Nicolae Ceaușescu

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Portrait photo by Nicolae Ceaușescu
Ceaușescu's signature

Nicolae Ceauşescu [ nikoˈlae t͡ʃeauˈʃesku ], ( pronunciation ? / I ; born January 26, 1918 in Scorniceşti ; † December 25, 1989 in Tîrgovişte ) was a Romanian politician . As General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party , President and Chairman of the State Council, he was the neo-Stalinist dictator of the Socialist Republic of Romania from 1965 to 1989 . Audio file / audio sample

Origin and youth

Ceaușescu in a police photo (1933)
As a functionary of the RKP in 1939

According to the birth register, Nicolae Ceaușescu was born on January 23, 1918 as the third of nine children of the small farmer Andruță Ceaușescu and his wife Alexandrina. However, his birthday was officially given as January 26th. He grew up in simple circumstances in his birthplace Scorniceşti , a village in Great Wallachia with around 2000 inhabitants at the time . His youngest brother Ioan later became Secretary of State, and another brother, Ilie , became Assistant Secretary of Defense. Ceaușescu first attended the four-year primary school in his hometown and moved to the capital Bucharest at the age of eleven , where he lived in the household of his older sister Niculina and her husband. In Bucharest he completed an apprenticeship as a shoemaker and came into contact with the ideology of communism for the first time . His master Alexandru Săndulescu was an active member of the then illegal Romanian Communist Party (PCR / RKP), which he himself joined in the spring of 1932.

In 1933, Ceaușescu was arrested for the first time for reasons that are still unknown. In August 1934 he was caught distributing anti-government leaflets, arrested again and expelled from the capital. With police escort, Ceauşescu had to return to his hometown Scorniceşti and was listed in his police files as a dangerous communist agitator and active distributor of communist and anti-fascist propaganda . Ceaușescu opposed the policy of King Carol II , whose government developed into a royal dictatorship until 1940 and went underground . After another arrest in 1936, he was sentenced to two years in prison for anti-fascist activities. During his sentence in Doftana Prison , he met Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and other leading members of the RKP. After he was released from prison at the end of 1938, Ceaușescu took up a position as a communist youth functionary in 1939 and met Elena Petrescu , two years his senior , whom he married in 1946.

After the fascist military dictator Ion Antonescu came to power in September 1940, the systematic persecution of political opponents began. As a member of the RKP, Ceaușescu was arrested and imprisoned in an internment camp near Târgu Jiu in 1943 . There he shared a cell with Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and the two developed a close friendship. Ceauşescu was only released after the fall of the Antonescu regime on August 23, 1944 and the party members who had been imprisoned together later called themselves the prison faction and in the following years prevailed within the RKP against the Moscow faction around Ana Pauker .

Functional career in socialist Romania

Under pressure from the advancing Soviet Red Army ( Operation Jassy-Kishinev ), the opposition, with the support of King Michael I, succeeded in overthrowing the Antonescu regime. The communists entered a multi-party government and took over all state power by 1947. With the proclamation of the People's Republic of Romania , Michael I abdicated on December 30, 1947.

After his release in 1944, Ceaușescu became a leading member of the communist youth movement in the same year and in October 1945, with the support of his sponsor Gheorghiu-Dej, a member of the Central Committee (ZK) of the RKP. On November 19, 1946, he was elected to the Grand National Assembly for the district of Olt and held this seat until his death in 1989. At the unification congress of the RKP with the Social Democratic PSD for the Romanian Workers' Party (PMR, Partidul Muncitorilor din România ) in February In 1948 Ceaușescu was not re-elected to the Central Committee, although the body was increased to 41 people. For the time being, Ceaușescu was one of 16 deputy Central Committee members, but could be sure of the further protection of his sponsor Gheorghiu-Dej. This helped him in March 1948 to the post of Deputy Minister of Agriculture under Vasile Vaida , who, like Ceaușescu, was a shoemaker. However, in this role as the person primarily responsible for land reform , he drew strong criticism. In this phase, Ceaușescu followed the ideas of Ana Pauker, who, as a member of the so-called Moscow wing, was close to the ideology of Josef Stalin . The radical nature of the land reform issue led to doubts for Gheorghiu-Dej, who decided to direct the enthusiasm of his protégé into another field. Ceauşescu was on January 9, 1950 for four years Deputy Minister of Defense, at the same time he was promoted to Lieutenant General of the Infantry and was head of the Supreme Political Directorate of the People's Army (Roman. Șef al Direcției Superioare Politice a Armatei Populare).

