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 September, 2010

“ORWELLIAN…POSITIVELY ORWELLIAN:” PROSECUTOR VOINEA’S CAMPAIGN TO SANITIZE THE ROMANIAN REVOLUTION OF DECEMBER 1989 (Part Four, The Mysterious Men in Black)

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on September 30, 2010

“ORWELLIAN…POSITIVELY ORWELLIAN:”

PROSECUTOR VOINEA’S CAMPAIGN TO SANITIZE

THE ROMANIAN REVOLUTION OF DECEMBER 1989

by Richard Andrew Hall

Disclaimer:  All statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official positions or views of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or any other U.S. Government agency.  Nothing in the contents should be construed as asserting or implying U.S. Government authentication of information or CIA endorsement of the author’s views.  This material has been reviewed by CIA to prevent the disclosure of classified information.

This paper MAY be cited when accompanied by a full, proper citation.  Thank you.


MEN IN BLACK:  The Recurring Theme of “Black Jumpsuits”

Part of the great riddle of the “terrorists” concerns their clothing.  In Brasov, it was noted the individual arrested on 23 December firing a 5.65 mm Thomson automatic was wearing a “black jumpsuit.”  The descriptions go by different names—“combinezoane negre,” “salopete negre,” or “de culor inchis,” for example—but they all note the black or dark outfits of many of those suspected of being “terrorists.”

It is critical to note that we have evidence that the focus on the black clothing of those identified as “terrorists” occurred among participants at the time, and is not merely some ex post facto artifact.  Major A.D. of Directorate V-a (probably Major Aurel David) recounted in early 1991 that while under arrest on 27 December 1989, the Army soldiers guarding him asked “If” as Major A.D. had sought to convince them, “it isn’t Ceausescu’s guard [i.e. V-a]” who was firing, “then who are the black-shirted ones [emphasis added]?”[52] The report of the SRI [the Securitate’s institutional successor] on Timisoara indirectly confirms Army suspicion when alleging that Army Colonel Constantin Zeca gave the order after 22 December 1989, to shoot at anybody “in a blue, navy blue, or black jumpsuit.”[53] Why this clothing in particular, and why the suspicion then?

Some of those shot as “terrorists” turn out to have been wearing “black jumpsuits.”  Bucking the hegemony of official, elite interpretations denying the very existence of the “terrorists,” a poster calling himself “Danka” posted the following on the Jurnalul National web forum in April 2006:

“22 decembrie 1989, military unit 010_ _ at the edge of the Branesti forest.

The Branesti forest houses one of the largest munitions depots around the capital.  It is said that an explosion at this depot would destroy the Pantelimon neighborhood from the beginning of the no. 14 tram [route].  Towards evening gunfire opened on the unit from the railroad.  Everything was a target, [and] small caliber arms and semi-automatic weapons were being used [emphasis added; note:  possible reference to 5 mm weapons].  Based on the flashes from the gun-barrels it appeared that there were 3 persons hiding among the tracks who opened fire with the goal of creating panic.  The soldiers came out of their barracks and set up in the car-park under trucks.  They couldn’t stay inside the buildings, “the terrorists” were shooting the windows [out].  Even though an alert had been given earlier in the day, nobody was prepared to respond except those on duty.  A group of soldiers with officers and n.c.o.s equipped with AK-47s, and TT pistols launched an attack from the surrounding area.  All reached their destined locations without problem by nightfall, in part because the intruders were preoccupied with maintaining a continuous gunfire on the unit.  At a given moment, the soldiers opened fire, the gunfight lasted less than 10 minutes.  Their little UZIs weren’t equipped for long-distance and thus could not stand up to the renowned AK 47.  One of the terrorists was shot in the head, while the other two were wounded when they tried to flee through a field leading away from the military unit.  The three were transported to the guard post where the lights were turned on (until then the unit had been in complete darkness) and we realized that one of the two survivors was in fact a woman.  All three were olive-skinned, clothed in black jumpsuits [emphasis added] and the two wounded survivors struggled to say something in Arabic.  After a half hour an ARO [vehicle] of the Army arrived saying they had come from the Chief of Staff’s Division and they took all three.  After a few days all the soldiers who participated in the activities of that night were made to sign a declaration pledging not to divulge anything about what had happened.  All of this is true and can easily be verified.”[54]

Another small group of people wearing “black jumpsuits” held a military convoy under fire near the city of Buzau. On the evening of 23 December 1989, a military convoy from Piatra Neamt en route to Bucharest reached the community of Maracineni near Buzau.  Members of the local military unit told the soldiers from Piatra Neamt that

…the unit had been attacked by two people, a civilian and Militia NCO, who disappeared with an Oltcit [car] and an ABI vehicle [an armored transport used exclusively by the Securitate’s USLA].  Shortly after [being told] this, gunfire opened on the convoy.  And gunfire reopened on the local military unit….those from the unit fired back with ordinance that lit the sky, in this way enabling them to observe a group of 3-4 armed people, wearing black jumpsuits (“salopete negre”) who were shooting while constantly changing position.  At the same time, on the radio frequencies of the convoy, they received messages about coming devastating attacks, and even Soviet intervention.  All of these proved to be simple disinformation.  The next day, in a moment of calm, villagers brought the soldiers food, and related how the terrorists had occupied attics of their houses.  They said they [the occupiers] were Romanians and that in a few words they had ordered [the villagers] to let them into the attics of their houses….In general, they shot at night, but on 25 December the cannonade continued during the day…. Curiously, the ‘fighting’ in Maracineni continued until 30 December.  Who and for whom were they trying to impress? [emphasis added][55]

Indeed, there are three key aspects here:  1) this was not a heavily populated area, thereby undermining arguments about “operetta-like” fake warfare to impress the population, 2) it is difficult to explain this episode as the result of “misunderstandings” between units, and 3) the gunfire lasted well over a week, a fact that is difficult to ascribe to confusion.

Did the black-suited ones have any affiliation to any institution?  After all, is it not odd that so many of them would appear to be dressed in the same garb?  In 1990, an engineer, Mircea Georgescu, expressed his frustration about the post-December disappearance of the “terrorists” in Sibiu, Nicu Ceausescu’s fiefdom, as follows:

“Who fired from the attics of Sibiu on 21-22 December 1989?  Who are the so-called terrorists?  Where are their guns with scopes and unmistakable cadence?  Silence on all fronts:…

c) A fighter from the guards, along with his brother, captured in these days (23-25 dec.) some 8 securisti among whom:  one about 45-50 years old, at the State Theater Sibiu, we surrendered him to the Commander at the Army House.  He was taken under guard by 4 civilian fighters (one in front had a club in his hand) and by a soldier with a gun at his side.  He was dressed in a vest (like a smith’s) and a pant-suit (combinezon) that was black or a very dark grey…brown with short hair, well-built and 1,70-1,75 m tall….What, nobody knows anything about this guy either?…[emphases added]”[56]

Lt. Col. Aurel Dragomir, former commander of the “Nicolae Balcescu” Military Officers School in Sibiu, described in 1994 those killed as “terrorists” in Sibiu in December 1989:

…On the morning of 22 December…I was informed that on the rooftops there were some suspicious persons.  I saw 2-3 people in black jumpsuits.  The Militia told me that they weren’t their people.  At noon there appeared 10 to 15 people in black jumpsuits who opened massive gunfire on the crowds and soldiers. I ordered them to respond with fire.  I headed to the infirmary—the reserve command site, and col. Pircalabescu [head of the Patriotic Guards] called and asked me “why was there gunfire?”  I told him we were being attacked.  He told me to cease fire.  Ilie Ceausescu [Ceausescu’s brother, and an Army General] told me to surrender.  I slammed the telephone down.  Then [Army General] Stanculescu called.  I told him that we are under attack. Stanculescu said to me:  ‘Defend yourselves!’….The attackers had on black jumpsuits under which they had on civilian clothes….Weapons and ammunition that weren’t in the arsenal of the Army were found, guns with silencers were found, that aren’t in the Army’s arsenal….After the events declarations given to the investigating commissions disappeared, notebooks filled with the recordings of officers on duty (ofiterii de serviciu), and a map that noted from which houses gunfire came. The dead who were in jumpsuits and had several layers of clothing were identified:  they were cadre from the Sibiu Interior Ministry (Militia and Securitate)…. (“black jumpsuits” emphases and “weapons and ammunition…” emphasis added; rest in original)[57]

Finally, in this context, the comments of a Codrut H. in July 1990 about what he and other civilians found when they occupied Securitate headquarters in Brasov on the night of 22 December:  “What appeared suspicious to me was that the Securitate there appeared to have been prepared [for something]….  Out front of the building there was a white ARO [automobile] in which there were complete antiterrorist kits [emphasis added].” What else did the civilians find there?…combinezoane negre. [58]

Where and From Where Was There Gunfire?

So if there is evidence of ammunition that cannot be accounted for in standard arsenals and of people killed and identified as “dead terrorists”—who clearly do not fit into the standard categories of those killed during the events—what is perhaps the next logical question?  That might be:  where and from where did the gunfire come?

To continue with Sibiu and Lt. Col. Dragomir’s claims, former Prosecutor Marian Valer, who claimed to have “noticed shortly after the publication of his resignation from this position [claiming obstruction] that I was benefiting from the services of the organization of Virgil Magureanu [i.e. the SRI, the Securitate’s institutional successor],” stated in September 1990:

…during the events of December 1989 in Sibiu, the army found a map with the safehouses of the Securitate, around the city’s military units, in which Securitate cadre were to be placed to act against them, in the eventuality of a defection by the army from the Ceausist regime.  Following the investigations conducted, it was determined that from these same houses gunfire was opened on some of these military units, beginning with the afternoon of 22 December 1989, therefore after the overthrow of the dictatorship.  It was also established that, in general, in these respective houses lived former cadre of the Securitate and Militie, who had retired or crossed into reserve status, or informers of the Securitate, and also that, following the outbreak of the antiCeausist demonstrations in Sibiu, at these houses entered cars that had license plates from other counties, for example Constanta, Iasi, [and] Bacau.  Thus upon the [Army unit] U.M. 01512, gunfire was opened from the house at no. 7 Stefan Cel Mare Street…in which lived the families of a former Sibiu Securitate commander and an informer of the Securitate…On U.M. 1606 there was shooting from no. 47 Moldoveanu Street, in which lived a former Militia chief of Sibiu county, while upon U.M. 01080 there was fire from vila Branga [see earlier discussion of this location referencing five mm caliber bullets]…It was determined that the owners of these places were not at home during the events, having left several days earlier, and that in some houses there was no furniture or signs of habitation.  The map of the safehouses of the Securitate and Militie came into possession of Lt. Col. Dragomir, commander of the Sibiu garrison, but when he was asked to present it to the investigatory commission he said he could not find it.[59]

In 1991, Dumitru Mazilu, a key player in the December events who quickly fell out of favor with those who seized power and was marginalized, posed these appropriate observations about the fighting in Bucharest:

The involvement of some units and soldiers of the Interior Ministry during this particular period [after 22 December] is confirmed by the following observations:  a) the sites from which crowds were fired upon certainly belonged to the Interior Ministry (for example in the case of the buildings near the Central University Library, that belonged to the Guard Directorate [V-a] of the Ceausescus] or with great probability (the apartments from the Building General across from the work space of the tyrant; the apartments near the villas of Elena and Nicolae Ceausescu, as well as those near objects of strategic importance, such as the Defense Department, Television, and Romanian Radio etc.)…[60]

…Without a doubt two other issues could play a major role in finding out who those were who were firing on Television:  a) First, to request the identity of the meeting houses of the organs of repression, in the area around the Television.  Then to verify who the people were who used these houses in the days from the afternoon of 22 December until 27, 28 December.  Again these sites could play a big role in the success of the investigations; b) Then to find out the other places from which people were fired upon in these dramatic days and nights.  And those who put their places at the disposition, either willingly or under duress, as well as their neighbors, could play a big role in discovering the terrorists.[61]

In 2003, Senator Sergiu Nicolaescu, who headed the first investigation into the December events back in the early 1990s was asked by an interviewer, “Mr. Senator, by now I also have reached the conclusion that in order for something like this to function there had to exist at least two things:  a plan and a leadership.  Who led it?”  Nicolaescu responded as follows:

There are links to the Securitate here.  They had made this strategy.  They had long had this mission, when these people were selected and conspired and received their orders.  In order to understand the phenomenon we started an investigation from the ground floor, with the most basic information.  There existed safehouses. I asked officially for information about these safehouses.  I don’t know if this is what they are technically-called, but we are talking about apartments, empty spaces in safehouses, some even in hotels, while another category that should not be confused with the first is that of guesthouses, where their people lived.  That was something else altogether.  They met there with informers.  That is different.  In the safehouses there were weapons and military outfits of different grades and specializations, as well as civilian clothing.  I asked the SRI [the Securitate’s official institutional heir] for the list, but they never gave me it.  I had the list of the apartments from which there was gunfire.  I attempted to reconstitute [a list] with the help of specialists and identified the places from which there was gunfire.  My intention was to compare this list with the list of safehouses.  They wouldn’t give it to me.  Thus, I made recourse, unofficially, to a different method to secure a copy of the list of safehouses.  It turned out exactly as I suspected—they matched exactly.  Thus I was able to learn who were the terrorists from this category who acted, since there were some houses from which there was no gunfire, where they did not go into action. [emphasis added][62]

[52] Maior A.D., “Scenariile si Realitatea:  Marturie la dosarul ,Teroristi’ (VI),” Timpul (ed. Raoul Sorban), 1 March 1991, p. 11.

[53] See Raportul SRI EPISODUL I (2/2) Timisoara ’89 at www.ceausescu.org/ceausesscu texts/revolution/raportul sri12.htm. As if to confirm the suspicions, Securitate officer Filip Teodorescu told the Gabrielescu Commission that “Whoever had the idea to dress [them] in combinezoane negre had a clever idea!” (using the English translation at en.wikisource.org.wiki/Stenograma sedintei de audiere din 14 decembrie 1994).

[54] Posted on the web forum at Jurnalul National, April 2006, online edition.

[55] Stoian, Arta Diversiunii, 1993, pp. 55-57.

[56] Ing. Mircea Georgescu, “Sibiu (III),” Expres, no. 28 August 1990.

[57] Quoted in Dan Badea, “Secretle Revolutiei,” Expres no. 22 (6-13 June 1994), pp. 8-9.

[58] Quoted in Alin Alexandru, “Brasov (II):  Linistea dinaintea macelului,” Expres, no. 26 (July 1990).

[59] Marian Valer, interview by Monica N. Marginean, “Asistam la ingroparea Revolutiei [We are witnessing the burying of the Revolution],” Expres, no. 33 (September 1990), p. 2.  In 1994, Dragomir maintained:  “After the events some declarations given to the investigating commission disappeared, as well as notebooks filled with the recordings of officers on duty, and a map that had markings of the houses from where there was gunfire.”  See his comments in Dan Badea, “Secretele Revolutiei,” Expres, no. 22 (7-13 June 1994), p. 9.

[60] Dumitru Mazilu, “Cine sint teroristii?” Flacara, no. 39 (25 September 1991), p. 4.

[61] Dumitru Mazilu, “Cine sint teroristii?” Flacara, no. 41 (9 October 1991), p. 4

[62] Sergiu Nicolaescu, interview by Alex Mihai Stoenescu (2 September 2003), “Teroristi din URSS, Ungaria si Occident,” Jurnalul National, 10 December 2004, online edition.


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“ORWELLIAN…POSITIVELY ORWELLIAN:” PROSECUTOR VOINEA’S CAMPAIGN TO SANITIZE THE ROMANIAN REVOLUTION OF DECEMBER 1989 (Part III, A Fistful of Bullets: Unregistered, Atypical Munitions…)

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on September 29, 2010

“ORWELLIAN…POSITIVELY ORWELLIAN:”

PROSECUTOR VOINEA’S CAMPAIGN TO SANITIZE

THE ROMANIAN REVOLUTION OF DECEMBER 1989

by Richard Andrew Hall

Disclaimer:  All statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official positions or views of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or any other U.S. Government agency.  Nothing in the contents should be construed as asserting or implying U.S. Government authentication of information or CIA endorsement of the author’s views.  This material has been reviewed by CIA to prevent the disclosure of classified information.

This paper MAY be cited when accompanied by a full, proper citation.  Thank you.

A Fistful of Bullets:  Unregistered, Atypical Munitions…


“Five, Five Something…”

Perhaps more directly pertinent to the issue of the “terrorists,” and the question on which Voinea lays a big goose-egg, is the following.  What does Voinea have to say about allegations that there was “special ammunition used, bullets with a vidia tip or dum-dum bullets”?

Romulus Cristea:  “Did special ammunition, bullets with a vidia tip or dum-dum bullets, claim [any] victims?  The press of the time was filled with such claims…”

Dan Voinea:  There were no victims (people who were shot) from either vidia bullets or dum-dum bullets.  During the entire period of the events war munitions were used, normal munitions that were found at the time in the arsenal of the Interior Ministry and the Defense Ministry.  The confusion and false information were the product of the fact that different caliber weapons were used, and therefore, the resulting sound was perceived differently.[29]

Prosecutor Voinea is perhaps less definitive, less clear here than in denying the existence of gunfire simulators and insisting that the lunetisti were unquestionably from the Army.  By “normal munitions” I understand him to mean what was officially in the registered stockpiles of the Romanian armed forces:  mostly 7,62 mm caliber weapons, but also apparently 12,7 and 14,5 mm caliber vehicle-mounted guns, and perhaps including 9 mm weapons belonging to the Securitate (more on this below).  That is, of course, the rub of the Revolution, for nowhere in the official registered arsenals do bullets of a 5 (five) something caliber appear…and yet they showed up all over the place in December 1989.

Brasov: 14 June 1990 was an unusual and important day in Romanian history, but not solely for the event you probably have in mind if you follow Romanian affairs.  Yes, in Bucharest, miners from the Jiu Valley were brutally hunting down anti-regime demonstrators and pretty much anyone else they suspected of sympathizing with opposition to President Ion Iliescu, but that was not the only significant event of that day.  General Nicolae Spiroiu, future Defense Minister (1991-1994), appears to have been in the city of Brasov, assisting at the exhumation of people killed there during the December 1989 Revolution.[30] Such a step was a rarity, and apparently followed earlier talks between Spiroiu, five other officers, and the staff of the local newspaper Opinia, who were seeking clarification over who was responsible for the deaths of their fellow citizens.  “They found in particular bullets of a 5.6 mm caliber that are not in the Army’s arsenal,” wrote the journalist Romulus Nicolae of the investigation.[31] It is worth noting that eyewitnesses recount that on 23 December 1989, an individual in a black jumpsuit (“combinezon negru,” this is a recurring theme as we shall see) firing a Thompson automatic of 5.65 caliber (with many cartridges on him) was shot, injured, and arrested as a “terrorist.”[32]

Braila: In Braila (where 42 people died and 95 were wounded), Army Lt. Major Ionut Voicu told the military prosecutor in charge of the case at the time of what he found while on a mission in the Stejarul forest on the night of 23-24 December 1989:

Again I heard the sound of bullets.  They had a specific whistle, I figured they were of a reduced caliber (the next morning this hunch was confirmed when I found bullets of a 5.6 caliber).  There wasn’t any flash from the mouth of their gun-barrels.  Thus, they [must have] had a silencer over it.[33]

Sibiu: Army Lieutenant Colonel Aurel Dragomir claims that in the building across from the Vila Branga in Sibiu “remains of 40 5.45 mm bullets, that were not in the Army’s arsenal, were discovered.”[34] On 23 December 1989 in Sibiu, a soldier participated in the capture of one Fanea Nicolae who was carrying a Belgian-made 5.6 mm Browning and “a radio transmitter-receiver of the type used by the Romanian ‘Militia’.”[35]

Timisoara: “…a 5.6 tube was found by a MapN [Army] subunit which was in pursuit of shooters found moving rapidly in the area of the blocs around the [Militia] Inspectorate.”[36]

Bucharest: According to the Army’s semi-official account of the December events, in the area around the Defense Ministry “there were also found bullets that were atypical for the weapons of Defense Ministry troops, having a caliber of approximately 5.45-5.65 mm.”[37] During the trial of Nicolae Ceausescu’s brother, Nicolae Andruta Ceausescu, head of the Securitate’s Baneasa training academy, it was disclosed that at his home “a gun with an infra-red scope and 695 cartridges of 5.6 mm bullets were found.”[38] Nicolae Stefan Soucup maintains he found 5.6 caliber bullets on 23 and 24 December in the area around the Television station.[39] Savin Chiritescu wrote to Romania Libera in October 1990:

“…myself and many colleagues from this tank unit [UM 01060 Bucuresti-Pantelimon] captured armed Arab terrorists (one of whom told us he was from Beirut), who we turned over to the Chief of Staff’s Division.  One was a student, upon whom we found a machine gun of 5.62 caliber series UF 060866, 40 cm long, capable of being carried under clothes:  the weapon was made from a hard plastic, with the exception of the gun barrel and the trigger.  He admitted he had been paid and that he loved Ceausescu greatly.  He was wearing leather pants, PUMA sneakers and a black sweater….”[40]

What can we gather from this brief discussion thus far?  Well, for one thing, those who wish to draw our attention to the use of these “five something” caliber bullets are from the Army or civilians.  (Although the exact caliber clearly matters, the Army seems to acknowledge a window above in noting “5.45-5.65 mm,” suggesting that we should not get too caught up on the exact measurements for our purposes here.)

Indeed, this is par for the course.  Members of the former Securitate and Militia generally avoid mentioning these uncharacteristic munitions and certainly don’t want to draw undue attention to them.  The question is why?  By contrast, the Army must feel they are on pretty comfortable ground that they draw attention to this ammunition and specify that the Army did not have it in their arsenal.

To conclude this section, it seems appropriate to recall the observation of Army General Tiberiu Urdareanu in 1996:  “…in contacts with certain cadre of the former Securitate, even some friends among them, [to a person] they negate the existence of the terrorists, saying that the soldiers as a result of poor training shot each other by accident.”[41] Why such firm conviction?!

Vidia…

What about the use of “vidia” tip bullets Prosecutor Voinea also flatly dismisses?

In March 1991, Spiroiu’s predecessor as Defense Minister, General Victor Athanasie Stanculescu, was asked by two journalists if the “terrorists used a particular type of ammunition…against the armed forces.”[42] Stanculescu responded:

Yes, as I have already said, I have here two bullets with vidia [grooves].  Our Army does not use this type of ammunition.  It is of caliber 5.56.  As you can see, the bullet has a jacket that got deformed, while its core remained intact.[43]

Bucharest: Stanculescu’s unexpected revelation prompted a participant in the Revolution to challenge Stanculescu’s claim to ignorance as to the source of the bullets.  Ironically, while this challenge suggests Stanculescu may have being playing coy and not telling everything he knew, it does not contradict Stanculescu’s claim that the ammunition was not the Army’s, but rather buttresses it:

Balasa Gheorghe:  I am very intrigued by the interview given by General Stanculescu to the newspaper ‘Tineretul Liber,’ an interview in which he avoids the truth.

From [Securitate] Directorate V-a, from the weapons depot, on 23-24 December 1989, DUM-DUM cartridges, special cartridges that did not fit any arm in the arsenal of the Defense Ministry were retrieved.  Three or four boxes with these kinds of cartridges were found.  The special bullets were 5-6 cm. in length and less thick than a pencil.  Such a cartridge had a white stone tip that was transparent.  All of these cartridges I personally presented to be filmed by Mr. Spiru Zeres.  All the special cartridges, other than the DUM-DUM [ones] were of West German [FRG] make. From Directorate V-a we brought these to the former CC building, and on 23-24 December ’89 they were surrendered to U.M. 01305.  Captain Dr. Panait, who told us that he had never seen such ammunition before, Major Puiu and Captain Visinescu know about [what was turned over].

In the former CC of the PCR, all of those shot on the night of 23-24 December ’89 were shot with special bullets.  It is absurd to search for the bullet in a corpse that can penetrate a wall….[44]

One of the particularly moving stories of the December events is that of Bogdan Serban Stan, 21 years old and one of three members of the under-22 Rapid Bucuresti rugby team who perished in the events.  Bogdan’s mother, Elena Bancila, was determined not to let the memory of her son be forgotten with his tragic death.  Bogdan had demonstrated on the night of 21-22 December in University Square and returned to fight at Television where on the night of 23 December at 3:50 am he was shot by an assailant in civilian clothes:  “The path of the ‘6 mm vidia’ cartridge blew a hole through his lung and ‘passed through’the T9 section of his spine, coming to a rest vertically in the bone marrow.”[45]

Engineer Dan Iliescu (no apparent relation to Ion Iliescu), an employee of the Museum of National Art located in the old Royal Palace across from the CC building, alleged in December 1990—therefore prior to the above claim by, and response to, Stanculescu—that those who fired from the museum onto the square below on 22 and 23 December

…had weapons which sounded different.  They had a healthy cadence.  The next day [23 December 1989] and over the following days I found bullets in the Museum.  They were not normal bullets.  They had a rounded head.  They appeared to have a lead jacket.  It was of a caliber between five, five something. The USLAsi [USLA, Special Unit for Anti-terrorist Warfare] did not want to leave us a bullet.  I asked them to leave me one as a memento.  They did not want to.  They said that they needed them for the purpose of identification.  They noted where they gathered them from. [emphases added][46]

Caransebes: Furthermore, there is evidence that the use of “vidia” tip bullets was not exclusive to Bucharest.  Asked in February 1990 what he had experienced in December 1989 while participating in the defense of the airport of the southwestern town of Caransebes, Army Captain Mircea Apostol responded:

No, we only found blood stains and that was it.  We didn’t even find shell casings, because these melted away after firing.  It sounds incredible.  It was a real battle.  From our ranks, there were a few victims shot precisely in vital organs by bullets with a “vidia” tip, which were not in the arsenal of our Army, but we don’t know against whom we fought.  A fact which the enemy now uses. [emphases added][47]

Craiova: Finally, there is the case of one of the big personalities of the post-Ceausescu era, Dinel Staicu, a one-time soccer club mogul and owner of a kitschy Ceausescu nostalgic restaurant and park/museum.[48] Apparently, he “shot 63 bullets during the events,” but “according to him ‘only 11 to 13 stupid people died”[49]:

“Dinel Staicu moved about in those days unhindered, entering and exiting the prefecture, each time being armed, despite the interrogations to which he had been subject.  It would be interesting to know if the seizure of his weapons was recorded because, if not, it means, he still possesses them [the article dates from 1992].  After he was confined to his home for six days, for carrying an arm during the events, he resumed his mission:  ‘This time I succeeded to infiltrate Mr. Sandu, since he was my boss and bosses must stay at the helm.’  Implicated during this period in the policing of Valea Rosie (a neighborhood that had been raked by gunfire), forced by the former Militia commander, Colonel Langa, to verify to General Rosu [Army], the existence of vidia bullets following his confinement to his home, Dinel Staicu attempted a diversion in order to replace those who had seized power (Nisipeanu, Popa), …Although [technically-speaking] it was still confined to barracks, the Securitate (col. Gheorghe) ‘lent Mr. D. Staicu two TAB vehicles and some men from the Securitate’s USLA platoon (not from the Militia), even though the Securitate had been ordered not to carry arms.  But Mr. Staicu came on behalf of the Front…’

Following the inspection he performed in Valea Rosie, Staicu maintained that there were no terrorists (despite the fact that he himself is an example that contradicts such a denial), his basic training (Commander of Group 2-a USLA) being both for diversion and disinformation.  His opinion is that the Army fired millions of cartridges and that anywhere there was a military unit, the earth filled up with them.  Only that the military unit from Craiovita where there was no firing disputes this (…)[50]

In other words, a member of the USLA denies the existence of vidia bullets and “terrorists”….

