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.

Bullets, Lies, and Videotape: The Amazing, Disappearing Romanian Counter-Revolution of December 1989 (Part IV: The Good ‘Sergeant Schultz’ or ‘They Know Nothing’) by Richard Andrew Hall

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on October 25, 2010

for Part I see PART I: His Name Was Ghircoias…Nicolae Ghircoias

for Part II see Part II: A Revolution, A Coup d\’etat, AND a Counter-Revolution

for Part III see Part III: Lost…during Investigation

Bullets, Lies, and Videotape:

The Amazing, Disappearing Romanian Counter-Revolution of December 1989

by Richard Andrew Hall, Ph.D.

Standard 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.  [Submitted for clearance 19 November 2009; PRB approved 15 December 2009]

I am an intelligence analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency.  I have been a CIA analyst since 2000.  Prior to that time, I had no association with CIA outside of the application process.


If Rasvan Popescu’s account is correct, it is understandable why functionaries of the Ceausescu regime have long banked on an absence of evidence.  For example, when asked if other than the standard 7.62 mm caliber weapons belonging to the Army were used in December 1989, Dr. Vladimir Belis, the head of the Institute of Forensic Medicine (IML) at the time, claims he doesn’t know and can’t say, because he claims no autopsies were ever performed—leading journalists to conclude that “therefore the tales of terrorists who shot with ‘dum-dum’ bullets, ‘bullets with vidia tips’ or bullets of large caliber, atypical for Romanian military units, will remain just stories that can neither be confirmed nor denied.”[1]

Former Securitate officer-turned journalist, novelist, and celebrity, Pavel Corut, has written alternatively derisively and sarcastically—well-nigh tauntingly—about the existence of such atypical ammunition and its use in December 1989:

“…Later I read fantastical and pathetic accounts according to which this [Army] officer died by being ‘hit by vidia and explosive [dum-dum] bullets.’  It isn’t the only case of a solider killed accidentally in warfare…”[2]

“Now we know that all the information…was false:  there did not exist a special guard unit that pledged an oath of (legionary-like) fealty to the dictator, there did not exist snipers with infrared sighting systems, no one shot vidia bullets…”[3]

“Vidia bullets don’t exist anywhere in the world.  And yet even the Army believed that the ‘Securitate-terrorists’ used vidia bullets….All this information was designed to create [the impression of] terrorists.  To show the people and the whole world fanatical terrorists.”[4]

Last, but hardly least, military prosecutors with roots in the Ceausescu era, have assimilated or mirror such arguments.  General Dan Voinea who headed the investigations from 1997-2001 and 2004-2008 said as much:

Romulus Cristea (journalist):  “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.[5][6] (Emphasis added)

The wonderful legalistic (alibi-bestowing) logic for Voinea and his colleagues then goes something like this:   there exist victims requesting damages for injuries, loss of life, livelihood or property sustained during the violence of December 1989, their loss was real and deserves to be compensated by the Romanian state; but those initially considered guilty of causing much of this injury, loss of life, and damage and taken into custody in December 1989—the”terrorist” suspects—were (either) released in January 1990 (or were never captured in the first place), and so juridically there do not exist defendants; nor does there appear to still exist in the hands of the military procuracy much of the material evidence presented in 1990-1991—maps, videos, etc.—and, apparently, only four bullets; and no autopsies were officially performed on those shot in December 1989.  So in essence, the only things left are the crimes themselves and the testimonies of those interviewed over the past two decades:  no autopsy records, little material evidence, and the original suspects have gone missing…Conclusion:  no atypical munitions existed, were used, or maimed or killed anybody, and there were no terrorists, everyone shot into everyone else in the chaos of the moment—or in other words, the exact argument which as we have seen has been with us since Florin Crisbasan and Emil Ivascu of Brasov related the former Securitate’s “line of reasoning” in mid-January 1990.


[1] Laura Toma, Toma Roman Jr. , and Roxana Ioana Ancuta, “Belis nu a vazut cadavrele Ceausestilor,” Jurnalul National, 25 October 2005,, discussed in Hall 2008.

