A Different Kind of Transylvanian Blood Lust

Atlas Obscura
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Jan. 13 2014 9:47 AM

This Sibiu Hunting Museum Shows a Different Kind of Transylvanian Blood Lust

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Romania's last Communist leader, Nicolae Ceaușescu, was known for his repressive regime, in which children were recruited as police spies; food, electricity, and gas were rationed; and reproductive rights were severely restricted.

Ceaușescu was also so fond of gunning down bears that he gave himself special hunting privileges during his 1965 to 1989 reign. After he had depleted the bear population in his own private reserve, Ceaușescu made bear hunting illegal for everyone but himself and a few hand-picked Communist Party members.

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The measure protected many bears from slaughter, but Ceaușescu killed way more than his fair share, and used reckless methods to do it. Driven by a desire to kill the biggest animals possible, he had bear cubs captured, fed a hearty diet, and then released back into the wild when they had fattened up.

The food the bears enjoyed was better and more plentiful than what Romanian people at the time could access, but the animals had grown so used to being fed by humans that they died hungry in the wild. Undeterred, Ceaușescu switched methods, ordering the bears be fed raw meat and beaten with sticks to discourage attachment. The resulting aggressive bears were known to attack hikers and cars.

One of Ceaușescu's largest trophies — a huge brown bear's skin and stuffed paws — is on display at the Museum of Hunting in Sibiu, Transylvania. Other trophies in the museum belong to Colonel August von Spiess, a fellow relentless chaser of Carpathian bears who was Romania's royal hunt master during the 1920s and '30s.

In a karmically cogent twist, Ceaușescu ultimately shared the fate of the animals he hunted. In 1989, a series of violent riots in Romania finally forced him from power. Widely loathed and shown no mercy during a hasty trial, Ceaușescu was convicted of genocide and shot to death by a three-man firing squad. To the disappointment of many a revolutionary, Ceaușescu's head is not mounted on a wall in the Museum of Hunting — he rests in Bucharest's Ghencea Cemetery.

Hunted and gathered: