1st Edition

Disaster Response by Ceauşescu’s Communist Regime in Romania The 1977 Earthquake

By Karin Steinbrueck Copyright 2025
    192 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book contains the first comprehensive history using extensive primary sources to trace the disaster response the regime engaged in, contextualizing its contribution to the public risk that remains in Romania’s capital Bucharest.

    It offers a comprehensive history into the disaster response of the Ceauşescu communist regime in Romania to the 1977 earthquake. It traces a history of one authoritarian government’s disaster response linking its decisions and ultimate inactions to contemporary public risk.  The book begins with a stand-alone chapter to introduce readers to twentieth-century Communist Romania and contextualize the Ceauşescu regime’s response. It provides insights into how Radio Free Europe filled the information vacuum, how the Securitate worked as first responders and how scientific experts debated the best course of action. It examines how the regime prioritized specific foreign assistance and activated its Securitate abroad to encourage such, and the role of volunteer donations that inspired “encouraged” domestic contributions. The book examines how the disaster response abruptly ended, leaving thousands of structurally unsafe buildings. It explains the contemporary risk of disaster and post-communist mitigation efforts to reduce this.

    This book will be of interest to students, researchers and policy-makers in the fields of history, disaster studies, urban planning, politics, and those interested in communist-era Romania, Europe, and Eurasia; totalitarian and authoritarian regimes.


    1. A Primer: Communist Romania under Ceauşescu

    2. Experiencing the Earthquake and the Initial Response

    3. Recovering Valuables and Influencing Foreign Assistance

    4. Mandating Benevolence

    5. Assessing the Structural Damage

    6. Ending the Disaster Response: The July Cessation Order

    7. Living Unsafe: Bucharest’s Public Risk


    Appendix A: The Civic Center Project and Its House of the People

    Appendix B: The Identified 1977 Earthquake Victims

    Appendix C: An Earthquake Preparation Guide for Romania



    Karin Steinbrueck is a modern European historian and is an Assistant Professor at National Louis University, Chicago.  She has lived and worked in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union as a Peace Corps Volunteer, Fulbright Scholar, Boren Fellow, and Foreign Language and Area Studies grant recipient.  She lives with her family in Evanston, Illinois.