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.

21 decembrie 1989: the dictatorship you are accustomed to is experiencing technical difficulties…please stand by

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on December 20, 2009

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.

Ceausescu’s Fatal Mistake: The Pro-Regime Rally of 21 December

By the morning of Thursday, 21 December 1989, the regime was no longer master of the situation in Timisoara. Moreover, it was rapidly losing control in several nearby cities: Lugoj and Cugir. Nevertheless, the regime might have withstood these challenges had it not been for Nicolae Ceausescu’s insistence on convoking a mass rally and addressing his “adoring” subjects in person. It was Nicolae Ceausescu’s delusion of his own invincibility which ensured that the regime would be unable to reestablish control. Ceausescu’s inflammatory, rambling tirade on national television on Wednesday evening had signalled panic to those who watched it. If Ceausescu was so worked up, they concluded, something serious must have occurred in Timisoara. Following his televised address, Ceausescu decided to hold an open-air, pro-regime rally the following day in the sprawling square in front of the Central Committee building in the center of Bucharest. The event was to be carried live over Romanian radio and television.

Precisely because this mass rally turned out to be the deathknell for the Ceausescu regime speculation has surrounded who “goaded” Ceausescu into making such a colossally-misguided decision. In January 1993, the opposition daily Romania Libera suggested that “the meeting was organized at the suggestion of [CPEx member] Gogu Radulescu.”[31] The same article maintained that Radulescu had been followed during these days and was “observed transmitting something abroad,” thereby once again insinuating the role of foreign powers in the Romanian events.[32]

Yet it is doubtful that Nicolae Ceausescu required Radulescu’s encouragement to convoke such a rally. It seems highly likely that the idea was Ceausescu’s own brainchild and that as usual the docile members of the CPEx did not dare contradict him. It was a typically instinctive, rash, and overconfident reaction to crisis on Ceausescu’s part. Moreover, as we have seen, for Nicolae Ceausescu the events confronting him in December 1989 were a replay of August 1968: not only was socialism at stake, but Romania’s national sovereignty and independence. Thus, in this crucial moment, he would appeal not primarily to the party’s political interests, but to what were the core institutional interests of the Securitate. And he would rely on a trusted totalitarian, mobilizational technique: the “spontaneous” mass rally of support for the regime.

The pro-regime rally began at midday on Thursday, 21 December 1989 as such events always had. Almost 100,000 workers, hand-picked from Bucharest’s major factories, had been herded into the center of Bucharest to await Ceausescu’s address from the balcony of the Central Committee building. There were the customary “spontaneous” chants in support of the dictator and his policies, and obsequious introductions by party underlings. Ceausescu had been speaking for only a few minutes when an unidentifiable disruption in the crowd forced him to pause in mid-sentence. It was now that the folly of his insistence that his address be broadcast live by television and radio was realized. Before the television and radio relays could be interrupted, a national audience was able to hear high-pitched screams and shouts of “Down with Ceausescu!” “Murderer!” and “Timisoara, Timisoara!” Even worse, television cameras had captured Ceausescu’s stunned and confused facial expression. About three minutes later, after some semblance of order had been restored in the square, the live broadcast resumed. Ceausescu announced that just that morning the CPEx had approved an increase in the minimum salary and pensions![33] Ceausescu was able to finish his speech, although shouting and commotion could still be heard sporadically in the background.

It is impossible to know how much the image of a frightened Ceausescu, futilely motioning to the crowd to quiet down, influenced those who saw it. However, the scope and boldness of protest against the regime clearly intensified after the broadcast of the dictator’s previously-unimaginable moment of weakness. Anti-regime demonstrations spread throughout the major cities of Transylvania–Brasov, Sibiu, Cluj, and Tirgu Mures–on the afternoon of 21 December. It did not matter that a sufficient degree of order had been reestablished such that Ceausescu was indeed able to finish his speech or that Romanian television would rebroadcast the same speech later that evening with pro-Ceausescu chants dubbed-in over the commotion. Irreparable damage had been done.

