In Iași, the central, historic and bohemian area was largely demolished to make way for massive blocks of flats and buildings. The concrete dictatorship was stylized by some architects, who included traditional elements in modern buildings. The Union Square is an example of socialist arrangement, with mosaics featuring favorite propaganda themes: agriculture, industry, arts, peace and history, the piece of resistance being the legendary scene of the founding of Moldova, with Dragoș Vodă defeating the bull. On December 14, 1989, a group of people from Iași organized a riot, which was suppressed outright, but after only a few days, the dictatorial regime collapsed violently. The path of communism is a foray into the dark past of the age of the Securitate and the lack of freedom of expression, but also in the places of glory of the so-called “Golden Age”.
Many places keep a visual memory of the oppressive regime. This guide presents some of the main attractions that make Iași an eclectic city, but the list below is more exhaustive, so take a look and discover the stories that contributed to Iași’s tumultuous past.
You can start your journey in Copou and make your way downhill past the city center and towards the Civic Center. Everything is more or less in a row. The Building B of the Alexandru Ioan Cuza University in Copou was built in two stages after 1955 in a socialist-realist architectural style. Here, in 1987, a group of female students started a subversive protest against the regime.
A bit down the road you’ll find the Romanian Academy, built by the founder of the “School of Architecture in Iași”, Nicolae Porumbescu, a true theoretician of architectural nationalism, as seen in the sacred geometry style combining Romanian motifs.
Passing by the Ghika House (the former headquarters of the secret police where, in the first years of communism, the first regime opponents were tortured), you’ll reach the Students’ Culture House, a true socialist design with impressive size and bas-reliefs.
On your way to the Union Square, you’ll get to see two monuments: The Independence Statue and the Monument to The Victims of Communism. On the 100th anniversary of the Union of Romanian Principalities, the Communist Party decided to reshape the square and eliminate the “bourgeois character” by placing a set of collective housing in a French-inspired socialist architectural style.
Heading south form the Union Square, you’ll reach the Cube Square, a place that marks the systematic communist urbanization in the 1980s. Near the square, beneath the building ensemble, lies the most lively underground areas in Iași, with clubs and bars offering a raw experience.
Moving onward to the Civic Center, you’ll see the Square House, which now hosts the City Council, and the Memorial of the 1989 Revolution in the Palace of Culture Square. The Civic Center area was fundamentally reconfigured during the communist regime. The old merchants’ street has been transformed into a wide boulevard, flanked by tall buildings with contrasting functions, unnaturally linked to blocks of flats. Universal Store Moldova (1971) was the equivalent of a capitalist Shopping Mall. Hotel Moldova (1982) was meant to overshadow the Church of St. Nicholas the Prince, by mass.
The communist regime left a huge imprint on the architecture of the city and most of it can be seen in the non-central neighborhoods. So take random walks farther away from the places mentioned in this guide to get a real sense of the local life. Tătărași and Alexandru cel Bun neighborhoods are ideal places for this.