The Archive of the Romanian Revolution of December 1989

A Catch-22 December 1989, Groundhog-Day Production. Presenting the Personal Research & Scholarship of Richard Andrew Hall, Ph.D.

Archive for December 16th, 2009

A Possibly Significant New Revelation: Timisoara, December 1989

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on December 16, 2009

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‘Troops to disembark’

There is another intriguing entry, from 0755 on the morning of 21 December. The protests had spread to other cities by then, but Ceausescu was still in power in the capital.

Supplementary train 1006/A, with two brand new carriages, their windows blacked out, loaded with USLA – anti-terrorist troops – arrived in the outskirts of Timisoara.

“Comrade Captain Brustureanu will indicate where to stop, at the Aradului Boulevard bridge, where the troops will disembark,” reads the entry.

From there, they set out across the botanical gardens towards the city centre. Were they sent to fight the army, and seize back control?

One of the tragedies of the Romanian revolution was that so many people died actually after the dictatorship fell, in battles between the army and unidentified “terrorists.”

Nick Thorpe BBC News 16 December 2009 Romania\’s Bloody Revolution Remembered

Romania’s bloody revolution remembered

Romanians waving revolution flag  in December 2009

The 1989 Revolution flag without the communist emblem is still a powerful symbol in Romania

By Nick Thorpe
BBC News, Timisoara

As the white paper was torn away from the yellow wall, a wave of applause passed through the crowd.

Beneath it, four words were sprayed in Hungarian in red paint: “Eljen Laszlo Tokes – Szabadsag” (“Long Live Laszlo Tokes – Freedom!”).

For this 20th anniversary of the start of the revolution in the western Romanian city of Timisoara, the Reformed Church chose to restore the original graffiti to its place under the window.

This was the window from which Pastor Laszlo Tokes, an ethnic Hungarian vicar, spoke to the crowds who came to try to prevent his arrest by the Securitate – the secret police – on 16 December 1989.

The crowd swelled, and marched on Communist Party headquarters. It then returned to the streets the next day, and the security forces opened fire.

Timisoara stationmaster's log details details of trains arriving in city during revolution

The railway log details how special trains were used to ferry troops

As news of the massacre spread, people took to the streets in other cities, in solidarity with Timisoara. By 21 December, the waves which began in this city had built up into the tidal wave of Bucharest.

And on 22 December the dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, fled. He was caught, tried, and executed by a firing squad on 25 December.

Secret archives

20 years on, the BBC has gained access to a remarkable document, the Timisoara station-master’s log from November and December 1989. Hand-written, it meticulously records the details of each train which arrived in Timisoara North railway station during the revolution.

Placed alongside the military log-books of the army, the testimony of eye-witness, and those pages of the secret police archives which were not destroyed, the railway notes will help historians get closer to the truth about the revolution.

They may also help prosecutors – if any of the 440 people identified so far by investigators as participants in efforts to suppress the revolution are ever brought to trial.

The log-book was hidden until this year, and was provided by an anonymous person.

“You never met me,” he told my colleague, as he handed it over at a late-night meeting. “We never had this conversation.”

Radu Tinu, ex deputy chief, Timisoara Securitate
Whatever happened down in the street was the problem of the police and the gendarmerie
Radu Tinu

On 16 December 1989, between 2040 and 2240 in the evening, single wagon train 15/II arrived in Timisoara from Bucharest. It was met by the station chief.

All other trains had to make way for it.

The timing is significant.

The protest gathering was still outside Pastor Tokes’s house – the marchers had not yet moved off into the city. According to Radu Tinu – at that time the number two in the Timis county Securitate – the deputy police chief of Romania, the deputy chief prosecutor, and a Securitate general were on that train.

“I had a horrible week, with hardly any sleep,” he told me. He watched the revolution unfold before his eyes, collecting information based on phone taps, bugged buildings and a wide network of informers; and then details of the casualties. He made daily reports to his superiors in Bucharest.

Uniformed security forces first opened fire on the crowd on the afternoon of 17 December.

To this day, former Securitate officers like Mr Tinu blame the army, and the army blames the secret police for the killings.

“We were just an intelligence service. So what we had to do was to get our information and to analyse it.

“Whatever happened down in the street was the problem of the police and the gendarmerie.”

More than 1,000 people died during the revolution, including 72 in Timisoara. In one of the most gruesome episodes, 48 bodies were taken from Timisoara hospital and driven to Bucharest.

There, their bodies were incinerated, and their ashes scattered in the snow.

The station master’s log book provides evidence of other efforts by the authorities to crush the revolt.

It tells how the electric power supply was cut “accidentally” between Timisoara North and Timisoara East stations.

It shows details of unscheduled trains arriving in the city from other parts of Romania, loaded with workers’ militia, armed with wooden bats distributed at army barracks, to punish the people for their disloyalty.

One of the first successes of the crowds was to persuade those workers to join the revolt. After that, the army in Timisoara came over to the side of people too.

‘Troops to disembark’

There is another intriguing entry, from 0755 on the morning of 21 December. The protests had spread to other cities by then, but Ceausescu was still in power in the capital.

Supplementary train 1006/A, with two brand new carriages, their windows blacked out, loaded with USLA – anti-terrorist troops – arrived in the outskirts of Timisoara.

“Comrade Captain Brustureanu will indicate where to stop, at the Aradului Boulevard bridge, where the troops will disembark,” reads the entry.

From there, they set out across the botanical gardens towards the city centre. Were they sent to fight the army, and seize back control?

Soldiers of Romanian army, Arad, western Romania

The army and the secret police still blame each other for the killings

One of the tragedies of the Romanian revolution was that so many people died actually after the dictatorship fell, in battles between the army and unidentified “terrorists.”

Many were civilians, hit by stray bullets. The youngest victim in Timisoara was just two years old. Few people have ever been put on trial, and fewer still convicted.

Walking down the street, late in the evening, past the ground-floor flat where Laszlo Tokes used to live, we see two small children standing at the window from where he once addressed the crowds, gazing in wonder at the falling snow.

Instinctively, I raise a hand, in greeting.

They hesitate, then wave back.

Reported in Romania at http://www.jurnalul.ro/stire-decembrie-89/batausi-in-civil-si-trupe-de-represiune-adusi-cu-trenul-530763.html

Log showing train with USLA anti-terrorist troops 21 December 1989

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Dezvaluiri despre implicarea USLA in evenimentele din Decembrie ’89 (la Timisoara si la Bucuresti)

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on December 16, 2009

Admission 3 from Orwellian Positively Orwellian Part Five Former Securitate Confess

Admission III:

The comments of an anonymous former USLA recruit

As in the case of the “Puspoki” series, so it was in the case of the comments of a former USLA recruit.  Asked about the significance of this short A.M. Press news agency dispatch on page 3 of the daily Romania Libera on 28 December 1994 (“Dezvaluiri despre implicarea USLA in evenimentele din decembrie ’89 [Revelations on USLA involvement in the events of December ‘89]”), Romanian journalists and intellectuals have no knowledge of it—not surprising—and dismiss it as unimportant.  Strangely, a former USLA officer read it and was so incensed he immediately published responses condemning it and identifying and denigrating the similarly anonymous correspondent of the dispatch (see footnote #76).  Why such a zealous reaction?

Here are the comments of the recruit that precipitated the reaction:

“A youth who did his military service with the USLA troops declared to A.M. Press’ Dolj correspondent:  ‘I was in Timisoara and Bucharest in December ’89.  In addition to us [USLA] draftees, recalled professionals, who wore black camouflage outfits, were dispatched.  Antiterrorist troop units and these professionals received live ammunition.  In Timisoara demonstrators were shot at short distances.  I saw how the skulls of those who were shot would explode.  I believe the masked ones, using their own special weapons, shot with exploding bullets. In January 1990, all the draftees from the USLA troops were put in detox.  We had been drugged. We were discharged five months before our service was due to expire in order to lose any trace of us.  Don’t publish my name.  I fear for me and my parents.  When we trained and practiced we were separated into ‘friends’ and ‘enemies.’  The masked ones were the ‘enemies’ who we had to find and neutralize.  I believe the masked ones were the terrorists’. [emphases added]”[75]

Note the references to black jumpsuits, special weapons, exploding bullets, and drugs.[76]

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decembrie ’89: Piramida Umbrelor (fost securist Dir I., Roland Vasilevici, “Puspoki F.”)

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on December 16, 2009

Admission 2 from Orwellian Positively Orwellian Part Five Former Securitate Confess

Admission II:

The Revelations of former Timisoara Securitate officer Roland Vasilevici

Two months after the violence that marked Ceausescu’s overthrow—when in Bucharest the official and media rehabilitation of the USLA was already underway (discussed farther down)—a three-part series entitled “Piramida Umbrelor [Pyramid of Shadows]” appeared in the cultural/political Timisoara weekly, Orizont on 2, 9, and 16 March 1990.  The articles appeared under the name “Puspoki F.,” but it was clear from the text of the articles that the author must have some connection to the former Securitate or Militia, because he described the inner workings of these organs in their dealings with Pastor Laszlo Tokes, a focal point of the uprising against the Ceausescu regime, and their actions once protests began outside his residence on 15-16 December 1989.  Significantly, the author related the responsibilities and actions of the USLA, including their weaponry, munitions (including “special cartridges”), clothing, and physical disposition—details which were later to be substantiated elsewhere.  It was pretty clear in his discussion of the USLA and the “Comando” unit (a likely reference to the USLAC) that he believed them to have been the “terrorists” who had claimed so many lives.

In 1991, a 140 plus page book published in Timisoara, also entitled Piramida Umbrelor,

appeared.  Its author was Roland Vasilevici.  William Totok later interviewed Vasilevici in 1995, and it turned out that Vasilevici had worked for the Securitate unit that surveilled “culte [churches]” (he was specifically responsible for Roman Catholic churches) in Timisoara under the command of Radu Tinu.[69] The book included (lightly-edited) the passages that had originally appeared under the name “Puspoki F.” in Orizont and further elaborated on them.  It is pretty clear that Vasilevici was the original source of those articles.

The March 1990 Orizont series was and has been pretty much ignored in Romania—except among the former Securitate.  From jail, Radu Tinu, the Timis County Deputy Securitate chief, sought to counter the accusations “during March 1990, in the weekly “Orizont” in which a certain Puspok accused me of nationalism.”[70] In March 1992, retired Securitate Colonel Ion Lemnaru wrote in Spionaj-Contraspionaj about the 1990 pamphlet of Romeo Vasiliu, “Piramida Umbrelor,” identifying the author as Roland Vasilevici, publishing Vasilevici’s address, and then citing an extended section of the text of the pamphlet (identical to what is in the March 1990 Orizont article).  The section that is cited precisely concerns allegations about the USLA’s role in the Timisoara repression and terrorism—it is this that is clearly the focus of Colonel Lemnaru’s ire.[71]

When Vasilevici was preparing to release his book, he maintained that he was “receiving many threatening and ‘dead line’ phone calls in the middle of the night.”[72] He said two to three cars were posted outside his residence, and that he was accosted by six individuals when was on his way to the police station to file a complaint.  A former colleague informed him that he “had been contacted by the same Radu Tinu [by now out of jail] and was instructed to alert the network with the goal of by all means impeding the publication of the book.”  According to the Cuvintul interviewer, when he spoke to Vasilevici by phone, Vasilevici was “very scared…such a man generally does not panic so easily.”  When in December 1994, Vasilevici went on a local Timisoara television channel, Radu Tinu showed up at the station attempting to interrupt the transmission of the broadcast![73]

On the question of the existence of the “terrorists,” Radu Tinu would agree with Prosecutor Dan Voinea:  “There were no terrorists!  They [those who seized power and were on TV] invented them…”[74]

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16 decembrie 1989, Timisoara

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on December 16, 2009

(sigur, ca in limba romana, sunt multe constatari de vazut, de exemplu operele lui Marius Mioc:

16 decembrie 1989 inceputul revolutiei la timisoara

Marius Mioc 16 decembrie 1989

Il vizitam pe Tokes aproape zilnic

Cronologia cazului Laszlo Tokes )

An excerpt from

A chapter from my Ph.D. Dissertation at Indiana University: Richard Andrew Hall, Rewriting the Revolution: Authoritarian Regime-State Relations and the Triumph of Securitate Revisionism in Post-Ceausescu Romania (defended 16 December 1996). This is the original chapter as it appeared then and thus has not been revised in any form.

Chapter Five


The Beginning of the End: Timisoara, 15-17 December 1989

On the morning of Saturday, 16 December, both the demonstrators and Mayor Mot’s delegation returned to the Tokes residence. The Securitate and Militia apparently kept their distance. Work crews set about replacing the broken glass–quite a sight apparently, since glass had been a rare commodity in Timisoara for months. The crowd demanded written confirmation from Mot that Tokes’ eviction would be canceled. Mot and his delegation left, promising to return with written confirmation in hand. Shortly after their departure, however, news began to filter back to the protesters: such a written promise was impossible, the Bucharest legal department charged with such matters was closed because it was Saturday![51] Meanwhile, the crowd was steadily growing.

