On the 22nd December 1989, Romanian Communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu was overthrown. He and his wife fled the capital Bucharest in a helicopter, but after landing in a field were arrested, tried, and sentenced to death.
Five days before his overthrow, on the 17th December, Nicolae Ceaușescu had ordered the military to put down a revolt in the western Romanian city of Timișoara. Triggered by government’s attempt to evict an ethnic Hungarian pastor who they accused of inciting ethnic hatred, the Timișoara uprising quickly became a broader anti-government demonstration. News of the government’s crackdown was not shared in the heavily-censored press, but quickly spread through western radio stations such as Radio Free Europe.
With unrest spreading, Ceaușescu addressed a staged demonstration from a balcony in Bucharest on the 21st December. However, despite the presence of the brutal secret police known as the Securitate, the crowd began to heckle him and Ceaușescu was hustled back inside the building by his bodyguards. With the speech being televised around Romania, and the video feed only being cut after the start of the crowd’s protest, it was clear that something monumental was unfolding.
Having failed to regain control by the following morning, the 22nd December, Ceaușescu and his wife fled the Central Committee building by helicopter. However, their pilot faked a threat of anti-aircraft fire and landed. The Ceaușescus were later arrested and subjected to a show trial on Christmas Day. Found guilty of genocide and other crimes including illegally gathering wealth, they were sentenced to death. They were taken outside and shot within minutes of the trial ending.