Brasov, Sibiu, Bucharest (multiple locations), Braila, Caransebes, and Craiova…[51] Does such geographical distribution suggest accident or pattern? Yet, out-of-hand, Voinea dismisses the existence in December 1989 of either untraditional caliber weapons and bullets, or “vidia” tipped munitions!

[29] Interview with General Dan Voinea, by Romulus Cristea, “Toti alergau dupa un inamic invizibil,” Romania Libera, 22 December 2005 online edition.  Contrast Voinea’s definitive negations with the statements of Army Colonel Ion Stoleru, not just right after the events, but several years later.  According to Stoleru, the “terrorists” had “weapons with silencers, with scopes, for shooting at night time (in ‘infrared’), bullets with a ‘vidia’ tip.  Really modern weapons.  The civilian and military commissions haven’t followed through in investigating this…” (see Mihai Galatanu, “Din Celebra Galerie a Teroristilor,” Expres, no. 151 (22-28 December 1992), p. 4, and Mihai Galatanu, “Am vazut trei morti suspecti cu fata intoarsa spre caldarim,” Flacara, no. 29 (22 July 1992), p. 7.)

[30] Romulus Nicolae, “Au ars dosarele procuraturii despre evenimente din decembrie,”Cuvintul, no. 32 (August 1991), pp. 4-5.  Approximately 100 people died and 250 were injured in Brasov during the December events.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Andrei N. in Alin Alexandru, “Brasov (III). Teroristii au intrat in pamint,” Expres, no. 27 (July 1990), p. 6.  See also Ilie Stoian, Decembrie ’89.  Arta diversiunii. (Bucharest:  Editura Colaj, 1993), p. 44.

[33] Ciprian Banciu, “Braila—lotcile ucigase,” NU (Cluj), no. 22 (24-31 August 1990), p. 7.

[34] Aurel Dragomir, interview by Viorel Patrichi, “Conspiratiile nu erau de nasul meu!” (2), Lumea Magazin, 2002 (no. 6), online at www.lumeam.ro/nr6_2002/politica_si_servicii_secrete.html.

[35] Ion Neata, interview by Major Mihai Floca, “Unde sint teroristii?,” Armata Poporului, no. 30 (25 July 1990), p. 3.

[36] Grudgingly admitted by Col Stefan Demeter, former chief of the Timis County Militia’s armament office, in Stefan Demeter, interview by Radu Ciobotea, “M.I.—Martor Incomod,” Flacara, no. 33 (14 August 1991), pp. 4-5.

[37] Codrescu Costache, Radu Olaru, Mircea Seteanu, and Constantin Monac, Armata Romana in Revolutia din Decembrie 1989 (Bucharest:  Editura Militara, 1998), p. 157.

[38] Richard Andrew Hall, “Rewriting the Revolution:  Authoritarian Regime-State Relations and the Triumph of Securitate Revisionism in Post-Ceausescu Romania,” Ph.D. Dissertation, 1997, Indiana University , p. 322, citing Victor Dinu, Romania Libera, 12 April 1990, p. 2.

[39] Revolutia Romana in Direct (Bucuresti:  Televiziunea Romana, 1990), pp. 133-134, quoted in Hall 1997, p. 322.

[40] Quoted in Al. Mihalcea, “O gafa monumentala,” Romania Libera, 31 October 1990, p. 5a.

[41] Tiberiu Urdareanu, 1989—Martor si Participant (Bucharest:  Editura Militara, 1996), p. 139.

[42] Interview by Aurel Perva and Gavrila Inoan, Tineretul Liber, 5 March 1991, pp. 1-2, as translated in FBIS-EEU-91-047, 11 March 1991, p. 39.

[43] Ibid., using FBIS translation.

[44] Interviewed by Dan Badea, “Gloante speciale sau ce s-a mai gasit in cladirea Directiei a V-a,” Expres, 16-22 April 1991.

[45] Elena Bancila, Trage Lasule! (Bucuresti:  Editura Victor Frunza, 1990), pp. 65-66 (from Adevarul, 13 January 1990), and quote from pp. 94-95.  Bancila also claimed that a hospital nurse had told her some of those killed appeared to have been the victims of “exploding bullets” (see the series by Cristina Balint and Nicolae Tone in Tineretul Liber in September 1991, particularly part XI “Eu nu pot fi cumparata [I can’t be bought],” and part XII “Daca altfel nu se poate, voi cere deshumarea [If there is no other way, I’ll ask for his body to be exhumed], 22 and 24 September 1991 respectively).  In this series, the bullet that killed her son is referred to as “under 6 mm.”

[46] Dan Iliescu, interview by Ion Zubascu, “Misterioasa revolutie romana,” Flacara, no. 51 (19 December 1990), p. 11.

[47] Radu Ciobotea, “Teroristii au tras.  Unde sint teroristii?” Flacara, no. 8 (21 February 1990), p. 8.

[48] Dinel Staicu is one of those “personages” of the post-communist era.  He is something more than the hallucinatory former Militia officer, Sergeant Petre Olaru (see my discussion in “The Securitate Roots of a Modern Romanian Fairy Tale.  Part 3:  The Hypnotic Spell of Sergeant Petre Olaru,” Radio Free Europe Research “East European Perspectives,” May 2002, online).  But, for post-communist, or as is now said, post-post-communist, surrealism, he is probably something less than fellow soccer magnate, Gigi Becali—see, for example “Elita lui Gigi,” Cotidianul, 13 September 2006, online.  Reporters from ProSport claimed that Dinel Staicu told them he purchased for 2,000 dollars the original copy of the extraordinary military tribunal decision condemning the Ceasusescus to death.  That document had apparently been missing from the archives of the Bucharest Territory Military Tribunal (TMTB) since 1990, and although Staicu denied he is in possession of the original, he apparently supplied the TMTB with xeroxes of the document—after being fined for failing to present the original—so that the TMTB could reconstitute the judgment  (see Razvan Savaliuc, “S-a reconstituit dosarul procesului Ceausescu,” Ziua, 20 March 2004, online edition).  For a discussion of Staicu’s 200 hectare “Parcul RSR,” dedicated to Ceausescu’s “Golden Epoch” see Lucian Cazan, “‘Domnul si tovarasul’ Staicu,” Cotidianul, 7 October 2005, online edition.  On Nicoale Ceausescu’s 88th birthday, Staicu’s 3TV station apparently celebrated the occasion with footage from “The Golden Epoch,” see Lucian Cazan, “Oltenii, invitati sa se joace cu Michiduta,” Cotidianul, 27 January 2006, online edition.  Exactly what the mix of communist and post-communist corruption, genuine admiration for Nicolae Ceausescu and “the Golden Epoch,” entrepreneurship, greed, and playing to foreign tourists (Russian, according to Cazan, and Western), motivates Staicu is unclear.

[49] “‘Antimafia’—Un Armagedon de Craiova,” Adevarul, 3 May 2002, online edition.

[50] Reprinted from the testimony of Dinel Staicu in the Craiovan publication Cartel (8 April 1992), Dinel Staicu:  “Misunea mea a fost sa-l infiltrez pe Sandu in prefectura,” Gazeta de Sud, 23 December 2002, online at http://www.gds.ro/print/13885.

[51] In the interview cited above in which Mircea Dinescu discusses the existence of simulators, his interlocutor, Eugen Evu, notes in passing the presence of “vidia” bullets in yet another locality, this time, Hunedoara:  “The same scenario, everywhere that people were shot.  And in Hunedoara, I swear that they shot at me, I was in front of the Post Office, with a trade union woman…Traces, holes of a vidia bullet, next to a normal one, remained for a long time in the window at the entrance to the Post Office, they shot at me, I had long been followed by securisti and some militie people, who would periodically arrest me.”  See Mircea Dinescu, with Eugen Evu, “Dialoguri integrale in forum: ‘Tenebre romanian color,’” 1997 at http://www.agero-stuttgart.de.

Posted in decembrie 1989, raport final, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 8 Comments »

“ORWELLIAN…POSITIVELY ORWELLIAN:” PROSECUTOR VOINEA’S CAMPAIGN TO SANITIZE THE ROMANIAN REVOLUTION OF DECEMBER 1989 (Part Two, Sergeant Schultz)

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on September 28, 2010

“ORWELLIAN…POSITIVELY ORWELLIAN:”

PROSECUTOR VOINEA’S CAMPAIGN TO SANITIZE

THE ROMANIAN REVOLUTION OF DECEMBER 1989

by Richard Andrew Hall

Disclaimer:  All statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official positions or views of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or any other U.S. Government agency.  Nothing in the contents should be construed as asserting or implying U.S. Government authentication of information or CIA endorsement of the author’s views.  This material has been reviewed by CIA to prevent the disclosure of classified information.

This paper MAY be cited when accompanied by a full, proper citation.  Thank you.

PART ONE:  https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.wordpress.com/2010/03/26/orwellian%E2%80%A6positively-orwellian%E2%80%9D-prosecutor-voinea%E2%80%99s-campaign-to-sanitize-the-romanian-revolution-of-december-1989-part-one-groundhog-day/

PART TWO:

Judging Voinea’s Credibility

Why do I question Voinea’s credibility on the “terrorist” question—despite the chorus of adulation, gratitude, and acceptance outlined above?  Before moving on directly to the issue of the “terrorists,” let us look at two potentially-related—in fact, I argue, related—matters as test cases of Voinea’s credibility in his recent comments on the Revolution.  Although not necessarily central to the story of December 1989, allegations regarding the existence, use, and discovery of gunfire simulators, and the institutional affiliation of so-called “lunetisti” (sharpshooters/snipers), are part of that story.  These should not be difficult questions for Voinea, but instead he dismisses them with an unexpected salvo of “definitive” answers, designed to leave little room for further questioning from the interviewer.  As I shall demonstrate, however, it leaves an ocean of doubt.

Test Case I:  Automatic Gunfire Simulators

Romulus Cristea (reporter “Romania Libera,” interview 22 December 2005):  “Were any automatic gunfire devices or simulators found?”

Dan Voinea:  “No!  We don’t have a single confirmation of any such gunfire simulator!  Until now we have not come into possession of any such device.  No one saw such a gunfire simulator.  A device was presented on TV as a simulator, but [it] was nothing of the sort.  It was a lie!  Before 1989, any device would have been in the inventory of a[n state] institution.  No organization of ours, from the army to the Interior Ministry to the information services had such an apparatus in its stockpile.  Not only did they not exist in the stockpiles, none were found, and we do not have any evidence that such apparatuses were brought into the country….”[14]

Doesn’t leave a lot of room for misinterpretation or doubt, huh?  Let us observe three key elements in Voinea’s response.  He denies not only that 1) no Romanian institution had such device, but that 2) no such devices were used in December 1989, and 3) no such devices were found in December 1989.  This offers us three potential points of access to refuting his argument.

To begin with, there are the comments of senior communist official, CPEx (Romania’s version of the Politburo) member Silviu Curticeanu, who was in the Central Committee building [the center of Nicolae Ceausescu’s power] during these fateful December days.  Asked by the daily Jurnalul National about Ceausescu’s reaction to the disruption of his ill-conceived outdoor mass rally on 21 December 1989, Curticeanu responded:

“There was no public reaction.  He called together everyone responsible for the organization and smooth functioning of the meeting.  Those from the Securitate came and brought these nightsticks of which I spoke earlier, [as well as] simulators.  They had some electronic apparatuses. Everyone said the meeting was a provocation and everyone concluded the meeting was a provocation.  After that [Ceausescu] left, as I said earlier, and then he held the teleconference [with party officials throughout the country] and that was it.”[15]

So, according to Curticeanu, there were simulators:   they were brought to the CC building, and they were brought by the Securitate.

But wait, you say, Curticeanu was a party official, how would he know if these were simulators?  A fair question.  Well, then, let us look at the response of Securitate Director General Iulian Vlad before the Gabrielescu commission investigating the December events during the early 1990s:

“Mr. Gabrielescu:  Did you hear about these simulators that were used?”

“Mr. Vlad:  Of course, all of the Securitate had them…It seems to me that just such an electronic apparatus was used also on 21 December when the meeting broke up.  After Nica Leon (shouted ‘Timisoara, Timisoara!’) automatic gunfire was heard and panic broke out…”[16]

So, according to no less than the head of the Securitate himself, the Securitate had such simulators and such a device was used on 21 December (—significantly he leaves the context ambiguous, suggesting indeed that they could have been used to break up the rally after it had turned against Ceausescu).

But neither of these sources, even if somewhat unintentionally divulging details that undermine their claims about December 1989, has a great deal of credibility.  How about someone else—particularly someone with greater credibility among those who accept Voinea’s arguments—and how about a discussion of the simulators after 22 December?  Understood.

Dumitru Mazilu, a key player in the December events who had by the time of the following comments become a fierce critic of Ion Iliescu and his cohorts, declared in 1991:

Reporter:  What do you know about these controversial simulators?

Mazilu:  In several places simulators were found.  These imitated perfectly the rat-a-tat-tat of machine guns, making an infernal racket, which provoked a lot of panic in the population and confused the young revolutionaries and soldiers.[17]

Yes, but what about eyewitness accounts, by average citizens?  Andrei Ionescu, who claims to have demonstrated on 21 December in University Square and to have participated in the events of the next several days in and around the Central Committee [i.e., CC] building, stated in 1992: “They didn’t break a single window [firing] in the CC.  There were simulators because a bunch of us verified this in the ‘Romarta’ bloc, on the second floor.”[18]

Those inclined to give Prosecutor Voinea the benefit of the doubt also happen to be people who otherwise listen to what poet Mircea Dinescu has to say—with the convenient exception of the Revolution:

Interviewer:  But the terrorists existed?

Mircea Dinescu:  Yes, they existed!  They exist! [the interview transpires in 1997]  I also saw the electronic simulators, Bucharest was full of them, there were long-existing plans, for the eventuality of invasions, attacks, etc.[19]

Nor were simulators found in only in Bucharest.  Recent articles on the Internet show people discovering them in Arad (Gai), Brasov, Sibiu, and Satu Mare.[20] These findings are significant because they show pattern, and, likely, planning and pre-positioning, across distant reaches of the country—just as Dinescu surmises.

Yet, remember:  Prosecutor Voinea wants us to believe that the gunfire simulators did not exist and were not used in December 1989.

Test Case II:  The Lunetisti

Romulus Cristea:  “If the terrorists didn’t exist, what can you tell us about the sharpshooters [lunetisti]?

Dan Voinea:  “The sharpshooters existed, all those who were equipped with weapons with scopes and were dispatched in battle at the time.  There was shooting with weapons with scopes.  The sharpshooters were from the army. [emphasis added]”[21]

That the Army had sharpshooters with gun scopes is not in question.  But Voinea’s certainty that those who shot with them in December 1989 were from the Army is jarring.  In fact, it was the Securitate who we know had sharpshooters dispatched during these days.  How do we know it?  Well, here is Alexandru Cristescu, former chief of special operations for the Securitate’s “Special Unit for Anti-terrorist Warfare” (USLA), in front of the (Gabrielescu) Senate Commission investigating the December events in the early 1990s:

“On the night of 20-21 December, the decision was made to hold the meeting [i.e. Ceausescu’s ill-fated outdoor address].  At 5 AM I was called to organize measures for the meeting.  I had 5 reserve [groups] of about 20 cadres, in 5 places, and 5 observation posts in the buildings surrounding the square with the CC building.  The officers had pistols, while the observation posts had guns with scopes [“pusca cu luneta,” PSL, i.e. what lunetisti use], with five cartridges each, and binoculars.”[22]

Andreea Tudor and Vasile Surcel more recently wrote of having come into possession of the “notes” of an “information service” that suggest that the Bucharest Municipal Securitate’s “Service 8 Guards” were deployed on 21 December 1989 in central Bucharest, some near University Square [where demonstrators were later massacred]:

“‘observer-sharpshooters’ were placed on the ‘Generala’ bloc, the tower of the bloc on Boteanu Street number 3.  In the ‘Generala’ bloc there even existed a ‘safe house’ apartment in which ‘sharpshooters’ were usually ‘located.’  The same ‘Note’ shows that, on 21 December 1989, Lt. Dumitru Safta was placed in this bloc, on the fourth floor, in apartment 23, that officially belongs to the Piciu family.  The officer had on his person a Makarov [9 mm] pistol with 12 cartridges, a machine gun with 120 cartridges, a sharpshooter rifle, binoculars, and a walkie-talkie.”[23]

Razvan Belciuganu observes of a document from the Army’s Chief of the General Staff listing the weapons found on 109 suspected “terrorists” during the events:  “What is interesting is the fact that on many of these [people] were found hunting rifles to which had been attached scopes [“lunete”], and even sophisticated night-vision devices.”[24]

Finally, there are the recollections of eyewitnesses, a decade and a half later, who—despite the onslaught of cynicism toward such ideas—continue to maintain they saw what they thought they saw…

“I was an eyewitness to the capture of a terrorist (based on the color of his tan I’d swear he was Arab) who was using a PSL [i.e. sharpshooting rifle, a lunetist] and firing into the population…he was taken alive and beaten in front of my own eyes by the Army, then taken up into a truck, also by the Army…in the following days they continued to sustain over and over on radio and TV that there did NOT exist any terrorists, or at least that none had been captured…Yeah, I’m sure this guy bought his PSL at the ‘Universal’ department store.” [25]

and…

“On the 24th I think, I was an eyewitness when soldiers captured an Arab sharpshooter (brown[-skinned] and he spoke broken Romanian)—who was using the famous “Pusca Semiautomata cu Luneta” (PSL—apparently Romanian) modified from an AK47.  I’m sure that he had  used it, and not just to help on his travels.  They whisked him away in a truck and they brought him to the command [post] of a large town (Brasov).  Later it was said that foreign forces were NOT implicated, or if they were, that there were no traces to prove it.  For me, that was the moment in which I began to believe that I was having a lie forced down my throat.”[26]

But Prosecutor Voinea can tell us—point blank—that those sharpshooters who fired in December were only from the Army!

What kind of people do not agree with Prosecutor Voinea’s type of conclusions regarding  the “lunetisti” and the alleged non-existence of  “terrorists”?  People like Andrei Firica, head of Floreasca Emergency Hospital in December 1989.  In 2004, he recalled of those who were shot after 22 December:

“…The conduct of a terrorist is to kill innocent people, to create panic.  When combatants are at war with one another, these can’t be considered terrorists.  But what else can you call someone who shoots [someone] right between the eyes, as happened to a woman on the 8th floor of a bloc on Balcescu Boulevard, in the area of the Unic department store…That person who fired was a ‘lunetist’ and for good reason was considered a terrorist.  Or what happened to a colleague of ours, a secretary at the Medical Sciences Academy, who was sitting in his home when he was hit in the middle of his head by a bullet.  These lunetisti, these sharpshooters, for good reason we call them terrorists….From a [medical] diagnostic standpoint, those who say that there were no terrorists are telling a boldfaced lie (porcarie).  In the Emergency hospital there were brought people who were shot with precision in the front, demonstrators hit by gunfire, from the back, from several meters away from the line of demonstrators, only terrorists could have done such things…”[27]

Firica claims that he “made a small file of the medical situations of the 15-20 suspected terrorists from [i.e. interned at] the Emergency Hospital,” but as he adds “of course, all these files disappeared.”  Firica reports that a Militia colonel, who he later saw on TV in stripes as a defendant in the Timisoara trial, came to the hospital and advised him “not to bring reporters to the beds of the terrorists, because these were just terrorist suspects and I didn’t want to wake up one day on trial for having defamed someone” (!)  The colonel later came and loaded the wounded terrorist suspects into a bus and off they went.[28]

Voinea stands 0-for-2 then…and these were seemingly the easy questions.

Let us move on then from these two test cases, directly now to the question of the “terrorists”’ alleged non-existence.

[14] Interview with General Dan Voinea, by Romulus Cristea, “Toti alergau dupa un inamic invizibil [Everyone was chasing after an invisible enemy],” Romania Libera, 22 December 2005 online edition.

[15] “‘Trebuie sa demascam si sa lichidam actiunea,’” Jurnalul National, 17 November 2004, online edition.

[16] Quoted in Vlad Mihai, “Recurs la adevar.  Profesionistii diversiunii,” Dimineata, no. 244 (1801), December 1996, online edition.

[17] Dumitru Mazilu, interview by Emanoil Catan, “Mari Mistificari ale Istoriei Revolutiei Romane,” Expres Magazin, no. 64 (September 1991), p. 12.

[18] Rodica Chelaru, “De la Revolutie la cantina saracilor,” Expres, no. 101 (7-13 January 1992), p. 10.

[19] Mircea Dinescu, with Eugen Evu, “Dialoguri integrale in forum: ‘Tenebre romanian color,’” 1997 at http://www.agero-stuttgart.de.  Inevitably, such claims recall initial reporting about the December events:  according to Blaine Harden on 30 December 1989, “In the days of street fighting that followed, he [a soldier] said, Securitate forces played tape recordings of gunfire over hidden speakers to confuse soldiers into firing their weapons.”  See Blaine Harden, “Elite Unit of Romanian Secret Police Seen Battling to the Death,” The Washington Post, 30 December 1989, p. A14.

[20] Vasile Surcel, “19 oameni au murit la Arad in zilele Revolutiei,” Jurnalul National, 29 October 2004, online edition.  Pintea Mos recounted in 2004 that in Arad in December 1989, “at the unit in Gai, on the covers of the entrance gunfire simulators were found.”  See “Remember 1989:  Revolutie de la Brasov,” 21 December 2003, at www.arhiva.informatia.ro. and “Remember decembrie 1989,” 22 August 2005 at www.einformatii.ro concerning events in Brasov and Satu Mare.  For an older account placing them in Brasov, see Adrian Socaciu, “Cronica unei morti inexplicabile,” Cuvintul, January 1991, reproduced at http://www.portalulrevolutiei.ro/arhiva/1991_226.html..  In Sibiu, “The locals are convinced that in Sibiu the famous ‘gunfire simulators’ ‘functioned,’ electronic apparatuses, not very complex, were placed in the attics of houses, but also on certain official buildings, that created panic among people through the broadcast of sounds similar to automatic gunfire” (Andreea Tudorica and Vasile Surcel, “Misterul disparitiei ‘baietilor in negru’, [“The mystery of the disappearance of ‘the boys in black’”], Jurnalul National, 15 September 2004, online edition.)

[21] Interview with General Dan Voinea, by Romulus Cristea, “Toti alergau dupa un inamic invizibil,” Romania Libera, 22 December 2005 online edition.

[22] Alexandru Cristescu, quoted in Cornel Dumitrescu, “Alte Dezvaluiri Senationale despre decembrie ’89,” Lumea Libera (New York), 18 March 1995, p. 21.

[23] Andreea Tudor and Vasile Surcel, “Mecanismul Terorii,” Jurnalul National, December 2004, online edition.

[24] Razvan Belciuganu, “Armele cu care au tras teroristii,” Jurnalul National, 6 December 2004, online edition.

[25] Posted on http://forum.softpedia.com/lofiversion/index.php/t18855.html, 2 December 2003.

[26] Posted on  http://forum.softpedia.com/lofiversion/index.php/t96198.html, 15 December 2005.

[27] Professor Andrei Firica, interview by Florin Condurateanu, “Teroristii din Spitalul de Urgenta,” Jurnalul National, 9 March 2004, online edition.

[28] Ibid.

Posted in raport final, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 10 Comments »

“ORWELLIAN…POSITIVELY ORWELLIAN:” PROSECUTOR VOINEA’S CAMPAIGN TO SANITIZE THE ROMANIAN REVOLUTION OF DECEMBER 1989 (Part One, Groundhog Day)

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on September 28, 2010

“ORWELLIAN…POSITIVELY ORWELLIAN:”

PROSECUTOR VOINEA’S CAMPAIGN TO SANITIZE

THE ROMANIAN REVOLUTION OF DECEMBER 1989

by Richard Andrew Hall

PART I:  GROUNDHOG DAY

Disclaimer:  All statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official positions or views of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or any other U.S. Government agency.  Nothing in the contents should be construed as asserting or implying U.S. Government authentication of information or CIA endorsement of the author’s views.  This material has been reviewed by CIA to prevent the disclosure of classified information.

This paper MAY be cited when accompanied by a full, proper citation.  Thank you.

I hold a B.A. from the University of Virginia (1984-1988) and a Ph.D. from Indiana University (1990-1997).  I have been employed by the CIA since September 2000.  I researched and wrote extensively on this topic prior to joining the Agency.  Outside of the application process, I had no association with the CIA prior to coming on duty in September 2000.  From October 2000 to April 2001, I served as a Romanian Political Analyst.  Since October 2001, I have served as an intelligence analyst on accounts essentially unrelated to Romania or central and eastern Europe.

Informational Note:  In December 1989 forty-two years of communist rule came to an end with the overthrow of the regime of the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.  The official death toll for the period of the Romanian Revolution, from 17 December 1989 – 10 January 1990 is 1,104 with 3,352 wounded.  Of those, 942 people died (almost 90% of the total) and 2,251 were wounded, after Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, fled power at approximately noon on 22 December 1989.  Although the quotations below are taken from print and electronic publications, and electronic bulletin boards, what follows is in many ways, an “oral history” of participants in the December 1989 events.

It Turns Out…the “Terrorists” Were Just a Hallucination

This just in…Breaking News from Romania…

Dateline Bucharest:  General Dan Voinea, Chief Military Prosecutor, “has committed himself to uncovering the truth of the ‘terrorists’ who…killed so many [942] in December [1989].”[1] Voinea spoke of investigating the “terrorist diversion” and “suggested that the former president [Ion Iliescu] might have engaged in arranging the ‘terrorist affair’.”[2]

Wait a minute!  Sorry, that was December 1997.  Let’s try this again.

This just in…Breaking News from Romania…

Dateline Bucharest:  In a stunning development, General Dan Voinea has declared:  “There are no terrorists in the December ’89 files.”[3]

Nope.  That was December 1998.  Here, let’s give it another shot.

This just in…Breaking News from Romania…

Dateline Bucharest:  “In a single blow, the Chief Military Prosecutor shoots down the entire invention of Iliescu:  ‘There were no terrorists!’  General Dan Voinea declares that in December ’89 it was all a diversion.”[4]

A foreign journalist summarizes the quest of the heroic Voinea as follows:  “General Dan Voinea is Romania’s chief military prosecutor and has embarked on a one-man mission to uncover the truth about what exactly happened during those days.  When shooting mysteriously re-erupted on the night of December 22 and continued unabated until December 25, Iliescu and his generals blamed it on dark ‘terrorist forces.’  But Voinea and others believe the whole episode was a scenario crafted by the military.  ‘The same people who had shot before now took power…The Superior Military Council, with its headquarters at the Ministry of Defense, gave orders to the Central Military Command inside the Central Committee building and this Central Military Command directed military operations across the country, or more exactly, where there were masses of demonstrators.’”[5] According to the journalist, Voinea is “on a lonely struggle to bring to justice those responsible for the unexplained deaths in the 1989 revolution.”[6]

A reporter for the daily “Ziua” states that a poll, conducted by the CURS  public opinion polling firm at the request of the Open Society Foundation, reveals that “only 11% of Romanians still buy the tale of the terrorists.” [7]

A leading Romanian editorialist declares:  “No one has the right any longer to question that this is the case [i.e., that the “terrorists” were a diversion by those who seized power], especially now that General Dan Voinea, Chief Military Prosecutor, the judge who had access to absolutely all existing documents and information, has officially declared that there were no terrorists.  That it was all just a concoction.”[8]

Sorry.  That was November and December 1999.  My mistake.  You are catching on:  this is Romania’s version of “Groundhog Day,” whereby Voinea steps forward seemingly almost every December, makes the same claims, and his statements are triumphantly reported in the Romanian media as some kind of bombshell that no one has ever heard before.  At this rate this could take a while…so let’s fast-forward to this past December:  December 2005.

Broken News.

Dateline:  Bucharest.  “A ray of hope still exists for finding out the truth [about December 1989].  The lead investigator of the Revolution Dossier, Dan Voinea, declared yesterday that the diversion with the terrorists was used in order to change the goals of the revolution begun in Timisoara.  ‘After 22 December 1989, the communists shot in order to stay in power.  And they remained!,” affirmed General Voinea…All of the events of December 1989 in Romania were directed from the center, from Bucharest, specified General Voinea, who Monday declared that on 22 December 1989, in accordance with a diversion, people were duped into believing in the existence of terrorists.  After 22 December 1989, the Romanian Revolution transformed, through a diversion ‘on television,’  from a fight against communism into one against a non-existent enemy—the terrorists.”[9]

The reactions by some of Romania’s prominent intellectuals have been extraordinary.  Nicolae Prelipceanu writes, “What Dan Voinea says after investigating the terrorist files has been said by many people since 1990.  True, these [people] had little in the way of data or testimonies to support them.  Instead, knowing the people and the mentalities of those who were at the front of this so-called revolution, which confiscated the real one, they drew conclusions that today are being validated, after more substantial research.  Now the conclusion of the prosecutor, according to which there did not exist any type of terrorists, but rather incitement to violence by those from the front of the new power, can no longer be denied.”[10]

According to Stelian Tanase, in an article entitled simply “The Diversion”:  “For 15 years the terrorist scenario has been floated by different politicians courting electoral support.  No one made even a step toward finding out the truth.  An event with hundreds of thousands of participants and eyewitnesses remained, paradoxically, a mystery.  Were the investigators and prosecutors so incapable that they could not reconstitute the events and identify the guilty?  I believe rather that they lacked the will to do it.  I believe that the beneficiaries of this situation were those sufficiently powerful to block the investigations for 15 years.  And do I need to remind anyone that after Dan Voinea’s revelations, Ion Iliescu brought grave accusations against the prosecutor?”[11]

Liviu Cangeopol invoked the comparison with the Kennedy assassination in the U.S.:  “As a result of the investigations of prosecutor Dan Voinea and the investigative accounts of some journalists and historians, Romanians appear to be luckier than their counterparts across the Ocean, who 42 years later still don’t know who left them without a president.  For us, out of the thicket of Decembrist adventures, one thing has become certain:  there weren’t any terrorists!”[12]

The ultimate expression of satisfaction and gratitude may have come from respected historian Stejarel Olaru.  In “A Letter to Dan Voinea (the opinion of a historian),” he wrote:   “Sir, Mr. Prosecutor, you know all these things [referring to events in Timisoara in December 1989].  I write to you now, 16 years after the bloody revolution and a year after the orange revolution [a reference in this case to the fall 2004 Romanian elections], I don’t know how to call it otherwise, tired of so many insincere commemorations.  My theory, Mr. Prosecutor Voinea, is simple enough…If in Timisoara the order to fire at the population was given by “The Comrade [i.e. Ceausescu],” after 22 December, other ‘comrades’ tricked us as if we were a bunch of kids—and we were then!—, inventing a theory that would immediately be accepted:  the terrorists are coming!…Mr. Prosecutor Voinea, I can only hope that you will have at your disposal sufficient computers, printers, food, cars and gas vouchers so that on 17 December 2006 I can enjoy for the rest of my long life that I could see two defendants in the box and not just one:  Nicolae Ceausescu and Ion Iliescu.”[13]

[1] Quote from Andrei Cornea, “The Curse of Ceausescu,” January 1998, in English, at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentaries/commentary.

[2] Recounted in George Baleanu, “Romania at a Historic Crossroads,” Conflict Studies Research Centre No. G65, found at www.pims.org/Events/Projects/CSRC/g65.htm, and second quote from Cornea, “The Curse of Ceausescu.”

[3] Adina Anghelescu, “Generalul Dan Voinea:  ‘In dosarele din decembrie ’89 nu exista teroristi,” Ziua, 16 December 1998, online edition.

[4] Oana Sima, “‘Nu au existat teroristi!’,” Ziua, 25 November 1999, online edition.

[5] Jeremy Bransten, “Romania:  The Bloody Revolution in 1989:  Chaos As the Ceausescus Are Executed,” RFE/RFL, 14 December 1999 at http://www.rferl.org/specials/communism/10years/romania2.asp.  For those coming to the Romanian Revolution for the first time, Brantsen’s series is an excellent journalistic introduction to the December 1989 events.  By contrast, although like many people I continue to be amazed at the value of information that can be found in the Wikipedia, the Romanian Revolution entry (in both Romanian and English) is, to say the least, disappointing.  An immediate flag to the entry’s credibility is its uncritical acceptance of the allegations of former Securitate Colonel Dumitru Burlan, Nicolae Ceausescu’s body-double.  I have elsewhere discussed Burlan’s claims in “Doublespeak:  The All-too-Familiar Tales of Nicolae Ceausescu’s Double,” which can be found online.

[6] Jeremy Bransten, “Romania:  The Bloody Revolution in 1989: Historic Facts Remain Obscured,” RFE/RL, 15 December 1999 at http://www.rferl.org/specials/communism/10years/romania3.asp.

[7] Gabriel Hizo, “Pentru prima data in ultimii zece ani, un sondaj de opinie national ii intreaba pe cetateni ce cred despre evenimentele din decembrie 1989,” Ziua, 17 November 1999, online edition.

[8] Sorin Rosca Stanescu, “Lui Magureanu  i-a iesit un porumbel din gura,” Ziua, 1 December 1999, online edition.

[9] Marius Batca, “Teroristii tovarasului,” Ziua, 20 December 2005, online edition.

[10] Nicolae Prelipceanu, “Craciunul de la Tirgoviste si urmariile sale,” Romania Libera, 26 December 2005, online edition.

[11] Stelian Tanase, “Diversiunea,” Ziua, 24 December 2005, online edition.  Somehow, this saturation coverage appeared to elude Victor Roncea who in June 2006 wrote, “Sixteen years after the December events the same prosecutor general who has been swimming for years in the files of the “Revolution Dossier,” Dan Voinea, declared—without the central press observing the weight of the announcement [!!!]—that there doesn’t exist any proof of ‘terrorists’ firing into the population during the insurrection of 1989.”  (Victor Roncea, “13-15 iunie, zile negre,” Ziua, 14 June 2006, online edition.)

[12] Liviu Cangeopol, “Realizarile Intregului Popor,” New York Magazin, 23 December 2005, no. 9 (issue 451), at http://www.nymagazin.com/html/451_liviu_cangeopol.html.

[13] Stejarel Olaru, “O scrisoare lui Dan Voinea,” Evenimentul Zilei, 18 December 2005, online edition.  It is worth noting here that those few voices that have been raised against Voinea belong to people who essentially nevertheless accept Voinea’s arguments with regard to the alleged non-existence of the “terrorists.”  Cozmin Gusa accused Voinea in December 2005 of politicizing the investigations and of “playing the game of structures that could have triumphed in December 1989 and could in the future  again,” but nonetheless maintains the 1989 events were a “coup d’etat.”  Ion Cristoiu termed Voinea “sinister” but has declared his own views as follows:

“We have known for a long time now who won the diversion with the terrorists in December 1989:  Ion Iliescu and the Army, which were disturbed that they could be called to account for its involvement in the repression of the preceding days.  Ion Iliescu legitimized himself the savior of the nation against the horrible terrorists who, according to him, were shooting from all positions.  Ion Iliescu created such arguments to justify the trial and execution of Nicolae Ceausescu, accused at his trial by Dan Voinea of having put into action the terrorist campaign in order to reconquer power.  To the Army, was offered the opportunity to cross over in the eyes of the populace as those who were fighting to save the conquests of the Revolution from the terrorists with whom they were fighting….Concerning the terrorist affair from December 1989, which miraculously served the new potentates of Romania to consolidate their power and to execute the Ceausescus, we have not yet found out [the truth], although the hypothesis of a diversion, launched by myself among others, in the article “22 December—an afternoon with too many questions,” from the 23 February 1990 edition of Expres, has now become the standard.  In December 1989, the price of this affair was huge:  over 1,000 innocent deaths, a chief of state (Nicolae Ceausescu) executed, together with his wife, after a farce of a trial….” (see Ion Cristoiu, “De la teroristii din 1989 la Teroristul din 2005,” Jurnalul National, 21 June 2005, online edition.)

In other words, Cristoiu believes that the terrorists were a myth created by those who seized power—i.e. Voinea’s argument.

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THE 1989 ROMANIAN REVOLUTION AS GEOPOLITICAL PARLOR GAME: BRANDSTATTER’S “CHECKMATE” DOCUMENTARY AND THE LATEST WAVE IN A SEA OF REVISIONISM, Part Seven (Conclusion)

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on September 26, 2010

THE 1989 ROMANIAN REVOLUTION AS GEOPOLITICAL PARLOR GAME:  BRANDSTATTER’S “CHECKMATE” DOCUMENTARY AND THE LATEST WAVE IN A SEA OF REVISIONISM

By Richard Andrew Hall

Disclaimer:  This material has been reviewed by CIA.  That review neither constitutes CIA authentification of information nor implies CIA endorsement of the author’s views.

Please Note:  This article is not to be cited, reproduced, translated, or used in any form without the acknowledgement and permission of the author.

Part 7:  Why the “End of Amnesia” May Not Come Anytime Soon*

II.  Revelations/Confessions/Admissions

1) 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 (see Part 5), 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 Tokes 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, 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 1996, I asked Mircea Mihaies, the editor of “Orizont” at the time the “Pyramid of Shadows” series appeared, what recollection he had about the circumstances of the article’s publication (Mihaies, interview, Bloomington, IN 1996). He could not recall the situation, and I have no reason to question his lack of recollection.  It is important to point out that at the time of the interview with Mihaies, I had no knowledge of Vasilevici’s book “Pyramid of Shadows”—I first learned of it in summer 1997—and therefore could not draw the comparison between the series in “Orizont” and the book.  As a result, throughout my Ph.D. Dissertation, I cite only “Puspoki F.” and the “Orizont” series—believing them to have been the revelations of someone with access to the former Securitate’s methods and actions, but without realizing them to be Vasilevici’s (see Hall, February 1997).

Nevertheless, there is no denying that the text of the “Orizont” series is identical to the passages found in Vasilevici’s book (Editura Vest, 1991) of the same title as the series.  This does not leave many explanations:  1) “Puspoki F.” is the source of both the “Orizont” series and of the work under Vasilevici’s name; 2) someone other than “Puspoki F.” or Vasilevici is the author of all the texts involved; or 3) Vasilevici was the source of the article published under the name “Puspoki F.”  Clearly—and especially given Vasilevici’s later comments with William Totok and others—Vasilevici was the author of the series in “Orizont” (see, the 1995 interview in Totok, 2001, pp. 186-203; Vasilevici had worked the surveillance of “Culte (churches),” specifically Roman Catholic, in Timisoara, under Radu Tinu).

2)  The comments of former USLA Captain Marian Romanescu

In mid-1991, the revelations of former USLA Captain Marian Romanescu surfaced, first under his initials and later under his real name.  Romanescu admitted the unit’s involvement in the repression of workers in Brasov in November 1987 and the juridical basis upon which the unit’s involvement lay (Order No. 2600).  Furthermore, as we saw in the last installment of this series, he reported USLA Commander Ardeleanu’s comments at the unit’s headquarters after the execution of the Ceausescus.  On the USLA’s actions during the week of 16-22 December, and particularly on his own actions during 22-25 December he was somewhat more reticent.  However, he did supply information on the enigmatic USLAC (special unit for antiterrorist and commando warfare), referenced by Ardeleanu in his speech:

The USLAC Commandos:  Those who had and have knowledge about the existence and activities of the shock troops subordinated directly to Ceausescu remained quiet and continue to do so out of fear or out of calculation.  Much has been said about individuals in black jumpsuits, with tatoos on their left hand and chest, mercenary fanatics who acted at night killing with precision and withdrawing when they were encircled to the underground tunnels of Bucharest.  Much was said, then nobody said anything, as if nothing had ever happened.  Superimposed above the Fifth Directorate and the USLA, the USLAC commandos were made up of individuals who ‘worked’ undercover in different places.  Many were foreign students, doctors and thugs commited with heart and soul to the dictator. Many were Arabs who knew with precision the nooks and crannies of Bucharest, Brasov and other towns in Romania.  (emphasis in original).”  ((with Dan Badea, “USLA, Bula Moise, teroristii si ‘Fratii Musulmani’,” “Expres (2-8 July 1991), p. 8)).

3)  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.  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.’” [“Romania Libera,” 28 December 1994]**

Teodor Filip, a former USLA officer, was apparently intrigued enough by this article that he went to the trouble of tracking down the identity of the correspondent of the dispatch.  According to Filip, the correspondent was Sterie Petrescu, who Filip claims was later expelled by both AM Press (Dolj) and “Romania Libera” for printing “scandalous disinformation,” and removed in 1996 from his position as head of Dolj County for the anti-Iliescu regime “Civic Alliance,” after which he had legal motions lodged against him (Filip 1998, pp. 109-111).  Filip claims immediately after the above dispatch came out, he published rejoinders in the daily “Crisana Plus.”  In those responses, he rejected the claims of the dispatch in their entirety.  According to Filip:  “during the December 1989 events, not a single member of USLA was dispatched into the field…[and] the USLA did not commit a single act [of repression] against demonstrators” (Filip 1998, p. 111).

Fear

It is significant that all of the aforementioned former Securitate (USLA) members who have revealed the USLA’s role in the December 1989 bloodshed have been “called out” and threatened.  Marian Romanescu claimed harassment and “hostile surveillance,” and initially tried to hide his identity (see details of his ordeal as recounted to Dan Badea, “U.S.L.A. in Stare de Hipnoza,” “Expres,” 9-15 April 1991); the anonymous USLA recruit, more explicit too—as if his anonymity were not enough—claiming that he feared for himself and his family.  Then there is Vasilevici’s case.

Despite the denial of any recollection or importance of the articles by “Puspoki F. (i.e. Vasilevici),” they did not escape the notice of the former Securitate.  Thus, 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” (interview from 1991, in Bacescu 1994, p. 67).  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” (interview with Mireca Iovan, “Cuvintul,” no. 119 (May 1992), p. 8).  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” reporter, when he spoke to Vasilevici by phone, Vasilevici was “very scared…such a man generally does not panic so easily.”

Vasilevici’s story seems plausible for a number of reasons.  First, at a time when he would have gained notoriety with his revelations in “Orizont”—March 1990—he chose anonymity.  Clearly, his story was more important than notoriety to him—a notoriety he probably did not seek, for reasons of personal security.  Second, former Securitate have also attacked him viciously in their literature.  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—this is clearly the focus of Colonel Lemnaru’s ire (“Piramida de minciuni a lui Roland Vasilevici,” “Spionaj-Contraspionaj,” no. 24 (March 1992), p. 7a).  In late 1994, while giving an interview on a local independent TV station in Timisoara, Radu Tinu came to the station while Vasilevici was on air and tried to interrupt the broadcast! (“Romania Libera,” 28 December 1994, p. 3)

It was also not good to have been a former military prosecutor who resigned the post because he saw where things were going with the “terrorist” investigation.  Marian Valer, who alleged SRI non-cooperation in the attempt to reconstitute what happened in December 1989, as well as the disappearance of maps captured at the time in Sibiu, said wryly in September 1990 that “Shortly after the publication of my resignation I sensed that I was benefiting from the services of Mr. Magureanu’s organization [i.e. the SRI…he was being surveilled]” (interview by Monica Marginean, “Expres,” no. 33 (September 1990), p. 2).  When questioned by a military judge at the proceedings of a trial linked to the Timisoara repression—as to why his fellow SRI colleagues called to testify were not showing up—a SRI junior officer who had been a member of the Timisoara Securitate’s antiterrorist intervention group in December 1989 responded:  “they don’t come, because they are afraid” (“Romania Libera,” 18 June 1991, p. 2a).

If this is how former Securitate whistleblowers and military prosecutors feel, what must be the situation for civilians and people of lower-rank in the Army?  In summer 1990, “Expres” reported on two young men recovering in an Italian hospital from wounds inflicted during the December events (Victor Radulescu, “Excursii prin Contul Libertatea,” “Expres” no. 11 (August 1990), p. 5).  They recalled how, at the Intercontinental on 21-22 December, “those in kaki [i.e. Securitate, likely USLA] shot us.  The first two rows of troops [Army] shot tracers, while those behind them opened live fire.”  The two, one injured on the 21st, the other on the 23rd, claimed that after they arrived in Italy, a certain 40 year old Iordan Cristian, who admitted to them he had been USLA, visited the hospital—he had been shot in the hand at an earlier time and recovered (!)—snatched any reading material showing photos of the 13-15 June rampage against the opposition in Bucharest, and kept them in a general state of fear.  In addition, he asked them to surrender their passports, something which “made even the Italians realize something was not quite right in all of this.”  Similarly, in an article that captures in a microcosm the complexity and fluidity of the first years of the post-Ceausescu era, one-time leader of the small “Liberal Democratic Party,” Elena Serban, maintains she was blackmailed in 1990 by Radu Grigore (a name that was to crop up again in some of the more underhanded political affairs of 1991-1992) who threatened her that “…if I betrayed him, he would kill me, and that I only needed to remember he had been an USLA officer…who had been in charge of the USLA machine-gun detachments on the night of 21 December in University Sqaure” (Dan Badea, “Securitatea—un joc in numele trandafirului,” “Expres,” 8-14 September 1992, p. 9).

Army soldiers who had been posted out front of the Defense Ministry on the night of 23/24 December, and who vigorously contested the revisionist account of the event by detailing the suspicious behavior of the USLA detachment in question, reported after expressing their recollections, having “been warned to think long and hard since they have families and to stay on their own turf if they do not want to have problems” (see Major Mihai Floca, “Crima?” “Armata Poporului” (6 June 1990), 3, and idem., “Eroi, victime, sau teroristi?” “Adevarul” 29August 1990, pp. 1-2).  Residents of the apartment blocs surrounding the Defense Ministry told Army journalists that there had indeed existed “terrorists” and that they had fired on the Ministry building from these surrounding buildings.  One family maintained that they had been visited in May 1990 by two individuals flashing “Militia” identity cards, inquiring what had happened in December 1989 in that location, and insisting that different parts of the Army had merely fired at one another—there had been no “terrorists.”  Some residents maintained that a neighbor suspected of being a Securitate collaborator had been going around suggesting “how to ‘correctly’ interpret the incident with the two armored personnel vehicles [i.e. the USLA unit] on the night of 23/24 December.”  The Army journalists concluded based on these interviews that “therefore, ‘the boys’ [a common euphemism for the Securitate] are [still] at work” (Mihai Floca and Victor Stoica, “Unde sint teroristii? PE STRADA, PRINTRE NOI,” “Armata Poporului” 13 June 1990, 27 June 1990).

Whereever the USLA showed up, even when supposedly fulfilling the “Special Action Plan” of coordination under such circumstances, they ended up in gunfights.  Was it the suspicion so “illfounded” or tendentious launched by Television?  A tragic error or misunderstanding?

Not even those who rose to influential posts in the early Iliescu administration were immune.  According to the well-known Romanian actor, Ernest Maftei, who was in the one of the focal points of the December events, the CC (the Central Committee building), even members of the Front were being careful about what they said.  Speaking in mid-September 1991, the 71 year-old Maftei was clearly disenchanted with Iliescu and the post-December evolution of politics.  He had written for the daily “Dreptatea” of the opposition National Peasants Party (PNTCD) in 1990 and spoken against the Front at the famous 28 January 1990 siege of opposition party officials. He noted bitterly, how on 14 June 1990, he had been beaten by the miners who came to Bucharest to ‘defend’ the Front:  “I’ll end on this note:  so I was in the revolution so that I could be almost beaten to death on 14 June and my son end up unemployed…?”  Nevertheless, it is significant what he said recalling the events in the CC on the night of 22 December after 11pm:

Dan Badea (the reporter, DB):  Who was it Dan Iosif [a civilian who was to become a key member and defender of Iliescu’s circle from the December events onward] shot?

EM (Ernest Maftei:  USLA!  Sir, they ostensibly came to help us and instead they ended up shooting us!…In the sub-basement there were some men of ours, because there were some armored doors there and we didn’t know what the deal was with them.  And someone opened a door and saw lights on.  So we got scared about what was there.  Then the USLA came to help us.  Yes!  And when they went down, they shot all our people.  Two of ours were killed there, they were revolutionaries, simple people who went there to die [as it turned out].  And then we realized that these guys would kill us.  Then they ascended.  They too had three dead.  And so we surrounded them:  “Undress we told them!” My god, it was awful.

DB:  Dan Iosif claims that he didn’t shoot the 15 USLASI…

EM:  He’s having you on, don’t listen to him!  It was necessary to kill them there.  But he doesn’t want to say it because he doesn’t want it to be known because today the Securitate still rules.  Precisely some of those who shot at us are now in power.  Listen to me.  The USLA, the Fifth Column, were with Ceausescu [emphasis added]. You don’t think they would have killed us?  My god!

DB:  Who else besides Dan Iosif shot?

EM:  Many, about 5, I don’t know their names.  Hell, if we hadn’t shot them, we would have been dead!  It was revolution, sir.  It was civil war…(see interview with Dan Badea, “Iliescu putea sa fie eroul neamului, dar a pierdut ocazia! [Iliescu could have been a national hero, but he squandered the opportunity!],” “Expres,” no. 36 (85) 10-16 September 1991)

Nor does such reticence on this subject appear to have disappeared after all these years.  With the advent of the Internet, unverifiable bulletin board postings also pop up.  On 23 December 2003, under the name of “kodiak,” the following appeared:  “In ’89 I was a major in the USLA…and I know enough things that it would be better I didn’t know…15, 16, 20, 30 years will pass and nothing will be known beyond what you need and have permission to know…” (http://www.cafeneaua.com)

Conclusions

This article began with an extended discussion of Suzanne Brandstatter’s much-publicized and debated “Checkmate” documentary on the Romanian Revolution of December 1989, first broadcast in late February 2004 on the Franco-German television station TV Arte.  Many who commented upon the film presented its thesis that 1989 events were a CIA-engineered coup as original.  This is only partially true, as the French scholar Catherine Durandin had already been pushing the thesis in recent years.  But the arguments of the Brandstatter-Durandin Franco-German school are indeed new—not to mention, surprising—given that it was precisely journalists and academics in France and Germany who in 1990 zealously marketed the idea of the December 1989 events as a KGB-engineered coup.

On the surface, what has changed over the past decade and a half is the broader geopolitical context, from Romania’s membership in the Warsaw Pact to Romania as NATO member and a key US ally in the Afghanistan and Iraqi military campaigns.  This, the break-up of the Soviet Union, the decline of Russia as a major power, and perceived and real US hegemony on the world stage, have all contributed to the prism through which a historical event fifteen years ago is now interpreted.

Aside from the apparent numerous instances of selective editing and a director who had reached her conclusion before she had started interviewing—as related time and again by the now frustrated and, in some cases, angry interviewees—the Brandstatter film is beset by a major problem, in which she is hardly alone.  Not being steeped enough in the history of December 1989, but particularly, not being steeped enough in the post-1989 historiography of those events, she is oblivious to the context and agendas of those whose “revelations” upon which she bases her argument.  Thus, when Gheorghe Ratiu, former head of the Securitate directorate most identified by Romanians as the “political police” talks about secret CIA training camps in West Germany, Austria, and Hungary and of the trainees as having sparked the anti-Ceausescu uprising, she appears to accept it at face value.  But this is not some “new revelation”; it was born in 1990-1991 when the former Securitate was intent on exonerating the institution and those directly involved in repression, including Ratiu himself.