On July 23, 1953, his office was upgraded as Ceaușescu was henceforth allowed to call himself First Deputy Defense Minister and thus stood directly behind Defense Minister Emil Bodnăraș in the ministerial hierarchy . In the meantime he became a member of the Central Committee of the PMR again in May 1952 in the course of the purges against the Moscow faction around Ana Pauker.

His rise within the party began at the latest when Ceaușescu rose to the position of Secretary of the Central Committee for Organizational Affairs and a candidate for the Politburo at the end of his time in the Ministry of Defense on April 19, 1954 . The post of Central Committee secretary for organizational issues represented an important position of power in the communist parties because it gave access to internal party personnel decisions. Ceauşescu's final admission to the Politburo, which consisted of eleven people, took place in December 1955.

Successor to Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej

Ten years later, the hitherto undisputed leader of the Romanian communists, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej , died of cancer. The succession was decided in favor of Ceauşescu just a few hours after Gheorghiu-Dej's death. In the closest leadership circle, the Politburo, which made the decision, Ceaușescu had already secured his election beforehand. The nomination for first secretary of the Central Committee of the PMR by the Central Committee on March 22, 1965, three days after the death of its sponsor, was only a matter of form, as was the formally necessary election by the party congress in July 1965. Ceausescu also sat at this party congress by the fact that the PMR was renamed back to RKP. After Gheorghiu-Dej, who had previously ruled largely alone, Ceaușescu initially had to share power with other people who had supported him in the election against competitors within the party. It was promised that in Ceaușescu they would have found an easily steerable top functionary. Chivu Stoica took over the office of chairman of the State Council and Ion Gheorghe Maurer kept his post as prime minister. At the already mentioned party congress, this division of offices was formalized by stipulating that party members should in future only hold a management position as a full-time position.

In 1966, Ceaușescu began distance learning ( fără frecvență , German  without attendance ), which he completed with a diploma from the Bucharest Academy of Economics. The literature assumes that his thesis Selected Problems of the Industrial Development of Romania in the 19th Century was written by a ghostwriter .

Ceaușescu's determination quickly became apparent, and on December 9, 1967, he also assumed the office of chairman of the State Council. Thus the principle of the separation of offices in Romania was abolished. Ceaușescu was also appointed party chairman, head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces.

Expansion of popularity and turning to the West

Ceaușescu quickly gained great popularity in Romania. The external conditions were favorable. Industrialization policies began to take effect in the late 1960s and Romania experienced a period of prosperity. In terms of foreign policy, Ceaușescu emphasized Romania's independence and publicly distanced himself from the Soviet Union's claim to leadership within the communist movement. Referring indirectly to the Soviet Union, he declared at a meeting of the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party in March 1968:

“Nobody [...] can claim to have the monopoly of absolute truth over the path to the development of social life. Nobody can claim to be able to have the last word in the field of practice and social, philosophical thought. "

- Nicolae Ceaușescu

During the Soviet-Chinese dispute, Romania, in contrast to other Eastern European socialist states, did not interrupt its relations with the People's Republic of China and in some cases even moved closer to the anti-Soviet Chinese communists.

In 1967, Ceaușescu ensured that Romania became the first country under the Soviet sphere of influence to establish diplomatic relations with the Federal Republic of Germany. In doing so he snubbed the leadership of the GDR around Walter Ulbricht , who had tried to dissuade him from this step. After the outbreak of the Six Day War in the Middle East, Romania remained the only country under the influence of the Soviet Union that continued to maintain diplomatic relations with Israel.

In August 1968, Ceaușescu refused to allow Romanian troops to participate in the military crackdown on the Prague Spring . In addition , on August 21, 1968, at a mass rally in Bucharest, he sharply condemned the occupation of Czechoslovakia. Ceaușescu was at the height of its popularity not only in Romania, but also in the west. In August 1969 US President Richard Nixon visited Romania, in December of the following year Ceaușescu made a state visit to the USA. This was followed by admission to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank .

In 1971 Ceaușescu received the highest distinction to be awarded by the Federal Republic of Germany for heads of state, the special level of the Grand Cross .

Personality cult

Propaganda image on the streets of Bucharest in 1986
In 1988, the Romanian Post celebrated the 70th birthday and "55 years of revolutionary activity" of Ceaușescu with a special stamp

A trip by Ceaușescu to China and North Korea in 1971 brought him into contact with the personality cult practiced there . Inspired by this, he began to consistently transfer this to Romania.

On March 28, 1974, he took over the office of Romanian President . During his tenure, Ceaușescu built a Stalinist dictatorship with a strong personality cult. He was not satisfied with his numerous official titles. So he let himself be called Conducător (German leader ). This was a title that was also used by the fascist military dictator Ion Antonescu . In addition, numerous volumes of poetry were published from the mid-1970s , which court poets , among them the ultra-nationalist politician Corneliu Vadim Tudor (1949-2015) and the later social democratic politician Adrian Păunescu (1943-2010), published regularly on his birthdays. There Ceauşescu title as were Great Commander , Titan of the Titans , glorious oak from Scorniceşti or son of the sun given. He was also called “the chosen one”, “our earthly god” or “genius of the Carpathians ”.

In order not to have any possible opponents or critics in the immediate vicinity, he had family members fill important positions. He was afraid of a similar case to Pacepa's escape in 1978. His paranoia went so far that he would never wear the same clothes again; during his working visits to factories or the countryside everything had to be sterile , so that a hundred secret service officers had to make everything sterile.

His wife Elena gained significant influence in politics. She also promoted the personality cult by being celebrated by the people as the “loving mother of the nation”, as a “daring scientist and researcher, with international recognition all over the world” in the field of chemistry and polymers ( polimeri și poliperi , a winged one Word of the People) titled. Doctorates and degrees were invented for them. She even asked the soldiers on her firing squad if they didn't know that she was also their "mother". In the last years of Ceauşescu's reign, his youngest son Nicu Ceauşescu was introduced as the "heir to the throne" and politically strongly integrated into the system.

Family policy

Ceaușescu wanted to increase the number of Romania's inhabitants from a good 19 million in 1966 to 30 million by the year 2000. The goal of the policy was a five-child family. Contraceptives and education about contraception were forbidden as a criminal offense ( Decree 770 ). Women who gave or had an abortion carried out were threatened with prison terms of up to 25 years. If they aborted, they were not allowed to receive medical treatment in the case of infections. Around 10,000 women died during Ceaușescu's tenure. The result was a high birth rate and overworked families suffering from food shortages and sometimes abandoning their unwanted children. Long after the end of the dictatorship, this policy continued to have an impact in the form of overcrowded children's homes (approx. 140,000 children around 1990) and a large number of street children (estimated> 100,000) without schooling and poor future prospects.

Decline of the Ceaușescu regime

Ceaușescu receives Hans-Dietrich Genscher (1979)
Ceaușescu in 1988 on a state visit to Erich Honecker

In 1978 Ion Mihai Pacepa , deputy head of the Department for Foreign Information - Secret Service / Espionage - ( Roman . Departamentul de Informații Externe ) left the country and applied for political asylum in the USA. The secret service was badly hit and every attempt to restructure it to remove Pacepa's supporters entirely failed. Pacepa revealed the communist regime's cooperation with Arab terrorist organizations and drug lords, intensive industrial espionage, especially in the USA, and plans to politically support the regime in western countries. This resulted in Romania losing an important trade clause with the US. After Pacepa's flight, Romania's political isolation became even more noticeable, as did the worsening economic situation.

With the Securitate secret police , which oversees everything , Ceaușescu eliminated his opponents and the political opposition such as the long-time Defense Minister Colonel General Ioan Ioniță . A system of tunnels ran under the capital Bucharest so that the Securitate could take action against opposition members at any time.

When Mikhail Gorbachev became general secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU in 1985 and initiated extensive reforms, Ceaușescu reacted with rejection.

