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 29, 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.

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?!


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

[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

[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


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