Observers have argued that those brief, but seemingly interminable seconds during which the television camera broadcast Nicolae Ceausescu’s disbelief and helplessness live to an entire nation, constituted a sort of “singular psychological moment,” something akin to a rock shattering a mirror. What had prompted Ceausescu’s reaction? Initially, most accounts stressed how several people in the crowd had begun shouting anti-Ceausescu slogans.[34] Fearing they would be caught, they then rushed through the crowd. The other members of the crowd were frightened by this unexpected act of courage and themselves attempted to flee. The great commotion which viewers had heard before the transmission had been cut, was the sound of these people trying to force their way out of the square. Many later explanations have maintained, however, that these events were merely a response to the initial act of defiance: the setting-off of firecrackers (”petarde” in Romanian) by someone in the crowd. Only then did demonstrators take advantage of the confusion and anonymity of the moment to shout down Ceausescu. In both cases, the spontaneity of the catalytic event has been drawn into question.

Nica Leon: The Strange Tale of the “Hero” of the 21 December Rally

Because the interruption of Ceausescu’s speech proved such a turning point in the December events, it was natural that in early 1990 the newly-liberated media should try to find the person or persons responsible for “unleashing the Bucharest revolution.” In a series of interviews during March and April 1990, Petre Mihai Bacanu, senior editor of Romania Libera, introduced the nation to a group of factory workers whom he presented as the “heroes” of the 21 December rally.[35] Bacanu was widely-viewed both at home and abroad as the “conscience” of the journalistic profession (a journalist for Romania Libera before the events, he had been imprisoned between January and December 1989 for his involvement with two other people in an attempt to print an illegal underground newspaper) and his newspaper was the hub of the growing political and social opposition to the National Salvation Front regime.

Thanks in large part to Bacanu, one of these workers in particular, Nica Leon, was to become identified as the man who had dared to shout down Ceausescu.[36] Leon was presented as having yelled out “Long live Timisoara, down with the butcher, down with Ceausescu!” and “Timisoara, Timisoara” at the crucial moment during Ceausescu’s speech. Highly-respectable foreign sources such as Ratesh credit Leon by name with having disrupted the 21 December rally.[37]

In the months immediately following December 1989, Nica Leon certainly appeared every bit the hero. It turned out that on 20 December 1989, the day before his historic shout, the Toronto daily The Globe and Mail had printed an open letter by Nica Leon criticizing Ceausescu’s rule.[38] This fact seemed confirmation of the courage of his action on 21 December. During 1990, Leon was the president of a small political party, a founding member of the Romanian branch of Amnesty International, and a prominent critic of the Iliescu regime.[39] During the chaotic and violent events of 13-15 June 1990 which brought an end to the two-month occupation of University Square by demonstrators, he was arrested and over the following month and a half was the object of an eventually-successful campaign spearheaded by Romania Libera to gain his release. The opposition embraced him with open arms and he regularly appeared in interviews with the opposition press.

Yet in the ensuing years, the opposition clearly soured on Nica Leon and he broke with them in as definitive a manner as imaginable. By 1992, one opposition publication was describing Nica Leon as “at war with the whole world” and it was clear from the questions and comments of opposition journalists that they no longer held him in the high esteem they once had.[40] Ilie Stoian’s 1993 description of Leon’s role at the 21 December rally reflects this changed perception of Leon: “Just then Nica Leon took advantage of the protection offered by the uproar and yelled ‘Timisoara’…after which he ran away out of fear.”[41] Leon’s heroism had apparently become contingent upon his relationship with the opposition.

On the surface, Leon himself appeared to have undergone a striking metamorphosis: from being a fixture of the opposition to granting interviews to the press of the Ceausescu nostalgics. In early 1994, the very same Nica Leon could be found in the pages of Europa praising the Securitate and virtually lamenting the overthrow of Ceausescu which his actions had hastened.[42] He strenuously defended the actions of the Securitate Director, General Iulian Vlad, in December 1989 as honest and patriotic. How had a person the opposition had presented as a dissident for a decade prior to the December events, an unrelenting foe of the Securitate, and the hero of the 21 December rally come to this?