Brandstatter, of course, as in the case of the French journalists of the first wave, can easily be forgiven for not knowing better the historiography of the Revolution or questioning the agendas of those who made these sensational revelations or the context in which such details and arguments were born.  The same does not stand true, however, for those inside and outside Romania who have written on the December 1989 events.  One simply cannot understand what happened in December 1989, if one is not familiar with exactly what the former Securitate have argued about those events since December 1989, in particular during the key period of 1990 and 1991.  The etymology of details and arguments about December 1989, where—when, and how these were born—is imperative for understanding the Revolution.

The time for reifying Ceausescu’s overthrow, for arcane and simply by now uncontroversial and unenlightening debates about whether it was a revolution or a coup—while making little or no effort to examine the specifics of what happened—for failing to address the Securitate’s historiography of the events, for declarative statements about “the trick with the terrorists” or “the well-controlled chaos” without providing any proof, has passed.  It has been a hallmark of my research on the Revolution from the start to deconstruct and test the arguments and claims of others who have studied this event.  I ask that future investigations of the December 1989 events will address the many details presented in this article, particularly in the last two installments.

*Title inspired by phrase used by Radu Ciobotea in “Flacara” July 1991.

**Space does not permit me to discuss the tactics, ballistics’ evidence, and equipment of the “terrorists.”  As I wrote in 1999, a major problem with research on the Revolution is the failure to “get out of Bucharest” and compare what happened in other locations.  Such a comparison shows a clear pattern.  In addition to prior sources discussed in Hall 1997 and 1999, see the following:  “Orizont (Timisoara),” no. 5 1990; “Flacara” no. 8 1990 (on Caransebes), no. 51 1990 p. 11, no. 6 1991 p. 9 (Coltea Hospital, Bucharest), no. 39 1991, p. 4 (Dumitru Mazilu revelations), no. 29 1992, p. 7; “22,” no. 5 1990, p. 10; “Tineretul Liber,” 5 January 1990, p. 4a; “NU (Cluj),” no. 22 1990 (Gen. Rizea, Braila), “Cuvintul,” nos. 1-4 January 1991 (Brasov), no. 7 February 1991 (Gen. Spiroiu and staff of “Opinia” exhumation on 14 June 1990 of those killed in Brasov); “Tinerama,” no. 123 1993 (26 December 1989 description of “terrorists” at Bucharest morgue); “Expres,” no. 24 and 27 1991 (Resita and Hateg).

SOURCES

“Adevarul,” 1990.

“Armata Poporului,” 1990.

Bacescu, A. 1994.  Din Nou in Calea Navalirilor Barbare [In the Path of Barbaric Invasions Again] (Cluj-Napoca:  Zalmoxis).

“Cuvintul,” 1991, 1992.

“Expres,” 1990, 1991, 1992.

Filip, T. 1998.  Secretele USLA [Secrets of the USLA] (Craiova:  Editura Obiectiv).

“Flacara,” 1990, 1991, 1992.

Hall, R. A. 1997, “Rewriting the Revolution: Authoritarian Regime-State Relations and the Triumph of Securitate Revisionism in Post-Ceausescu Romania,” (Ph.D. Dissertation, Indiana University).

Hall, R. A., 1999, “The Uses of Absurdity: The Staged War Theory and the Romanian Revolution of December 1989,” in “East European Politics and Societies,” Vol. 13, no.3, pp. 501-542.

Mihaies, M.  Interview (Bloomington, Indiana), March 1996.

“NU (Cluj), 1990.

“Orizont (Timisoara),” 1990.

Revista “22,” 1990.

“Romania Libera,” 1991, 1994.

“Spionaj-Contraspionaj,” 1992.

“Tinerama,” 1993.

Totok, W. 2001.  Constrangerea memoriei.  Insemnari, documente, amintiri [The Compulsion to Remember.  Notes, documents, memories] (Bucharest: Polirom).

Vasilevici, R., 1991, Piramida Umbrelor [Pyramid of Shadows] (Timisoara:  Editura de Vest).

My thanks in particular to the libraries at Babes-Bolyai University (Cluj) and Indiana University (Bloomington) for the use of their collections in the process of researching and writing this series.

This article was originally prepared for submission to Radio Free Europe’s online publication “East European Perspectives (EEP),” where I previously published on the topics of Securitate revisionism (2002) and nationalism in late-communist Hungary and Serbia (2003).  Due to shifting priorities, RFE is reducing its coverage of Romania and plans to discontinue EEP.  EEP provided a forum for younger scholars such as myself, as well as for scholars from central and eastern Europe, and it will be missed.  My thanks to Dr. Michael Shafir for providing that opportunity.

Richard Andrew Hall holds a BA from the University of Virginia (1988) and a PhD from Indiana University (1997).  He joined the CIA in September 2000 and served as a Romanian Political Analyst from October 2000 to April 2001.  Since October 2001, he has worked as an analyst on issues unrelated to eastern Europe.  He published extensively on the Romanian Revolution and its historiography prior to joining the Agency, including the Romanian journals “22” and “Sfera Politicii” in 1996, “East European Politics and Societies,” in 1999, and “Europe-Asia Studies” in 2000.  He can be reached for comment on this series at hallria@msn.com.

Disclaimer:  This material has been reviewed by CIA.  That review neither constitutes CIA authentification of information nor implies CIA endorsement of the author’s views.

Please Note:  This article is not to be cited, reproduced, translated, or used in any form without the acknowledgement and permission of the author.

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THE 1989 ROMANIAN REVOLUTION AS GEOPOLITICAL PARLOR GAME: BRANDSTATTER’S “CHECKMATE” DOCUMENTARY AND THE LATEST WAVE IN A SEA OF REVISIONISM, Part Six

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on September 26, 2010

THE 1989 ROMANIAN REVOLUTION AS GEOPOLITICAL PARLOR GAME:  BRANDSTATTER’S “CHECKMATE” DOCUMENTARY AND THE LATEST WAVE IN A SEA OF REVISIONISM

 

By Richard Andrew Hall

Disclaimer:  This material has been reviewed by CIA.  That review neither constitutes CIA authentification of information nor implies CIA endorsement of the author’s views.

Please Note:  This article is not to be cited, reproduced, translated, or used in any form without the acknowledgement and permission of the author.

 

 

Part 6:  When Suspicion Meets Admission

 

The USLA:  “Who, we all remember, don’t we?, just how much with the people they were in the days of the Revolution… (emphasis in the original)” (Paul Vinicius, “Flacara,” 29 May 1991).

 

I.  Suspecting/Blaming the USLA:  Cloaking a Coup, Creating a Revolutionary Halo for a Bloodstained Army, or Accidental?

 

a) Where could the idea that the USLA was hostile to the Revolution have possibly come from?

 

To believe the revisionists, the idea that during the December events there existed “terrorists” and that the Securitate’s anti-terrorist special unit was behind the “terrorism” originated in the minds and announcements of Romanian Television reporters Teodor Brates and Alexandru Stark, General Nicolae Tudor and other military officials at the Television station, and/or General Nicolae Militaru, Silviu Brucan, Ion Iliescu and other members of the National Salvation Front.  A popular belief among revisionists is that they were all in on this deception, the new political officials and televsion personalities.  At their most charitable, revisionists will argue that the suspicion regarding the existence of “terrorists” and of the USLA specifically was based in an understandable and rational fear regarding the Ceausescu regime—but that ultimately these fears were misplaced, and that the suspicion of the USLA actually played a large role in contributing to needless bloodshed after Ceausescu fled.  As in so many controversies surrounding the Revolution, little effort has been made in “process tracing,” working backwards to find the roots of claims and ideas.

 

It is significant that in 1990, the infamous Securitate cheerleader, Angela Bacescu, blamed all of the above personalities for creating “imaginary terrorists,” but also added another culprit.

 

“Among those [who showed up at Television on the afternoon of 22 December after Ceausescu fled] was this Cirjan, an ordinary thief, who entered with a false ID.  He had been thrown out of the USLA, several years earlier, because he was stealing from passengers’ baggage, was dealing on the black market, and other such things, and [here] he is from the first moment shouting ‘Death to the Securitate’ and ‘The USLA are coming to shoot us’.” (Bacescu, “Romania Mare” 7 September 1990, p. 5a; see also her allegations against Cirjan in the 21 August 1990 edition)

 

A “Constantin Cirjan” appears on the list of the 38 “founding” members of the National Salvation Front read out on Television by Ion Iliescu.  And, although I cannot verify that they are one and the same, it is possible that this Constantin Cirjan is the same as a Captain Constantin Cirjan of Romania’s special “mountain hunter” forces, whose recent training exercises are discussed on a web page (see geocities.com/romanianspecialforces/vanatoridemunte).  It would certainly make sense, given that the “mountain hunter” forces were affiliated with the Securitate before the Revolution, and USLA training would likely have had many similarities with the current training of these “mountain hunter” forces.

 

This is signficant.  In other words, the point that so many revisionists highlight—how was it that even before the “terrorists” appeared, Television was warning about their appearance?—appears to have an explanation.  We must ask:  what would lead Cirjan to suspect this?  From where would he have such information?  Even if we assume for a minute that Bacescu has made up this episode, the question is why?  Afterall, she already targets Brates, Stark, etc. for this allegedly false, intentional “rumor” about the existence of “terrorists” and the USLA’s contribution to them.  True, Bacescu could be wrong, misinformed, or determined to find a scapegoat or settle scores with this individual.  But the point is that she identifies the source of the USLA rumor as a former member of the USLA—in other words, someone with access to such knowledge.  In other words, the “USLA rumor” appears to have originated not with Brates, Stark, or others, but from a former USLA member.

 

b) But what evidence exists to believe that Front officials at the time suspected the USLA?  Were the public statements that the USLA were involved merely for public consumption, and did not reflect their actual beliefs—particularly in the event that they were lying to begin with and knew the USLA was innocent?

 

Despite expressions of suspicion of the USLA on TV and elsewhere, regime forces followed the so-called “Special Action Plan” that called for the combined participation of Army units alongside USLA and other Securitate units.  In Bucharest and elsewhere, the USLA were sent out on patrol in pursuit of the “terrorists” (for example, Buzau and Arad, see Armata Romana in Revolutia din Decembrie 1989, p. 192, 209).  With USLA Commander Ardeleanu having “joined” the Revolution from early on, and with the appearance of USLA cooperation, Front officials found it hard to believe that the USLA were the “terrorists.”

 

Yet they kept on getting reports that something was not right.*  At the very least, Securitate Director General Vlad and USLA Commander Ardeleanu were not putting all their cards on the table, unwilling or “unable” to fulfill requests for maps of Securitate safehouses and architectural plans of key buildings that might have clarified from where the shooting was coming and what exactly was going on (Ardeleanu himself seems to have admitted this obliquely in a document drafted on 8 January 1990, see its reproduction in Dan Badea, “Cine au fost teroristii?,” “Expres,” 15-21 October 1991, p. 15).  In theory, the USLA had either surrendered their registered arms on the 22nd, and/or were performing joint missions with the Army to root out the “terrorists.”  The straw that appeared to break the camel’s back was the arrest of an armed USLA sergeant, Ion Popa Stefan, in the neighborhood of the Defense Ministry—he claimed he was on his way to the Defense Ministry to “surrender”.  Commander Ardeleanu is said to have played dumb upon being confronted with the news:  “I think it’s the hand of my chief of staff Trosca, he’s done this to me” (Lt. Col. Mihai Floca and a group of Army officers, “Eroi, victime sau teroristi?” “Adevarul,” 29 August 1990).  Senior Army officers and Front leaders had had enough.  They would try to call Ardeleanu’s bluff and give them a “loyalty test” of sorts.

 

One important admission from Commander Ardeleanu—one that has little alternative explanation given his accusations toward Army General Nicolae Militaru who instructed Ardeleanu to order USLA units to the building—severely undermines much that underlies revisionist accounts that Trosca and his men were intentionally lured into a diabolical ambush:

 

“…When I reported at the Defense Ministry [during the late evening of 23 December], I was asked to give details regarding the organization of the unit, its subdivisions, responsibilities, and attributes.  After this, I was told that the Defense Ministry was being attacked from all around…Then, General Militaru announced that in the “Orizont” building terrorists had barricaded themselves and were firing on the Defense Ministry, ordering me to transmit to my unit an order that 3 intervention groups come to annihilate the terrorists.  He warned me that the order I would transmit would be recorded and that I should proceed with this in mind. I transmitted the order to Colonel B.I. [Ion Bleort] who reported to me that by his side was Colonel Gheorghe Trosca, the unit’s chief of staff, who would take measures to execute the order.  Keeping in mind the importance of the mission I gave the order.  I know that I pronounced the name of Colonel Trosca, and therefore those present knew that he would lead the group.”  [interview from 1991, in Bacescu 1994, p. 116]

 

This passage is critical for two reasons in terms of the revisionist accounts:  a) it was Ardeleanu, not Militaru or anyone else, who chose Col. Trosca, and b) it was known that the USLA transmissions would be recorded.  Furthermore, the passage testifies to the suspicion of Front leaders:  why all the questions to Ardeleanu about the composition and activities of his unit?

 

The understanding of what followed, the famous so-called “Defense Ministry incident,” in which seven USLA members lost their lives after Army units out front of the building opened fire upon them, became even more confused after exchanges from the tape of USLA transmissions appeared in the press in early 1993 (Ioan Itu, “Armata Trage in Propriul Minister,” “Tinerama” 8-14 January 1993, p. 7—pretty much the entire article and discussion of this important incident shows up in Deletant, pp. 360-362).  Those exchanges show Trosca communicating to an uncomprehending Bleort back at USLA headquarters—Trosca repeated himself several times—that “a column of six-seven TABs, two trucks with soldiers and two ARO, fired for ten minutes on the Ministry and then stopped.”  In other words, Army units were firing on their own ministry.  A few minutes after Trosca’s announcement to headquarters, Trosca reported that Army tanks guarding the ministry had opened up fire on his USLA team’s armored personnel carriers (ABI).  The impression one gets after that is that the USLA personnel became tank fodder and that they never event fired a shot in response.  The journalist Ioan Itu concluded from this, and Deletant appears to accept, that the USLA detachment had been attacked “because they had to disappear, having accidentally witnessed one part of the Army at war with another part of the Army.”

 

Of course, there is more to this story.  It was not just a few minutes between the arrival of the USLA detachment at the scene, their report of what was going on, and their coming under attack.  Instead, they had stationed themselves in between tanks—as they had been instructed—for almost a half hour, without making contact with anyone among the Army personnel out front of the Ministry, a fact which caused obvious suspicion for those personnel.  Moreover, according to officers interviewed in spring 1990, they witnessed gunfire from the guns on the USLA vehicles, three of the machine guns recovered from the USLA vehicles showed signs of having been fired, the gunbarrell of one the tanks had been blocked, and on the top of another tank a machine gun and signal lantern were found (Major Mihai Floca, “Crima?” “Armata Poporului” 6 June 1990, p. 3).

 

What is amazing, of course, if we take Trosca’s transmission about the Army forces firing on their own ministry at face value, is that somehow this occurred “for ten minutes” and yet there is no report that the USLA detachment or the Army units defending the Ministry were hit or returned fire.  And when the USLA detachment is attacked it is from the units guarding the Ministry…because they are embarrassed ?, afraid ? that the USLA personnel witnessed something they should not have seen?  And why or how did these rebel Army units stop attacking the Ministry and what became of them? Furthermore, as Army General Tiberiu Udrareanu relates:

 

“Personally, I have serious doubts regarding the use of  ‘7-8 TAB-uri, two trucks of soldiers (two platoons) and two AROs’ in a mission of this type, to be able to operate in the center of the Capital and to not be seen by a single person.  And the survivors, because we are talking about hundreds of people, have kept this secret so tightly for over seven years?” (Udrareanu 1996, p. 143).

 

Indeed, the latter point is significant, as one could imagine how once the content of the tapes were made public, that some lips might have loosened.  And I ask the reader:  which is more plausible, that Trosca—knowing his words were being listened to—was lying or trying to communicate something in code to his headquarters, or that hundreds of soldiers—including draftees and students at the military academy—could or would keep quiet about Army units intentionally attacking their own Ministry?

 

What happened after the firefight is even more intriguing as evidence of the genuine suspicion of the USLA on the part of Front leaders.  USLA Lieutenant Stefan Soldea who survived the firefight outside the Defense Ministry relates what happened when he was taken to the building.  Remember, here is an USLA officer, who participated in this key incident and his clearly defending his own actions and those of his unit, talking about his experiences in the pages of the Securitate mouthpiece “Europa,” so hardly in a position to, as is soften alleged, be somehow serving the Front leadership:

 

“A civilian, Gelu Voican Voiculescu, was in the office surrounded by the other generals [Army General Nicolae Militaru, Militia General Cimpeanu, Securitate General Iulian Vlad, and Securitate Fifth Directorate General Neagoe]…he began to interrogate me, ordering that my USLA commander, Colonel Ardeleanu go outside.  He demanded information about the organization, make-up, and functioning of  the unit, its address, what the unit’s members were doing at that moment, my personal information, after which he confronted me with Colonel Ardeleanu and asked me to identify who he was…”(“Crime care nu se prescriu,” interview with Angela Bacescu, “Europa” 28 July-5 August 1992).

 

Among the many interesting details that come out of Soldea’s interview is his complaint that the next day of his detention he “was forced to take a urinalysis test to see if I was drugged.”  What does all this tell us?  At the very least, it tells us that Voiculescu and other Front officials suspected that the USLA were the terrorists and suspected that—as the rumor circulated at the time (it turned out to be correct, but that is an issue for a different discussion)—they were drugged.**

 

This was an incredible and inexplicable charade to go through at the time if Voiculescu, who is always portrayed as one of those at the center of the alleged Front “staged war,” was attempting to stage such a confrontation.  If the Front “controlled” the “terrorists,” why do this?  Who exactly were Front leaders trying to impress/convince with this incident?  Moreover, if this truly was a charade—such as is alleged of the Ceausescus’ trial and execution—why is there no record/tape of it?  Would not this have been a great bit of counter-propaganda to the revisionists that could have been given to the media to protect their reputations and credibility?

 

c) What else would have made Front officials suspect the USLA?

 

We now have enough evidence to confirm that after the Ceausescus were executed on Christmas Day 1989, a meeting took place at the headquarters of the USLA that included senior Front leaders, with a tight military guard outside the building.  USLA Commander Ardeleanu (Bacescu 1994, p. 142), former USLA Captain Marian Romanescu (more on him below), and Army General Tiberiu Urdareanu have all related this in their spoken and written comments on the Revolution.  According to Urdareanu, who claims to have been present at the meeting, the new Defense Minister General Militaru took the floor in a speech that focused principally on the secretive nature of and confusion surrounding the USLA.  Militaru stressed that now was the time for reconciliation between the Defense Ministry and the Interior Ministry (i.e. Securitate)—it had just been announced that the Interior Ministry was being dissolved in the Defense Ministry—and appealed at the end “for those involved in the genocide:  put an end to it!”  As Udrareanu concluded:

 

“From his [Militaru’s] discussion it was clear that, among other forces, the USLA were definitely taking part [in the terrorist actions], that they had prepared for this for many years, and it was not known how much money their preparation had cost” (Udrareanu 1996, p. 137).

 

Urdareanu asserts that USLA Commander Ardeleanu also talked at the session:

 

“Colonel Ardeleanu, the USLA Commander, palely observed that it wasn’t they [the USLA] who were fighting, but that they [the “terrorists”] were acting in the name of the USLA, but his intervention went unnoticed.” (Urdareanu 1996, p. 137).

 

Five years before Urdareanu, former USLA Captain Marian Romanescu described Adreleanu’s comments to his troops as follows:

 

On 25 December at around 8 pm, after the execution of the dictators, Colonel Ardeleanu gathered the unit’s members into an improvised room and said to them:

‘The Dictatorship has fallen!  The Unit’s members are in the service of the people.  The Romanian Communist Party [PCR] is not disbanding!  It is necessary for us to regroup in the democratic circles of the PCR—the inheritor of the noble ideas of the people of which we are a part!…Corpses were found, individuals with USLAC (Special Unit for Antiterrorist and Comando Warfare) identitity cards and indentifications with the 0620 stamp of the USLA, identity cards that they had no right to be in possession of when they were found…’ He instructed that the identity cards [of members of the unit] had to be turned in within 24 hours, at which time all of them would receive new ones with Defense Ministry markings.” (emphasis in the original) (with Dan Badea, “USLA, Bula Moise, teroristii si ‘Fratii Musulmani’,” “Expres (2-8 July 1991), p. 8)

 

Ardeleanu’s statement begs the question:  if these were non-USLA personnel, why exactly were they trying to pass themselves off as USLA personnel…to the point of losing their lives?  At the very least, his statement infirms the idea that the individuals with these identity cards were innocent victims—because otherwise he would likely not have stated that they had “no right” to possess these identity documents, but instead would have presented them as heroes who had died in the name of the Revolution.  Ardeleanu’s comments can be interpreted as the beginnings of a cover-up, designed to reverse the popular understanding of the USLA’s responsibility for the December bloodshed.

 

It is odd that, at the time, even those who contested the seizure of power by the second-tier of the communist regime—and spoke in terms of a coup d’etat designed to staunch the revolution or that had been pushed ahead of schedule in order to take advantage of the popular uprising—did not question the existence of the “terrorists.”  Would there not have been some first-hand accounts that contradicted the official and initial understanding if it had indeed been a “staged war?”  Personal retrospective judgements based on the fact that the “terrorists” never came to trial or that someone never saw or captured a “real terrorist,” are not the same as doubts expressed at the time—suggesting that someone else other than the Securitate/USLA was behind the “terrorist” gunfire.

 

II.  Revelations/Confessions/Admissions

Suspicion, of course, does not equal guilt.  Even if circumstantially understandable, it can still prove unfounded.  In the case of the Romanian Revolution, in order to prove the idea of a “staged war,” one has to have admissions from those in the DIA [the Army’s Defense Intelligence unit charged with search and diversion missions, accused by many of having been the “terrorists”] or Army personnel who would have been in a position to know such plans that this is what took place.  What is significant is that there are none.  Conversely, in order to substantiate the USLA’s role in the “terrorist” violence, one needs admissions from those who served in the USLA or Securitate personnel who would have been in a position to know such plans.  These exist.  The very existence of such revelations is extremely damaging for the theory of a “staged war” or accidental free-for-all between units all on the same side of the battle.

 

There is a great difference, of course, between alleging somebody else—foreigners, another institution, a rival—did something, and saying that your own institution, unit, commanders, etc. did something.  The latter clearly appropriates more risk and opprobrium—especially if one is wrong.  This issue in weighing declarations is rarely addressed in works on the Revolution, but is of critical importance.

 

To begin with there are the admissions, speculation, and alleged confessions of high-ranking Securitate personnel…regarding their own institution.  Army General Dan Ioan, former head of the Military Prosecutor’s office maintained just this January (2005) that Securitate Director Vlad admitted that the “terrorists” were special forces of the Interior Ministry and Securitate (“Gardianul,” 29 January 2005).  Although Vlad provided many possible formations and individuals within these categories—and it is possible they also participated—the focus of his comments was that “the terrorists could have been from the Special Units for Antiterrorist Warfare (USLA), Directorate V-a, more precisely elite sharpshooters.”  Ten years earlier, Army General Nicolae Militaru maintained that during the days of the Revolution, Lt. Col. Dumitru Pavelescu, commander of the Securitate’s regular troops, had told him pretty much the same thing and that Order 2600 was the basis for the operation (“Cotidianul,” 25 May 1995).  Aristotel Stamatoiu, head of foreign intelligence at the time of the Revolution, is quoted as having said “Who fired?  Ask at the units specially-equipped and trained—USLA, Dicrectorate V-a, Militia, and Securitate Troops etc.” (“Revolutia—vazuta de securisti,” 20 December 2003, at http://www.hanuancutei.com).

 

Then there is Interior Minister Tudor Postelnicu.  He is quoted as having said after his arrest on 22 December 1989 and after the gunfire had begun:  “Who’s firing?!  The USLA!” (“Tineretul Liber,” 13 March 1990, p. 4).  On 23 December, the following statement allegedly by him was read on Romanian Television and Radio:

 

“Appeal:  To the Soldiers of the Securitate troops who are engaging in special missions that were ordered by the leadership of the T.S. [Trupele speciale]!  I come as Interior Minister, specifically to ask you in writing, in the most categoric terms, to cease your actions of warfare because they have transformed into a crime against humanity!  Think of your children and families, because only this way can you receive legal clemency!  Stop your actions of a terrorist nature and establish means of surrendering your forces to your commanders, to Colonel Pavelescu!  Whoever permits you to continue these terrorist actions will be punished severely!  This is the last warning I will give you to save your lives for a crime that is futile and irresponsible.  Signed Tudor Postelnicu, former Interior Minister.”  (Societatea Romana de Radiodifiziune 1998, pp. 244-245).

 

What is never explained of course by those who maintain he was forced to do this, or that he did it to gain clemency for himself from Front officials, is why either he or the Front would blame the Interior Ministry and Securitate.  Iliescu and others were straightforward in declaring from the beginning in televised announcements that the Securitate had joined the Revolution (see the quotes in Hall 1999, pp. 516-517).  If your goal is supposedly to incriminate someone so that you can seize power, but you admit publicly that the Securitate has sided with the Revolution, and you plan on maintaining the bulk of the Securitate in the new regime, why not blame unknown civilian loyalists, outside any formal structure of the Ceausescu regime’s institutions, as those villains?  Why on earth would you plant any idea that the “terrorists” were associated with the Interior Ministry or Securitate?  It simply does not make sense—unless of course you genuinely suspect them, as we have seen they did and good reason to do so.

 

All of these claims can of course be dismissed as “second-hand,” related by Army personnel at the center of the December events with an interest perhaps in protecting their own hides, or as the temporary kowtowing and doubletalk of people (Securitate and Interior Ministry) under arrest.  These explanations, however, do not wash for the revelations of those discussed in the next installment.

 

* In place after place, over the course of the next few days, USLA personnel either tried to penetrate/infiltrate key buildings or were found furtively exiting zones from which there had been extensive gunfire, leading local Army commanders and others to suspect and move against them.  See, for example, “Expres,” no. 27 and 34 (1991) on Caras-Severin county; “Flacara,” no. 21 (22 May 1991), p. 7, on Galati; “Gazeta de Sud,” 23 December 2002 (citing “Cartel (Craiova),” 8 April 1992) on Craiova; and Armata Romana in Revolutia din Decembrie, p. 210, on Arad.

 

**Many—I’d venture to guess most—Romanians and East Europeanists today chuckle knowingly—“how naïve!”—at the notion that, to the extent “terrorists” actually existed, they were drugged.  Those who captured or treated them are less amused.  See for example, the comments of Sergiu Tanasescu (“Cuvintul,” 28 March 1990) regarding the capture of an USLAC officer, and Doctor Zorel Filipescu (“22,” no. 48 December 1990 in Hall 1997, p. 269).  The journalist Ondine Gherghut, who was a nurse at the time of the December events, also has no doubt that those who arrived at her hospital as “terrorists” were drugged (author interview, Bucharest, 25 June 1997).  And the passage of time and domestic and foreign cynicism have not erased the memories of Professor Andrei Firica, director of the Floreasca Emergency Hospital in 1989 (interview, “Jurnalul National,” 9 March 2004).  Finally, the former Securitate and USLA personnel who have admitted the USLA and USLAC role in the “terrorism” all tell of them being drugged (see next installment).

 

SOURCES

 

“Armata Poporului,” 1990.

 

Armata Romana in Revolutia din Decembrie 1989, 1998, (Bucharest: Editura Militara).

 

Bacescu, A. 1994.  Din Nou in Calea Navalirilor Barbare [In the Path of Barbaric Invasions Again] (Cluj-Napoca:  Zalmoxis).

 

“Cotidianul,” 1995.

 

“Cuvintul,” 1990.

 

Deletant, D. 1995.  Ceausescu and the Securitate:  Coercion and Dissent in Romania, 1965-1989 (Armonk, NY:  M.E. Sharpe).

 

“Expres,” 1991.

 

“Europa,” 1990, 1992.

 

“Gardianul (online),” 2005.

 

Gherghut, O.  Interview, Bucharest, 25 June 1997.

 

Hall, R. A. 1997, “Rewriting the Revolution: Authoritarian Regime-State Relations and the Triumph of Securitate Revisionism in Post-Ceausescu Romania,” (Ph.D. Dissertation, Indiana University).

Hall, R. A., 1999, “The Uses of Absurdity: The Staged War Theory and the Romanian Revolution of December 1989,” in “East European Politics and Societies,” Vol. 13, no.3, pp. 501-542.

 

“Jurnalul National (online),” 2004.

 

Revista “22,” 1990.

 

“Romania Mare,” 1990.

 

Societatea Romana de Radiodifiziune, 1998.  E un inceput in tot sfarsitul [There’s a beginning to every ending] (Bucharest).

 

“Tinerama,” 1993.

 

“Tineretul Liber,” 1990.

 

Udrareanu, T. 1996.  1989—Martor si Participant [1989—Witness and Participant] (Bucharest:  Editura Militara).

 

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THE 1989 ROMANIAN REVOLUTION AS GEOPOLITICAL PARLOR GAME: BRANDSTATTER’S “CHECKMATE” DOCUMENTARY AND THE LATEST WAVE IN A SEA OF REVISIONISM, Part Five

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on September 25, 2010

THE 1989 ROMANIAN REVOLUTION AS GEOPOLITICAL PARLOR GAME:  BRANDSTATTER’S “CHECKMATE” DOCUMENTARY AND THE LATEST WAVE IN A SEA OF REVISIONISM

By Richard Andrew Hall

Disclaimer:  This material has been reviewed by CIA.  That review neither constitutes CIA authentification of information nor implies CIA endorsement of the author’s views.

Please Note:  This article is not to be cited, reproduced, translated, or used in any form without the acknowledgement and permission of the author.

Part 5:  Opportunity Lost

–“Now, three months after the revolution, everyone is with the people and the Army…So then who was shooting?…The idea that only the Army fired in December is being advanced with great skill…”  (Major Mihai Floca, “Armata Poporului,” 14 March 1990).

 

Many Romanians and foreign observers will tell you the great “secret,” the most prized and protected issue in post-Ceausescu Romania, is who among the appartchiks who assumed power under the banner of the “National Salvation Front” knew one another before the December 1989 events, what were the dimensions and plans of this conspiracy, when was the “Front” formed, and what were their relations with the Soviet Union, etc.  Nonsense.  By comparison to the issue of the identity of the “terrorists,” the former are lightly guarded.  The question of the “terrorists” is THE issue of the Revolution precisely because it has far more weighty criminal and moral repercussions and implications associated with it.

 

OPPORTUNITY LOST

 

There are, perhaps, few sadder stories of historical revisionism in modern times than that of the Romanian Revolution of December 1989.  This is, of course, not because of the magnitude of the event or the number of lives lost (1,104)—unspeakably painful for their loved ones and for the citizens of the country, but a minor total in the scheme of the world’s great historical tragedies.  Instead, it is because rarely have the victims and prisoners of a former political system played such an unwitting, zealous, and unfortunate role in serving, assimilating, and perpetuating a revisionist falsehood.  In the case of the Romanian Revolution, this revisionist falsehood, it must be admitted, is undeniably seductive, popular, and deeply-embedded in the Romanian popular consciousness and the country’s observers abroad.

 

The beginning of the burial of the truth about the “terrorists” of December can be dated to 17 February 1990, when General Victor Atanasie Stanculescu replaced General Militaru as Defense Minister.  Significantly, the same former Securitate and USLA personnel who are bitterly critical of Stanculescu’s actions during the days of the Revolution praise him for his actions later, particularly after assuming this post.  For example, former USLA officer turned author, Teodor Filip (not to be confused with the aforementioned Filip Teodorescu), writes:  “On the first day he was appointed, Stanculescu convened all USLA personnel (at least those engaged in ordinary missions) and addressed them with words of encouragment (Filip 1998, p. 109; for his criticism of Stanculescu during the Revolution, see, for example, p. 148).”  Indeed, such a revelation—and likely the source of Filip’s claim—came from Gheorghe Ardeleanu, Commander of the USLA at the time of the December events, who told the former Securitate’s journalistic mouthpiece in “Europa,” Angela Bacescu:

 

“As is known, General Stanculescu came to the helm of the Defense Ministry, and upon this occasion, I addressed him, in the name of USLA personnel and their grieving families, thanks, recognition for all he had done to honor the memory of those who had fallen, by declaring them heroes post mortem and promoting them.  In the first day after being named to the post, General Stanculescu came to our unit and before the entire group, addressed them with words of encouragement, and promised then, and he delivered on it, that the situation of those who had fallen on duty would quickly be resolved in the spirit of truth and human dignity.” (from a 1991 interview, in Bacescu 1994, p. 123).

 

It was Stanculescu’s public presentation of the former Securitate and in particular the USLA that was perhaps most appreciated.  In the days after the appointment, while many domestic and foreign observers were scrutinizing Stanculescu’s revelations on the bureaucratic makeup and membership of the Securitate—the first hard numbers, however flawed, to be released by the Front up until that time—Stanculescu was making critical, if generally unnoticed, revisionist statements about the USLA’s role in the December events.  (At the time, at least one foreign observer picked up on the suspicious nature of Stanculescu’s revisionism and interpreted it as an attempt to rehabilitate the Securitate (Strudza, pp. 33-34).  The Securitate’s official institutional successor, the Romanian Information Service, SRI was unveiled in late March 1990.)  In his comments to the press, Stanculescu not only denied that the USLA had been responsible for the “terrorist actions,” but that they had any role in the repression in Timisoara and Bucharest during the week preceding Ceausescu’s fall (ROMPRES 8 March 1990 in FBIS 15 March 1990).

 

We’ll leave the first of these allegations alone for the moment.  As for the second, it can only be called Orwellian, a true whopper among lies, that could only stand if the newspapers of the previous two months were disposed of and memories of those papers and the events purged from minds.  In the same daily, “Libertatea,” to which Stanculescu related this new understanding of the USLA’s actions in December (26 and 28 February 1990), between 27 January and 15 February, transcripts of regime communications, including USLA communications, from the afternoon of 21 December and then again from the morning of 22 December, had been published under the headline “Dintre sute de…catarge! [From hundreds of “masts!” (the radio identification for USLA officers conducting surveillance)].* Although rather conveniently missing from the transcripts is the key period in the early hours of 22 December when regime forces opened gunfire in University Square, killing 48 and wounding 604 (684 people were also arrested), these truncated transcripts nevertheless reveal USLA involvement in the repression in Bucharest.  According to the transcript, upon the orders of Securitate Director General Vlad, the USLA launched tear gas grenades at demonstrators.  They also show USLA “intervention units” claiming to have “restored order” and one USLA member communicating in reference to protesters, “These hooligans must be annihilated at once.  They are not determined.  They must be taken quickly.  The rest are hesitating.”

 

The USLA had already been trying to “correct” the memories of citizens, prior to Stanculescu’s “clarification” of their role.  When a participant in the demonstrations at Piata Romana in central Bucharest related on 12 January 1990 in “Libertatea” the role of the USLA in beating demonstrators there on the 21st and later the presence of the USLA among the gunmen who killed demonstrators in University Square in the early hours of 22 December, USLA chief Ardeleanu rushed to issue a public denial in the paper several days later.  Particularly in Timisoara, the presence of the USLA among the forces of repression has been detailed by so many sources—including former USLA who participated—that there is not much point in seeking to prove Stanculescu’s contention false.  Indeed, even elsewhere, beyond eyewitness/demonstrator contentions, the presence of USLA among repressive forces in the week of 16-22 December has occasionally been accidentally acknowledged by Securitate officials, essentially speaking to their sympathizers.  The Securitate chief for Sibiu County, Theodor Petrisor, wrote in April 1991:

 

“On Monday, 18 December 1989, upon the order of the [Militia’s] Inspector General, I activated the antiterrorist intervention group.  This group had been reorganized in September 1989 and was made up of Securitate officers who were involved in informational-operational services…Militia officers and officers from the joint units of the inspectorate.  I’ll note that the existence of this group was to intervene in order to neutralize terrorist activities, not for other street actions.  In the command chain, the coordination of the group’s activity was the responsibility of the special unit for antiterrorist warfare (U.S.L.A.) in Bucharest. [Emphasis added]” (Theodor Petrisor, “Revolutia din decembrie 1989 in Sibiu County (I),” “Europa” no. 22 (April 1991), p. 8).

 

None of this should come as a great surprise, since the USLA—employing their tell-tale A.B.I. armored vehicles, which they alone among regime forces possessed—participated in the repression of protesting workers in Brasov on 15 November 1987 (see “Jurnalul National,” 14 November 2004; the former USLA officer Marian Romanescu in Dan Badea, “USLA, Bula Moise, teroristii si ‘Fratii Musulmani’,” “Expres” (2-8 July 1991), p. 8), and since there was a juridical basis to their key role in combatting civil unrest, as confirmed by Interior Ministry Order 02600 (July 1988).  Indeed, as recently as January 1990, in the first—and soon to be, almost last—trial to sentence those accused of participating in the repression before 22 December, one of the defendants was an USLA officer (Burian), charged with having opened fire on demonstrators on 21 December in the western city of Cugir.

 

Stanculescu’s “revelations” essentially opened up the floodgates of revisionism, some of it accidental and the result of the confusion Stanculescu’s comments had sewn, some of it very clearly motivated.  Horia Alexandrescu, former editor of the primary Romanian sports’ daily during the Ceausescu era, and later editor of “Curierul National” and “Cronica Romana” among other dailies, wrote in March 1990 as editor of “Tineretul Liber” a multi-part series extolling the work of the USLA before December 1989, and arguing not only that they had not been the post-22 December “terrorists,” but that they had not played a role in the repression of demonstrators between 16 and 22 December.  Clearly, the most unexpected journalist to run to the defense of the USLA was Petre Mihai Bacanu of the daily “Romania Libera,” who had been imprisoned earlier in 1989 for attempting to publish an underground newspaper and who arrived emaciated and haggard at television in the hours following Ceausescu’s flight, direct from Securitate custody.

 

In his March-April 1990 series on the events of 21-22 December in Bucharest, Bacanu vigorously sought to make clear for his audience, on two occasions during a multi-part series, that the USLA had not been responsible for the repression of demonstrators at Bucharest’s University Square on the night of 21-22 December.  In fact, he clarified that “we have incontrovertible proof that the USLA officers had only one mission, to defend the American Embassy and the El Al Israel Airlines ticket office” (17 March 1990).  To say that this was confusing to the researcher is an understatement, particularly as the “Libertatea” transcripts had clearly shown USLA officers discussing that their mission was to “block” the access of demonstrators to these locations (i.e. fearing that they would seek refuge there.)  Moreover, despite claims to the contrary of civilian and military eyewitnesses in the Army daily, “Armata Poporului” in January and later in the Military Prosecutor’s report released on 4 June 1990 (discussed Hall, 1997, pp. 219-224), Bacanu declared, “We must clarify that the USLA detachments did not fire a single shot, nor arrest a single person among the columns of demonstrators” (16 March 1990).

 

Significantly, almost four years later, based on what he claimed was “new” information from Army soldiers who had been in the square that bloody “longest night of the year,” in an example of professional integrity, Bacanu admitted that he had been duped:

 

“Very many officers talk about these ‘civilians’ in long raincoats and sheepskin coats, who arrested demonstrators from within the crowd and then beat them brutally…No one has been interested until now in these dozens of ‘civilians’ with hats who shot through the pockets of their clothes…For a time we gave credence to the claims of the USLA troops that they were not present in University Square.  We have now entered into the possession of information which shows that 20 USLA officers, under the command of Colonel Florin Bejan, were located…among the demonstrators” (28 December 1993, p. 10)

 

USLA Commander Gheorghe Ardeleanu admitted in passing in court testimony that USLA personnel operated in civilian clothes on this evening (Stefanescu 1994, p. 288).  At the very least, it is clear that uniformed USLA personnel participated in the repression.  An official at the National Theater—located next to the Hotel Intercontinental in University Square—claims USLA troops beat demonstrators and policed the building to see if any were hiding there (Vasile Neagoe, “Expres” 30 March-5 April 1990, p. 6).  According to the Military Prosecutor’s 4 June 1990 charges:  “The witness [Spiru Radet] specified that one of the soldiers from the USLA troops, who had a machine gun in his hand, fired warning shots and then shot at the demonstrators.  At that point, the witness was wounded in the hand by bullets and transported to Coltea Hospital” (in Bunea 1994, p. 88).

 

In April 1990, two important articles would appear in the opposition weekly, “Zig-Zag.”  One was by Gheorghe Ionescu Olbojan, who sought to accredit the idea that 40 corpses transported from Timisoara to Bucharest for cremation were not civilian demonstrators, but members of those Army “special forces,” the DIA unit.  As Marius Mioc has noted, this was a clear effort to muddy the understanding of the Timisoara uprising (Mioc 2000).  The other article was by Angela Bacescu, who wrote that the USLA anti-terrorist troops had no responsibility for repression and bloodshed before or after 22 December; instead, they were victims of those events, cynically targeted to leave Romania defenseless.  Bacescu would transfer to the Ceausescu nostalgic weekly “Romania Mare” in the fall of 1990, and then the former Securitate’s favored mouthpiece, “Europa,” where she has stayed ever since.  Ion Cristoiu, editor of “Zig-Zag” at the time was later asked if Bacescu had infiltrated his opposition weekly.  Cristoiu responded that Bacescu came with a lot of documents and no need for money, but that it was important that the former Securitate’s side of the story be told.**  Olbojan would admit openly and in detail from 1993 onward that he had been a Securitate officer (for a discussion of all this, see Hall 1999; 2002a).

 

It was these articles, as I suggested in the last segment of this series, that set off writers in the Army press, with the intentions and ties of both Bacescu and Olbojan being questioned.  Elsewhere, Octavian Andronic of “Libertatea” finally published on 10 May, a letter he had received from unnamed Army officers who had written in response to Andronic’s seemingly anomalous article in early January devoted to the bravery of the USLA in defusing bombs in the 1980s.  The authors expressed dismay over Andronic’s article and wondered about his motivations in trying to burnish the image of the unit that was still considered at that time the source of the “terrorists.”  It was only four months later, when Andronic’s views had been “vindicated” by the change in the official history of the USLA’s actions in December that he published that letter.

 

Nor was the damage wrought by Bacescu and Olbojan in the pages of “Zig-Zag” over yet.  In June, in an article that would be republished almost verbatim in “Romania Mare” two months later, Bacescu wrote “The Truth about Sibiu” suggesting that there were only “imaginary terrorists” in Nicu Ceausescu’s town and declaring that all those Secruitate and Militia people arrested were innocent and unjust victims (no. 15, 19-26 June 1990, p. 8).  Meanwhile, in July (no. 19, 17-23 July 1990, p. 13), Olbojan would continue his push to turn the DIA into the villians of December, describing the unit as:  “‘The special forces’ of the Defense Ministry troops [who] were used in diversion operations last December to create the impression that Interior Ministry forces were putting up resistance to the revolutionary wave sweeping Timisoara, Bucharest, [and] Sibiu.”  In other words, the notion of a “fictitious war with fictitious terrorists,” whose victims were the Securitate and Militia.

 

AND NOW, WITH YOUR PERMISSION DEAR FRIENDS…BACK TO THE “TERRORISTS”

 

Let us ask:  if this was a “fictitious war with fictitious terrorists,” “a staged war,” what would be evidence of it, and what information would falsify it?  The “staged war” theory suggests that in reality there existed no “terrorists,” but just unfounded (if perhaps understandable) suspicion and fear, confusion, and insufficient, poor, or inappropriate military training.  This resulted in Army units, other forces, and civilians firing haphazardly at “phantoms,” at each other and at civilians in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Or it suggests that there were “terrorists” but they were acting upon the orders of those who had seized power—Iliescu and his friends—or whose actions were known or understood by those officials, but allowed to continue because they were seen as legitimating their seizure of power.  As we have seen, in the latter scenario, very frequently these “friendly terrorists” are identified as Soviet or other foreign “tourists”/agents, and or the Army’s DIA unit.

 

In either scenario, one must explain why, either intentionally or accidentally, during the events, the Securitate—primarily from the USLA anti-terrorist unit—was suspected and publicly accused of being the “terrorists” and responsible directly and indirectly for the death of 942 people and wounding of 2245.  It is difficult to “prove” the first scenario, because it is essentially the process of proving a negative.  It is possible to infirm it, however.  If people who would have been in the position to know, to have access to such information, claim that there were no actual terrorists, then we have to take such an allegation seriously—although we also have to examine their credibility and if they might have some institutional or personal agenda.  It should be pointed out, however, that if this or that Army officer or soldier speculates post-facto that because they found no terrorists, that therefore there were none and that they had intentionally been sent on a wild-goose chase designed to create military confrontations and victims to legitimate the seizure of power, this cannot be interpreted as confirmation of the thesis:  since it is speculation, conflates personal experience with collective experience, and runs into the problem of proving a negative.

 

In the scenario alleging that there were terrorists but that they were intentionally serving those who seized power, we must have people from the institution, group, or unit, and/or would have been in a position to have knowledge of that information, make the allegations.  To have someone from a different institution or political perspective make this allegation, does not necessarily invalidate it, but it is clear that the credibility of the allegation is substantially enhanced if it comes from one’s associates.  Thus, the Army officer who suspects the Securitate of having been the “terrorists” is not as convincing as the Securitate officer who alleges the same thing—and therefore is at the very least taking an implicit risk by breaking ranks with his colleagues.  Similarly, in the scenario where the DIA are thought to be the “terrorists,” one needs admissions from current or former members of the unit, or at least from senior Army officials who would have been in the position to know, in order for the scenario to be credible.

 

It is important to emphasize—particularly in the case of the historiography of the Romanian Revolution—that all “revelations” are not equal.  This point has simply been lost on many analysts of the December 1989 events.  “Revelations” in which an individual blames an institution of which he was not a member are less credible because 1) it is less likely that the individual would have access to knowledge about the actions of those he accuses, 2) the risk he incurs by such revelations is far less than if he were a member of that institution—in which case he violates a written or unwritten code of loyalty to the organization, and perhaps more important, to his colleagues.  “Revelations” that damage one’s institution or impugn one’s colleagues are, as we know, far more dangerous to the individual who makes them, if that institution is based on secrecy.  In the Romanian context, it is clear that the institution most strongly based on secrecy—and with the capability and record of enforcing its maintenance—was the Securitate.  To suggest that such laws of silence were—and, in particular, still are—stronger among those in the Communist Party, the military, or the nomenklatura as a whole is an extraordinary proposition.

 

What is significant in the case of the Romanian Revolution is that we have not just one, but several “whistleblowers” who worked in the former Securitate, and in two cases served in the USLA, who have admitted that components of the USLA were the hub of the December 1989 “terrorist” actions.  The effort these individuals have gone to in order to mask their identities, the fear of retribution from the former Securitate they have expressed in their revelations, the lengths to which other former Securitate officials have gone to in order to publicly identify these “whistleblowers,” and the vitriol with which these former Securitate officials have attempted to discredit these whistleblowers and their claims, sharply differentiate these revelations from the ocean of accusations by other former regime members who have spoken or written on the topic.  These circumstances also attest to their credibility:  why do they fear to speak?  Why do their former colleagues make such efforts to find out who they are and publicly identify them?  Why the obsession of their former colleagues with silencing these “whistleblowers?”

 

It is precisely the admissions that exist and the gaping gaps in opposing accounts that lead me to conclude that the 1) terrorists existed, 2) they were primarily from the Securitate, and that 3) the core source within the Securitate was the USLA/USLAC.

 

Those who deny that there were terrorists or that their key component was members of  the Securitate’s  “Special Unit for Antiterrorist Warfare (USLA)” fighting to prevent the collapse of the Ceausescu regime have yet to confront or respond to the following four critical questions:

 

1)    If there were no terrorists, why do there exist people who have come forward to declare their existence?

2)    Why are the only people to declare that the terrorists came from their institution or unit those from the Securitate/Militia, and specifically the USLA?”

3)    Why have former Securitate members made such efforts to discover the sources of these allegations, write with such vitriol against them, and threaten them?

4)    Why has nobody from the Army come forward to state that the terrorists were from their particular unit?  (Particularly significant considering that the “law of silence” in the Securitate/Militia was inevitably far more deeply-embedded and enforced that in the Army.)

 

* USLA’s chief of operations Alexandru Cristescu admitted elsewhere that those posted at observation points had sniper rifles (pusca cu luneta) and live ammunition (see “Lumea Libera,” 18 March 1995, p. 21).  It is also very important to specify, given the events of the next several days in the area of the Central Committee (CC) building and the allegations since, that both Securitate Director Vlad (“Dimineata,” 25 November 1996) and senior communist party official Silviu Curticeanu (“Jurnalul National,” November 2004) have admitted that on 21 December, the Securitate installed gunfire simulators in the area.  Demonstrators who investigated the Romarta bloc in the following days, found several of them (“Expres,” 7-13 January 1992, p. 10).

 

**Although Cristoiu’s motives remain unclear, like so many in the post-Ceausescu media, he has displayed a “laissez-faire” attitude toward the former Securitate:  publishing anything that comes his way, whether it be blatant revisionist falsehoods such as those of Bacescu or Olbojan, or documents incriminating the Securitate, such as the text of Order 2600 in “Expres” 1991, or a host of documents on the December events in 1993 in “Evenimentul Zilei.”  The former Securitate have been somewhat serendipitous beneficiaries of the—perhaps inevitable given the situation at the time—mercenary and sensationalist temptations confronting those working in the post-Ceausescu media.

 

SOURCES

 

“Armata Poporului,” 1990.

 

Bacescu, A. 1994.  Din Nou in Calea Navalirilor Barbare [In the Path of Barbaric Invasions Again] (Cluj-Napoca:  Zalmoxis).

 

Bunea, M. 1994.  Praf in Ochi.  Procesul celor 24-1-2 [Dust in the Eyes.  The Trial of the 24+1+2] (Bucharest:  Editura Scripta).

 

“Dimineata (online),” 1996.

 

“Europa,” 1991.

 

“Expres,” 1991

 

Filip, T.  1999.  Secretele USLA [Secrets of the USLA] (Craiova:  Editura Obiectiv).

 

Hall, R. A., 1999, “The Uses of Absurdity: The Staged War Theory and the Romanian Revolution of December 1989,” in “East European Politics and Societies,” Vol. 13, no.3, pp. 501-542.

 

Hall, R. A., 2002, “Part 1:  The Many Zig-Zags of Gheorghe Ionescu Olbojan,” “The Securitate Roots of a Modern Romanian Fairy Tale:  The Press, the Former Securitate, and the Historiography of December 1989,” Radio Free Europe “East European Perspectives,” Vol. 4, no 7.

 

“Jurnalul National (online),” 2004.

 

“Libertatea,” 1990.

 

“Lumea Libera,” (New York), 1995.

 

Mioc, M., 2000. “Ion Cristoiu, virful de lance al campaniei de falsificare a istoriei revolutiei” at http://www.timisoara.com/newmioc/51.htm.

 

“Romania Libera,” 1990, 1993.

 

Stefanescu, P. 1994, Istoria Serviciilor Secrete Romanesti [The History of the Romanian Secret Services], (Bucharest:  Editura Divers Press).

 

Sturdza, M. 1990, “How Dead is Ceausescu’s Secret Police Force?” in Radio Free Europe’s “Report on Eastern Europe,” Vol. 1, No. 15, (13 April).

 

“Tineretul Liber,” 1990.

“Zig-Zag,” 1990.


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THE 1989 ROMANIAN REVOLUTION AS GEOPOLITICAL PARLOR GAME: BRANDSTATTER’S “CHECKMATE” DOCUMENTARY AND THE LATEST WAVE IN A SEA OF REVISIONISM, Part Four

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on September 24, 2010

posted by Lillymill, translated by Shenaningan 87, at youtube

THE 1989 ROMANIAN REVOLUTION AS GEOPOLITICAL PARLOR GAME:  BRANDSTATTER’S “CHECKMATE” DOCUMENTARY AND THE LATEST WAVE IN A SEA OF REVISIONISM

By Richard Andrew Hall

Disclaimer:  This material has been reviewed by CIA.  That review neither constitutes CIA authentification of information nor implies CIA endorsement of the author’s views.