The rigorous industrialization led to the decline of the economy and, above all, of agriculture: workers no longer received wages, electricity had to be rationed and the food supply collapsed. In order to reduce the national debt, food was ruthlessly diverted for export. Instead of addressing the problems, Ceaușescu set gigantic construction projects in motion. He finished the Danube-Black Sea Canal , begun under Gheorghiu-Dej , whose banks were decorated with a mosaic depicting his image. He had the Cernavodă nuclear power plant built on the canal, which was oversized with five nuclear reactors and ultimately only partially started operating. He pushed hard for the reconstruction of Bucharest after the devastating earthquake in Vrancea in 1977 , above all to have the parliament building built. The view of the city of Bucharest as “little Paris” of the Balkans was considerably reduced. The so-called village destruction program , in which villages were forcibly amalgamated and converted into agro-industrial complexes, was particularly ruthless . Had these plans been carried out, around 8,000 villages would have been destroyed. The official name of this action was systematisation .

In 1988, on his 70th birthday, Ceaușescu was awarded the Karl Marx Order by SED boss Erich Honecker, recognizing his negative attitude towards Soviet perestroika .

In November 1989 Ceaușescu traveled to Moscow. Here the resignation was suggested to him. He refused and consistently ignored the signs of the times. In the same year the British Knight Order ( KBE honorary), with which he was honored by Queen Elizabeth II in 1978, was withdrawn .

Collapse of the Ceaușescu regime

Main article: Romanian Revolution 1989

In 1989 many Romanian companies were economically at an end. Displeasure increased in the impoverished population. Even the state police and high members of the Communist Party increasingly criticized Ceaușescu's leadership. The above-mentioned controversial village destruction program aroused particular resentment. It was not until the spring of 1990 that it became internationally known that the communist leadership had set up children's homes for the “irretrievable”, i.e. the disabled and children of needy parents, all over the country (see under Cighid ). Because of the inhuman treatment that is common there, they were also referred to as “children's gulags” (after similar Soviet camps, Russian: Gulag ).

On December 16, 1989, there was a major uprising in Timișoara , western Romania , after the dissident Protestant Reformed Hungarian pastor László Tőkés was supposed to be abducted. Several demonstrators were killed in the process. The Securitate secret police used helicopters in the crackdown. She responded to the rampant uprisings with downright terror against the rebels and those members of the army who had changed sides. The army and secret service units shot at their own people for days, corpses lay in the streets. Ceaușescu underestimated the extent of the uprising: he made a state visit to Tehran and left his wife Elena to run the government for two days.

Fall and execution

The original grave of Nicolae Ceaușescu in the Ghencea Cemetery in Bucharest, 2008

After the two-day trip to Iran , Nicolae Ceaușescu spoke to a crowd of 100,000 people in the center of Bucharest on December 21, 1989 . After the population had cheered him at the beginning, the mood changed during the speech and Ceaușescu had to accept in disbelief that he was booed and the crowd began to turn against him. The live broadcast on television was canceled. The Securitate then opened fire against the insurgents, but the military under Defense Minister Vasile Milea refused to follow suit .

A day later, on December 22, 1989, Ceaușescu tried a second time from the balcony of the communist party headquarters to calm the masses. But they were so upset that they began to storm the party building. The dictator couple escaped with bodyguards in a helicopter, the pilot of which dropped them in a field next to National Road 7 leading to Piteşti . They drove on to Tîrgovişte with hijacked vehicles , where they were arrested by soldiers of the Romanian army. Since the Securitate refused to lay down their arms, Ceaușescu and his wife were charged on December 25 by a military court hastily put together by General Victor Stănculescu , the acting defense minister, on charges of genocide and damage to the national economy, among other things, and sentenced to death in an express trial . Ceaușescu had made it possible to carry out this procedure immediately before his arrest by establishing a state of emergency.

Shortly before 15:00 local time Nicolae Ceausescu was together with his wife Elena Ceausescu by the officers Ionel Boeru, Octavian Gheorghiu and Dorin Cârlan shot . Shortly before Nicolae and Elena Ceauşescu were executed with dozens of shots, Ceauşescu shouted: “Death to the traitors, history will avenge us” and sang the Internationale .

The trial was filmed and, together with part of the execution and the recordings of the dead, quickly disseminated nationwide and internationally on the grounds that it would influence the position of the Romanian army units and thus avert an impending civil war. In fact, in the days that followed, the regular troops joined the people.