What is interesting about Leon is that his views on certain key issues about the December 1989 have remained remarkably consistent in spite of his flip-flop from one end of the political spectrum to the other. Leon’s defense of–and sympathy for–General Vlad was not something which had suddenly appeared after he crossed over to the Ceausist camp. It appears in the interviews he gave the opposition press in 1990.[43] Moreover, Leon strenuously denied the existence of any “terrorists” during the December events. In April 1990, he told Expres that “the terrorists were invented.”[44] In September 1990, Leon told Liviu Valenas and Daniela Rainov at Baricada that “Everything [in December 1989] was a grand diversion! THERE WEREN’T ANY TERRORISTS!” and that Vlad had been arrested because he possessed damaging information against the Front.[45]

In his interviews with Petre Mihai Bacanu at Romania Libera in April 1990, Nica Leon also mentioned several episodes which placed the Securitate and Militia in a surprisingly positive light. He maintained that during the showdown between protesters and regime forces in University Square on the afternoon of 21 December, he had spoken with a Militia sergeant major who had “wished us [the protesters] success.”[46] He also claimed that he had helped an injured Militia man to safety on this evening.[47] Leon chatted with the USLA troops at University Square and characterized their actions as follows:

…the USLA were blocking the street leading to the American Embassy and the Israeli airline company El Al. The USLA did not attack the crowd, but rather stood chatting with the demonstrators and explaining to them that they could not join them because they had an order to stay between the French Bank and the Intercontinental Hotel.[48]

As we shall see, other eyewitness accounts of these events challenge Leon’s portrayal of the USLA.

But clearly the most damaging fact about Nica Leon was the one Petre Mihai Bacanu neglected to inform his audience of: the hero of the Bucharest Revolution had been arrested as a “terrorist” on 24 December 1989. Leon had been discovered in the basement of the Central Committee building, attempting to transmit something through a radio-transmitting device belonging to the Securitate’s Fifth Directorate.[49] One might be inclined to believe that Leon had been the victim of a tragic misunderstanding were it not for a series of articles written by a former officer of the Fifth Directorate in the Ceausist publication Timpul during early 1991.[50] The former Securitate officer presented the saga of a group of those arrested as “terrorists” during the December events: among them, other officers of the Fifth Directorate, USLA members, a Jordanian student, and Nica Leon. Leon is credited with having sustained the morale of the other prisoners. According to the Fifth Directorate officer: “Nica Leon encouraged us and frequently repeated that if he escaped, he would testify for us all the way to the UN.”[51] Moreover, Leon is praised for having contacted the wives of the Fifth Directorate officers–to tell them that their husbands were still alive–after he was released on 30 December 1989. Other Securitate officers confirm Nica Leon’s presence among the arrestees.[52]

Even prior to Bacanu’s interview with Leon, there were indications that Leon was a less than completely credible source. In February 1990, Leon had given an interview to Democratia, the publication of one of Ceausescu’s most notorious former speechwriters, Eugen Florescu.[53] Surprisingly, since this was one of Leon’s first interviews since the events, there was no mention of his famous shout at the 21 December rally. In its issue of 9 March 1990, the popular Expres had made a coy reference to Leon’s arrest (while using a radio-transmitting device) in the CC building.[54] Moreover, at a meeting of the ruling Provisional Council of National Unity in early 1990, Front official Dan Iosif is said to have referred to Leon’s arrest and called him either a “securist” or “terrorist.”[55]

Nica Leon remains an enigma. It is difficult to say exactly what he was really up to on 21 December 1989. People in the crowd did indeed shout “Timisoara, Timisoara,” for it could be heard on the television broadcast. If Leon did shout it, was he the first to do so? If not, what was his motivation for shouting it? Was his shout a genuine act of individual courage at the time? Was he perhaps acting as a Securitate provocateur–someone who wished to infiltrate the protesters’ ranks–on 21 December 1989? As with other aspects of the December events, the historiography of what happened is as important as–if not more important than–what actually happened. In the case of Nica Leon, the historiography at the very least suggests a highly-manipulative portrayal of his actions in December 1989.