Please Note:  This article is not to be cited, reproduced, translated, or used in any form without the acknowledgement and permission of the author.


Part 4:  The First Wave of Franco-German Revisionism, 1990

The great irony of the new wave of Franco-German revisionism—which argues that the December 1989 revolution in Romania was a CIA-engineered coup d‘état—is that it was journalists and academics in precisely France and [West] Germany who in 1990 led the charge that that the revolution was largely a KGB-inspired and guided coup d’état. Just as the KGB gets a cameo in the new revisionism, so the first Franco-German revisionist wave assigned a part to the CIA and Western security services, but it was a bit and largely (dis)informational/passive role.  Books and articles by Michel Castex, a French journalist, Olivier Weber and Radu Portocala, both French journalists with the latter an ethnic Romanian, and Anneli Ute Gabanyi, a Romanian German-based academic and former analyst at Radio Free Europe, spearheaded the promotion of the KGB coup theory throughout 1990 (for summaries of the arguments contained in these works, see, for example, Ratesh, 1991, pp. 81-85 and Shafir, 1990, pp. 30-31).  The enduring influence of these theories on shaping the debate about the Revolution—and, ironically, highlighting just how new the Brandstatter-Durandin second Franco-German wave is—can be seen in a 1999 article by Andreas Oplatka in a German-language daily marking the 10th anniversary of the December 1989 events (Neue Zurcher Zeitung, 22 December 1999, also invoked by J.F. Brown, 2001, p. 77, n. 7 as an excellent contemporary synopsis of the debate).

The relationship of the Franco-German revisionism to Romania was dynamic and flowed in both directions.  Streams of thought intersected and converged.  To some extent, it ended up becoming circular as time passed.  Franco-German revisionism was based in part on interviews with and revelations from Romanian participants in the December 1989 events.  The details and arguments of these writings would flow back into Romania—they were translated or reviewed—where they appeared to provide answers to the confusing aspects and unresolved questions of Ceausescu’s overthrow.  The theories were welcomed and trumpeted by the small, electorally weak, and continuously harrassed opposition to Ion Iliescu’s National Salvation Front regime, who were primed to believe them based on what had happened since Ceausescu’s overthrow and who desperately needed anything that could help them in a sharply unequal political contest.  This bestowed foreign authors domestic confirmation of their revisionist accounts.

The Evolution of the Initial French Accounts

The engine of the French revisionism of the first half of 1990 was probably the weekly “Le Point,”—although French Television (FR3) and other dailies and weeklies also played a role.  In the 1 January 1990 edition of “Le Point,” Kosta Christitch wrote in an article entitled “Romania:  Moscow’s Hidden Game,” that Ceausescu’s “fate had [not been determined in December] been sealed in Moscow less than a month earlier.”  On New Year’s Day 1990, French Television broadcast the famous video which shows Ion Iliescu, Petre Roman, and Army General Nicolae Militaru talking on 22 December about what to name the(ir) group that had taken power, and in which Militaru claims that the “National Salvation Front has been in existence for six months already” (for details and a good discussion on this issue, see Ratesh, 1991, pp. 53-55, 81, 89-91).  In the 8 January 1990 edition of “Le Point,” Radu Portocala entitled his article “Romania:  The Hand of Moscow.”  Portocala insinuated that Hungarian and Yugoslav media had intentionally exaggerated the number of casualties, particularly in the Timisoara repression [numbers which reached upwards of 10,000-12,000, when in actuality 73 died], while “at the same time, everything was put in motion to publicize that it wasn’t the [Romanian] Army that had opened fire [on the Timisoara demonstrators], but the Securitate.”  On 5 February 1990, Portocala returned with an article, “Romania:  Troubling Facts,” and on 30 April 1990, Olivier Weber wrote a piece, “Romania:  The Confiscated Revolution.”

However, as Ratesh states, “…a fully developed conspiracy theory would not come to light until late May 1990, when the French magazine ‘Le Point’ carried a long and sensational article purporting to unveil the truth about the uprising” (Ratesh, 1991, pp. 81-82).  The article, “Romania:  Revelations of a Plot.  The Five Acts of a Manipulation,” by Weber and Portocala, continued the themes that the authors had developed in their aforementioned articles, that Ceausescu’s overthrow was in fact a coup and that the communist bloc media had distorted information about what was happening inside Romania in order to propel Ceausescu’s fall.  But it also included two new generally new themes, insinuating that foreign agents on the ground in Timisoara had had some role in the protests there—thereby undercutting the “spontaneity” of the Revolution—and that there had been no genuine “terrorists,” only “false terrorists,” part of a scenario for legitimating the coup d’etat.  It was these newer themes that particularly became the focus of the Romanian media, and that prompted the most controversy.

It is difficult to overestimate the long shadow of the 21 May “Le Point” expose over the historiography of the Revolution.  Translated by “Expres,” “Nu (Cluj),” and other key opposition publications in May and June 1990, it seemed to crystallize and explain all the doubts Romanians had about the December events—further confirmed, it seemed, by the manifestly unequal and unfair 20 May election results and then the miners’ rampage in Bucharest against demonstrators and the opposition press and parties during 13-15 June.  The article’s trail shows up everywhere.  American Romanianists Katherine Verdery and Gail Kligman who, in an article written in November 1990 sensibly inveighed against treating the Front, the former Securitate, and other groups as homogenous wholes operating in lock-step on behalf of Iliescu, discussed the Weber and Portocala as the centerpiece of the debate over December 1989 (Verdery and Kligman, 1992, pp. 118-122).  However, although they questioned it, their summary of their own views on the events seemed to repeat many of the arguments of the account.

The Weber and Portocala account also shows up in the travel account of Dervla Murphy—although cited to “Romania Libera,” the description and details of her discussion make it clear the “Le Point” article is the source (Murphy 1995).  Thus, Murphy floats the idea that perhaps the Reverend Tokes in Timisoara was in collusion with the coup plotters of the Front, and that “Soviet provocateurs and some Rumanian soldiers killed most of the victims—though everyone, in Rumania and abroad, was misled to believe the Securitate responsible.”  It is telling, that although always somewhat skeptical of the notion of an external hand in sparking and fanning the Timisoara unrest, that in 1990, without having read the “Le Point” expose, but having followed English-language press and traveling for a month in Romania in July 1990 (I had first visited in July 1987), my own understanding was essentially along the same lines—how could it not be?  My acceptance of the “staged war” theory would inevitably be strengthened in the following years by the accounts of noted Romanian emigres discussed below.

In Romania, Concern over the Unintended Consequences of the First Wave of French Revisionism

Certain key constituencies in Romania were not amused by the French revisionism in particular.  In the wake of a demonstration in the cradle of the Revolution to mark nine months after the December events, Vasile Popovici of the Timisoara Society commented:

“The French press, in particular, with a penchant for excessive rationalization specific to the French, has attempted to accredit the idea of a KGB-CIA scenario, including in Timisoara.  This fantasy variant demonstrates that those who sustain it have no idea of the real course of events in Timisoara and cannot explain in any way how people went out three days in a row (17, 18, 19 [December]) to die on the streets  (Ciobotea 1990, interview with Vasile Popovici, “Vinovati sint mortii? [The Dead are to Blame?], “Flacara,” no. 40, 3 October, p. 3).

It is notable that in the same interview, Popovici who was no friend of the Iliescu regime, denounced the “attacks emanating from anti-FSN [National Salvation Front] publications upon the image of the popular revolt in Timisoara” [emphasis in the original; he included, the anti-Iliescu weekly “Zig-Zag” in the discussion, for more details on “Zig-Zag”’s critical role, see Hall 2002; Mioc 2000).  Popovici underlined that the revisionism started in the anti-FSN press, and only then was integrated by the FSN press.

Specifically in reference to Olivier Weber and Radu Portocala’s 21 May 1990 expose in “Le Point,” (Army) Major Mihai Floca and Captain Victor Stoica declared:  “We do not question the good faith of the French journalists, although the idea promoted by them is remarkably convenient to those who are just dying to demonstrate that, in fact, the ‘terrorists’ did not exist (Major Mihai Floca and Captain Victor Stoica, “Unde sint teroristii?  PE STRADA, PRINTRE NOI (I), “Armata Poporului, no. 24 (13 June 1990), p. 3).”  As this and other articles by the authors make clear, the reference is to the former Securitate—specifically, journalist Angela Bacescu in “Zig-Zag” (for a discussion, see Hall 1999).

Nor was the source of a key statement in Weber and Portocala’s article suggesting a fictitious “staged war” with fictitious “terrorists”—“There needed to be victims in order to legitimate the new power in order to create [the image of] a mass revolution,” according to the source—credible (see Hall 1999, p. 540 n. 90).  Its source was former Navy Captain Nicolae Radu, a virulently anti-Semitic interloper and mercenary, who would become a regular in the former Securitate’s mouthpiece, “Europa,” in 1991, alleging all sorts of conspiracies about December 1989 that inevitably bestowed a primary role on Romanian Jewry and the MOSSAD.  If Nicolae Radu’s claim about a “fictitious war with fictious terrorists,” sounds familiar from earlier parts of this series, it is:  see, for example, the discussions of Dominique Fonveille (Part 2) and Ion Mihai Pacepa (Part 3).

As the above-cited observation by Floca and Stoica demonstrates, even if initially independent, streams French sensationalism and Securitate-inspired revisionism ended up converging and intermingling—a historical accident that redounded decidedly to the benefit of the latter.  This was not only the case with the “terrorists,” but also with the issue of alleged “foreign agents” on the ground in Timisoara and their alleged role in the uprising.  It is undoubted, has been reported, and has been admitted publicly that at one point or another, particularly in monitoring regime treatment of the Hungarian Pastor Laszlo Tokes, around whom the uprising broke out, that embassy and consulate personnel from the Yugoslavia (which has a consulate in Timisoara), United States, Japan, and other countries (likely to include Hungary, the UK etc.) appeared in Timisoara during these events.  It would be naïve to believe that there were no intelligence personnel among those at the scene among these countries’ representatives.  Of course, monitoring unfolding events is one thing, fomenting an uprising or monitoring the progress of a manufactured uprising by the countries for which they worked, quite another.

It is clearly the latter scenarios that foreign and domestic revisionists have alleged about Ceausescu’s overthrow.  There are glaring contradictions in the logic of these revisionist accounts on this score, however.  For example, accounts of the first Franco-German revisionist wave allege that the Hungarian and Yugoslav media intentionally inflated the casualty counts in Romania to move the coup forward by fueling anger at the Ceausescu regime.  In doing so, we are told, these communist services were likely doing the bidding or aiding the effort of the Soviet-backed coup plotters, and thus of the Gorbachev leadership.  In their 21 May 1990 expose, Weber and Portocala mention the presence of “Soviet observers” in Timisoara since at least 16 December 1989, when the demonstrations really began to take shape.  They cite Tanjug, the Yugoslav news agency, as the source of this claim.  Since this claim was first mentioned in the 1 January 1990 “Le Point” article by Kosta Cristitich, I can only surmise that the Tanjug claim was published sometime during the last week of December 1989.  (I have been unable to find this reference in FBIS, which translated many Tanjug dispatches at the time, but I have no reason to doubt that this is what Tanjug related.  It is therefore unclear who Tanjug heard this claim from—a fact which as we saw in the case of Mr. Corpasescu in Part 3 is important, since the claim could reflect disinformation or rumor.)  A similar claim turns up in Andrei Codrescu’s book, The Hole in the Flag, in which he maintains that during the first week of January 1990, a Soviet journalist drinking-buddy for that night told Codrescu that he had been in Timisoara and that there in fact had been “a dozen TASS [Soviet news agency] correspondents” in Timisoara since 10 December 1989 (Codrescu, 1990, p. 171).

In essence, we are thus asked to believe that the exact media personnel who were behind a disinformation campaign to exaggerate the death toll in Romania and aid the Soviet-engineered coup, nonchalantly publicized the role of the Soviets in the uprising in Timisoara.  This does not make a lot of sense, does it?  Moreover, the presence of unhindered “Soviet observers” in Timisoara from 16 December—to say nothing, of the Codrescu claim, of “a dozen TASS correspondents” in Timisoara from the 10th—does not seem realistic.  To begin with, Tokes only announced to his congregation on 10 December that the regime was probably going to deliver on their long-existing threat of evicting him on 15 December—meaning that either the “TASS correspondents” would have had to have had advance information of Tokes’ announcement or a certain amount of good luck/clairvoyance.  Given the well-documented difficulties all journalists experienced in late 1989 in trying to get into the country, especially following the upheaval elsewhere in the bloc, it is hard to believe these “ dozen TASS correspondents” would have received visas into the country, presenting themselves as such—they certainly did not do much reporting from Timisoara, as like other news associations it was only on the 23rd that a Soviet journalist filed a report from there.*  Moreover, it is significant that on the morning of 11 December 1989, Budapest’s Domestic [Radio] Service announced that the day before three staff members of the ruling party daily “Nepszabadsag” were banned for five years for attempting to approach Tokes’ residence—their film and tape recordings were also predictably confiscated (FBIS, 11 December 1989, and “New York Times,” 12 December 1989).  So, how then is it, that the Hungarian correspondents were expelled, but the “a dozen TASS correspondents”—apparently somehow keeping well out of sight, and feeling no compunction to write on the topic of the Hungarian correspondents—were allowed to stay?

Gaining a Foothold:  Survival of the First…

Given the skepticism and outright rebuttals found in the Romanian press in 1990, how is it that the first wave of Franco-German theories was able to “corner the market” of historical understandings—let alone achieve legitimacy—in the West, especially, as we shall see, in the United States?  I believe it is doubtful that the theories would ever have gained such exposure, traction, and staying power had it not been for their assimilation and dissemination by prominent Romanian intellectual émigrés in the United States, made worse by the fact that the pool of these critics was remarkably small and uniform in its political orientation.  Given credibility by these emigres, the theories were then taken up by noted historians of Eastern Europe and social scientists, thereby reinforcing the validity of the theories to their audiences.  One can no more understand the influence of the first Franco-German revisionist wave on English-language accounts of the Revolution without studying the role played by these émigré scholars in relaying them, than one can understand the content and context of Romanian accounts of the December 1989 events without knowing what the former Securitate argues about them.

It is telling that when one reads the analysis of the “mysteries of the Revolution” in National Public Radio commentator Andrei Codrescu’s engaging “The Hole in the Flag” or in Matei Calinescu and Vladimir Tismaneanu’s penetrating “The 1989 Revolution and Romania’s Future”—both of which appeared in 1991—French sources dominate the discussion of what happened in December 1989.  None of the skepticism about the accuracy of the French sources—as related in the comments of Popovici, Floca, and Stoica above—is voiced in these accounts.

The Walls Come Tumbling Down…

What is arguably still the best historical account of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, Gale Stokes’ “The Walls Came Tumbling Down (1993),” repeats as fact a list of allegations regarding the trial of the Ceausescus that first were given publicity by Vladimir Tismaneanu and Matei Calinescu.  (Even where Stokes cites others, those articles are usually themselves derivative and their arguments can be traced back to Tismaneanu and Calinescu).  Based in large part on the broadcast of the full tape of the Ceausescus’ trial and execution in April 1990, analyses in the French press, and the allegations of French forensic experts (which apparently derived solely from having watched the tape (!)), Tismaneanu and Calinescu clearly showed their preference in a 1991 article for the French theory of the events.  They therefore write that the trial of the Ceausescus lasted nine hours but only “fifty-odd minutes” was shown on the tape, that the execution of the couple had been faked, since Nicolae had likely suffered a heart-attack—“during the trial or during a separate interrogation, possibly under torture”—that caused Elena to go into hysterics, which necessitated that she be killed on the spot “gangland style.” (Stokes, 1993, pp. 292-293, n.118; Calinescu and Tismaneanu, 1991, p. 45-46, especially n. 14).  They then go on to speculate that the 1 March 1990 suicide of the chief judge of the trial, General Gica Popa, “could have been an act of desperation by an essentially honest man” who would have had to go through “the criminal charade” of sentencing two corpses to death.

Of course, all of these judgments—and I contend this is the cornerstone of so many accounts/theories of the Revolution, although many researchers do not appear to acknowledge or realize it—are premised on their understanding of the identity and intentions of the “terrorists.”  For example, if one believes there was no real “terrorist” threat, then one can countenance a leisurely nine-hour trial and the idea that the Ceausescus died during a “separate interrogation, possibly under torture.”  On this question, Tismaneanu and Calinescu clearly reject the idea that those firing were fighting to topple the new leadership and restore the Ceausescus to power:

“In retrospect, the purpose of the reports of terrorism appears to have been to create apprehension among the populace and induce people to forgo further public demonstration against communism.  It was used, in effect, to help the new power structure.” (Calinescu and Tismaneanu, 1991, p. 45, n. 12)

As to the allegations made by Calinescu and Tismaneanu in their 1991 account:  even at the time of their article, there were very strong reasons to question the validity of their information and speculation.  Numerous testimonies by Army personnel present at Tirgoviste while the Ceausescus were there negate their claims (see, for example, the interviews in “Ceausestii la Tirgoviste,” “Flacara,” 19 December 1990, pp. 8-10, which place the length of the trial anywhere between 50 minutes and one hour).  As I wrote in 1997:  “…even a year after the events, one of the eyewitnesses to what transpired, Maria Stefan, the cook in the officer’s mess, continued to maintain that the trial itself lasted ‘an hour’ (Hall, 1997, p. 342).  When it comes to the question of Nicolae having been tortured prior to his death, Ratesh in 1991 notably stated that this version was “attributed to an official of the Romanian Ministry of the Interior”—i.e. likely former Securitate, and indeed given its utility for them it is not surprising that the former Securitate have sought to promote this idea in their literature on the Revolution (Ratesh, 1991, p. 76).  Military and civilian personnel present at the execution are simply dismissive at the contentions of the French forensic experts that the Ceausescus were already dead by the time they were executed (they have effective counter-arguments regarding bloodflow—Nicolae’s greatcoat, Elena’s hysterical reaction by that point).  They consider it ridiculous and the product of Westerners with no knowledge of the events (this comes through again on several occasions in the year long set of interviews in “Jurnalul National” during 2004).

In an otherwise excellent account by political scientists Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan that is commonly cited in the social sciences, the authors juxtapose Michel Castex’s book—described as marketing the “myth” of the “revolution as a KGB plot”—with Andrei Codrescu’s apparently far more credible book in their opinion (Linz and Stepan, 1996, p.345 n. 3).  They note that to Codrescu “the whole revolution had been a fake, a film scripted by the Romanian Communists, with a ‘beautifully orchestrated piece of Kremlin music conducted by Maestro Gorbachev.’”  Indeed, it is worth looking at the passage from which this quote is taken:

“Many people now believe—in the face of mounting evidence—that the mastermind of the Romanian operation was the KGB, that the Romanian revolution was a beautifully orchestrated piece of Kremlin music conducted by Maestro Gorbachev.  What’s more, the operation had the full cooperation of the CIA.  I recently bought a T-shirt in Washington, D.C., that says:  ‘TOGETHER AT LAST!  THE KGB & THE CIA.  NOW WE ARE EVERYWHERE.’  Even one T-shirt can sometimes be smarter than all the news media.”  (Codrescu, 1991, p. 206).

Codrescu in fact invokes Castex—especially his discussion of the Western media’s supposedly intentional inflation of casualties during the days of the revolution—in support of his thesis (pp. 197-198).  There is thus little that differentiates Codrescu from Castex, and the distinction drawn by Linz and Stepan is simply incorrect.

Far better than the accounts of either Calinescu and Tismaneanu or Codrescu is that of Nestor Ratesh, former head of the Romanian broadcasting division of Radio Free Europe.  His The Entangled Revolution (1991) is alternatively described as “sensible,” “sober,” and “authoritative,” by Romanianists and scholars who do not cover the country.  For example, both Stokes, and Linz and Stepan, invoke his work.  Sensible and sober Ratesh’s account is; authoritative, only from the standpoint of what was available in English at the time.  Inevitably, Ratesh’s account is head and shoulders above those of fellow emigres Calinescu and Tismaneanu and Codrescu because he had performed more research into the Romanian media.  Unfortunately, I would argue, not far enough.  He stumbles upon the bothersome parallel nature of accounts of the Securitate’s actions during the Revolution by “Romania Libera’s” Petre Mihai Bacanu, and “other journalists (of less credibility, however)”—most likely a reference to the aforementioned, Angela Bacescu—but he does not research further to see if this is coincidence or pattern, and thereby considers it anomalous (see my discussion in Hall 1999).  Thankfully, he takes a critical eye to the Castex, Portocala and Weber, and Gabanyi accounts, and expresses skepticism when a “highly placed Romanian official” whispered to him in late June 1990 “a variation of the staged war theory,”—cautioning that the regime was at the time attempting to discredit the army (unfortunately, it was hardly so time-bound) (Ratesh, 1991, p.62).  However, whether it is Bacescu or others, he only comes to notice them when they enter the openly Ceausescu nostalgic press, and thereby misses identifying their presence and impact in the opposition press, as Popovici, Floca, and Stoica did.

To my knowledge, Ratesh has not really weighed in on the Revolution since his 1991 book.  Codrescu continues to present the December events as a stage(d) production that fooled the whole world, occasionally in his NPR commentaries and certainly in his talks across the US (Codrescu, 2002).  Tismaneanu and Romania’s liberal intelligentsia at home and abroad have yet to address the presence and consequences of Securitate disinformation in the anti-Front media of the early 1990s.  This is not surprising:  they missed it…and to acknowledge it now would require them to edit their ironclad, definitively-stated characterizations of that era, and perhaps, even to pause and reconsider their understanding of December 1989.  As for the Revolution itself, Tismaneanu’s most recent intervention on its 15th anniversary invoked the comments of former French Ambassador to Romania, Jean-Marie LeBreton, who concludes, unremarkably, that the December 1989 events were neither a spontaneous uprising/revolution nor a coup d’etat, but a combination of both (“Jurnalul National,” 29 January 2005).  Some habits die hard.

*Indeed, there appear to be no TASS dispatches from Timisoara throughout this period.  According to FBIS translations, there appear to have been 3 TASS correspondents in Romania, in addition to one from “Izvestiya” and one from “Pravda,” all of whom reported during these days from Bucharest.  A fourth TASS correspondent reported from Timisoara on 23 December, after the flight of the Ceausescus, and when most foreign reporters were able to enter Timisoara for the first time.  Once again, according to FBIS translations, during the events of 15-22 December, TASS correspondents in Bucharest had to rely on other news services and sources in Bucharest to find out what was happening in Timisoara.

SOURCES

“Armata Poporului,” 1990.

Brown, J. F., 2001, The Grooves of Change:  Eastern Europe at the Dawning of a New Millenium (Durham, NC:  Duke University Press).

Budapest Domestic Service, 11 December 1989, in FBIS, 12 December 1989.

Calinescu, M. and Tismaneanu, V., 1991, “The 1989 Revolution and Romania’s Future,” “Problems of Communism,” Vol. 40, No. 1 (April), pp. 42-59.

Castex, M., 1990.  Un Mensonge Grosse Comme Le Siecle (Paris:  A. Michel).

Codrescu, A., 1991.  The Hole in the Flag. A Romanian Exile’s Story of Return and Revolution (New York:  William Morrow and Company).

Codrescu, A., 2002.  “Codrescu Cogitates on Communism,” American Library Association Midwinter Meeting 18-23 January 2002, New Orleans, at http://www.ala.org.

“Flacara,” 1990, 1991.

Gabanyi, A.U., 1990. Die Unwollendete Revolution, (Munich: Serie-Piper).

Hall, R. A. 1997, “Rewriting the Revolution: Authoritarian Regime-State Relations and the Triumph of Securitate Revisionism in Post-Ceausescu Romania,” (Ph.D. Dissertation, Indiana University).

Hall, R. A., 1999, “The Uses of Absurdity: The Staged War Theory and the Romanian Revolution of December 1989,” in “East European Politics and Societies,” Vol. 13, no.3, pp. 501-542.

Hall, R. A., 2002, “Part 1:  The Many Zig-Zags of Gheorghe Ionescu Olbojan,” “The Securitate Roots of a Modern Romanian Fairy Tale:  The Press, the Former Securitate, and the Historiography of December 1989,” Radio Free Europe “East European Perspectives,” Vol. 4, no 7.

“Jurnalul National (online),” 2004, 2005.

“Le Point (Paris),” 1990.

Mioc, M., 2000. “Ion Cristoiu, virful de lance al campaniei de falsificare a istoriei revolutiei” at http://www.timisoara.com/newmioc/51.htm.

Murphy, D., 1995, Transylvania and Beyond.  A Travel Memoir (Woodstock, NY:  Overlook Books).

“Neue Zurcher Zeitung,” 1999, (English edition) at http://www.nzz.de.

“New York Times,” 1989.

Ratesh, N. 1991, Romania:  The Entangled Revolution, (New York:  Praeger).

Shafir, M., 1990, “Preparing for the Future by Revising the Past,” Radio Free Europe’s “Report on Eastern Europe,” Vol. 1, No. 41, (12 October), pp. 29-42.

Stokes, G., 1993, The Walls Came Tumbling Down:  The Collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, (New York:  Oxford University Press).

Verdery K. and Kligman G., 1992, “Romania after Ceausescu:  Post-Communist Communism?” in Banac, I (ed.)., Eastern Europe in Revolution (Ithaca, NY:  Cornell University Press), pp. 117-147.

“Zig-Zag,” 1990.

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THE 1989 ROMANIAN REVOLUTION AS GEOPOLITICAL PARLOR GAME: BRANDSTATTER’S “CHECKMATE” DOCUMENTARY AND THE LATEST WAVE IN A SEA OF REVISIONISM, Part III

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on September 22, 2010

posted by Lillymill, translated by Shenaningan 87, at youtube

THE 1989 ROMANIAN REVOLUTION AS GEOPOLITICAL PARLOR GAME:  BRANDSTATTER’S “CHECKMATE” DOCUMENTARY AND THE LATEST WAVE IN A SEA OF REVISIONISM

By Richard Andrew Hall

Disclaimer:  This material has been reviewed by CIA.  That review neither constitutes CIA authentification of information nor implies CIA endorsement of the author’s views.

Please Note:  This article is not to be cited, reproduced, translated, or used in any form without the acknowledgement and permission of the author.

