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 5, 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.

Orwellian Sanity

Prosecutor Voinea’s campaign to “sanitize” the Revolution—to simplify the story to make it more “sane” and digestible for the outsider…by cleansing it of the “terrorists”—has generally succeeded to date.  Of course, the credit is hardly his alone:  he has had almost seventeen years of word-of-mouth, print, broadcast, and electronic revisionism to help him out, and he has, as we saw in the introduction, repeated the same accusations almost like clockwork upon the anniversary of the Revolution for the past decade.

But my use of the term “Orwellian” in the title of this paper is not only designed to capture Voinea’s uncanny ability to make definitive statements that are demonstrably wrong, to argue that black is white and white is black—from his denial of the use of gunfire simulators in December 1989, to his claim that the only “lunetisti” who acted after 22 December were from the Army, to his denial of the existence of weapons and (especially “vidia”) bullets not in the arsenal of the Army, to his denial of the existence of “terrorists,” to his denial that any military unit was attacked during the events, to his denial of the role of foreigners in the events….

I use the term “Orwellian” here as much to describe the ease with which he has gotten and gets away with errors, misunderstandings, and falsehoods that could easily be challenged, if not combated by his interlocutors in the Romanian media and intelligentsia.  For it is the fact that he has been able and is able to get away with all this that is truly “Orwellian” and that is indeed a tragedy for Romania’s citizens.  The tragedy is thus less the predictable “supply side” of the post-authoritarian lie, than the enthusiastic consumption and appetite for it.  This is why I believe, accurately I would argue, that “December 1989” long ago became more about post-Ceausescu Romania than about what happened in December 1989.

Still, there are those who will respond to the information presented here—in part, in tacit admission that it is pretty hard to challenge what I have presented here—with the argument that Prosecutor Voinea is doing his best, that he has done and is doing more than his predecessors, that at least those senior Army officers who were responsible for the repression of demonstrators in Timisoara, Bucharest, and elsewhere before the Ceausescus’ flight on 22 December 1989 will finally be brought to account.  Indeed, I don’t discount that in the trials of Stanculescu, Chitac, and others this can and will perhaps happen—but even then as I will show below, this will be partial justice for those events, as key elements of the context (including other guilty parties) will remain expunged from the story, and there is likely a heavy element of post-December 1989 political and personal payback in their trials and sentences.

Moreover, I should add, I do not necessarily doubt Prosecutor Voinea when he says that there is no “juridical basis” or that his investigations have not revealed the existence of “terrorists” in December 1989.  As multiple quotes above should make clear, already in 1990 and 1991, maps of Securitate safehouses, bullets, weapons, and video entered as evidence in files on the Revolution had disappeared or been lost.  And, of course, the question of investigations is a tricky one:  someone who lived their formative years and much of their adult life in a totalitarian regime such as Ceausescu’s communist Romania knows well the questions not to ask, the places where not to look, the people not to interview.  A military prosecutor since 1982, Voinea likely knows that doubly-well.  Certainly, the wealth of detail provided above suggests that Voinea has hardly turned up every stone in searching for the truth.

Others may respond with an understandable question:  how could so many people have gotten things so wrong?  This is the numbers game and it is powerful where as we saw earlier already a decade after the events 90% of those polled rejected “the lie with the terrorists.”  I will demonstrate that it is indeed possible, by showing the about-face that occurred in the media regarding the role of the USLA in the repression prior to 22 December 1989.  One could argue that this change in treatment of this question does not necessarily have implications for the treatment of the “terrorist” question after 22 December, and the role of the USLA.  In all probability it does have implications, however, and it is unlikely that it was just happenstance that the unit involved in this change in understanding was precisely the USLA.  Certainly, one would have hoped that a realization that they had gotten things so wrong with the USLA before 22 December would have translated into a more skeptical and critical reassessment of USLA actions after 22 December, but that did not—and has not—happened.

One of the interesting and unexpected elements of Romulus Cristea’s late 2005-early 2006 Romania Libera series on the Revolution, is what it communicates—mainly through the selected quotations of participants in the events—about the role of the USLA prior to Ceausescu’s flight from power on 22 December, namely their direct involvement in repression, particularly in University Square in Bucharest on the night of 21-22 December 1989.  For example, the title of Cristea’s article in the 22 March 2006 (online) edition of Romania Libera could not be more direct:  “The Militia and the USLA tortured demonstrators.”

