In Romania, the so-called communist regime imposed heavy censorship on almost all elements of life and they used the cultural world as a means to better control the population. The freedom of expression was constantly restricted in various ways: the Sovietization period was an attempt at building up a new cultural identity on the basis of socialist realism and lending legitimacy to the new order by rejecting traditional values.
Two currents appeared: one that glorified the regime and another that tried to avoid censorship. The first is probably of no lasting cultural value, but the second managed to create valuable works, successfully avoiding censorship and being very well received by the general public. From this period the most outstanding personalities are those of: the writer Marin Preda, the poets Nichita Stănescu and Marin Sorescu, and the literary critics Nicolae Manolescu and Eugen Simion. Most dissidents who chose not to emigrate lived a life closely watched by the regime, either in "house arrest" or in "forced domicile"; some chose to retreat to remote monasteries. Most of their work was published after the 1989 Revolution. Among the most notable examples are the philosophers Constantin Noica, Petre Ţuţea and Nicolae Steinhardt.
There was a chasm between the official, communist culture and genuine culture. On the one hand, against the authorities intentions, the outstanding works were perceived as a realm of moral truths and the significant representatives of genuine cultural achievement were held in very high esteem by the public opinion. On the other hand, the slogans disseminated nationwide through the forms of official culture helped spread simplistic views, which were relatively successful among some ranks of the population. The tension between these two directions can still be perceived at the level of society as a whole culture inside communist Romania.
A strong editorial activity took place during the Communist regime. With the purpose of educating the large masses of peoples, a huge number of books were published. Large-scale editing houses such as Cartea Românească, Editura Eminescu and others appeared, which published huge collections of books, such as the Biblioteca pentru Toţi ("The Library for Everyone") with over 5,000 titles. Generally, a book was never published in an edition of less than 50,000 copies. Libraries appeared in every village and almost all were kept up to date with the newest books published. Also, due to low prices, almost everyone could afford to have their own collection of books at home. The negative part was that all the books were heavily censored. Also, due to rationing in every aspect of life, the quality of the printing and the paper also was very low, and the books therefore degraded easily.
During this period, there was a significant increase in the number of theatres, as they appeared even in the smallest towns. Many new establishments were built and in the big cities they became important landmarks, such as the building of the National Theatre of Bucharest, situated right in the middle of the city, immediately adjacent to Romania's kilometre zero. In the smaller towns, there existed the so-called "Worker's Theatre", a semi-professional institution. Partly due to the lack of other entertainment venues, theatre was highly popular and the number of actors increased. All of the theatres had a stable, state-funded budget. Again, however, the drawback was the heavy control imposed on them by the regime: censorship was ever-present and only ideologically-accepted plays were allowed. More progressive theatres managed to survive in some remote cities that became favorite destinations for young actors, but they generally had only a local audience.
Cinemas evolved the same way as the theatres; sometimes the same establishment served both purposes. Movies were very popular, and from the 1960s, foreign films started becoming quite widespread. Western films, when shown, were heavily censored: entire sections were cut, and dialogue was translated only using ideologically accepted words. Domestic or "friendly" foreign productions constituted the bulk of films in cinemas. During this period, cinematography started to develop in Romania and the first successful short films were made based on Caragiale's plays. Financed by the government, during the 1960s, a whole industry developed at Buftea, a town close to Bucharest, and some films, especially gangster, Western-genre and historical movies were very well received by the public. The most prolific director was Sergiu Nicolaescu, and probably the most-acclaimed actor from that period was Amza Pellea.
Romanians in exile
A consequence of the communist attitude towards the bourgeoisie elites in general, was the creation, for the first time in Romania's history, of a diaspora. Three individuals emerged as the most important Romanians abroad: playwright Eugen Ionescu (1909–1994) (who became known in France as Eugène Ionesco), creator of the Theatre of the Absurd and eventual member of the Académie française; religious historian and writer Mircea Eliade (1907–1986); and the essayist and philosopher Emil Cioran (1911–1996), the greatest French-writing master of style after Pascal. Fellow Romanian Ioan Petre Culianu continued Eliade's work with great success, in the United States. Another member of the diaspora who distinguished himself was the philosopher and logician Stephane Lupasco. The communist rule in Romania, unlike most of the other countries of the Eastern bloc permanently repudiated the Romanians who had left their country and labelled them as traitors to the motherland. So, neither Mircea Eliade, nor Eugène Ionesco, nor Emil Cioran, whose works would be published in this country sporadically after 1960, could see their native land again. It was only after 1989 that the process of regaining the values of the diaspora and of reintegrating its personalities into this country's culture could be started seriously, a process marked in its turn by tension and disagreements.
Well-known Romanian musicians outside of Romania during this period include conductors Sergiu Celibidache—the main conductor at the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and later of Munich Philharmonic Orchestra—and Constantin Silvestri, main conductor at the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Gheorghe Zamfir was a virtuoso of the pan pipes and made this instrument known to a modern worldwide audience, and was also a composer or interpreter for a great number of movies. Composer and architect Iannis Xenakis was born in Romania and spent his childhood there.