Who Threw the “petarde”?

Many sources have suggested that it was the explosion of a “petarde” (or firecracker) and a simultaneous commotion in the square which startled Ceausescu and made it possible for the demonstrators to yell the anti-Ceausescu slogans. Once again the discrepancy between the reporting on this incident and the reality of what appears to have happened is informative. The report of the first Senatorial commission investigating the December events (published in 1992) maintains that “while [Ceausescu] was speaking, an explosion was heard and caused substantial commotion. Shortly after this, the meeting disbanded in disorder.”[56] Stoian describes the “petarde” incident as follows:

…[then] Ceausescu took the floor. At that moment the thing which appears to us the most important event of this period occurred. It is not true that the crowd began to boo spontaneously. While Ceausescu was stumbling through a phrase up on the balcony, somewhere in the center of the Square, where there were mostly women, someone exploded a Christmas ‘petarde’ [o petarda de genul celor de Craciun]. The first reaction of these frightened women was to begin to scream. Then, all those around them began to boo.[57]

Romanians have occasionally referred to this as “the petarde of our happiness.”[58]

Part of the problem with the “petarde” scenario stems from the fact that there is no agreement upon who exploded it and no one has come forward to claim responsibility for this historic action. Nevertheless, many names have been put forward in connection with it.[59] Securitate sources clearly wish to suggest that the setting-off of this “petarde” and the causes of the commotion which ensued were part of a premeditated plan to disrupt the rally. Once again, they attempt to negate the spontaneity of the anti-Ceausescu uprising. A journalist for the Ceausist journal Democratia wrote in December 1990:

…It must be stressed that during this rally long-studied methods for the psychological manipulation of compact crowds–acoustic sounds with subliminal messages transmitted through the loudspeaker system (imitating the rumble of an earthquake, the noise of troops and tanks and gunfire); the movement of some groups through the square with the intention of dislocating the crowd; petardes–were applied.[60]

According to “a group of former Securitate officers,” the “tourists” and their domestic collaborators made their way from Timisoara to Bucharest and infiltrated the meeting. The “tourists” attempted to scare those in the crowd into believing that “they were under fire” by jabbing them in the back with “reinforced steel prongs…against the background of the noise of fire-crackers and the short-circuiting of the public address loudspeakers.”[61] Interestingly, this is how a former USLA officer has portrayed the event:

On 21 December 1989 I was taking part in the antiterrorist measures for the “goodbye” meeting. In the crowd, I identified and observed eight strange men: all were dressed approximately the same (knee-length woolen coats, hats), all were smoking at the same time, standing in a group. Some looked slavic, others asiatic. At a given moment, they took out from their pockets globe-shaped objects, lit them with their cigarettes, and threw them into the crowd; in the globes there were firecrackers which put the crowd to flight.[62]

The SRI’s 1994 report on the events suggests that the “powerful thunder claps” which were heard could have come from the detonation of a “petarde” and that the “sonic boom”-like sound which occurred came not from the crowd, but from the loudspeakers.[63] The panic among the crowd was caused by the transmission of high-pitched soundwaves (outside the range of human hearing) and by the fact that unidentified demonstrators were prodding the others with steel poles while shouting “Run away, they will kill us!” and “The tanks are coming!”[64]

Opposition accounts incorporate familiar elements. The influential journalist Cornel Nistorescu places the “petarde” incident in the context of a coup d’etat supported by a faction within the Securitate:

Simultaneously, at the meeting of 21 December, according to incontrovertible information, a Securitate officer launched the two petardes which provoked panic and unleashed the redemption of Bucharest’s citizens. Meanwhile, through the loudspeaker system controlled by the Securitate, boos and whistles were disseminated.[65]

Ecaterina Radoi of Zig-Zag suggests that the unbelievable panic which ensued was the result of the emission of sounds resembling the rumble of tanks and machine gun fire.[66]

But the “petarde” incident and the simultaneous commotion may have a simpler explanation. It is informative to look back upon how the disruption of the rally was reported by foreign correspondents in Bucharest just after it had taken place. Shortly after the rally disbanded, a Bulgarian correspondent related that the cause of the commotion had been the use of “tear gas grenades” by regime forces attempting to prevent demonstrators from entering the square and the ensuing panic this had unleashed among those who were already in the square.[67] The correspondent suggested that the demonstrators had originally gathered near the Roman Square on Magheru boulevard and numbered in the thousands by the time they reached Palace Square where the speech was taking place.