[2] Paul Cernescu (aka Pavel Corut), “Cine a tras in noi?” Expres Magazin, nr. 66 (43) 30 October-5 November 1991, p. 12.  Paul Cernescu is Pavel Corut’s acknowledged alias.  During his journalistic career at Ion Cristoiu’s Expres Magazin, he began by writing under this pseudonym.

[3] Paul Cernescu (aka Pavel Corut), “Cine a tras in noi?” Expres Magazin, nr. 65 (42) 23-29 October 1991, p. 12.

[4] Pavel Corut, Fulgerul Albastru (Bucuresti:  Editura Miracol, 1993), p. 177.  For background in English on Corut, see Michael Shafir, “Best Selling Spy Novels Seek To Rehabilitate Romanian ‘Securitate,'” in Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Research Report, Vol. 2, no. 45, pp. 14-18.

[5] General Dan Voinea, interview by Romulus Cristea, “Toti alergau dupa un inamic invizibil,” Romania Libera, 22 December 2005, online edition.  Reproduced at, for example,

See also the claims of former military prosecutor Teodor Ungureanu (Facultatea de Drept, 1978) also in December 2005, at, for example,

and Nor does Teodoru Ungureanu believe in terrorists, vidia bullets, dum-dum bullets, or atypical ammunition:

“La cele de mai sus va trebui să adăugăm fabulaţiile cu privire la celebrele “gloanţe-widia”. Prin lansarea acestei aberaţii, cei mai de seamă reprezentanţi ai Armatei s-au compromis lamentabil. Ceea ce prezentau în emisiuni tv ori în paginile unor ziare ca fiind teribilele instrumente ale morţii, nu erau nimic altceva decât miezurile din oţel care intrau în alcătuirea internă a proiectilului cal. 7,62 mm-scurt destinat armelor tip AKM. Tot aşa aveau să fie făcute speculaţii asupra folosirii muniţiei explozive (de tip dum-dum), de către persoane care erau fie străine de efectele povocate asupra corpului uman de proiectile cu diverse energii cinetice (la momentul străpungerii), ori de fragmente din proiectile dezmembrate la un anterior impact cu un corp dur, fie de cei angajaţi într-o reală acţiune de dezinformare….”

[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


3 Responses to “Bullets, Lies, and Videotape: The Amazing, Disappearing Romanian Counter-Revolution of December 1989 (Part IV: The Good ‘Sergeant Schultz’ or ‘They Know Nothing’) by Richard Andrew Hall”

  1. […] Bullets, Lies, and Videotape: The Amazing, Disappearing Romanian Counter-Revolution of December 1989… […]

  2. romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 said

    ATENTIE la Manipulare: !
    I have commented on the quality of the research performed by Ruxandra Cesereanu, Vladimir Tismaneanu, as well as many of those they mention in their partial review of the literature on December 1989, in past publications as follows (to say the least, none of these sources, including Cesereanu’s volume on December 1989, touches at all on the ballistics evidence and the significance and implications of the existence and use of dum-dum and vidia bullets–a glaring oversight, without which the existence of the “terrorists” can be legitimately judged):


    It is indicative that Romanians still have yet to confront this methodological flaw that one of the few studies in the country to read Securitate and Army sources in addition to journalist and participant accounts, still failed to address the key similarities across the political spectrum regarding the existence and identity of the “terrorists.” Smaranda Vultur wrote in a review of Ruxandra Cesereanu’s (otherwise, groundbreaking in comparison to what had appeared before it in Romanian in book form) Decembrie ‘89. Deconstructia unei revolutii (Iasi: Polirom 2004):

    Beyond this, I would underscore however a deficit that results directly from the choice of the author to classify her sources based on how the source defines the events: as a revolution, a plot, or a hybrid of the two. Because of this one will thus find, contained in the same chapter, Securitate people and political analysts, revolutionaries and politicians of the old and new regimes, and journalists. [31] Smaranda Vultur, “Revolutia recitita,” 22 no. 787 (9-15 April 2005) online at

