In the 1930's Billboards in Romania were ornate and handsome, like everwhere else. They were made with love, and written by hand. The latest movies from Hollywood all made handmade posters, and many of the billoboards had Burma Shave style rhymes: run if you have to, walk if you can, but come quick to buy bread from Marghiloman! Almost all of them were written by hand, since there were no mass billboard producers, and most of them advertised small stores where craftsmen sold well made goods.

In the Communist era, most of these were pulled down. Actually, the systematic destruction of billboards in Bucharest started years before during the fascist regime: many of these small craftsmen were Jews and mobs of young men connected to the legionnare movement would gather in the streets and pull down the billboards with their exotic Jewish names.

The Legionnaires wore green. They carried bags of soil around their necks, mixed with a drop of their own pure blood. They came into town riding white horses. It was almost a beautiful sigh to see them singing their carols about purity and love as they terrorized the shopkeepers, (ugly old jews as they were) and pulled their billboards down. When the communists came to power, the city's billboards were already clean.

Which didn't stay the case for very long. The Communists put up tons of propaganda on cheap wooden billboards that were mass produced by rows of workers with stencils to paint in. In the 50's these mainly read 'LONG LIVE SOVIET ROMANIAN FRIENDSHIP'. In the 60's the nationalist era began and the wooden billboards became cheap metal and plastic. These were easier to make, and were therefore put up everywhere. They mainly said "ROMANIA: COMMUNISM! CEAUCESCU: HEROISM!" and "LONG LIVE PEACE AND FRIENDSHIP AMONG THE NATIONS" And "LETS BUILD MULTILATERAL DEVELOPED AUTARCHIC SOCIALISM!"

1989 got rid of that. By 1991, there were no billboards in Romania.

In 1992, Romania witnessed the return of the minor billboard, but totally without it's charm. These were made of cheap aluminum in roadside ateliers. They advertised Turkish snacks, cheap hotels, state factories where the manager thought it would be cool to build a billboard.

An American entrepreneur appears to have initiated the modern period of Romanian billboard development. It took him 6 years but he convinced the city bus company to let him put up billboards on the side of the buses. All the multinationals, desperate to find a way to sell their products, which were beginning to compete on the market, bought up all hs advertising spaces and made him a very wealthy man. Soon there were three big billboard development companies, all with foreign capital. They put billboards up everwhere. Serious looking engineers, armed with special cameras roamed up and down every road, looking for a spot where a billboard would have a good perspective. Soon there were hundreds - thousands - of billboards on every spot of green in the country. They advertised, soap, tobacco, beer, washing powder. There were paroxysms of bad taste. A tobacco company used a picture of the Statute of Libery holding aloft a packet of cigarettes saying "Taste the Taste of Freedom!" There were ads for cheap vodka and beer. A constant pressure from every corner to spend your money on all the vices.

We are now thankfully in the post modern stage of billboard development. A special billboard tax put up by the government drove two of three major companies out of business. The number of billboards left was substantially pared down. European Union legislation has limited the number of ads since there are no more promotions of tobacco and alcohol on billboards allowed. Now there are simply ads for banks and morgatge companies except around election time when thousands of placards on every street show all of us the faces of ugly politicians.

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