George Emil Palade a cell biologist and a teacher became the first Romanian to receive the Nobel Prize, winning the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for describing the structure and function of organelles in cells. Elie Wiesel, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, was born in the Romanian town of Sighetu Marmaţiei.
Evolutions after 1989
The fall of soviet-style communism in 1989 elated the cultural world, but the experience hasn't been an easy one due to problems in the transition period and the adoption of a free market economy. The discontinuation of state and political control of culture brought about the long dreamt freedom of expression, but, at the same time, the state subsidies also stopped and Romania's culture was seriously affected by the side-effects of the incipient, still very imperfect, free market economy and by inadequate material resources. Culture has had to cope with a variety of problems, one of them being a shift in people's interest towards other areas such as the press and television. The search for a new cultural policy, relying on decentralisation, seems to prevail now. People speak about a crisis of culture in this country, but if there is a crisis of culture, it is only at an institutional level.
After the fall of communism in 1989, there was an almost immediate explosion of publication of books previously censored by the regime. Books were published in huge numbers per edition, sales were high, and a great number of publishing houses appeared. However, this soon reached a saturation point, and publishing houses began to decline due to a combination of bad management, a rapid drop in sales, and the absence of subsidies. Many closed after publishing only a few titles; some changed their profile and started printing commercial literature - mainly translations - and the state-owned publishers entered a "state of lethargy". The latter survived due to state financing, but their publishing activity diminished. Despite this, some publishing houses managed to survive and develop by implementing market-oriented policies, and by improving the quality and overall appearance of the books they published. Among the most notable contemporary Romanian publishers are Humanitas in Bucharest, Polirom in Iaşi and Teora, which specializes in technical topics and dictionaries. Some publishing houses developed their own chains or bookstores, and also other new, privately owned bookstore chains opened, replacing the old state owned ones.
Culturally oriented newsprint periodicals followed a similar trajectory of boom and bust. A few have survived and managed to raise their quality and to maintain a critical spirit despite the hardships they encountered. Dilema Veche (Old Dilemma) and Revista 22 (Magazine 22) remain respected forces in Romanian culture, with Observator Cultural a lesser, but also respected, weekly paper. Also, a state financed radio (Radio România Cultural) and a television channel (TVR Cultural) with a cultural programme exist, but they are not highly popular.
Many new young writers appeared, but due to financial constraints, only those who have gained a strong reputation could get the financial backing to publish their works. The Writers Association, which should, in principle, support these writers' efforts, hasn't undergone much change since 1989 and there is much controversy surrounding its activity and purpose. The most successful writers, like Mircea Cărtărescu, Horia-Roman Patapievici, Andrei Pleşu, Gabriel Liiceanu and Mircea Dinescu, are respected personalities in Romanian life, but they have to devote some of their would-be writing time to other activities, mainly journalism. The ties with the Romanian diaspora are now very strong and even foreign-language Romanian writers like Andrei Codrescu (who now writes primarily in English) are very popular.
Romanian theatre also suffered from economic hardships, and its popularity decreased drastically due to the increased popularity of television and other entertainment channels. Some theatres survived due their prestige (and some continued subsidies); others survived through good management, investing in themselves and earning a steady audience through the high quality of their productions. Experimental or independent theatres appeared and are quite popular in university cities. Uniter - The Romanian Theatres Association - gives yearly awards to the best performances. Some of the most critically acclaimed directors in contemporary Romania are Silviu Purcărete, Mihai Maniutiu, Tompa Gabor, Alexandru Dabija and Alexandru Darie. Also, among the most appreciated actors, both from the new and old generation, one can name Ştefan Iordache, Victor Rebenciuc, Maia Morgenstern, Marcel Iureş, Horaţiu Mălăele, Ion Caramitru, Mircea Diaconu, Marius Chivu and others.
Due to the lack of funds, Romanian film-making suffered heavily in the 1990s; even now, as of 2005, a lot of controversy surrounds state aid for movies. Well-known directors such as Dan Piţa and Lucian Pintilie have had a certain degree of continued success, and younger directors such as Nae Caranfil and Cristi Puiu have become highly respected. Caranfil's film Filantropica and Puiu's The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu were extremely well received and gained awards at international festivals in Paris and Cannes. Beside domestic production, Romania became a favorite destination for international producers due to the low cost of filming there, and big investments have been made in large studios.
The number of cultural events held yearly in Romania has increased over the past few years. Some sporadic events like the "2005 Bucharest CowParade" have been well received and yearly events and festivals have continually attracted interest. Medieval festivals held in cities in Transylvania, which combine street theatre with music and battle reenactments to create a very lively atmosphere, are some of the most popular events. In theatre, a yearly National Festival takes place, and one of the most important international theatre festivals is the "The Sibiu Theatre Festival", while in filmmaking, the "TIFF" Film Festival in Cluj, the "Dakino" Film Festival in Bucharest and the "Anonimul" Film Festival in the Danube Delta have an ever stronger international presence. In music, the most important event is the "George Enescu" Classical Music Festival but also festivals like "Jeunesses Musicales" International Festival and Jazz festivals in Sibiu and Bucharest are appreciated. An important event took place in 2007 when the city of Sibiu was, along with Luxembourg, the European Capital of Culture.