mothers; B. 666,000 mothers; C. 777,000 mothers”. The winners were a weaver, a cooperative farmer and a high school pupil.

It is difficult to assess the impact of this propaganda on women. We rather stake on the opposite effect, of over-saturation in front of the idyllically image of the big happy family, so much different from the real life (confronted with starvation, coldness, desperation of not having food to feed a new family member). We can state that this campaign of educating the population in the spirit of the communist pro-natalist ideology left deep marks and even “scars” in women’s mentality, which, unfortunately, sometimes have not been fully cured.




The specificity of communist Romania resides precisely in the strong pressure laid on women in respect of playing both the productive and the reproductive function. Yet, we cannot deny the contribution of the socialist state to the emancipation of women in the post-war period, especially in what regards the equal access to education and work[xvi] The mobilizing discourse promoted during the communist regime (which emphasized woman’s triple role of worker, wife and mother) played an important part in shaping a significant category of women endowed with a certain professional qualification, which undoubtedly represents an advantage of present Romania[xvii]. In spite of the many questionable aspects of the measures taken by the communist regime and of certain exaggerations in the implementation of the directives of the party, the woman’s emancipation became reality in Romania starting with the 60s of the 20th century. This fact complies with the general European trend of that period, that of increasing the number of jobs for women and of the decline of the traditional pattern according to which the man was the only income provider in the household[xviii].

As regards the communist propaganda during the period analysed, we noticed a gradual transition from a discourse in which the accent was however laid on man and his personal development to one in which the communist party came first, working people’s (and especially women’s) purpose not being other than that of serving the party and the country. The tone of the communist speech was more and more vehement, at the end of the communist period more than half of the magazines being dedicated to the “years of glory and magnificent accomplishments”, the other rubrics hardly finding a place.

In the communist period, the family, in the classical meaning of the word, changes into an entity deprived of privacy, a public entity, desacralized by the well-marked political-atheistic attitude of the authorities, weakened of any profound meaning, miming a happiness and welfare devoid of any real ground. Maybe precisely of this reason after 1989 Romania experienced a drastic decrease of fertility (situated around 1.3 children/woman in the last years), without real chances of relaunching in the near future, despite the recent political efforts of implementing a proper coherent policy able to re-establish the demographic balance of the state and to find solutions to the problems that may be triggered by fertility variations. After more than two decades from changing the political system in Romania, the total fertility rate continues to be below the value which would ensure the simple replacement of generations in time.



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[i] Susan GAL, Gail KLIGMAN, Politicile de gen în perioada postsocialistă, Polirom, Iași, 2003, p. 69.

[ii] Jill MASSINO, “Anonimatul femeii în estetica României Ceauşiste”, in A. CIUPALĂ (eds.), Despre femei şi istoria lor în România, Editura Universității din Bucureşti, București, 2004, p. 1.

[iii] Susan GAL, Gail KLIGMAN, Politicile de gen...cit., p. 77.

[iv] Gail KLIGMAN, Politica duplicitatii. Controlul reproducerii in Romania lui Ceausescu, Humanitas, Bucuresti, 2000, p. 118.

[v] Diana COVACI, “Propaganda pronatalistă în paginile Almanahului Femeia (1979 – 1990)”, in Sorina Paula BOLOVAN, Ioan BOLOVAN, Corneliu PĂDUREAN (eds.), Om şi Societate. Studii de istoria populaţiei României, Presa Universitară Clujeană, Cluj – Napoca, 2007, pp. 525 – 548.

[vi] P.H. DAVID, Adriana BABAN, Women`s health and reproductive rights: Romanian experience, Patient Education and Counseling, nr. 28, 1996, pp. 235 – 245.

[vii] Ramona PĂUNESCU, Evoluţii politice ale maternităţii. Perspective feministe, Polirom, Iaşi, 2012, p. 128.

[viii] Corina DOBOŞ (eds.), Politica pronatalistă a regimului Ceauşescu, Polirom, Iaşi, 2010, pp.112 – 117; Cornelia MUREȘAN, Schimbarile comportamentului familial în Romania, Presa Universitară Clujeană, Cluj Napoca, 2012, p.191; Ramona PĂUNESCU, Evoluţii politice...cit., pp. 140 – 142.


[ix] C. MORAR-VULCU, Între noi şi ei: identitatea politică a femeii în discursul comunist”, in Ghizela COSMA, Virgiuliu PÂRĂU (eds.), Condiţia femeii în România în secolul XX, Presa Universitară Clujeană, Cluj – Napoca, 2002, p. 199.

[x] Ibidem, p. 201.

[xi] Ramona PĂUNESCU, Evoluţii politice...cit., p. 128.

[xii] T. ROTARIU, V. VOINEAGU (eds.), Inerție și Schimbare. Dimensiuni sociale ale tranziției în România, Polirom, Iași, 2012, pp. 133 – 141.

[xiii] Lavinia BETEA, “Interzicerea avorturilor (1966 – 1989) ca fapt de memorie socială, in  A. NECULAU (ed.), Viaţa cotidiană în comunism, Polirom, Iaşi, 2004, p. 247.

[xiv] Henry P. DAVID, Daniel PIEROTTI, Demographic and social effects of population policies in Europe, 1992,

[xv] Lavinia BETEA, Interzicerea avorturilor...cit., p. 248.

[xvi] V. ŢÂRĂU, “Problema femeii şi instaurarea comunismului în Europa Centrală şi de Est”, in Ghizela COSMA, Virgiuliu PÂRĂU (eds.), Condiţia femeii în secolul XX, Presa Universitară Clujeană, Cluj – Napoca, 2002, pp. 135 – 159.

[xvii] Oana BĂLUŢĂ, Alina DRAGOLEA, Alice IANCU, Gen şi interese politice. Teorii şi practici, Polirom, Iaşi, 2007, p. 84.

[xviii] Ph. BARTHELEMY, R. GRANIER, M. ROBERT, Demografie şi societate, Institutul European, Iaşi, 2009.