Readers unfamiliar with the Romanian press of the early 1990s might be surprised to learn that what Cristea reports almost prosaically—as if it were uncontroversial—was vigorously and repeatedly contested back then…but perhaps nowhere more so than in the pages of the same Romania Libera daily.  After the then freshly-appointed Defense Minister, Victor Athanasie Stanculescu, had declared in late February 1990 that not only had the USLA not had any connection to the post-22 December “terrorism” but that they had not been involved in the repression of demonstrators in Timisoara, Bucharest, or elsewhere during the week preceding the 22nd[141], Petre Mihai Bacanu had gone out of his way to assure readers of his series on the demonstrations in University Square in Bucharest on the night of 21-22 December 1989, that “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), and “…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).

Won’t Get Fooled Again…

Unintentionally indicative of the coverage of the USLA’s pre-22nd role that has predominated since February 1990 is that when it comes to the role of the USLA in Bucharest from the afternoon of 21 December to the early morning hours of 22 December 1989, Siani-Davies chooses to shunt this issue to a footnote and suddenly whereas the issue for other forces is the role they played, for the USLA it is the role they “may have played [emphasis added].”[142] According to Siani-Davies, Horia Alexandrescu’s March 1990 “Heroes in Action” series in Tineretul Liber, “undoubtedly painted a rosy picture of the [USLA] unit, [but] they do seem to hold a kernel of truth.”[143] To say that this is a charitable interpretation of Alexandrescu’s articles is to say the least:  it certainly places the bar incredibly low.  A “kernel of truth”…yes, but on a cob or core of falsehood.

Alexandrescu denies any responsibility by the USLA for either repression of demonstrators before 22 December or the terrorism after!  Alexandrescu’s comments are just plain weird at points:  “Without pusti cu lunete, without vidia bullets, without sophisticated simulators,” he says the USLA operated in December.[144] If they didn’t have these things, then why mention them, and why be so specific?  But as we have seen, specifically, with the revelations of USLA officer Alexandru Cristescu earlier in the discussion of “lunetisti,” the USLA clearly did have these PSLs and were posted with them on rooftops at least on 21 December.  Moreover, to raise the issues of vidia bullets and sophisticated simulators is to almost admit their presence in December—which as we have seen was the case.  Finally, as we have seen, somehow out of nowhere, the otherwise bizarre interest in the fate of a TAROM flight to Warsaw in late January 1990, filled with Libyans, found its way into Alexandrescu’s series on his USLA “Heroes in Action.”

Alexandrescu, it should be noted, was not the first journalist to whitewash the role of the USLA in December 1989.  That distinction goes, it appears, to Octavian Andronic, senior editor of Libertatea who wrote on 6 January 1990 that, “The USLA was one of the first units belonging to the Interior Ministry that declined any participation in the repressive actions against demonstrators on 21 and 22 December [emphasis added].”[145] Like Alexandrescu, who had been editor of the chief sports daily in the late Ceausescu era, Andronic had been editor of Libertatea’s immediate Ceausist predecessor, Informatia Bucurestiului—in other words, intimately and almost unavoidably entangled in the politics and the blind spots of the old regime.  The difference when Alexandrescu was writing was that, as he notes in his article introducing the series, after two months of suspicions, the new Defense Minister Stanculescu had, as one of his first acts in late February 1990 “lifted the haze that had enveloped” the unit during the interim.

Timisoara, Iasi, and Cluj, 14-21 December 1989

To support his argument, in the “Heroes in Action” series Alexandrescu wrote that Colonel Popescu, “director of the USLA service in Timisoara” had four times refused to obey orders to engage in repressive actions against the demonstrators.  In point of fact, in accordance with Order No. 2600 Colonel Ion Popescu as head of the General Inspectorate of the Militia had ordered into action the “intervention platoon” (that included USLA personnel) that violently dispersed protesters from Piata Maria on the evening of 16 December 1989 in Timisoara.[146] Vasilevici and the anonymous USLA recruit quoted earlier have both maintained the USLA played a repressive role in Timisoara, with the latter claiming directly they opened fire.[147] Weapons inspections immediately after December 1989 revealed that the USLA had been armed and had indeed fired their weapons:

“The witness Constantin Gheorghe, former junior officer in the Timis USLA Service, declares that, on the afternoon of 17.12.1989, upon the order of Lt. Col. Atudoroaie Gheorghe (editor’s note:  deputy of the Timis County Securitate), 43 machine guns and ammunition were distributed, some to USLA cadre and others to Securitate cadre who reported.  The witness specifies that he distributed arms and ammunition without any documentation and that when he ran out of arms from the stockade, he sent some other personnel to…The witness M.M. Pantea Ambrozie, supervisor of the Militia Inspectorate’s armory, who acknowledged that he signed out 272 machine guns and ammunition…Upon examining the table drawn up by M.M. Pantea Ambrozie, it follows that the first to be armed were 114 officers and junior officers of the Securitate, out of which 29 were from the USLA….It is worth mentioning in this regard that a part of the Securitate personnel repeatedly collected new ammunition, for example Captain Bratosin Tudor from Service I, Lt. Dragomir Florin PCTF, and Lt. Iaru Florin and Plutonier Timbula-Cojocaru Gheorghe, both from the USLA Service.  And, not accidentally, upon the investigation of mixed Defense and Interior Ministry teams, it was established that the arms of these personnel showed gunpowder marks, denoting the fact that these had been fired (see the exchange S.201/12.01/1990 copied in the charges). Moreover, gunpowder marks were found on the weapons of 28 Securitate cadre.”[148]

Does this sound like the USLA in Timisoara were “reluctant to intervene?”  Did Horia Alexandrescu, barely two and a half months after the Revolution, just “happen” to give Colonel Popescu and the USLA in Timisoara the benefit of the doubt?

Nor was it, of course, simply “incidental” that the USLA were included among the forces of “crowd control” and repression.  The abortive 14 December 1989 demonstration in Iasi, saw in the words of Dan Emilian Stoica, “the city fill up with securisti and policemen to which was added an USLA company.”[149] In 2001, the deputy Militia chief for Cluj county, Vasile Pintea, admitted at a trial concerning the killing of demonstrators on 21 December 1989 in Cluj, that “…amid the street clashes in Piata Libertatii a special antiterrorist brigade of the Securitate was dispatched, although he didn’t specify if the soldiers from this platoon used their weapons.”[150] This then led the former commander of “Brigade 60” of the Securitate, Vasile Mihalache, who had moments earlier affirmed that the only people to fire in demonstrators in Cluj in December 1989 had been soldiers of the Defense Ministry, to suddenly recall that “…indeed, among the soldiers there had been these Securitate men, who were dressed in uniforms similar to those of the Defense Ministry cadre, although he denied they shot demonstrators.”

So, in other words, both General Stanculescu and Horia Alexandrescu were “incorrect” when they denied any repressive role for the USLA during the week of 16-22 December 1989.  Forgive me, but this seems a little more than just a “rosy” picture.

Sibiu, 19-22 December 1989

In Sibiu, Siani-Davies tells us:

Controversy also continues to surround a commercial TAROM flight, which is alleged to have brought up to eighty USLA troops from Bucharest to Sibiu on December 20, 1989.  It is not clear if the USLA forces were actually on the airplane, or, even if they were, what they actually did in Sibiu…[Serban] Sandulescu (c1996), 57-58…suggests they were not members of USLA but the DIA [Army’s Intelligence Unit].[151]

From the standpoint of Siani-Davies’ unsuspecting reader such a conclusion may seem not only credible, but judicious.  But one of Siani-Davies’ habits—identified negatively by even those who praise the book—is his tendency to draw negative equivalencies:  i.e. there is about as much evidence to support x as there is to support y, in order to disprove or discount both propositions.  In a review, Doris Mironescu writes:

“Very common are claims such as the following:  ‘Finding the proof to sustain such an explanation of the events [that the Army’s Intelligence arm, the DIA simulated the “terrorist diversion,” to permit the Front’s takeover and a possible Warsaw Pact invasion of the country] is as difficult as proving that special units of the securitate took up arms against the revolution’ (p. 154).  Mutually contradictory hypotheses are invoked in order to negate each other, not so much because of the weight of the claims, but through the ideological similarity of both.”[152]

This tendency definitely affects Siani-Davies’ analysis of the “terrorists” and its accuracy.  To begin with, in the very book (Sandulescu) invoked by Siani-Davies, the head of the DIA (Battalion 404 Buzau), Rear Admiral Stefan Dinu, is quoted as having told the Gabrielescu commission investigating the December events (of which Sandulescu was a member) that “we hardly had 80 fighters in this battalion.”[153] It is known that 41 of them were in Timisoara from the morning of 18 December and only returned to their home base in Buzau on 22 December.[154] This makes it highly unlikely that they were on the 20 December TAROM flight to Sibiu that is in question.[155]

Contrast this with the signs that exist pointing to the mystery passengers as having been from the Securitate/Interior Ministry, in particular the USLA.  Nicu Silvestru, chief of the Sibiu County Militia, admitted in passing in a letter from prison that on the afternoon of 19 December 1989, in a crisis meeting, Nicolae Ceausescu’s son, Nicu, party head of Sibiu County, announced that he was going to “call [his] specialists from Bucharest” to take care of any protests.[156] 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.[157] If they were, indeed, DIA personnel, why would Nicu have called Postelnicu, and Postelnicu informed Vlad of the request—would such a request not have been relayed through the Defense Minister?

The first two military prosecutors for Sibiu, Anton Socaciu and Marian Valer, identified the passengers as USLA.  Even Nicu Ceausescu admits that this was the accusation when he stated in August 1990:

“…[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…”[158]

Beginning, at least as early as August 1990, with the allusions of Major Mihai Floca, and later seemingly indirectly confirmed by former USLA officer Marian Romanescu, it was suggested that when USLA Commander Ardeleanu was confronted at the Defense Ministry on the night of 23/24 December 1989, Ardeleanu reportedly admitted that “30 were on guard at [various] embassies, and 80 had been dispatched to Sibiu with a Rombac [aircraft] from 20 December 1989 upon ‘orders from on-high’.”[159] Finally, and along these lines, we bring things full circle—and recall our “phantoms in black” again in the process—with the testimony of Army officer Hortopan to the same Serban Sandulescu at the Gabrielescu Commission hearings:

Sandulescu:  About those dressed in black jumpsuits do you know anything, do you have any information about whom they belonged to?

Hortopan:  On the contrary.  These were the 80 uslasi sent by the MI [Interior Ministry], by General Vlad and Postelnicu to guard Nicolae Ceausescu [i.e. Nicu].  I make this claim because Colonel Ardelean[u] in front of General Militaru, and he probably told you about this problem, at which I was present when he reported, when General Militaru asked him how many men he had in total and how many were now present, where each of them was:  out of which he said that 80 were in Sibiu based on an order from his commanders.  Thus, it is natural that these are who they were.[160]

Bringing us up to the morning of 22 December 1989, and setting the stage for what was to come, Lt. Col. Aurel Dragomir told the Army daily in November 1990:

Dragomir:  Events began to develop quickly on 22 December.  In the morning some of the students posted in different parts of the town began to observe some suspect individuals in black jumpsuits on the roofs in the lights of the attics of several buildings.

Reporter:  The same equipment as the USLAsi killed out front of the Defense Ministry…

Dragomir:  And on the roof of the Militia building there were three or four similar individuals…[161]

Of course, the fact that these individuals were posted on the top of the Militia building on this morning, speaks volumes in itself about their affiliation.  Indeed, in a written statement dated 28 January 1990, Ioan Scarlatescu, (Dir. Comm. Jud. Sibiu), admitted that he was asked by the Army on that morning if the unknown individuals “could be from the USLA?”[162]

Bucharest and Tirgoviste, 21-22 December 1989

As for the events in Bucharest on 21-22 December 1989—the events about which Siani-Davies refers to the role the USLA may have played—Romulus Cristea appears to have finally clarified the source of a transcript of communications among the Securitate, Militia, and senior political figures on the afternoon and evening of 21 December 1989 and from the morning of 22 December.  According to Cristea, the intercepts and transcripts were made on the personal initiative of some of the radiotelegraph operators and others employees of the Central Control [Office] of Radio[tele]communications at Strada Oltenitei no. 103 “at great risk to themselves, as recording the frequencies of the Securitate and Militie was illegal.”[163] That explains in part the incomplete nature of the transcripts—in particular, the gap of key hours in the middle of the night when regime forces opened fire on the demonstrators in University Square and brutally carted those who weren’t killed off to jail (48 people were killed, 604 wounded, and 684 arrested).

Cristea does not note—and may not know—that the text of the transcripts appears to be the same as what was published in Libertatea between 27 January and 15 February 1990 under the heading “Dintre sute de…catarge! [From hundreds of “masts!” (the radio identification for USLA officers conducting surveillance)].”  When they appeared at the time, it was not clear from where the transcripts had come, although the absence of exchanges from the period of bloodiest repression overnight was obvious even then.  Still, the truncated transcripts nevertheless revealed clear 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.”

That more than a decade and a half would pass before these transcripts were reproduced is telling in itself.  For what appeared in the Romanian press in January and February 1990 concerning the USLA’s culpability was to melt away beginning with Army General Stanculescu’s exoneration of them on 26 and 28 February 1990 in an interview with the very same Libertatea.  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.  But it was, as I have noted, Stanculescu’s official sanction of the revisionist history of the USLA’s actions that opened the floodgates.

It took almost four years—following Horia Alexandrescu’s “Heroes in Action” series and Petre Mihai Bacanu’s impassioned postscripts in his “Intercon 21/22” series protesting the USLA’s innocence—before Bacanu returned in Romania Libera and declared that, on the basis of what he claimed was “new” information from Army soldiers who had been in the square that bloody “longest night of the year,” he had changed his mind about the USLA’s role:

“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.”[164]

In March 2006, Cristea quoted Nicolae Victor Gheorghe, 38, as saying:

“…Around 23:30 I was arrested with a group that had fled toward the History Museum.  We were surrounded by USLA.  I was surprised to observe that among us several individuals dressed in fur-lined coats stepped forward and pointed out to the ones with the shields who to arrest….We were beaten.  I lost consciousness and when I woke up I was face-down in a van.  I was full of blood.  On top of me had been thrown a pile of other demonstrators.  We were taken directly to Jilava [jail].”[165]

Significantly, USLA Commander Gheorghe Ardeleanu admitted in passing in court testimony that USLA personnel operated in civilian clothes on this evening.[166] 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.[167] 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.”[168]

Certainly, USLA who were involved in the events of 21-22 December 1989 or who came in contact with the demonstrators who were involved were merciless, and behaved as if they had something to hide.  In summer 1990, Expres reported on two young men recovering in an Italian hospital from wounds inflicted during the December events.[169] 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 Square.”[170]

It is noteworthy that eyewitnesses who reached the top of the CC building in Bucharest at noon on 22 December 1989 report that they were prevented from arresting the Ceausescus by two armed individuals in “dark jumpsuits”—i.e. likely either V-a or USLA/C.[171] In Tirgoviste, where the Ceausescus were later to meet their end, shortly after 12:30 PM on 22 December 1989, Army Colonel Gheorghe Badea relates the following:

“At a given moment, after spirits had calmed a bit, I heard a voice:  ‘Colonel, get out of here or we’ll shoot you!’  I turned in the direction from which the voice had come and, behind me, I saw a detachment of USLA troops, with shields, arms, the whole nine yards…I don’t know who addressed me, but I said to them:  ‘Don’t shoot boys…We are your brothers…’  At that point, the crowd surrounded them and they retreated.”[172]

Constantin Paisie, one of the Militia officers involved in the transport and custody of the Ceausescus later that afternoon of 22 December, makes clear upon whom the Ceausescus were placing their bets to rescue them:

“Sir, they didn’t know what was going on.  Indeed, they gave indications that they were waiting for someone to come and take them away to some place in which they would be more secure, for, you see, first and foremost they were banking on the Securitate.  I know that at a moment, Nicolae Ceausescu told me to take him to a unit of the Securitate, a special unit at Baneasa, but from the Militia and the Army he didn’t expect any immediate help.”[173]

Here’s betting that the “special unit” at Baneasa in question was the one Marian Romanescu departed from above (page 39)—using a cover ID—the “Special Unit for Antiterrorist Warfare,” based at Baneasa…

One thing should be abundantly clear here:  notwithstanding the overwhelming consensus that prevailed for years in the Romanian media denying USLA involvement in the pre-22 December repression, it turns out the USLA were, after all, deeply implicated.  This fact should be kept in mind when one considers the reluctance of Romanian journalists and intellectuals to reassess the question of the USLA and the “terrorists” after the realization of the USLA’s pre-22nd role, and the current and continuing overwhelming consensus that denies the “lie with the terrorists.”[174]

[141] ROMPRES 8 March 1990 in FBIS 15 March 1990.

[142] Siani-Davies, The Romanian Revolution of December 1989, p. 87, fn. 107:  “For a detailed discussion of the part USLA may have played see Hall (1997), 219-224.”

[143] Ibid., p. 151.  I may in part have myself to blame for Siani-Davies some inappropriate choice of language here:  i.e. the term “rosy image.”  Siani-Davies highlights my use of the phrase “less-than-pure intentions” in describing the actions of the USLA unit at the Defense Ministry on 23-24 December (p. 152, fn. 31)—perhaps to suggest that even I had my doubts about their actions (see discussion of this episode earlier in article).  My phrasing was inspired by the description of the event by Captain Victor Stoica who witnessed the incident:  “Anyhow, based on how these two vehicles behaved, it is clear that they did not come with friendly intentions (‘intentii prietenesti’)” (Major Mihai Floca, “Crima?!, Armata Poporului, no. 23, 6 June 1990, p. 3.)

[144] Horia Alexandrescu, “Eroi Cazuti la Datorie:  Adevarul despre U.S.L.A.,” Tineretul Liber, 4 March 1990, p. 3.

[145] Octavian Andronic, “Combaterea terorismului—o chestiune la ordinea zilei,” Libertatea, 6 January 1990, p. 3.  After the waters had subsided, and he had been “vindicated” in his beliefs about the USLA, he published a response to that article by people who asked “does the author have a vested interest in the rehabilitation of the USLA,” leaving off their names since ,as they wrote, they did not want the USLA to “come defend [them]”, “Din Nou Despre U.S.L.A.: teroristi sau antiteroristi?” Libertatea, 9 May 1990, p. 2.  As Libertatea was to remain in the Iliescu-Front camp in the initial years, allegations appeared against Andronic in Evenimentul Zilei that his house was rented from the SRI, the Securitate’s institutional successor, and had formerly been a safehouse of the Securitate, 14 May 1993, p. 3.  If memory serves correct, years later in Curierul National, Andronic was to refer to finding out about the collapsing of the Ceausescu regime from USLA officer, Alexandru Ioan Kilin.  These are circumstantial allegations but they suggest the possibility of at least close relations with former Securitate people—not unheard of for the former editor of a Ceausescu era paper.

[146] See Hall, 1997, pp. 183-184.  It seems worth pointing out that the doctor who treated Dorneanu, the head of the USLA intervention brigade, at Piata Maria, and was involved in altercations with protesters, appeared to the doctor as “having been drugged.”

[147] As we saw, the anonymous USLA recruit referred to “the masked ones” shooting in Timisoara.  Although the Army clearly did fire on and kill many demonstrators in Timisoara, and the notion of unknown “phantoms in black” being responsible for the carnage is a useful alibi, I don’t believe things are so simple—given the actions of those in “combinezoane negre” across the country, as discussed in detail earlier.  In early 2006 at the “Timisoara trial” against most notably generals Stanculescu and Chitac,  former Army Colonel Dumitru Daescu could not identify those who fired in December 1989, but declared “fire was opened by some men dressed in combinezoane negre” (“Noi martori in procesul Revolutiei de la Timisoara,” Romania Libera, 16 March 2006, online edition), while Army officer Gheorghe Ciubotariu stated “they fired shoulder strapped machine guns in front of the Cathedral, first toward the roof then in the demonstrators…those who fired were civilians and people in combinezoane negre from the Interior Ministry.” (I.D., “General Stanculescu se apara cu amanari si absente,” Gandul, 19 January 2006, online edition).

