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 6, 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 Drumbeat of the Myth of the “Heroic” Prosecutor Voinea Grows Nearer

The construction of Prosecutor Dan Voinea’s “heroic” image—better yet, myth[175]—is well under way.  No doubt, the story will be ineluctable for the international press (already in June 2006 Le Monde ran an article of the kind)[176] once Voinea “finalizes” the files of the Revolution, perhaps this December, in time for the 17th anniversary of the events (fittingly, a decade since the anti-Iliescu opposition first came to power).  And it undeniably makes for a great story:  the man who was one of the tribunal that sentenced Ceausescu to death “admits to having been duped,” he has since committed himself to a one-man struggle for the “truth”…and finally it is being realized.  Romania’s long nightmare, as Voinea has referred to it, will finally be over. [177]

Or will it?

Even if Voinea were getting things right, it is true the second-guessing, questioning, and reconsideration would continue.  That is simply the nature of human events, especially contentious key historical moments in a modern media age.  But I believe the accumulation through the years of so much convincing countervailing evidence, the continued telling and retelling by participants of accounts that don’t square with Voinea’s forced conclusions—despite the deaf ear much of the Romanian media has shown toward them—and Voinea’s ties to the Ceausescu regime (a military prosecutor since 1982) and his presence and role at the trial of the Ceausescus, will provide more impetus for reinterpretation and challenges to Voinea’s conclusions than a typical historical event does.

At the same time, the “group think” among Romanian journalists and intellectuals that has prevailed on the question of the “terrorists” for so long and the conviction and certainty of so many of them—captured so well in Stejarel Olaru’s wish expressed to Voinea in his open letter quoted earlier:  “…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”—will continue to prevent acceptance and serious presentation and discussion of any evidence that does not incriminate Iliescu and other senior Front officials of the time.

So the next stage in this—and one cannot be clear how long this will take or how strong it will be—is likely the argument that the “terrorists” did in fact exist, and that Voinea’s decision to argue otherwise is designed to protect Iliescu and his comrades from even greater embarrassment and punishment.[178] True, that will still leave us a fair distance from what happened, but at least it will bring us a step to closer to admitting the “terrorists” existence and revealing their affiliation with the Securitate.  Small steps are probably the best we can hope for, given the present starting point.

Until then the “terrorists” will remain only a hallucination.  For that feat, the only appropriate response to Prosecutor Voinea and his promoters and embracers at home and abroad is aplauze indelungate.[179]

[175] The terminology of “myth” has been used (and arguably abused) in connection with December 1989, almost from the beginning.  In English, Michael Shafir (1990 in Radio Free Europe Research) and Dennis Deletant (1994 in the Slavonic and East European Review) used it prominently.  Vladimir Tismaneanu’s excellent exegesis about mythological or “magical” thinking in post-communist Romania and the former Eastern Europe is even entitled Fantasies of Salvation—a play on words undoubtedly meant to conjure up and inspired by Iliescu and Co.’s “National Salvation Front”…(all-too-conveniently, of course, those who believe in and advocate myths, according to Tismaneanu, are the opponents and competitors of liberal democratic intellectuals such as Tismaneanu).   Monica Ciobanu’s review of Siani-Davies The Romanian Revolution of December 1989 and Tom Gallagher’s Modern Romania:  Theft of a Nation is entitled “The Myth Factory” (found at

[176] See Paul Mirel Bran, “Le parquet militaire promet un ‘rapport explosif’ sur les dessous de la revolution,” Le Monde, 18 May 2006, online edition.

[177] I suspect that as the Voinea myth grows and even garners some minimal international press coverage (a possible precursor can be seen in Le Monde June 2006), glib Romanian émigré academics in North America who have dabbled in the Revolution will be tempted to add their voices to the chorus.  We have an idea of what they might say.  Well-known writer and National Public Radio commentator Andrei Codrescu wrote last year:

“The new President (1996-2000)[Emil Constantinescu] did all he could to stop the thieves and tried also to bring to justice the murderers who created the fake revolution of 1989 in Romania, an event during which more than a thousand people were assassinated at random to give the world the illusion that an actual revolution was taking place. This is a long and sordid story, told in many books, including one by me [The Hole in the Flag], and unresolved to this day. The new President jailed some of the killers (most of them escaped) but none of them did any time when he was voted out of office and the bad old guy came back.”

(Andrei Codrescu, “Humor and Responsibility,” Jewish World Review 26 May 2005 at and in The Penny Post Downtown Express Volume 18, Number 1 ( MAY 27 —JUNE 2, 2005) at

Vladimir Tismaneanu wrote with Peter Gross in the Journal of Democracy in April 2005:

“Many Romanians now hope that the truth about the postcommunist leadership and its policies and actions will be revealed…They expect that there will finally be a dignified and responsible effort to examine the nation’s true communist and postcommunist histories, including the still unresolved questions regarding the December 1989 revolution…[such as] the secret military tribunal, and Ceausescu’s execution.  Who was shooting at the crowds?  Who and what drove the evolution of events?  Was this a series of premeditated events and if so, who was responsible?” (p. 150; emphases added).

If Tismaneanu’s loaded and leading questions aren’t enough to telegraph his understanding of the “truth,” then his approval of Siani-Davies’ grasp of “the myths and realities” of the Revolution and his pronouncement of Andrei Codrescu’s The Hole in the Flag as “impeccably accurate [!!!  …such a characterization speaks volumes]” (Jurnalul National, February 2005) should add clarity.

In Prosecutor Voinea’s conclusions Codrescu and Tismaneanu will no doubt find the discovery of the “truth” for which they have so long been waiting.

[178] The title of a recent article perhaps captures what it might look like:  “Everyone is ‘happy’:  The Revolution had no terrorists, while no one is guilty for the mineriada [of June 1990],” see “Toata lumea –I ‘multumita’:  La Revolutie n-au fost teroristi, iar pentru mineriada nu sunt vinovati,” Cronica Romana, 13 June 2006, online edition.

[179] The “prolonged applause” of a bygone era.

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