    In other words, my exact indictment of the approach inside and outside Romania to the study of the Revolution, and the reason why people are simply unable to acknowledge the similarity and even identicality of views of the “terrorists.”

    found at


    [It is worth keeping in mind Tismaneanu’s track record for attention and fidelity to detail (outlined below), when reading, for example, his latest essay on December 1989, where he criticizes the “chimeras and fictions” and “interpretive analysis” of unspecified others [to whom is he referring? because he does not specify!], and then promptly appeals to a purely theoretical argument (!) –the creation of a non-existent enemy to scare people into consensus–to negate the possibility of the existence of the “terrorists” . In other words, more of the same, as you can see here.]

    [10] Sorin Iliesiu, who is a filmmaker and Vice President of the “Civic Alliance” organization, has written that he was part of the “team” that “edited” the seven page chapter on the Romanian Revolution contained in the Report of the Presidential Commission to Analyze the Communist Dictatorship of Romania (PCACDR). He is not a scholar and most certainly not a scholar of the December 1989 events. A textual comparison of the Report’s chapter on the Revolution and Vladimir Tismaneanu’s chapter in a Dawisha and Parrott edited volume from 1997 is unambiguous: the introductory two paragraphs of the Report’s chapter are taken verbatim in translation from p. 414 of Tismaneanu’s 1997 chapter, and other verbatim paragraphs, sentences, and phrases from pp. 414-417 make up parts of the rest of the Report’s Revolution chapter without any reference to the 1997 chapter. As the author(s) of an earlier chapter in the Report cite(s) Tismaneanu’s 1997 chapter (see p. 376 fn. 55) correctly, this leaves really only two possible explanations for the failure of Iliesiu et. al. to cite that they have borrowed wholesale from Tismaneanu’s 1997 chapter: a) an absence of scholarly knowledge, or b) an attempt to mask their dependence upon and deference to Tismaneanu, the Chair of the Commission, since the citations that do appear are the exact citations from the 1997 chapter and claims are translated word-by-word, so much so that Iliesiu et. al. did not even bother to change verb tenses despite the passage of a decade. Iliesiu et. al. can attempt to avoid answering questions and attempt to change the subject, but the textual analysis is unambiguous: Tismaneanu’s unattributed 1997 chapter forms the bulk of the Report’s chapter on the Revolution. The only question that needs to be answered is: why and why are they unwilling to admit the textual identicality?


    [28] I refer here to, for example, the works of Vladimir Tismaneanu, Matei Calinescu, Andrei Codrescu, Anneli Ute Gabanyi, Radu Portocala, and Nestor Ratesh. Some, like Tismaneanu in a 1993 article in EEPS, “The Quasi-Revolution and its Discontents,” were more explicit about this rather rigid dichotomous approach to the Romanian media, but it also comes through clearly in the sourcing, citations, and footnotes/endnotes of the others. (It continues to haunt the historiography of post-communist Romania, as works such as Tom Gallagher’s aforementioned Modern Romania make clear). To say the least, the issue of ballistics evidence essentially goes unanalyzed in these accounts. Moreover, although as we have seen, these authors have no problem affixing their names to petitions and the like, none of them has published any research on the December 1989 events since the early 1990s. It should tell you something that they continue to rely on and repeat the accounts they wrote in 1990 and 1991…as if nothing had been discovered or written since. In that way, it is almost fitting that the Report of the PCADCR reproduced Tismaneanu’s 1997 Dawisha and Parrott chapter in some places verbatim, down to failing to even change verb tenses when it states that certain questions “remain to be clarified.” I deconstructed the methodological faults in source selection in these émigré accounts in “The Romanian Revolution as Geopolitical Parlor Game” at

    from that article

    It is telling that when one reads the analysis of the “mysteries of the Revolution” in National Public Radio commentator Andrei Codrescu’s engaging “The Hole in the Flag” or in Matei Calinescu and Vladimir Tismaneanu’s penetrating “The 1989 Revolution and Romania’s Future”—both of which appeared in 1991—French sources dominate the discussion of what happened in December 1989. None of the skepticism about the accuracy of the French sources—as related in the comments of Popovici, Floca, and Stoica above—is voiced in these accounts.