Part 3:  Ruse

A SECURITATE RIDDLE:  SOVIET “TOURISTS” AND THE OVERTHROW OF THE CEAUSESCU REGIME

Although I have written a good deal on the “tourist” conundrum in the past (see, for example, Hall 2002), I have not formally addressed the role of foreign histories of Ceausescu’s overthrow in the historiography of December 1989, particularly in regard to this topic.  In the wake of the broadcast of Brandstatter’s “Checkmate” documentary in February 2004, Vladimir Bukovski’s invocation of journalist John Simpson’s 1994 article on the topic (discussed in Part 2 of this series) suggests, however, that it needs to be broached in greater detail.  Moreover, as the year-long look-back at the December 1989 events in “Jurnalul National” shows, the “tourist” question—somewhat surprisingly to me—has become more and more central to arguments about the Revolution, thereby amplifying what is already tremendous confusion over the events in the Romanian press and public.  Of course, as has traditionally been the case, the Soviet/Russian tourists figure prominently, and, to a lesser extent, the Hungarian tourists.  However, the stock of other tourist groups has also gone up.  For example, the role of Yugoslav (specifically Serb) tourists has found a greater emphasis, and, seemingly out of nowhere, so have East German/STASI tourists!  The principal sources for all of these allegations are, as usual, former Securitate and Militia officers, with some military (intelligence) personnel thrown in for good measure.

FOREIGN FORUM, ROMANIAN CONTEXT

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact first mention of “the tourists” and their alleged role in the Revolution, but it appears that although the source of the claim was Romanian, the publication was foreign.  James F. Burke, whose name is unfortunately left off the well-researched and widely-consulted web document “The December 1989 Revolt and the Romanian Coup d‘etat,” alludes to the “Romanian filmmaker” who first made these allegations (Burke, 1994).  The claims are contained in an article by Richard Bassett in the 2 March 1990 edition of “The Times (London).”  According to Bassett,

“Mr. [Grigore] Corpacescu has no doubt that the revolution here was carefully stage-managed—as was the case in Prague and East Berlin—by the Russians…According to Mr. Corpacescu a party of Soviet ‘tourists,’ all usually on individual visas, arrived in Timisoara two days before the first demonstration outside Mr. [i.e. Pastor] Tokes’ house.  Police records trace them reaching Bucharest on December 20.  By the 24th, two days after Ceausescu fled by helicopter, the Russians had disappeared.  No police records exist to indicate how they left the country. (“The Times (London),” 2 March 1990)

But Bassett’s interlocutor, Mr. Corpacescu, says some strange things.  Bassett is not clear but it appears that Corpacescu suggests that the post-Revolution Interior Minister Mihai Chitac, who was involved in the Timisoara events as head of the army’s chemical troops, somehow purposely coaxed the demonstrations against the regime because the tear-gas cannisters his unit fired failed to explode—the failure somehow an intended outcome.  But beyond this, Corpacescu, who is at the time of the article filming the recreation of Ceausescu’s flight on the 22nd—using the same helicopter and pilot involved in the actual event—makes the following curious statement:

“The pilot of this helicopter is an old friend.  I have many friends in the police, Timisoara was not started by the Hungarian pastor, the Reverend Laszlo Tokes [i.e. it was carefully stage-managed…by the Russians].” (“The Times (London),” 2 March 1990)

The pilot of the helicopter was in fact Vasile Malutan, an officer of the Securitate’s V-a Directorate.  What kind of a person would it have been at that time—and how credible could that person have been–who has the pilot as an old friend and “many friends in the police?”  And it would have been one thing perhaps two months after the revolution to talk about the presence of foreign agents “observing” events in Timisoara, but to deny the spontaneity of the demonstrations and denigrate Tokes’ role at this juncture is highly suspicious.  I have been unable to unearth additional information on Mr. Corpacescu, but his revelations just happen to serve his friends extremely well—particularly at at time when the prospect of trials and jail time, for participation in the repression in Timisoara and elsewhere during the Revolution, still faced many former Securitate and Militia [i.e. police] members.

THE FORMER SECURITATE AND MILITIA REMINISCE ABOUT THE SOVIET “TOURISTS”

A week after “The Times” article, the chief of the Securitate’s Counter-espionage Directorate, Colonel Filip Teodorescu, mentioned at his trial for his role in the Ceausescu regime’s crackdown in Timisoara that he had in fact detained “foreign agents” during the events there (“Romania Libera,” 9 March 1990).  In his 1992 book, he developed further on this theme, specifically focusing on the role of “Soviet tourists:”

“There were few foreigners in the hotels, the majority of them having fled the town after lunch [on 17 December] when the clashes began to break out. The interested parties remained. Our attention is drawn to the unjustifiably large number of Soviet tourists, be they by bus or car. Not all of them stayed in hotels. They either had left their buses or stayed in their cars overnight. Border records indicate their points of entry as being through northern Transylvania. They all claimed they were in transit to Yugoslavia. The explanation was plausible, the Soviets being well-known for their shopping trips. Unfortunately, we did not have enough forces and the conditions did not allow us to monitor the activities of at least some of these ‘tourists'” (Teodorescu, 1992, p. 92).

Reporting in July 1991 on the trial involving many of those involved in the Timisoara repression, Radu Ciobotea noted with what was probably an apt amount of skepticism and cynicism, what was telling in the confessions of those on trial:

Is the End of Amnesia Approaching?…

Without question, something is happening with this trial.  The Securitate doesn’t say, but it suggests.  It let’s small details ‘slip out.’…Increasingly worthy of interest are the reactions of those on trial….Traian Sima (the former head of the county’s Securitate) testifies happily that, finally, the Securitate has been accepted at the trial, after having been rejected by Justice.  Filip Teodorescu utters the magic word ‘diplomats’ and, suddenly, the witness discovers the key to the drawer with surpise and declares, after five hours of amnesia, that in Timisoara, there appeared in the days in question, foreign spies under the cover of being journalists and diplomats, that in a conversation intercepted by a mobile Securitate surveillance unit Tokes was reported as  ‘well,’ and that all these (and other) counterespionage actions that can’t be made public to the mass media can be revealed behind closed doors to the judge….[Timis County party boss] Radu Balan ‘remembers’ that on 18 December at midnight when he was heading toward IAEM, he passed a group of ten soviet cars stopped 100 meters from the county hospital. (It turns out that in this night, in the sight of the Soviets, the corpses were loaded!).” [emphasis in the original] (Flacara, no. 27, 1991, p. 9).

The reference to the corpses being loaded is to an operation by the Militia and Securitate on the night of 18-19 December 1989, in which the cadavers of 40 people killed during the repression of anti-regime protesters were secretly transported from Timisoara’s main hospital to Bucharest for cremation (reputedly on Elena Ceausescu’s personal order).

Finally, as yet another of many possible examples, we have the recollections of Bucharest Militia Captain Ionel Bejan, which apparently appeared in print for the first time only in 2004, in a book by Alex Mihai Stoenescu (excerpted in “Jurnalul National,” 7 December 2004).  According to Bejan, around 2 AM on the night of 21-22 December, not far from University Plaza, where at that moment regime forces were firing their way through a barricade set up by protesters (48 were killed that night, 604 wounded, and 684 arrested), he spotted two LADA automobiles with Soviet plates and two men and a woman studying a map and pointing to different locations among the surrounding buildings.  Bejan recalled:

“One thing’s for sure, and that is that although they looked like tourists, they didn’t behave like tourists who had just arrived in town or were lost, especially as close by there were compact groups of demonstrators, while from armored personnel carriers there was intense warning fire and a helicopter hovered overhead with lights ablaze.  I don’t know what kind of tourist tours somewhere in such conditions. They left the impression that they were sure of themselves, they didn’t need any directions, proof which was that they didn’t ask us anything even though we were nearby and, being uniformed Militia, were in the position to give them any directions they needed.  One thing’s for sure when I returned to that location in January 1990…the buildings displayed visible signs of bullet holes…[emphasis added]” (“Jurnalul National,” 7 December 2004)

STRANGE “TOURISTS”…STRANGER STILL, THE REACTIONS OF THE AUTHORITIES

We can agree with Ionel Bejan in one respect.  One thing is for sure:  these were some very strange tourists.  (They give a whole new meaning to the term, “adventure tourism.”)  As curious as the “Soviet tourists” themselves is how little the Romanian authorities who claim to have seen them did to stop them—or even try to collect more information about them.  Why is it that no official questioned the enigmatic “Soviet tourists” or asked them to leave the area when, as Radu Balan claims, he saw ten LADAs outside the Timis county hospital at 1 AM in the morning the night the cadavers of protesters were being loaded onto a truck for cremation?  Or, as Ionel Bejan claims, he spotted several of them in the center of Bucharest at 2 AM, when the area was essentially a warzone of regime repression?  The regime had closed the borders to virtually all other foreigners, tourists or otherwise, it was trying to prevent any word of the repression from reaching the outside world, and yet Romanian authorities were not concerned about these “tourists” taking pictures or relaying what they were seeing?!

As I have written before, if it was obvious before 18 December, as these Ceausescu regime officials claim, that “Soviet tourists” were involved in the events in Timisoara, then why was it precisely “Soviet travelers coming home from shopping trips to Yugoslavia” who were the only group declared exempt from the ban on “tourism” announced on that day (see AFP, 19 December 1989 as cited in Hall 2002b)?  In fact, an Agent France-Presse correspondent reported that two Romanian border guards on the Yugoslav frontier curtly told him:  “Go back home, only Russians can get through”!!!  The few official documents from the December events that have made their way into the public domain show the Romanian Ambassador to Moscow, Ion Bucur, appealing to the Soviets to honor the Romanian news blackout on events in Timisoara, but never once mentioning—let alone objecting to—the presence or behavior of “Soviet tourists” in Romania during these chaotic days of crisis for the Ceausescu regime (CWHIP, “New Evidence on the 1989 Crisis in Romania,” 2001).  It truly strains the imagination to believe that the Romanian authorities were so “frightened” of committing a diplomatic incident with the Soviets that they would allow Soviet agents to roam the country virtually unhindered, allowing them to go anywhere and do anything they wanted.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE…A “SOVIET TOURIST” ENCORE IN 1990

Add to all of this (!), the allegations that the “Soviet tourists” were seen again on the streets during major crises in 1990, such as the ethnic clashes between Romanians and Hungarians in Tirgu Mures in March 1990 (for evidence of the reach of the allegation of KGB manipulation via the “tourist” mechanism both in December 1989 AND in March 1990, see Emil Hurezeanu, “Cotidianul,” 23 December 1999; according to Hurezeanu, “It appears they didn’t leave the country until 1991, following a visit by [SRI Director] Virgil Magureanu to Moscow”!).  Then there is the famous April 1991 interview of an alleged KGB officer—who spoke flawless Romania and was in Romania during the December 1989 events—who the interviewer, the vigorous anti-Iliescu foe, Sorin Rosca Stanescu, claimed to have just stumbled into in Paris.  Of all the reporters who could have stumbled into a KGB officer present in Romania during the Revolution—the only such case I know of—it was Rosca Stanescu, who, it turned out later, had been an informer for the Securitate until the mid-1980s—but not just for anybody, but for the USLA.  Intererstingly, although the article appeared on the non-descript page 8 of the primary opposition daily at the time (“Romania Libera”), the aforementioned Filip Teodorescu and Radu Balan invoked it in support of their contentions regarding the the “tourists” (for a discussion of this, see Hall 2002).  Even more suprising, or not, depending on your point of view, in his April 1991 article, Stanescu attempted to tie together December 1989 with December 1990 (!):

“As you will recall, persistent rumors have circulated about the existence on Romanian soil [in December 1989] of over 2,000 Lada automobiles with Soviet tags and two men in each car. Similar massive infiltrations were witnessed in December 1990, too, with the outbreak of a wave of strikes and demonstrations. What were the KGB doing in Romania?” (emphasis added) (“Romania Libera,” 18 April 1991)

Indeed, what were they doing in Romania?  But, more aptly:

WHO COULD THEY HAVE BEEN?

Some other recollections and comments may offer clues to the answer to this vexing question.  For example, the Caransebes Militia Chief claims he helped a group of “Soviet tourists” coming from Timisoara on the night of 20-21 December when one of their cars—as usual, “it was part of a convoy of 20 cars, all of the same make and with 3-4 passengers per car”—went off the road (from “Europa,” no. 20, 1991, see the discussion in Hall 2002b).  According to Teodorescu, the “tourists” greeted the militia chief with the phrase “What the hell?  We are colleagues; you have to help us” (Teodorescu, 1992, p. 93).  The militia chief opines that despite their Soviet passports, “to this day, I don’t really know where they were from.”

Nicu Ceausescu, Nicolae’s son and most likely heir and party secretary in Sibiu at the time of the Revolution, claimed that he also had to deal with enigmatic “tourists” during these historic days (the following several paragraphs borrow heavily from Hall 2002b).  From his prison cell in 1990, Nicu recounted how on the night of 20 December 1989, a top party official came to inform him that the State Tourist Agency was requesting that he — the party secretary for Sibiu! — “find lodgings for a group of tourists who did not have accommodation” He kindly obliged and made the appropriate arrangements (interview with Nicu Ceausescu in “Zig-Zag,”, no. 20, 21-27 August 1990).

Interestingly, in the same interview Nicu discusses the “tourists” for which he was asked to find accommodations in the context of a group of mysterious passengers who had arrived by plane from Bucharest on the evening of 20 December 1989. We know that in the period immediately following these events, the then-military prosecutor, Anton Socaciu, had alleged that these passengers from Bucharest were members of the Securitate’s elite USLA unit (Special Unit for Antiterrorist Warfare) and were responsible for much of the bloodshed that occurred in Sibiu during the December events.  Nicu Silvestru, chief of the Sibiu County Militia, admitted in passing in a letter from prison that on the afternoon of 19 December in a crisis meeting, Ceausescu’s son announced that he was going to “call [his] specialists from Bucharest” to take care of any protests (“Baricada,” no. 45, 1990).  Ceausescu’s Interior Minister, Tudor Postelnicu, admitted at his trial in January 1990 that Nicu had called him requesting “some troops” and he had informed Securitate Director General Iulian Vlad of the request (“Romania Libera,” 30 January 1990.)

The rewriting of the story of the Revolution, the “tourists,” and the “terrorists” was already in full swing, when in August 1990, Nicu wryly observed:

“…[T]he Military Prosecutor gave me two variants. In the first part of the inquest, they [the flight’s passengers] were from the Interior Ministry. Later, however, in the second half of the investigation, when the USLA and those from the Interior Ministry began, so-to-speak, to pass ‘into the shadows,’ — after which one no longer heard anything of them — they [the passengers] turned out to be simple citizens…” (interview with Nicu Ceausescu in “Zig-Zag,” no. 20, 21-27 August 1990).

The impact of this “reconsideration” by the authorities could be seen in the comments of Socaciu’s successor as military prosecutor in charge of the Sibiu case, Marian Valer (see Hall 1997, pp. 314-315). Valer commented in September 1990 that investigations yielded the fact that there were 37 unidentified passengers on board the 20 December flight from Bucharest and that many of the other passengers maintained that “on the right side of the plane there had been a group of tall, athletic men, dressed in sporting attire, many of them blond, who had raised their suspicions.”  The USLA, which were responsible for airport security and had “air marshals” on all flights (three in this case), refused to discuss the identity of these passengers with Valer.  While investigations revealed that during this time there “were many Soviet tourists staying in Sibiu’s hotels,” they also established that “military units were fired upon from Securitate safehouses located around these units as of the afternoon of 22 December, after the overthrow of the Ceausescu regime.” He thus carefully concludes:

“As far as the unidentified passengers are concerned, there are two possible variants: Either they were USLA fighters sent to defend Nicu Ceausescu, or they were Soviet agents sent to act with the intent of overthrowing the Ceausescu regime” (“Expres,” no. 33, September 1990).

Clearly, one of these hypotheses is a lot more plauisble than the other…As I wrote in December 1996, partly based on the statements of the Military Prosecutor Marian Valer who stepped down from investigating the Sibiu events in fall 1990, citing duress:  “thus as the USLA began to disappear from the historiography and therefore history of the Revolution, so the Soviet tourists began to enter it.” (Hall, 1996).

RED HERRINGS:  THE CHRONICLES OF A FORMER COMMUNIST SPY CHIEF’S VIEWS ON DECEMBER 1989

Inevitably, too, in the wake of the Brandstatter film the Romanian media dragged out its old warhorse for such occassions, the former Director of communist Romania’s Foreign Intelligence Service, General Ion Mihai Pacepa, the man whose defection in 1978 led to his being sentenced to death in abstentia and whose sensational revelations about Ceausescu’s repressive and profligate rule helped erode the myth of Ceausescu in the West.  Pacepa’s break from Ceausescu and the communist regime, and his stinging criticism of the administrations of President Ion Iliescu for their incorporation of and reliance upon former Securitate personnel, have led Pacepa to be lionized in the West and to be highly-respected and thoroughly-trusted among Romania’s intellectual and media elites.

In the wake of Brandstatter’s film, and, indirectly, in support of Bukovski’s allegations, Pacepa’s claims about December 1989 were once again invoked.  Thus, for example, excerpts of an August 2000 interview on the Hungarian Duna TV channel (rebroadcast on Duna TV two nights before the debut of the Brandstatter film) were published (“Jurnalul National,” 26 February 2004).  In the interview, Pacepa maintained that there were no so-called “terrorists” during the Revolution—that the “terrorist” phenomenon was all a pretext used by the party-state officials who ousted Ceausescu to legitimate a Soviet intervention:

“Interviewer:  What exactly was the essence of the the ‘Dnestr’ Plan?

Pacepa:  It was necessary to find a motive [to justify] the Soviet intervention, if the coup was to succeed by itself.  Therefore it is very easy to understand.  On 22 [sic. 23] December 1989, at 2 pm in the afternoon, Romanian Television announced:  “The National Salvation Front has requested Soviet help because unidentified foreign terrorists are attacking Romania.”  Already on this day, Iliescu declared that the Ceausescu couple had been arrested and a trial would be held, only for Television to announce [later] that their trial and execution had taken place.” (“Confessions of a Spy Chief” in “Jurnalul National,” 26 February 2004)

Since the early 1990s, Pacepa has maintained that the events of December 1989 were part of a well-scripted Soviet plan—the so-called “Dnestr Plan”—to remove Ceausescu (for a summary, see Deletant, 1995, pp. 89-90).  According to Pacepa, the Soviet plan was a response to the 1969 visit of US President Richard Nixon to Bucharest.  Pacepa claims that Iliescu had been designated Ceausescu’s replacement in accordance with this plan as early as 1971!  Dennis Deletant cautions with regard to Pacepa’s account:

“Pacepa’s use of the term ‘Front for National Salvation’ smacks too much of an attempt to compromise the more recent Front for National Salvation, set up after the 1989 revolution, by suggesting that the seeds of it had been sown some twenty years earlier by Moscow.  It is difficult to believe that such a name could have been chosen so many years earlier.” (Deletant, 1995, p. 90)

Pacepa’s claims are even more questionable than Deletant’s moderate skepticism suggests.  As I wrote in 1997:

“Moreover, it is intriguing to note that Pacepa revealed these details [i.e. those of the ‘Dnestr’ plan] only after the December 1989 events (in his 1993 book ‘The Inheritance of the Kremlin’).  Although in ‘Red Horizons’ (his 1988 detail-filled, “tell-all” book on the Ceausescus and the Securitate) he mentioned cases in which alleged Soviet agents (including Army General Nicolae Militaru…) were caught, he did not mention anything about the so-called ‘Operation Dnestr’.” (Hall, 1997, p. 117).

Pacepa had no problem in “Red Horizons” revealing alleged Soviet agents in Romania and alleged secret plans by which Ceausescu’s fabled “independence from Moscow” was all a Moscow-created ruse, yet he somehow did not feel the need or desire to outline Moscow’s plan for further increasing their control over Romania through “Operation Dnestr?”  This is hard to believe.

Furthermore, there is his amazing about face on the question of the “terrorists”/Ceausescu loyalists during the Revolution.  At the time, Pacepa spoke of “Plan M” as the source of the “terrorists” (see AP, Bryan Brumley, “Ceausescu Had Planned to Flee to China, Former Security Chief Says,” 5 January 1990).  According to Pacepa, “Plan M” called for Securitate forces to “retreat to hidden bunkers and wage guerilla war.”  He spoke about the use of safe houses and of a maze of secret tunnels, descriptions that were similar to what was being heard from Romanian during and immediately after the Revolution.  Significantly, Pacepa’s details mirror many of the points in the so-called “Plan Z” for the event of an attempt to remove Ceausescu, the reputed 1987 copy of which was published in the daily “Evenimentul Zilei” in July 1993 and which apparently was still in effect in December 1989 (for a good discussion of the plan, see Deletant, 1995, pp. 84-88).  Pacepa’s claim that Securitate forces were at the center of the Ceausescu resistance following his flight on 22 December echoed the claims of Liviu Turcu, a Securitate foreign intelligence officer who had defected earlier in 1989, who told David Binder of “New York Times” on 24 December 1989 that the “terrorists” were likely from the Securitate’s Fifth Directorate (he estimated at 1,000-1,500 members) and the USLA (which he estimated at 1,000 members) (“New York Times,” 25 December 1989, p. A12.)

Of course, that was then.  By 1993—and as we have seen from the quote from the 2000 interview, continuing long after that, to the present day—Pacepa was claiming that there had been no “terrorists,” that it was all just a pretext by the KGB agents who seized power from Ceausescu (Iliescu, Militaru, Brucan, etc.) for justifying Soviet military intervention (see, for example, his comments in “Evenimentul Zilei,” 10 April 1993; 29 April 1993).  The Ceausescus had been shot KGB-style to prevent them from revealing to the Romanian people and the world that the coup-plotters were KGB agents, according to Pacepa.  One must ask:  if Pacepa possessed this knowledge prior to December 1989—and he claims that the plan originated in 1969—and therefore had suspicions that the “terrorist” phase was merely a diversion designed to serve as a pretext for Soviet intervention, then why did he say what he said, and why did he not reveal his knowledge and voice his concerns before, during, or immediately after December 1989?

Finally, there is the problem of the similarity of Pacepa’s arguments on the Revolution with those of other former Securitate officers.  True, they hate Pacepa and Pacepa hates them equally.  But take, for example, the following quote:

“The coup d’état which ‘recovered the Revolution’…brought to power the FSN [the National Salvation Front] crew…[which] initiated the criminal scenario with Securitate-terrorists in order to spill blood and justify the assumption of power by people who had no business proclaiming themselves to be revolutionaries…[I]t was a diversion of the FSN in order to escalate the terror, suspicion, blood-letting, [and] chaos necessary to resolve the problem of taking state power and calling the Soviets.”

The source of this quote is not Pacepa, but the well-known “protochronist,” “national communist” former Securitate officer Pavel Corut (Corut, 1994, “Cantecul Nemuririi [Song of the Undying]” (Bucharest:  Editura Miracol, 1994), pp. 170, 172, quoted in Hall, 1997, p. 257).  The point is, as the accusations of Pacepa discussed at the beginning of this section demonstrate, Pacepa’s claims are identical to what Corut’s alleges.  By forcing an analytical, but also partisan ideological distinction by dividing protoWesterners from protochronists, as if the two were night-and-day and so easily identifiable, critical similarities such as this one—which demands attention and analysis precisely because it is unexpected—are ignored.

One of the precious few non-partisan deconstructions of the whole Pacepa circus is Peter Banyai’s penetrating article “Pacepa:  a tortenelem bizalmasa [Pacepa:  History’s Confidant]” (Banyai 2004a; 2004b makes pretty clear that he is no shill for Pacepa’s adversaries within Romania).  Banyai notes how Dan Pavel has compared Iliescu and Pacepa and suggested that “our political culture has determined” that the criterion for where one stands on the political spectrum—and no less than democracy itself!—is where one stands on Pacepa.  As Banyai summarizes:  “[According to Pavel,] [h]e who loves Pacepa, he is a democrat, he who doesn’t is a post-communist!…Thus has taken shape the Pacepa myth in Romania.  The latest among countless other self-deceiving revisionisms.”  Banyai hits the nail on the head in this conclusion:

“How is it that Pacepa has managed to pull the wool over the eyes of the greater part of Romanian public opinion with such primitive claims?  Clearly, because it draws on what resonates best in the Romanian public.  The conspiratorial mindsets, the Russophobia, the KGB-mania that make up the collective Romanian political psyche.” (Banyai 2004a)

SOURCES

Banyai, P., 2000a, “Pacepa:  a tortenelem bizalmasa [Pacepa:  History’s Confidant], “Beszelo [Speaker],” Vol. 9, September, at http://beszelo.c3.hu/04/09/06banyai.htm.

Banyai, P., 2004b, “Tortenelmihamitisok es penzmosok baratai tarsasaga:  Talpes, Treptow, Watts— es Tender. [Revisionist and Money-laundering Friendship Society],” “Beszelo [Speaker],” Vol. 6, June, on the internet at http://beszelo.c3.hu/04/06/06banyai.htm.

“Baricada (Bucharest),” 1990.

Burke, J. F., 1994, “The December 1989 Revolt and the Romanian Coup d‘etat,” at http://www.timisoara.com/timisoara/coup.html.

Ciobotea, R., 1991, “Politia Politica in Instanta [The Political Police on Trial],” “Flacara,” 3 July.

“Cotidianul” (Bucharest), 1999, web edition, http://www.cotidianul.ro.

CWIHP (Cold War International History Project), 2001, “New Evidence on the 1989 Crisis in Romania,” (ed. Mircea Munteanu), at http://wwics.si.edu/topics/pubs/e-dossier5.

Corut, P., 1994, Cantecul Nemuririi [Song of the Undying] (Bucharest:  Editura Miracol).

Deletant, D., 1995, Ceausescu and the Securitate:  Coercion and Dissent, 1965-1989 (Armonk, NY:  M.E. Sharpe).

“Evenimentul zilei” (Bucharest), 1999, web edition, http://www.evenimentulzilei.ro.

“Europa (Bucharest),” 1990, 1991.

Hall, R.A., 1996, “Ce demonstreaza probele balistice dupa sapte ani? [Seven Years After:  What Does the Ballistics’ Evidence Tell Us]” trans. Bobeica, A., in “22 (Bucharest),” 17-23 December.