[148] Laurian Ieremeiov, “Lista securistilor si militienilor care au tras la Timisoara,” Ziua, 20 July 1998, online edition.  To this, it is interesting and pertinent to add the following information.  In 1991, Grid Modorcea went to interview the priests of Timisoara’s Orthodox Cathedral.  Sorin Leia, age 22, was shot during a demonstration on the steps of the Cathedral on the evening of 18 December 1989.  Father Ioan Botau related the following:  “…Sorin Leia pulled a flag out and began singing ‘Awake Romanians!’  At 5:15 pm he was shot by a lunetist and killed.  The crowd then fled and scattered and there was no more shooting.  They brought this young person who had been shot inside the church and put a candle in his hand.  He had been hit by the bullet in his upper torso and had not died on the spot.  Father Mituga came out and called the ambulance.  But the youngster was already dead.  There was a pool of blood around him….Who shot people in Timisoara?…The Army didn’t shoot.  Camouflaged securisti shot and today they have made them into heroes!…Until when did they shoot?…They shot on Christmas day, all the way up until 29 December” (Grid Modorcea, “Dumnezeu citat ca martor in procesul de la Timisoara,” Expres Magazin, 1991.)  The late Iosif Costinas wrote in that same year that “a former Securitate officer, currently employed by the SRI, recently called two neighbors to repair a pipe in the bathroom.  He got drunk and told them:  ‘on 17 December I shot from the Cathedral’s [bell-]tower.  I also shot later.  And now, if I wish, I can shoot.’  The two told the story but didn’t want their names published.”  (related in Laura Ganea, “La Timisoara se mai trage inca,” Tinerama, no. 77 (July 1991), p. 3.)

[149] Quoted in M.P., “‘Revolutia de la Iasi trebuie legitimata’,” Evenimentul, 15 December 2003, online edition.  “Lunetisti” were spotted on the first and second floors of hotels surrounding the square where the demonstration was to take place—those rooms apparently occupied by participants of the “Dinamoviada” martial arts festival from the Interior Ministry, see Vasile Iancu, “Sa nu uitam!,” Romania Libera, 14 December 1990, p. 1.

[150] A.A., “Un fost ofiter de Securitate acuza Armata de crimele din decembrie ’89,” Ziua, 16 January 2001, online edition.  A soldier from the Someseni unit, Gheorghe Timis, spoke about what happened in a different square in Cluj, Piata Marasti, as follows:  “…it was not possible that no one would die, because there was shooting from the balconies and blocs by Securitate cadre.  When I heard the first use of a weapon, I recognized, from the whistle, that it wasn’t a caliber that we had in our arsenal.  After this I saw a man on the asphalt, who had a hole in the top of his head, a sign that he had been shot from above, from the buildings, and not by the soldiers, as is always maintained,” A.A., “In procesul Cluj ’89, militarii pun mortii pe seama Securitatii,” Ziua, 2001, online edition.

[151] Siani-Davies, 2005, p. 152, fn. no. 32.

[152] Doris Mironescu, “Revolutia româna, asa cum (probabil) a fost,” Timpul no. 1 (January 2006), at

[153] Serban Sandulescu, Lovitura de Stat a Confiscat Revolutia Romana (Bucharest:  Omega, 1996), p. 214.  Sandulescu’s book was marketed and printed by Sorin Rosca Stanescu’s Ziua press.  Rosca Stanescu was a former USLA informer between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s.  Who was Sandulescu’s chief counselor on these matters?  Stefan Radoi, a former USLA officer in the early 1980s!  These are the type of people who, of course, believe the passengers were DIA and not USLA!  See my discussion of this whole fiasco in “The Securitate Roots of a Modern Romanian Fairy Tale,” RFE “East European Perspectives” 4-6/2002, online.

[154] See Dinu’s testimony in Sandulescu, Lovitura de Stat, p. 220.  Also see the claims of another senior DIA officer Remus Ghergulescu in Jurnalul National, March 2004, online edition.

[155] Speaking even more broadly, Army parachutists (whether from Buzau, Caracal, Campia Turzii, or Boteni) were in Timisoara, Caransebes, and Television, Piata Palatului and the Otopeni Airport in Bucharest during the December events, but that clearly leaves many places where there were “terrorist actions”—including Sibiu—without them, decreasing their likelihood as plausible suspects.  See Catalin Tintareanu, “Sarbatoare la Scoala de Aplicatie pentru Parasutisti ‘General Grigore Bastan,” Opinia (Buzau), 10 June 2005, online edition.