Mot himself did not return. Instead, the deputy mayor came. An angry negotiating session ensued between the deputy mayor and ten representatives of the crowd (six Romanians and four Hungarians, a testament to the multi-ethnic character of the demonstration). The deputy mayor left, promising he would have Bucharest fax him the necessary documents to secure a peaceful end to the demonstration. As Tokes observes: “I did not ask why Bucharest was suddenly able to produce documents on a Saturday.”[52] Instead of the documents, however, the mayor sent back an ultimatum: if the crowd did not disperse by 5 p.m., water cannon would be used against the protesters.

Although Tokes appealed for the crowd to go home, he himself admits that by this time the protest had assumed a dynamic of its own and was not heeding his or anyone else’s pleas. According to Tokes: “though the crowd looked to me as a figurehead, in truth I was a prisoner of their anger.”[53] By the evening, the addition of high school and university students had clearly radicalized the crowd. Buoyed by their sense of growing strength–this time the absence of regime forces at the scene had backfired–protesters were now chanting “Down with Ceausescu! Down with the regime! Down with Communism!” and singing the long-outlawed anthem “Awake, Romanian!”[54] About one thousand of the protesters broke off from the rest of the group and headed for the Romanian Orthodox Cathedral in the central Opera Square. The demonstrators seemed to believe that the regime would be less likely to resort to violence in the shadow of a house of worship.

On their way, the protesters became increasingly aggressive and began ripping down the ubiquitous, rusting billboards extolling the joys of living in Ceausescu’s “Golden era.” Their ranks were strengthened by thousands of university students who had made their way down from the so-called “Student Complex” zone. Initially, these students had been prevented from leaving the “Student Complex” zone by cordons of Securitate men. But as their ranks grew and they became more angry, the Securitate suddenly found themselves vastly outnumbered and decided the better part of valor was to cut and run. This delighted and emboldened the protesters.[55]

The two groups of protesters made their way towards the county party headquarters building. They found it deserted, unlit, and unguarded–save for two fire engines with water cannon.[56] The water cannon were turned against the protesters and the crowd responded with a furious attack against the vehicles and the party building. The demonstrators broke the windows of the building and attempted to destroy any symbol of the regime they could find. Suddenly, Militia men appeared on the scene with clubs and tear gas. The protesters were savagely beaten and many were arrested. Around the same time, back at Piata Maria, two hundred Militia officers and junior officers (some in uniform, some in civilian clothes) had arrived. Violent altercations broke out: windows were smashed and several cars in the area set ablaze. The demonstrators threw pavement stones, bottles, anything they could get their hands on. Numerous arrests were made. Confrontations also occurred between demonstrators and regime forces elsewhere in the city.[57]

Lost in the revisionist coverage of the December events is the fact that the Securitate and Militia did indeed enforce Tokes’ eviction notice. Sometime after 3 a.m. on Sunday, 17 December, a large number of plainclothes and uniformed Securitate and Militia men broke into the parochial residence. The Tokes family sought refuge in the church. Laszlo Tokes was captured inside the church and beaten severely, then taken back to the apartment where Securitate and Militia officers, the local party secretary, and the Minister of Cults from Bucharest were waiting for him. Tokes was forced to sign a blank sheet of paper which was to serve as his resignation from the Timisoara congregation. As Tokes notes, in spite of the fact that he was bleeding profusely over his clerical robe, “there was a veneer of formality about the proceedings. One of the people in the office was a lawyer in charge of evictions, and a form of official procedure was being precariously observed.”[58] Tokes and his wife were taken by car out of Timisoara. Initially, they believed they would be killed.[59] But as they kept on driving, they realized they were heading north to Transylvania, to the village of Mineu, their ordained place of exile.

[51].. Ibid., 145-151.

[52].. Ibid., 153.

[53].. Ibid., 155.

[54].. Ibid., 154-157. Evidence of the rare solidarity of this moment was the fact that Hungarians were reported to have also sung this Romanian nationalist anthem.

[55].. Miodrag Milin, “Sapte zile care au zguduit Romania (II) [Seven days which shook Romania],” Orizont, (13 January 1990), 2; idem, “Sapte zile care au zguduit Romania (III),” Orizont, (19 January 1990), 2; Mircea Balan, “Au tras cu disperare ca sa inabuse revolutia [They shot out of desperation in order to crush the revolution],” Cuvintul, no. 36 (2-8 October 1990), 8.

[56].. The fire department was a component of the Interior Ministry.

[57].. Milin, “Sapte zile…(II)”; idem, “Sapte zile (III).”

[58].. Tokes, With God, for the People, 165.

[59].. Tokes and his wife firmly believed that only Western publicity about their case had prevented the Ceausescu regime from killing them at this point (Rady, Romania in Turmoil, 88).

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