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.


Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on September 28, 2010




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.

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

[2] Recounted in George Baleanu, “Romania at a Historic Crossroads,” Conflict Studies Research Centre No. G65, found at, 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  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

[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

[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.


  1. romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 said

    from Bullets, Lies, and Videotape (December 2009)

    [6] According to Sorin Iliesiu, the filmmaker who claims to have edited the chapter on December 1989 in the so-called Tismaneanu Raport Final, the “spirit of Voinea’s findings can be found in the Chapter.” Indeed, the chapter includes snippets from an interview between Dan Voinea and Andrei Badin (Adevarul , December 2006). The “indefatigable” Voinea, as Tom Gallagher has referred to him, continues to be defended by Vladimir Tismaneanu who has expressed support for Voinea’s investigations “from both a juridic and historic viewpoint” (see his post on his blog from 21 September 2009 Important este ca actiunea sa nu fie inchisa, nici juridic, nici istoric), avoiding any mention of the reasons for Voinea’s dismissal from the Military Procuracy, mistakes that Prosecutor General Laura Codruta Kovesi says “one wouldn’t expect even from a beginner” (for more on this and background, see Hall 2008):

    Ce îi reproşaţi, totuşi, lui Voinea? Punctual, ce greşeli a făcut în instrumentarea cauzelor?

    Sunt foarte multe greşeli, o să menţionez însă doar câteva. Spre exemplu, s-a început urmărirea penală faţă de persoane decedate. Poate îmi explică dumnealui cum poţi să faci cercetări faţă de o persoană decedată! Apoi, s-a început urmărirea penală pentru fapte care nu erau prevăzute în Codul Penal. În plus

    , deşi nu a fost desemnat să lucreze, spre exemplu, într-un dosar privind mineriada (repartizat unui alt procuror), domnul procuror Dan Voinea a luat dosarul, a început urmărirea penală, după care l-a restituit procurorului de caz. Vă imaginaţi cum ar fi dacă eu, ca procuror general, aş lua dosarul unui coleg din subordine, aş începe urmărirea penală după care i l-aş înapoia. Cam aşa ceva s-a întâmplat şi aici.

    Mai mult, a început urmărirea penală într-o cauză, deşi, potrivit unei decizii a Înaltei Curţi de Casaţie şi Justiţie, era incompatibil să mai facă asta. E vorba despre dosarul 74/p/1998 (dosar în care Voinea l-a acuzat pe fostul preşedinte Ion Iliescu că, în iunie 1990, a determinat cu intenţie intervenţia în forţă a militarilor împotriva manifestanţilor din Capitală – n.r.).

    Apoi au fost situaţii în care s-a început urmărirea penală prin acte scrise de mână, care nu au fost înregistrate în registrul special de începere a urmăririi penale. Aceste documente, spre exemplu, nu prevedeau în ce constau faptele comise de presupuşii învinuiţi, nu conţin datele personale ale acestora. De exemplu, avem rezoluţii de începere a urmăririi penale care-l privesc pe Radu Ion sau pe Gheorghe Dumitru, ori nu ştim cine este Gheorghe Dumitru, nu ştim cine este Radu Ion.

    „Parchetul să-şi asume tergiversarea anchetelor”

    Credeţi că, în cazul lui Voinea, au fost doar greşeli sau că a fost vorba de intenţie, ştiind că acuzaţii vor scăpa?

    Nu cunosc motivele care au stat la baza acestor decizii şi, prin urmare, nu le pot comenta.

    Poate fi vorba şi despre complexitatea acestor dosare?

    Când ai asemenea dosare în lucru, nu faci astfel de greşeli, de începător. Eşti mult mai atent când ai cauze de o asemenea importanţă pentru societatea românească.

    Excerpted from

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