Hall, R. A. 1997, “Rewriting the Revolution: Authoritarian Regime-State Relations and the Triumph of Securitate Revisionism in Post-Ceausescu Romania,” (Ph.D. Dissertation, Indiana University).

Hall, R. A., 1999, “The Uses of Absurdity: The Staged War Theory and the Romanian Revolution of December 1989,” in “East European Politics and Societies,” Vol. 13, no.3, pp. 501-542.

Hall, R. A., 2002, “Part 2:  Tourists are Terrorists and Terrorists are Tourists with Guns,” “The Securitate Roots of a Modern Romanian Fairy Tale:  The Press, the Former Securitate, and the Historiography of December 1989,” Radio Free Europe “East European Perspectives,” Vol. 4, no 8.

“Jurnalul National,” (Bucharest), 2004, web edition, http://www.jurnalul.ro.

“New York Times,” 1989.

Pacepa, I.M., 1987, Red Horizons:  Chronicles of a Communist Spy Chief (Washington, DC:  Regnery Gateway).

Pacepa, I.M., 1993, Mostenirea Kremlinului [Inheritance of the Kremlin], (Bucharest:  Editura Venus).

“Romania Libera,” 1990.

Teodorescu, F., 1992, Un Risc Asumat: Timisoara, decembrie 1989, [An Assumed Risk: Timisoara, December 1989] (Bucharest: Editura Viitorul Romanesc).

“The Times (London),” 1990.

“Zig-Zag” (Bucharest), 1990.

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THE 1989 ROMANIAN REVOLUTION AS GEOPOLITICAL PARLOR GAME: BRANDSTATTER’S “CHECKMATE” DOCUMENTARY AND THE LATEST WAVE IN A SEA OF REVISIONISM, Part Two

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on September 22, 2010

posted by Lillymill, translated by Shenanigan 87, at youtube

THE 1989 ROMANIAN REVOLUTION AS GEOPOLITICAL PARLOR GAME:  BRANDSTATTER’S “CHECKMATE” DOCUMENTARY AND THE LATEST WAVE IN A SEA OF REVISIONISM

By Richard Andrew Hall

Disclaimer:  This material has been reviewed by CIA.  That review neither constitutes CIA authentification of information nor implies CIA endorsement of the author’s views.

Please Note:  This article is not to be cited, reproduced, translated, or used in any form without the acknowledgement and permission of the author.

Part 2: CHECKMATE:  “A thrilling documentary that may destroy your confidence in the mass media…”*

With much fanfare “Checkmate” finally debuted on the Franco-German TV Arte channel on Wednesday, 25 February 2004.  Brandstatter’s film is more formidable than many accounts alleging a primary foreign role in the December 1989 events.  Indeed, it is impressive in some ways:  Brandstatter obviously did a lot of leg-work and preparation for her documentary.  She filmed and conducted research in Romania, Hungary, Germany, Austria, France, and the United States, and spoke to other relevant figures in Great Britain, Bulgaria, and Norway.  Among those whose interviews appear in the film are:  former President Ion Iliescu, analyst Stelian Tanase, dissident Laszlo Tokes, Army General Victor Stanculescu, dissident Doina Cornea, Securitate Colonel Gheorghe Ratiu, Army General Dan Voinea, NSC official Robert Hutchings, Congressman Christopher Smith, and former CIA officers Milton Bearden, Charles Cogan, and Robert Baer (“Jurnalul National,” 24 February 2004).

Brandstatter’s thesis in the film is that Nicolae Ceausescu was overthrown in December 1989 by the CIA, in conjunction with the intelligence services of some of its NATO allies, and of the Hungarians in the East bloc.  To be sure, she says, the Soviets had their fingers in the pie, thanks to the presence of the ubiquitous Russian “tourists” (i.e. intelligence agents, more about this below), but theirs was not the decisive role.  Thankfully, Brandstatter does at least acknowledge the independent role played by the courage of the long-suffering average Romanian citizen—although not sufficiently in the view of critics—and does not suggest that all was merely smoke and mirrors in December 1989 (“Jurnalul National,” 24 February 2004).

What evidence does Brandstatter marshal in support of her theory?  A key sequence in the film begins with Miklos Nemeth, Hungarian Prime Minister in December 1989, who admits that Hungary supplied the Romanians with “a lot of important aid, including guns and ammunition,” and that Hungary attempted to recruit officials in key institutions of the Ceausescu regime who were “in a position to help the regime’s victims.”  Brandstatter believes that General Victor Stanculescu was one of those high-ranking Romanian officials who the Hungarians allegedly recruited—although Stanculescu denies this in the film and claims that although he sympathized with regime opponents, he had no ties to them (Magyar Televizio,“Titkos Forradalom?” 29 February 2004).

Next, a Securitate colonel in 1989, Gheorghe Ratiu—in fact, head of the First Directorate, the one most identified by Romanian citizens as the “political police”—declares the Securitate was in possession of information that in (West) Germany (Zehndorf), Austria (Traiskirchen), and Hungary (Bicske), there were training camps where guerilla warfare was being instructed by “American trainers.”  The trainees were taught how to “foment unrest and a national uprising.”  Then, in one of what is perhaps the film’s most unexpected moments, Nemeth appears to confirm the allegations from Ratiu’s interview:  “In the south of Germany and in Austria and in other countries, the Germans and Americans were training the required people” (Magyar Televizio, “Titkos Forradalom?” 29 February 2004).

Brandstatter asks, “Was this possible in Romania at that time?”  Dominique Fonveille, the former French intelligence officer who appeared in the February 2003 Durandin televison expose discussed in Part 1 of this series, reveals in the Brandstatter film:  “Yes, one could enter from neighboring countries, and there were also training camps in Hungary and Germany.  It is certain that these people had to be infiltrated in at the given moment.  You have to understand, however, that it was not possible to infiltrate hundreds of people, nor even for that matter dozens.”  Charles Cogan, described as “head of the CIA’s Paris Station in 1989” is seen stating:  “Either the CIA was active in these camps or was training the trainers.”  In his interview, Robert Baer, a former CIA officer, elaborates, “It is likely that they [the trainers] would have told these people, here is an M-16, here is how to load it, here is how to secure it, here is how you shoot with it and here is how you kill someone with it.  Here is how you activate a plastic explosive, etc.” (Magyar Televizio, “Titkos Forradalom?” 29 February 2004).

Finally, Brandstatter interviews Milton Bearden, presented as “Director of CIA’s East European [operations].”  Bearden declares:

“It is said that these were CIA camps.  We have to make a distinction here.  Almost everything is attributed to the CIA.  I don’t know what these people told you, [and] I don’t deny it in its entirety, but I would advise you to be careful…” (Magyar Televizio, “Titkos Forradalom?” 29 February 2004).

Of course, because Brandstatter’s thesis is that the Revolution was essentially “made in the USA,” sparked and manipulated by American-trained agents, it is not surprising that she promotes the ideas of her interlocutors that the bloodshed and victims of December were intentional—part of a plan to stoke popular outrage against the Ceausescu regime and then to legitimate the leadership that replaced him.  Once again she invokes the words of former Securitate Colonel Gheorghe Ratiu of the First Directorate.  According to Ratiu, the lesson learned by the “producers” of the December 1989 Revolution from the Brasov workers’ riots of November 1987 was that “if there aren’t any corpses, the people won’t revolt sufficiently [in order to overthrow the regime]” (Jurnalul National, 27 February 2004).  Therefore, he suggests that the bloodshed, in the week that preceded the Ceausescus’ flight from power on 22 December 1989, was intended to accomplish just this end.

The French security official, Dominique Fonveille, apparently speaking mostly in reference to the post-22 December bloodshed, argues that the gunfire and chaos that dominated the next few days was deliberate, designed to create a state of insecurity that would in turn create support for the new leaders.  Victims were thus necessary for the credibility of the Revolution, in his view.  Finally, Brandstatter presents an interview with the former Romanian Military Prosecutor, General Dan Voinea, who, on the 10th anniversary of the Revolution, had declared the findings of the investigation into the question of the so-called “terrorists”—the term used to describe those held responsible for 942 deaths (nearly 90% of the overall number of 1,104 people who died in the course of the Revolution) in the immediate hours and days following the flight of the Ceausescus.  According to Voinea—who, it is important to point out, was himself one of the people involved in the trial of the Ceausescus that was justified officially as having been necessary to put an end to the “terrorist” violence:

“After 22 December 1989, there existed a huge diversion, in the sense that the notion of terrorists who were attacking the population were invented.  After investigating the question, it was determined that these terrorists did not in reality exist.” (“Jurnalul National,” 27 February 2004).

DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN REACTIONS TO THE “CHECKMATE” DOCUMENTARY

Reviews of Brandstatter’s film were positive and it certainly fascinated its viewers.  A rare note of skepticism, but also acceptance of the film’s thesis on foreign involvement, was Dominique Dhombres’ review in “Le Monde” on 26 February 2004.  Yes, he wrote, the CIA, the KGB, and perhaps even the French secret services were involved, but Brandstatter still underplayed the role of Romania’s citizens “who were not [just] marionettes.”  He concluded, “Brandstatter’s display is sedcutive, but like the execution of the Ceausescus…[her conclusions are] a little hasty.”

Somewhat surprisingly perhaps, some Romanian commentators not known for their support of the Western-engineered variant of the conspiracy theory of December 1989 have argued that Brandstatter’s arguments deserve serious consideration.  Using the research strategy of “qui bono”—a strategy which Brandstatter admits also drove her analysis of the December 1989 events—Cornel Nistorescu, editor of the mass daily “Evenimentul Zilei [Event of the Day],” concludes:  Hungary was also interested in Ceausescu’s fall (it’s European integration would have been an unsolvable problem if Ceausescu had continued to exist across its Eastern border); also interested were France, Germany, and the United States” (“Evenimentul Zilei,” 28 February 2004).

Some of the other commentary on Brandstatter’s film is equally interesting.  In a statement published by “Jurnalul National [The National Journal]” on 25 February 2004, Radu Tinu declared:  “It is regrettable that the facts I presented, five years ago, have become interesting only now, when the West releases them…We Romanians did not make the Revolution, but rather danced to the music of other intelligence services.  Tap-dancing for the CIA and ‘kalinka’ for the KGB.”  Tinu differs with Brandstatter, however, over for whom Stanculescu was spying; according to Tinu, he was working for the English, not the Hungarians as Brandstatter insinuates.  The name Radu Tinu may be familiar to Romania watchers:  he was the Deputy Chief of the Timis County Securitate that was involved in the bloody repression of demonstrators in Timisoara in December 1989.**

In a 3 March 2004 editorial entitled “The Romanian Revolution at the Intersection of CIA and KGB Streets,” the senior editor of “Jurnalul National,” Marius Tuca, accepted the rejection of some of Brandstatter’s claims—relayed by journalists at his own paper—and then summarizing the contradiction and timeless conspiratorial view at the center of many Romanian responses wrote:  “…there exists one certainty in all this debate:  the Revolution was founded by the Romanian people.  What remains to be learned is if someone put it in train and especially WHO! (emphasis in original].”

One of the more interesting reactions to the film came from Sergiu Nicolaescu, a film director who found himself at the center of the December events and who chaired a parliamentary commission investigating those events in the early and mid-1990s.  Nicolaescu alleged that the film was “a dirty trick financed by the Hungarians, because they are the only ones interested in making people believe that the Romanian Revolution was made by someone other than Romanians…[and, furthermore] the interviews were conducted in Hungarian not Romanian” (“Jurnalul National,” 28 February 2004).

HUNGARIAN INTERVENTION…IN THE [HISTORIOGRAPHY OF THE] ROMANIAN REVOLUTION

Had it not been for the surprising claims of former Hungarian Prime Minister Miklos Nemeth in “Checkmate,” it is doubtful the Hungarians would have paid much attention to the film.  But Nemeth’s comments suddenly converted what otherwise would have been a “foreign story” into one that “hit home,” so-to-speak. Those who think that such narcissism is the province of individuals—or as a good number of American academics seem to think, a quintessentially American condition—have probably never witnessed media coverage in other countries of an overseas catastrophe or sporting event, in which co-nationals are the be-all and end-all of coverage.

Until investigations by Hungarian Television to substantiate Nemeth’s claims in “Checkmate,” the Hungarian population had been informed primarily by translated dispatches of “Jurnalul National,” related by Hungarian correspondents in Bucharest, that were not subject to further scrutiny.  The daily “Magyar Hirlap” presented on 26 February the revelations of Securitate officers Ratiu and Tinu as confirming the thesis that Ceausescu had been overthrown by foreign intelligence services—who had set up training centers, including in Hungary as Nemeth maintained.  That the statements by former Securitate officials—even if in support of the argument of a former top Hungarian official—could be taken at face-value is perhaps evidence of how far we have come even in Hungary from December 1989—such statements would have been subject to far more, almost knee-jerk scrutiny in the early 1990s.  The idea that the Hungarian media was just dying to deny Brandstatter’s allegations thus does not really wash.

Hungarian Television began scrutinizing the film in its “Thursday Evening” program, but the more important examination of the film was on Sunday, 29 February 2004, when MTV (Magyar Televizio) broadcast a program entitled “Secret Revolution (Titkos Forradalom)?” According to the host, Sandor Friderikusz, “days later [after the first showing of the documentary] the film was still enthralling Hungarians and foreigners.”  But it was clearly Nemeth’s claim that was driving everything—and ended up serving as the gateway to a more wideranging deconstruction of the film.

Brandstatter had been scheduled to appear on the progam, Friderikusz stated, but after having promised for a week to participate, at the last minute pulled out without giving a reason.  Friderikusz decided to contact those interviewed in the film to verify their statements on camera.  A pattern soon began to emerge:  Brandstatter had conducted long, in some cases hours-long, interviews, but had only placed short, frequently out-of-context clips in the final product.  Moreover, according to her interlocutors, she had come to the interviews with her mind firmly made up about what had happened in December 1989.

The first interviewee who was sought out, was Milton Bearden, who participated by phone from his home in New Hampshire.  Bearden, the former Chief of Operations for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, was not amused by Brandstatter’s documentary.  His admonition to Brandstatter, that she should be careful in her pursuit of the idea that the Romanian Revolution was the work of foreign security services, was the only excerpt of what he maintained was a two and a half hour interview.  [Romanian Army General Victor Stanculescu maintains that although in the film he only has a few words, the interview with Brandstatter lasted four hours (“Clipa,” 11 March 2004).]

Bearden was emphatic in declaring that “the CIA in no way directed or precipitated the revolution” and rejected Brandstatter’s contention that the Revolution was the work of foreign security services as “completely untrue.”  Asked if he thought Brandstatter had forced her case, Bearden responded:  “I don’t want to cause Brandstatter difficulty, but she [came] already convinced of the truth of her theory.”  His admonition for her to “be careful,” appears to have been a reference to how she was approaching the topic analytically—not that this pursuit was endangering her life or well-being.

Bearden considered the allegations of a central Hungarian role ridiculous.  He noted that in 1989, the Hungarian political scene was dominated by two principal issues:  the reburial of Imre Nagy and the opening of its western frontier with Austria.  To his credit as a journalist, Friderikusz challenged Bearden on two points:  1) perhaps other personnel within the CIA might have been involved in an operation against Romania of the variety alleged in the film of which Bearden was unaware, and 2) if there had been a CIA role, would it not be natural that Bearden should deny a CIA role?  Bearden claimed it was out of the question that an operation of this type could have taken place without his knowledge, and he acknowledged the suspicion with which his denials might be received but reiterated emphatically that Brandstatter’s claims were groundless.

Next, Friderikusz interviewed Ferenc Karpati, Hungarian Defense Minister at the time of the Revolution, and Laszlo Borsics, Hungarian Chief of Staff at the time.  Karpati and Borsics denied any preparation for, or provision of, arms during the Revolution, and stated that they did not believe something such as the alleged CIA training of agents provocateurs to overthrow Ceausescu could have been launched from Hungary.  Although there was some discussion in political circles of sending in Hungary’s anti-terrorist brigades and armed volunteers, Karpati opined, “luckily we rejected it.”  In fact, the officials claimed they only made offers of arms and munitions after Ceausescu’s overthrow and that these had been rejected by the Romanian military, who only accepted medical supplies.  Friderikusz pushed Karpati on the question of “which party or political faction” was advocating intervention, but Karpati declined to say, stating that he had already made it public years before in an article in the “Historia” magazine. [In the throes of the 1994 Hungarian parliamentary election campaign, however, the leader of the former communist party (MSzP), Gyula Horn, accused the deceased former Prime Minister Jozsef Antall and then current foreign minister Geza Jeszensky of the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) as having asked in the days of the Revolution to be permitted to create volunteer detachments to intervene in Romania, but that the request was rejected.  Jeszensky denied Horn’s claim, saying that the MDF had asked Horn, who was foreign minister in December 1989, to request NATO intervention and had never proposed the idea of volunteer detachments. (see Dorin Suciu, “Si totusi in ’89 Ungaria pregatea o interventie armata in Romania,” Adevarul, 26 April 1994).]

In what was emerging as a clear pattern, Karpati claimed that a year earlier Brandstatter had conducted a two hour (unfilmed) “pre”-interview with him—none of which ever saw the light of day.  Thus, when she asked to send a film crew, he declined when she did not respond to his questions of the content of the film.  Challenged about Nemeth’s claim of Hungarian and CIA direct involvement in the Revolution, Borsics opined that Nemeth’s words “may have been taken out of context…and I certainly have no knowledge of such things.”  Borsics also highlighted some basic factual inaccuracies in the account purported in the Brandstatter film—such as the Bicske “training camp” being 40 km from the Austrian border, when in fact it is 40 km from Budapest and at least 150 km from the Austrian border.

Friderikusz followed up once again with Karpati, inquiring how it was possible that Nemeth’s account, at least as it appeared in the film, could be so different from his and Borsics’?  “Was it possible,” he asked, “that only he [Nemeth] was privy” to these secrets?  Karpati responded emphatically:

“All I can say, is that during those days, every hour we were updating the Prime Minister, frequently we sat a his desk, marking on a map every move that was taking place in Romania, we spoke about troop movements, we talked about everything, and I believe that he would have heard everything from us first.”

Finally, Friderikusz spoke to Sandor Aradi, the Hungarian military attache in Bucharest during the Revolution, who denied Brandstatter’s thesis, claimed the film was full of doubletalk, and affirmed that the Romanian Revolution was first and foremost the work of the Romanian people, especially the Romanian youth. “Without a doubt,” Aradi claimed, it was unthinkable that he could have held such a position and not had some information on the secret operations Nemeth had alleged.

Even at the political level, Nemeth’s claims were rejected by other senior politicians from the time.  A separate MTV 1 program conducted an interview with Imre Pozsgay, who claimed no knowledge of Nemeth’s allegations and that Nemeth had discussed nothing of the sort (Magyar Televizio b, 2004).  “If I didn’t know about [the secret operations], then that means very, very few could have known,” he stated,

“…sure the West and Moscow tried to apply pressure to Ceausescu, but a revolution, a societal uprising, a rebellion, that the security services could pull off such a thing…such a thing has never happened in the history of the world [!].”

Thus, besides Romanian figures who disputed their characterization and/or presentation in the film and the manner in which Brandstatter produced it, we have here at least five other key officials from the time, not only rejecting Brandstatter’s thesis, but expressing dismay and disgust at how Brandstatter put the Revolution in “Checkmate”—Bearden, Karpati, Borsics, Aradi, and Pozsgay.

WAIT A MINUTE!  HADN’T IT JUST BEEN AGREED THAT THE KGB DID IT?

Among those asked by “Jurnalul National” to comment on the Brandstatter documentary was former Soviet-era Russian dissident Vladimir Bukovski.  Bukovski did not challenge Brandstatter’s account, maintaining that he had not had access to the sources available to Brandstatter—thereby leaving open the possibility of a CIA role in Ceausescu’s overthrow.  At first glance, this was somewhat surprising, as Bukovski has long argued that the December 1989 events in Romania were the work of the US and CIA’s principal adversary, the KGB.  However, it is not so surprising when one realizes the primary role Bukovski gives to foreign forces in bringing about Ceausescu’s overthrow, and his corresponding neglect of the internal dynamics of the Revolution inside Romania.

Bukovski’s comments while visiting Romania in November 2003—that the KGB orchestrated the events of Ceausescu’s overthrow—meant that the Romanian press had a field day on the 14th anniversary of the Revolution.  As usual when it comes to the KGB thesis, it was Editor-in-Chief Sorin Rosca Stanescu’s daily “Ziua” that gave Bukovski’s comments publicity, although dailies such as “Evenimentul Zilei,” “Romania Libera,” and others soon chimed in. “Case closed,” many editorialists, intellectuals, and politicians hastened to pronounce. Bukovski’s comments were interpreted as gospel precisely by those who have for years accepted and promoted this theory and who recognize its utility in contemporary Romanian political debates.  Bukovski’s credibility is enhanced by his stature and integrity as a former Soviet dissident, and by his post-1991 access to Soviet archives and publication of the documents he was able to surreptitiously photocopy.  But two critical points have to be made with regard to Bukovski’s claim about Romania’s December 1989 events.  First, he alleges that the collapse of communist rule throughout Eastern Europe—including the fall of the Berlin Wall—were part of an elaborate KGB plot, hatched beginning from 1988.  Second, he first made such allegations well-before he got access to those Soviet archives.

In a study dating from the late 1990s, the Romanian author Vladimir Alexe, who endorses a similar viewpoint on Romania’s December 1989 events, quoted Bukovski’s comments in 1990 on the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, as follows:

“Never has the role of the KGB inside the country [the USSR] or abroad been so important.  The Soviet secret services are the ones that watched the overthrow of Ceausescu in Romania, launched the ‘velvet revolution’ in Czechoslovakia, [and] that took measures to overthrow Erich Honecker in East Germany, producing especially favorable circumstances for the destruction of the Berlin Wall  (“L’Empire du moindre mal,” Libre Journal, Paris, nr. 1, sept-oct, 1990, p. 30).” (see Vladimir Alexe, “KGB si revolutiile din Europa de Est” in Ziua, 19 November 1999 and 20 December 1999)

In the wake of Bukovski’s “bombshell” in November 2003, at least one Romanian commentator attempted to legitimize the credibility of Bukovski’s  claims by appealing to the fact that the documents substantiating Bukovski’s claims are “on the Internet, anybody can access them.”  It is true that Bukovski has published Soviet archival documents on the Internet, including from the period 1988 to 1991—however, none of them are about the December 1989 events in Romania (http://psi.ece.jhu.edu/~kaplan/IRUSS/BUK/GBARC/pdfs/sovter75/sovter75-e.html).  Indeed, given the amazing antennae of the Romanian press for anything that substantiates their beliefs on this matter—and their deafness to anything that challenges those beliefs—one would expect that did such documents exist they would have been reproduced in the Romanian press by now.

Following Brandstatter’s film, Bukovski returned again to the Romanian press scene in the summer of 2004 in a series of interviews in “Ziua.”  Although the daily typically hyped Bukovski’s comments—one could click on a file on their internet site devoted exclusively to “The Bukovski Scandal”—to make it appear that Bukovski had made stunning, new, and unassailable revelations, and Bukovski offered to provide documentary evidence for his views, he provided neither documentary evidence nor any new details—already, virtually non-existent—to his account.

As mentioned above, in commenting on what he referred to as the “Checkmate documentary,” Bukovski stated that he did not challenge Brandstatter’s account, since he had not had access to the sources available to her.  However, he did seek to strengthen support for his own argument of the events as predominantly a KGB coup by invoking the writings of the BBC reporter, John Simpson (“Jurnalul National,” 2 March 2004?).  Simpson’s writings have been invoked by others who have sought to evaluate accounts of the Revolution.  For example, Krishna Kumar writes in his 2001 book reexamining 1989 in the region, that John Simpson had brought new, sensational revelations to the table in a 1994 “Independent (London)” article (Kumar, 2001).  But the basis of Simpson’s 1994 article is the report released by the Romanian Information Service (SRI) that alleges Russian and other East bloc “tourists” played a seminal role in sparking the Revolution.  (Despite questioning other aspects of the SRI’s contentions, Deletant unfortunately appears to accept this claim at face value—without recognizing how it contradicts and ultimately negates his other arguments on the events (see Deletant ,1999, pp. 171-172).)  That the SRI is the Securitate’s formal institutional successor, and incorporated many of the personnel, structures, and culture of the Securitate, hardly lends the argument credibility.  Moreover, one has to ask if Bukovski supposedly knows so much about the KGB role in the Romanian Revolution from his access to Soviet archival sources, how is it that he does not know about what would appear to be a key detail—the role of Russian and East bloc “tourists” in sparking Ceausescu’s overthrow?

*From the television guide description of Newsletter MARS 2004/1 on the Internet.

**Marius Mioc, a direct participant in the Timisoara uprising and a researcher who has written some of the most detailed and insightful analysis on the events of December 1989, was sufficiently incensed with “revelations” that suggest that the events of Timisoara were stage-managed by foreign forces and that defended or denied the role of regime forces in repressing demonstrators that he published a newspaper devoted to the subject (Mioc 2004).

SOURCES

“Clipa On-line,” 2004, web edition, http://www.clipa.com.

Deletant, D., 1999, Romania Under Communist Rule (Portland, OR:  Center for Romanian Studies).

“Evenimentul Zilei,” (Bucharest), 2004, web edition, http://www.evenimentulzilei.ro.

“The Independent,” (London), 1994.

“Jurnalul National,” (Bucharest), 2004, web edition, http://www.jurnalul.ro.

Kumar, K., 2001, 1989:  Revolutionary Ideas and Ideals (Minneapolis:  University of Minnesota Press).

“Le Monde,” 2004, web edition, http://www.lemonde.fr.

“Magyar Hirlap,” 2004, web edition, http://www.magyarhirlap.hu.

Mioc, M., 2004. “Revolutia din Timisoara si minciunile de Marius Tuca [The Timisoara Revolution and the Lies of Marius Tuca (editor of Jurnalul National),” (Timisoara), March.

MTV 1 (Magyar Televizio 1), 2004.  “Csutortok este [Thursday Evening],” 26 February at http://www.icenter.hu.

MTV 1 (Magyar Televizio 1), 2004.  “Titkos Forradalom?  [Secret Revolution?],” 29 February at http://www.asolasszabadsaga.hu.

“Ziua” (Bucharest), 1999, 2003, 2004, web edition, http://www.ziua.ro.

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