    The Walls Come Tumbling Down…

    What is arguably still the best historical account of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, Gale Stokes’ “The Walls Came Tumbling Down (1993),” repeats as fact a list of allegations regarding the trial of the Ceausescus that first were given publicity by Vladimir Tismaneanu and Matei Calinescu. (Even where Stokes cites others, those articles are usually themselves derivative and their arguments can be traced back to Tismaneanu and Calinescu). Based in large part on the broadcast of the full tape of the Ceausescus’ trial and execution in April 1990, analyses in the French press, and the allegations of French forensic experts (which apparently derived solely from having watched the tape (!)), Tismaneanu and Calinescu clearly showed their preference in a 1991 article for the French theory of the events. They therefore write that the trial of the Ceausescus lasted nine hours but only “fifty-odd minutes” was shown on the tape, that the execution of the couple had been faked, since Nicolae had likely suffered a heart-attack—“during the trial or during a separate interrogation, possibly under torture”—that caused Elena to go into hysterics, which necessitated that she be killed on the spot “gangland style.” (Stokes, 1993, pp. 292-293, n.118; Calinescu and Tismaneanu, 1991, p. 45-46, especially n. 14). They then go on to speculate that the 1 March 1990 suicide of the chief judge of the trial, General Gica Popa, “could have been an act of desperation by an essentially honest man” who would have had to go through “the criminal charade” of sentencing two corpses to death.

    Of course, all of these judgments—and I contend this is the cornerstone of so many accounts/theories of the Revolution, although many researchers do not appear to acknowledge or realize it—are premised on their understanding of the identity and intentions of the “terrorists.” For example, if one believes there was no real “terrorist” threat, then one can countenance a leisurely nine-hour trial and the idea that the Ceausescus died during a “separate interrogation, possibly under torture.” On this question, Tismaneanu and Calinescu clearly reject the idea that those firing were fighting to topple the new leadership and restore the Ceausescus to power:

    “In retrospect, the purpose of the reports of terrorism appears to have been to create apprehension among the populace and induce people to forgo further public demonstration against communism. It was used, in effect, to help the new power structure.” (Calinescu and Tismaneanu, 1991, p. 45, n. 12)

    As to the allegations made by Calinescu and Tismaneanu in their 1991 account: even at the time of their article, there were very strong reasons to question the validity of their information and speculation. Numerous testimonies by Army personnel present at Tirgoviste while the Ceausescus were there negate their claims (see, for example, the interviews in “Ceausestii la Tirgoviste,” “Flacara,” 19 December 1990, pp. 8-10, which place the length of the trial anywhere between 50 minutes and one hour). As I wrote in 1997: “…even a year after the events, one of the eyewitnesses to what transpired, Maria Stefan, the cook in the officer’s mess, continued to maintain that the trial itself lasted ‘an hour’ (Hall, 1997, p. 342). When it comes to the question of Nicolae having been tortured prior to his death, Ratesh in 1991 notably stated that this version was “attributed to an official of the Romanian Ministry of the Interior”—i.e. likely former Securitate, and indeed given its utility for them it is not surprising that the former Securitate have sought to promote this idea in their literature on the Revolution (Ratesh, 1991, p. 76). Military and civilian personnel present at the execution are simply dismissive at the contentions of the French forensic experts that the Ceausescus were already dead by the time they were executed (they have effective counter-arguments regarding bloodflow—Nicolae’s greatcoat, Elena’s hysterical reaction by that point). They consider it ridiculous and the product of Westerners with no knowledge of the events (this comes through again on several occasions in the year long set of interviews in “Jurnalul National” during 2004).