Similar reports come from the Yugoslav TANJUG correspondent who transmitted that demonstrators had gathered in the northwest corner of Palace Square near the Athenee Palace Hotel and that when they “tried to approach the official meeting, tear gas was thrown at them.”[68] According to the same correspondent, young men had begun to shout anti-Ceausescu slogans, were chased away by the Militia, and then proceeded through the side streets in order to get around to the other side of the meeting.[69] The Militia then used tear gas to prevent these demonstrators from joining the official meeting and it was after the “tear-gas bombs exploded that the live relay of radio and television was disrupted for several minutes.”[70]

Significantly, eyewitness accounts of the confrontations between regime forces and demonstrators on the afternoon and evening of 21 December refer to regime forces firing “petardes” at the demonstrators.[71] One eyewitness to the events in University Square on the afternoon of 21 December recounts that “the Securitate ran after them [the demonstrators] in groups and used ‘petardes’ and clubs against them.”[72] Moreover, Rady has observed that on the night of 21/22 December, the Securitate “[i]n a few places…detonated bombs in the hope of spreading panic.”[73]

Which forces would have used the “petardes” and tear-gas against the demonstrators? During his trial in early 1990, the Interior Minister at the time of the events, Tudor Postelnicu, stated that “the USLA were in charge of tear-gas” at the rally.[74] Stoian has noted the difference between the 21 December rally and past rallies in his typically colorful tone:

In the first place, how striking it was that if in the past at the meetings to which Bucharest’s citizens were all too well-accustomed, people were indifferent–indeed, some were even happy since they would get three or four hours of work off–now nobody was smiling. Almost everybody entered [the square] in an ill-omened silence. A completely new element was the verification of identity papers of most people on the streets on this occasion; those who did not belong to the groups of workers [chosen to participate] were politely made to exit the columns…After the Palace Square was full, something unexpected happened. If in the past, the ring of civilians (Securitate men, party activists) and Militia men [around the crowd at such an event] would not permit those bored of listening to Ceausescu’s idiocies to leave, this time things were completely the other way around….Anyone who wanted to leave could, but no one from outside the ring could enter the protected zone.[75]

Eyewitnesses have specifically identified the forces preventing their entrance into the square as “USLA troops.”[76]

The partial transcripts of communications among USLA and Militia units on 21 and 22 December in Bucharest were published in late January-early February 1990 in the daily Libertatea.[77] These transcripts suggest that even before the rally had begun, large groups of demonstrators had gathered at a number of the intersections leading onto Palace Square, were shouting anti-regime slogans, and were taxing the capacity of the regime forces to prevent them from entering the square.[78] The demonstrators apparently realized well the tremendous opportunity offered them by the live national broadcast of this rally. Thus, the impression left by most accounts–that it was a few, isolated, brave men, within a crowd of tens of thousands of automatons, who had dared to challenge Ceausescu–is simply romanticized. The actions of those prevented from entering the meeting probably emboldened those in the crowd to shout down Ceausescu.