Abroad, the fall of Ceauşescu was generally welcomed. The two bodies were flown by helicopter from Tîrgovişte to Bucharest and buried on December 30, 1989 under great secrecy and initially under a false name in the Bucharest Ghencea cemetery . The funeral was also documented on film. The two graves were not together.

The bodies of the Ceaușescus were exhumed in July 2010 at the instigation of their son-in-law Mircea Opran in order to finally clarify their identity by means of DNA analysis . Ceaușescu's body could be identified through the DNA analysis. On December 8, 2010, the Ceaușescus were buried again in the Ghencea cemetery, now in a shared grave and no longer in the original location.

After the fall of Ceaușescu, the National Rescue Front (FSN), chaired by Ion Iliescu , a political foster son of the Conducător , took over the lead in Romania.

The execution was the last on Romanian territory to date.


Nicolae Ceauşescu was married to Elena Ceauşescu . With her, Ceaușescu had the sons Valentin (* 1948) and Nicu (1951-1996) and the daughter Zoia (1949-2006). Valentin is often referred to as an adoptive son, but is his birth child, as a DNA analysis has shown.

Later personality cult

In today's Romania there are people who practice a nostalgic or ironic personality cult around Ceaușescu. In addition, the topic is also marketed for tourism. Nostalgics celebrate the dictator's birthday, or the Romanian national holiday on August 23, at the grave of Ceaușescus or at the foot of the former statue of Lenin in Bucharest. They are drawn to places of remembrance such as the so-called “Palace of the Socialist Republic of Romania”, a private theme park of the entrepreneur and temporary politician Dinel Staicu in Craiova , or the Ceaușescu birthplace in Scornicești , which is owned by Ceaușescu's nephew Emil Bãrbulescu. There is a tendency among younger Romanians to ironically evaluate historical memories they did not experience themselves. For example, there is a rock band called The Dead Ceauşescus , which hosts a so-called "Ceauşescu Party in Underworld" and several clubs , bars and restaurants in Bucharest and other cities with names that are obviously occupied by communists, such as Scânteia - that was the name of the band communist party newspaper - to appeal to a younger audience.

See also

Writings of Ceaușescu

  • Nicolae Ceaușescu: Selected Writings . Dietz-Verlag, Berlin 1977.
  • Nicolae Ceaușescu: Selected Works. (4 volumes) Politischer Verlag, Bucharest 1983/1984/1986
  • Nicolae Ceaușescu: Romania on the road to socialism. Speeches, essays, interviews . Rombach, Freiburg im Breisgau 1971.


  • Heinz Werner: Draculescu's death and inheritance. Where were the vampires . Dietz-Verlag, Berlin 1990, ISBN 3-320-01684-9 .
  • Wolf Oschlies: Ceausescu's shadow disappears. Political history of Romania 1988–1998 . Böhlau, Cologne 1998, ISBN 3-412-06698-2 .
  • Vasile Crisan: Hunter? Butcher Ceausescu . Hoffmann, Mainz 1998, ISBN 3-87341-080-X .
  • Heinz Siegert: Ceausescu. Management for a modern Romania . Bertelsmann, Munich, Gütersloh, Vienna 1973, ISBN 3-570-06088-8 .
  • Thomas Kunze : Nicolae Ceaușescu - A biography ; Berlin: Ch. Links, 2009; ISBN 3-86153-562-9 .
  • Pacepa, Ion Mihai : Red Horizons: Chronicles of a Communist Spy Chief ; 1986; ISBN 0-89526-570-2 ;
    Reprint: Red Horizons: The True Story of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescus' Crimes, Lifestyle, and Corruption ; Regnery Publishing, 1990; ISBN 0-89526-746-2 .
  • Milo Rau (ed.): The last days of the Ceausescus. Documents, materials, theory ; Verbrecher-Verlag, Berlin 2010; ISBN 978-3-940426-45-1 .
  • Origin, Daniel: Legitimation of power in Romanian history. Representation and staging of rule in Romanian history in the pre-modern era and at Ceaușescu ; Heidelberg, Kronstadt 2007; ISBN 978-3-929848-49-6 .
  • Cioroianu, Adrian: Ce Ceaușescu qui hante les Roumains. Le myth, les representations et le culte du dirigeant dans la Roumanie communiste ; Bucarest 2004, 2nd edition 2005; ISBN 973-669-099-7 .
  • Gabanyi, Anneli Ute : The Ceaușescu cult. Propaganda and power policy in communist Romania ; Bucharest 2000; ISBN 973-577-280-9 .
  • Olschewski, Malte: The Conducator Nicolae Ceaușescu: Phenomenon of Power ; Vienna 1990; ISBN 3-8000-3370-4 .
  • Câmpeanu, Pavel: Ceaușescu: the countdown ; Boulder, New York 2003 (= East European monographs, 626) ISBN 0-88033-524-6 .
  • Bois, Pierre du: Ceaușescu au pouvoir. Inquiry sur une ascension ; Geneva 2004; ISBN 2-8257-0878-X .
  • Deletant, Dennis: Ceaușescu and the securitate. Coercion and dissent in Romania, 1965–1989 London 1995; ISBN 1-85065-267-8 .
  • Fischer, Mary Ellen: Nicolae Ceaușescu. A study in political leadership Boulder, London 1989; ISBN 0-931477-83-2 .
  • Gilberg, Trond: Nationalism and Communism in Romania. The rise and fall of Ceaușescu's personal dictatorship Boulder, San Francisco, Oxford 1990; ISBN 0-8133-7497-9 .