    In an otherwise excellent account by political scientists Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan that is commonly cited in the social sciences, the authors juxtapose Michel Castex’s book—described as marketing the “myth” of the “revolution as a KGB plot”—with Andrei Codrescu’s apparently far more credible book in their opinion (Linz and Stepan, 1996, p.345 n. 3). They note that to Codrescu “the whole revolution had been a fake, a film scripted by the Romanian Communists, with a ‘beautifully orchestrated piece of Kremlin music conducted by Maestro Gorbachev.’” Indeed, it is worth looking at the passage from which this quote is taken:

    “Many people now believe—in the face of mounting evidence—that the mastermind of the Romanian operation was the KGB, that the Romanian revolution was a beautifully orchestrated piece of Kremlin music conducted by Maestro Gorbachev. What’s more, the operation had the full cooperation of the CIA. I recently bought a T-shirt in Washington, D.C., that says: ‘TOGETHER AT LAST! THE KGB & THE CIA. NOW WE ARE EVERYWHERE.’ Even one T-shirt can sometimes be smarter than all the news media.” (Codrescu, 1991, p. 206).

    Codrescu in fact invokes Castex—especially his discussion of the Western media’s supposedly intentional inflation of casualties during the days of the revolution—in support of his thesis (pp. 197-198). There is thus little that differentiates Codrescu from Castex, and the distinction drawn by Linz and Stepan is simply incorrect.

    Far better than the accounts of either Calinescu and Tismaneanu or Codrescu is that of Nestor Ratesh, former head of the Romanian broadcasting division of Radio Free Europe. His The Entangled Revolution (1991) is alternatively described as “sensible,” “sober,” and “authoritative,” by Romanianists and scholars who do not cover the country. For example, both Stokes, and Linz and Stepan, invoke his work. Sensible and sober Ratesh’s account is; authoritative, only from the standpoint of what was available in English at the time. Inevitably, Ratesh’s account is head and shoulders above those of fellow emigres Calinescu and Tismaneanu and Codrescu because he had performed more research into the Romanian media. Unfortunately, I would argue, not far enough. He stumbles upon the bothersome parallel nature of accounts of the Securitate’s actions during the Revolution by “Romania Libera’s” Petre Mihai Bacanu, and “other journalists (of less credibility, however)”—most likely a reference to the aforementioned, Angela Bacescu—but he does not research further to see if this is coincidence or pattern, and thereby considers it anomalous (see my discussion in Hall 1999). Thankfully, he takes a critical eye to the Castex, Portocala and Weber, and Gabanyi accounts, and expresses skepticism when a “highly placed Romanian official” whispered to him in late June 1990 “a variation of the staged war theory,”—cautioning that the regime was at the time attempting to discredit the army (unfortunately, it was hardly so time-bound) (Ratesh, 1991, p.62). However, whether it is Bacescu or others, he only comes to notice them when they enter the openly Ceausescu nostalgic press, and thereby misses identifying their presence and impact in the opposition press, as Popovici, Floca, and Stoica did.

    To my knowledge, Ratesh has not really weighed in on the Revolution since his 1991 book. Codrescu continues to present the December events as a stage(d) production that fooled the whole world, occasionally in his NPR commentaries and certainly in his talks across the US (Codrescu, 2002). Tismaneanu and Romania’s liberal intelligentsia at home and abroad have yet to address the presence and consequences of Securitate disinformation in the anti-Front media of the early 1990s. This is not surprising: they missed it…and to acknowledge it now would require them to edit their ironclad, definitively-stated characterizations of that era, and perhaps, even to pause and reconsider their understanding of December 1989. As for the Revolution itself, Tismaneanu’s most recent intervention on its 15th anniversary invoked the comments of former French Ambassador to Romania, Jean-Marie LeBreton, who concludes, unremarkably, that the December 1989 events were neither a spontaneous uprising/revolution nor a coup d’etat, but a combination of both (“Jurnalul National,” 29 January 2005). Some habits die hard.

    available at

  3. Chuyên thiết kế, sản xuất nội thất văn phòng, khách sạn, nhà ở, showroom…

    […]Bullets, Lies, and Videotape: The Amazing, Disappearing Romanian Counter-Revolution of December 1989 (Part IV: The Good ‘Sergeant Schultz’ or ‘They Know Nothing’) by Richard Andrew Hall « The Romanian Revolution of De…

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