The transcripts also show that on the order of Securitate Director General Vlad, the USLA used “gela” (the Securitate reference for “petardes”) against the demonstrators.[79] Ilie Stoian alleges that General Grigore Ghita, the commander of the Securitate’s uniformed troops, “violated his brief” when he incorporated units of the USLA, including a “geniu-chimic” unit (which would have been in charge of tear-gas), among the regime forces assigned to work the rally.[80] Yet such an action does seem in accordance with Interior Ministry Order No. 2600. Moreover, even the Senatorial commission’s report illustrates that the security for the rally of 21 December was left almost entirely in the hands of the Securitate, and that General Vlad’s deputy, General Gianu Bucurescu, was given personal charge of the rally.[81]

It appears then that a key factor contributing to the disruption of Ceausescu’s speech was the attempt by regime forces to hold off anti-Ceausescu demonstrators from entering Palace Square. This commotion and confusion so changed the complexion of the rally that those among the crowd handpicked to attend took advantage of the opportunity and suddenly switched from chanting pro-Ceausescu slogans to jeering and booing the dictator. It is possible that the “petarde” at the rally was launched by the Securitate, but it is unlikely it did so as an act of defiance against the dictator. The “petarde” may have been used to prevent protesters from entering the square or to disorient the crowd and mask the sound of the anti-Ceausescu slogans. The disruption of the rally may therefore have been far less “organized” than has commonly been presumed.

[31].. R.M., “Dezvaluiri [Revelations],” Romania Libera, 19 January 1993, 1. Radulescu died in 1994.

[32].. Ibid. Presumably that foreign power would have been the Soviet Union.

[33].. Nicolae was probably improvising. A tape of the rally broadcast on a Bucharest FM radio station in December 1993 recorded Elena yelling at her husband: “Promise them something! Promise them anything!”

[34].. Rates, Romania: The Entangled Revolution, 39; Rady, Romania in Turmoil, 100.

[35].. See the series “Intercontinental 21/22″ in Romania Libera, especially for 31 March 1990, 1 April 1990, 2 April 1990, 5 April 1990, and 6 April 1990. There is no reason to believe that those Bacanu presented did not actually shout down Ceausescu at the rally. The issue is the context in which Bacanu chose to present their actions.

[36].. Leon’s notoriety also apparently stemmed from his exposure in a well-known documentary series entitled “Noaptea Generalilor” [The Night of the Generals] which appeared on Romanian television during 1990. This television series was also produced by Petre Mihai Bacanu.

[37].. Ratesh, Romania: The Entangled Revolution, 39.

[38].. Nicola Leon, “You took away our rights and gave us lice and fear,” The Globe and Mail, 20 December 1989, A7. In spite of the slight difference in name, Nica Leon has claimed that this is his letter and there seems little reason to doubt that this is the case. Nicola Leon is described as a “34-year old mechanical engineer living in Bucharest,” details which generally fit with Nica Leon’s background. It is unclear when this open letter arrived at the newspaper.

[39].. See, for example, his comments in Sorin Rosca Stanescu, “Mai putine flori, mai multi participanti,” Romania Libera, 24 April 1990, 3.

[40].. Nica Leon, interview by editorial board, “Nica Leon in razboi cu toata lumea,” Flacara, no. 34 (26 August 1992), 4-5.

[41].. Stoian, Decembrie ‘89, 23.

[42].. Nica Leon, interview by Angela Bacescu, Europa, March-April 1994, 2, 3. Bacescu introduced Leon as president of the Liberal Democratic Party and member of Amnesty International (!). Among the many dubious claims in this interview is the allegation that Elena Ceausescu had been plotting a coup d’etat against her husband set for 30 December 1989.

[43].. See, for example, Nica Leon, interview by Liviu Valenas and Daniela Rainov, “Lovitura de palat din Romania [The Palace Coup in Romania],” Baricada, no. 36 (18 September 1990), 3.

[44].. Rasvan Popescu, “Moda lui Jos,” Expres, no. 13 (27 April-3 May 1990), 2. For the significance of his denial of the existence of the “terrorists” see chapters seven and eight.

[45].. Leon, interview, “Lovitura de Palat.”

[46].. Bacanu, “Intercontinental 21/22,” 5 April 1990, 3.

[47].. Bacanu, “Intercontinental 21/22,” 6 April 1990.

[48].. Ibid.

[49].. Leon proudly admits to this in Leon, interview, “Lovitura de palat.”