Web links

Commons : Nicolae Ceaușescu  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Thomas Kunze: Nicolae Ceaușescu. Ch. Links Verlag, 2000, p. 356 ( limited preview in Google book search)
  2. Kunze, p. 155.
  3. Kunze, p. 161.
  4. ^ Nicolae Ceaușescu: Romania on the way to the completion of socialist construction , Volume 3, Politischer Verlag Bucharest, 1969, p. 103
  5. Kunze, p. 171.
  6. see e.g. E.g .: Ceaușescu, Party and Fatherland , Bucharest: Ion Creangă Verlag, 1982 (German); Honor of the President CEAUȘESCU , Bucharest: Kriterion Verlag, 1984 (German)
  7. Walter Mayr: The genius of the Carpathians . In: Der Spiegel from November 6, 2006
  8. Romanian population figures . Google Public Data. Retrieved December 25, 2019.
  9. ^ Ilarion Tiu: Ceauşescu, "naşul" centralei nucleare de la Cernavodă . In: Adevărul of February 7, 2013.
  10. Kunze, p. 352: Thomas Kunze: Nicolae Ceauşescu. Ch. Links Verlag, 2009, ISBN 978-3-861-53562-1 , p. 352 ( limited preview in Google book search).
  11. a b c Walter Mayr: "A mission of honor" . In: Der Spiegel . No. 42 , 2009 ( online ).
  12. Wolf Oschlies: Ceaușescu's shadow is disappearing . Cologne, Weimar, Vienna 1998, ISBN 3-412-06698-2 , p. 78.
  13. ^ Wolfgang Scheida: Prosecutor Dan Voinea. "Ceaușescu's death was certain before the trial" . In: Die Welt from December 22, 2009.
  14. a b William Totok: "I would do it again". In: . December 22, 2004, accessed January 7, 2017 .
  15. Fritz Pesata: Evening Journal from December 27, 1989. Panorama: Summary TV broadcast about the Ceausescu trial. In: Austrian Media Library , December 27, 1989, accessed December 25, 2019 (audio; from 7:52 p.m.).
  16. Identified Ceausescu's body . November 3, 2010. Accessed December 23, 2019.
  17. Ceausescus buried again . December 9, 2010. Retrieved January 1, 2011.
  18. ^ The abolition of capital punishment in Europe. In: Retrieved January 7, 2017 .
  19. DNA analysis: body of ex-dictator Ceausescu identified. In: Spiegel Online . November 3, 2010, accessed January 7, 2017 .
  20. Caterina Preda: Le rôle de la nostalgie dans la mémoire artistique du passé communiste dans la Roumanie contemporaine . In: Heather J. Coleman (Ed.): Canadian Slavonic Papers . tape 57 , no. 3-4 . Routledge (Taylor and Francis Group), September 2015, ISSN  0008-5006 , pp. 268-283 .