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 October 1, 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.

The Shrinking Terrain of Denial:

Individuals with Credible Access to Information…Identify The “Terrorists”

What many Romanians and Romanianists don’t know or cannot bring themselves to acknowledge is that we have at least three sources who have admitted that their unit/institution provided the “terrorists” of December 1989, three sources whose details roughly match.  These things—to say the least—don’t grow on trees in post-communist Romania.  The three sources I shall invoke here all spoke in the first five years of the post-Revolution era.  Only on exceedingly rare occasions have these admissions been repeated and analyzed—usually devoid of context—and certainly short of my own research, no one else has gathered them together in one place.

One of the more persistently annoying characteristics of articles and books on December 1989 is the tendency to have no criteria—short of partisan political ones—for evaluating the credibility of assertions and claims about the events.  Thus, the civilian or Army soldier who declares that because in his or her own personal experience he or she did not see any “terrorists” and believes (often only in retrospect) he or she was sent on a wild goose chase and that there were no “terrorists” anywhere during the Revolution is readily accepted at face value.  The logical fallacy of deducing that from one’s own personal experience, a certain proposition cannot be true, should be plain for all to see.

More important, perhaps, is the inattention to basic questions concerning 1) would the person making the claim have been in a position or had a plausible opportunity to learn such information, and 2) in the case of a “whistleblower,” is their claim to threats and harassment because of disclosure plausible?  The Romanian historiography of people shooting off their mouths who would have been unlikely to have had access to the information they now claim and whose fear of reprisal seems subjective is abundant.

Admission I:

It will—and should—be mind boggling to the outsider, but an alleged meeting on the evening of Christmas Day 1989 at the USLA Headquarters shortly after the execution of the Ceausescus, has garnered almost no investigation and discussion inside or outside Romania.  Enough people have made reference to the meeting, from enough different entities and with different interests and equities—including USLA Commander Gheorghe Ardeleanu himself, a civilian representative of the Front (Mihai Montanu), former USLA officer Marian Romanescu, and Army General Tiberiu Urdareanu—to suggest that at the very least the meeting took place.[63] One would think this meeting might be of some historical interest, since the next day, 26 December 1989, the official order was issued integrating the remnants of the former Securitate and Interior Ministry into the Defense Ministry.

In 1991, former USLA Captain Marian Romanescu described Ardeleanu’s comments to his troops at this alleged meeting 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 Commando Warfare) identity cards and identifications 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.”[64] (emphasis in the original)

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 informs 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.  This was a classic case of “plausible deniability”—now dead, and clearly having been involved in suspicious behavior, Ardeleanu denied any knowledge of them and any affiliation of them with his unit and command.

Army General Tiberiu Urdareanu also claims to have been present at the meeting.  In a 1996 memoir, he wrote that the new Defense Minister, General Nicolae 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) and appealed at the end “for those involved in the genocide:  put an end to it!”  As Urdareanu concluded:

“From his [Military’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.”[65]

Urdareanu asserts that USLA Commander Ardeleanu also talked at the session, essentially echoing the comments related by Romanescu above:

“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.”[66].

Enhancing the authenticity and credibility of Urdareanu’s claim, he notes that two Securitate officials spoke at this same session and made two requests—one, that Securitate phone lines that had been cut be reconnected, and two, that the situation of the State Archives be specified.  (Notably, Colonel Gheorghe Ratiu, head of the Securitate’s First Directorate in December 1989, complained in 1995:  “From 24 December, our special telephone and governmental lines were cut…and even though I presented myself directly as a head of central directorate of the Defense Ministry, military commanders refused to allow me to communicate with my personnel…”[67] )  Finally, Urdareanu maintains he also asked a question of senior Army officials at the meeting:

“…personally I asked that information on the empty residences [i.e. safehouses]  in town used by the Securitate be put at our disposal, being convinced that it was from these that the gunfire was coming, and I received an affirmative response.”[68]

In other words, the previously-discussed safehouse issue.

Admission II:

The Revelations of former Timisoara Securitate officer Roland Vasilevici

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

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

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

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

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

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

Admission III:

The comments of an anonymous former USLA recruit

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

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

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

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

[63] See the comments of Ardeleanu (p. 119) and Montanu (p. 147) to the Ceausist weekly Europa reprinted in Angela Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea Navalirilor Barbare (Cluj-Napoca:  Editura ,Zalmoxis,’ 1994).

[64] Captain Marian Romanescu, with Dan Badea, “USLA, Bula Moise, teroristii si ‘Fratii Musulmani’,” Expres (2-8 July 1991), p. 8. What makes this eminently believable too is that the parties present, and Ardeleanu himself, apparently viewed the FSN for the most part as just the rebaptized Communist Party!

[65] Tiberiu Urdareanu, 1989—Martor si Participant (Bucharest:  Editura Militara, 1996), p. 137.

[66] Ibid.

[67] Gheorghe Ratiu, interview with Ilie Neacsu, Europa, episode 18, 22 March-4 April 1995.

[68] Urdareanu, 1989—Martor si Participant, p. 138.

[69] William Totok, Constangerea memoriei.  Insemnari, documente, amintiri (Bucharest:  Polirom, 2001), pp. 186-203.

[70] The Europa interview from 1991 appears in Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea Navalirilor Barbare, 1994, p. 67.

[71] Col. (r) Ion Lemnaru, “Piramida de minciuni a lui Roland Vasilevici,” Spionaj-Contraspionaj, no. 24 (March 1992), p. 7a.  It appears that after “Puspoki F.,” Vasilevici adopted the pseudonym “Romeo Vasiliu” in publishing his revelations in pamphlet form.

[72] Roland Vasilevici, interview with Mireca Iovan, Cuvintul, no. 119 (May 1992), p. 8.

[73] See Romania Libera, 28 December 1994, p. 3.  It appears that during this interview Vasilevici invoked the presence of Libyans and their spiriting out of the country immediately after the events—for the discussion of this incident see below.

[74] See Tinu’s comments in the 13 August 2006 posting of a Radio Impact interview by Gabriel Argeseanu with Radu Tinu from 18 February 1999 at

[75] “Dezvaluiri despre implicarea USLA in evenimentele din decembrie ’89,” Romania Libera, 28 December 1994, p.3

[76] 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 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 [! See the discussion below on this issue]”  See Teodor Filip, Secretele USLA (Craiova:  Editura Obiectiv, 1998), pp. 109-111.


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