[50].. See the six-part series by Maiorul A.D. (apparently Major Aurel David, who was one of four Fifth Directorate officers tried and acquitted in March 1990) entitled “Scenariile si Realitatea. Marturie la dosarul ‘Teroristi’,” which appeared between January and March 1991 in Timpul. It is significant to note that when this series appeared Nica Leon was still a welcome member of the opposition.

[51].. Maiorul A.D., “Scenariile si Realitatea (VI),” Timpul, 1 March 1991, 11.

[52].. Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea, 161. USLA officer Romulus Garz refers to “officer David (one of four officers from Ceausescu’s guard)” and to the presence of Nica Leon among the prisoners he was held together with. Garz was arrested after the famous incident in front of the Defense Ministry on the night of 23/24 December–discussed in chapter seven.

[53].. See the interview with Nica Leon in Democratia, no. 4 (12 February 1990).

[54].. See Expres, 9 March 1990, 8.

[55].. Valenas and Rainov did raise this issue with Leon in Leon, “Lovitura de palat.” However, they refused to challenge his answers and almost appeared to embrace them. While Leon was still aligned with the opposition, the regime-supportive press alleged that he had been a Securitate informer code-name “Nelutu.” The allegation appeared in the Ceausist Romania Mare, and the daily Azi, closely-linked to then Prime Minister Petre Roman, see Expres Magazin, no. 32 (13-20 August 1991), 2. Nica Leon himself–almost proudly–lists all the allegations launched against him (including that he was related to the Ceausescus) in Leon, “Nica Leon in razboi cu toata lumea,” Flacara, no. 34 (26 August 1992), 4. He avoids commenting on their validity, however.

[56].. Raportul Comisei Senatoriale pentru cercetarea evenimentelor din decembrie 1989, “Cine a tras in noi, in 16-22?” Romania Libera, 27 May 1992, 5.

[57].. Stoian, Decembrie ‘89: Arta Diversiunii, 23. It was only after this, Stoian maintains, that Nica Leon delivered his famous shout.

[58].. Tudorel Urian, “Cabala Teroristilor,” Cuvintul, no. 20 (13 June 1990), 4.

[59].. The suspects are legion: The dubious Nica Leon claims that a 60-year old man named Andrei Ilie, “who kissed Iliescu when he arrived at the CC [building on 22 December],” threw the petarde (Leon, interview, “Nica Leon in razboi.”). Opposition journalist A. Corneliu Giagim writes that the “author” of the petarde was Matei Ilie who had assembled it out of an aerosol can (A. Corneliu Giagim, “16-22, Cine-a tras in noi?!” Baricada, no. 49-50 (18 December 1990), 6.). In early 1990, Petre Mihai Bacanu confidentially stated that a young man named Adrian Constantin had thrown the petarde (Bacanu, “Intercontinental 21/22,” 31 March 1990, 1.). Whereas Bacanu had been able to interview Nica Leon and the young aviation mechanics who had started the chants against Ceausescu, he had been unable to track down Constantin to speak with him. Dan Iosif, the Front official who accused Leon of being a “terrorist,” has also been proposed as the source of the petarde (Expres Magazin, no. 30 (20-26 February 1991), 8.). There are likely others who have been credited with this act.

[60].. C. Maltese Martine Ui (possibly a pseudonym), “De la ‘Jos Ceausescu!’ am ajuns la ‘Jos Romania!’ Dubla Lovitura impotriva Romaniei” Democratia, no. 48 (December 1990), 3.

[61].. A Group of Former Securitate Officers, “Asa va place revolutia! Asa a fost!” Democratia, no. 36 (24-30 September 1990), 4. Also, see a translation of this article in FBIS-EEU-90-207, 25 October 1990, 50-53.

[62].. “S.V., reserve USLA officer” (perhaps Strat Vintila, based on other accounts), in Pavel Corut, Floarea de Argint (Bucharest: Editura Miracol, 1994), 171. In fact, the description of these men as wearing knee-length woolen coats and hats makes them sound suspiciously like the Securitate and the USLA themselves, as we shall see later.