[156] Nicu Silvestru, “Cine a ordonat sa se traga la Sibiu?” Baricada, no. 45, 1990, p.5.

[157] Emil Munteanu, “Postelnicu a vorbit neintrebat,” Romania Libera, 30 January 1990, p. 1

[158] Interview with Nicu Ceausescu in Zig-Zag, no. 20, 21-27 August 1990.

[159] Adevarul, 29 August 1990.  Also, Romanescu with Badea “U.S.L.A, Bula Moise…” 1991.

[160] “Virgil Magureanu sustine ca revolta din 1989 a fost sprijinita din interiorul sistemului,” Gardianul, 12 November 2005, online edition.

[161] Lt. Col. Aurel Dragomir, interview by Colonel Dragos Dragoi, “Sub tirul incrucisat al acuzatiilor (II),” Armata Poporului, no. 46 (November 1990), p. 3. Remus Ghergulescu specified USLA appearance as follows:  “Over their black jumpsuits (‘combinezoanele negre’) in which they were dressed they had kaki vests.  This was normal.  They were equipped with the jumpsuits as “war gear,” while the vests were “city wear.’”  (Colonel Remus Ghergulescu, interview with Razvan Belciuganu, “Teroristii au iesit din haos,” Jurnalul National, 29 November 2004, online edition.)

[162] See Evenimentul Zilei, 25 November 1992, p. 3.

[163] Romulus Cristea, “Huliganii astia trebuie anihilati,” Romania Libera, 28 March 2006, online edition.

[164] Petre Mihai Bacanu, “Au evacuat materiale…stropite cu sange,” Romania Libera, 28 December 1993, p.  10.  As I have noted elsewhere, the revelations were not “new” and what they describe is remarkably similar to what Army recruits had described to Armata Poporului in the 17 January 1990 issue.

[165] Quoted in Romulus Cristescu, “Astia ne impusca, ca la Timisoara,” Romania Libera, 29 March 2006, online edition.

[166] Paul Stefanescu, Istoria Serviciilor Secrete Romanesti (Bucharest:  Editura Divers Press, 1994), p. 288.

[167] Vasile Neagoe, Expres, 30 March-5 April 1990, p. 6.

[168] The Military Prosecutor’s report dated 4 June 1990 is reproduced in Mircea Bunea, Praf in Ochi:  Procesul celor 24-1-2 (Bucharest:  Editura Scripta, 1994), quote found on p. 88.

[169] Victor Radulescu, “Excursii prin Contul Libertatea,” Expres, no. 11 (August 1990), p. 5.

[170] Dan Badea, “Securitatea—un joc in numele trandafirului,” Expres, 8-14 September 1992, p. 9.

[171] In Simion Buia, jr. “Justitia ‘cocheteaza’ cu Puterea Politica?” Romania Libera, 13 June 1991, p. 2a, quoting Ioan Itu.  The aforementioned Liviu Viorel-Craciun claimed he was told by a Securitate officer who claimed to have been on the roof when the helicopter departed that “they could not do anything against Ceausescu there because on the roof were ‘lunetisti.’” (Liviu Viorel-Craciun, “Ex-ministrul de interne CRACIUN LIVIU-VIOREL isi continua destainiurile,” Expres, no. 14-15 (1990).)

[172] Colonel Gheorghe Badea, quoted in Domenico, p. 164, from an interview 3 June 1997.

[173] Constantin Paisie, interview by Marius Tuca, “Ceausestii au crezut ca o sa-I salveze cineva,” Jurnalul National, 18 March 2004, online edition.  USLA training in the Baneasa area is mentioned in Stoian, 1993, pp. 85-85.

[174] I fully expect that when the “house of cards” about post-22 December finally crumbles—with the same sudden, thunderous crash of the Ceausescu regime itself—that as with the about-face on the USLA’s role in the pre-December 22 repression, it shall occur with little reference to the vats of ink spilled in years before denying such accusations—as if the previous articles had never been written…Winston Smith would recognize the method…



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  5. […] out about the collapsing of the Ceausescu regime from USLA officer, Alexandru Ioan Kilin.”… , for a mention of Kilin see also  […]

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