[63].. “Fapte care trimit la o actiune premeditata a unor ‘actori’ din afara (II),” Curierul National, 10 July 1994, 2.

[64].. Ibid. Former deputy prime minister and senator, Gelu Voican Voiculescu, makes similar allegations. He claims that the explosion was caused by a “handcrafted petarde” (”o petarda artizanala”) made from an aerosol can. He too suggests that the panic was intensified by the “perhaps purposeful” malfunction of the loudspeaker system and the emission of a terrifying sound which resembled the “rumbling of tanks.” Voiculescu adds that “it is also possible…that there was a type of ‘acoustic bomb.’” Gelu Voican Voiculescu, interview by Neti Luchian and Val. Voiculescu, “‘Haosul nostru i-a paralizat (I),” Libertatea, 16 July 1991.

[65].. Cornel Nistorescu, “Complot sau conspiratie cu pretentii la putere? [Plot or conspiracy with pretensions to power]” Cuvintul, no. 20 (13 June 1990), 5.

[66].. Ecaterin Radoi, “Remember 15 decembrie 1989 – 20 mai 1990,” Zig-Zag, no. 190 (23-31 December 1993), 4-7.

[67].. Sofia Domestic Service, 1400 GMT 21 December 1989, in FBIS-EEU-89-244, 21 December 1989, 71.

[68].. Belgrade TANJUG Domestic Service, 1359 GMT 21 December 1989, in FBIS-EEU-89-245, 22 December 1989, 77.

[69].. Belgrade Domestic Service, 1410 GMT 21 December 1989, in FBIS-EEU-89-244, 21 December 1989, 70-71.

[70].. Ibid.

[71].. See accounts in Bacanu, “Intercontinental 21/22,” 15 March 1990; 5 April 1990; 19 April 1990.

[72].. See the comments of Marcel Constantinescu in Bacanu, “Intercontinental 21/22,” 15 March 1990, 3.

[73].. Rady, Romania in Turmoil, 104.

[74].. Emil Munteanu, “Postelnicu a vorbit neintrebat [Postelnicu spoke without being asked to],” Romania Libera, 30 January 1990, 3.

[75].. Stoian, Decembrie ‘89: Arta Diversiunii, 22. Stoian’s “spin” on this event, however, is that people were not allowed to enter the square because “something was being awaited,” thus insinuating that the disruption of the rally was organized in advance.

[76].. See the comments of Nistor Ruxandoiu in Gheorghe Ionita, “Culcati-i la pamint!” Adevarul de Duminica, 14 January 1990, 2.

[77].. Published in Libertatea between 27 January and 15 February 1990 under the heading “Dintre sute de…catarge! Revolutia ascultata prin statie [From…hundreds of “masts” (radio identification for USLA officers conducting surveillance) Scanning the Revolution].” Such recordings could have come from only one source: the former Securitate. Interestingly, with the exception of one episode (3 February 1990), all of these communications come from the afternoon of 21 December or morning of 22 December. There are no communications for the USLA from 3:30 p.m. 21 December until 8 a.m. 22 December–the period during which regime forces opened fire on the demonstrators.

[78].. “Dintre sute de catarge,” 27 January 1990; 29 January 1990.

[79].. “Dintre sute de catarge,” 30 January 1990, 2. An anonymous editor defines the meaning of “gela” as “petarde” at the close of this episode. Stefanescu confirms the use of “petardes” in his statement that the USLA commander, Colonel Gheorghe Ardeleanu, was seen at the Central Committee building shouting to a subordinate “Give me ‘Gela’…Give me ‘Gela’.” According to Stefanescu, ‘Gela’ was the name of a “petarde” used by the USLA in the repression of demonstrators. Paul Stefanescu, Istoria Serviciilor Secrete Romanesti (Bucharest: Editura Divers Press, 1994), 287.

[80].. Stoian, Decembrie ‘89: Arta Diversiunii, 21.

[81].. Raportul Comisiei Senatoriale, “Cine a tras in noi, in 16-22?”


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