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.

Timisoara, 16 decembrie

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on December 16, 2010

(punct de vedere strict personal; publicat pe site-ul acesta pe 16 decembrie 2009)

(sigur, ca in limba romana, sunt multe constatari de vazut, de exemplu operele lui Marius Mioc:

16 decembrie 1989 inceputul revolutiei la timisoara

Marius Mioc 16 decembrie 1989

Il vizitam pe Tokes aproape zilnic

Cronologia cazului Laszlo Tokes )

An excerpt from

A chapter from my Ph.D. Dissertation at Indiana University: Richard Andrew Hall, Rewriting the Revolution: Authoritarian Regime-State Relations and the Triumph of Securitate Revisionism in Post-Ceausescu Romania (defended 16 December 1996). This is the original chapter as it appeared then and thus has not been revised in any form.

Chapter Five

The Beginning of the End: Timisoara, 15-17 December 1989

On the morning of Saturday, 16 December, both the demonstrators and Mayor Mot’s delegation returned to the Tokes residence. The Securitate and Militia apparently kept their distance. Work crews set about replacing the broken glass–quite a sight apparently, since glass had been a rare commodity in Timisoara for months. The crowd demanded written confirmation from Mot that Tokes’ eviction would be canceled. Mot and his delegation left, promising to return with written confirmation in hand. Shortly after their departure, however, news began to filter back to the protesters: such a written promise was impossible, the Bucharest legal department charged with such matters was closed because it was Saturday![51] Meanwhile, the crowd was steadily growing.

Mot himself did not return. Instead, the deputy mayor came. An angry negotiating session ensued between the deputy mayor and ten representatives of the crowd (six Romanians and four Hungarians, a testament to the multi-ethnic character of the demonstration). The deputy mayor left, promising he would have Bucharest fax him the necessary documents to secure a peaceful end to the demonstration. As Tokes observes: “I did not ask why Bucharest was suddenly able to produce documents on a Saturday.”[52] Instead of the documents, however, the mayor sent back an ultimatum: if the crowd did not disperse by 5 p.m., water cannon would be used against the protesters.

Although Tokes appealed for the crowd to go home, he himself admits that by this time the protest had assumed a dynamic of its own and was not heeding his or anyone else’s pleas. According to Tokes: “though the crowd looked to me as a figurehead, in truth I was a prisoner of their anger.”[53] By the evening, the addition of high school and university students had clearly radicalized the crowd. Buoyed by their sense of growing strength–this time the absence of regime forces at the scene had backfired–protesters were now chanting “Down with Ceausescu! Down with the regime! Down with Communism!” and singing the long-outlawed anthem “Awake, Romanian!”[54] About one thousand of the protesters broke off from the rest of the group and headed for the Romanian Orthodox Cathedral in the central Opera Square. The demonstrators seemed to believe that the regime would be less likely to resort to violence in the shadow of a house of worship.

On their way, the protesters became increasingly aggressive and began ripping down the ubiquitous, rusting billboards extolling the joys of living in Ceausescu’s “Golden era.” Their ranks were strengthened by thousands of university students who had made their way down from the so-called “Student Complex” zone. Initially, these students had been prevented from leaving the “Student Complex” zone by cordons of Securitate men. But as their ranks grew and they became more angry, the Securitate suddenly found themselves vastly outnumbered and decided the better part of valor was to cut and run. This delighted and emboldened the protesters.[55]

The two groups of protesters made their way towards the county party headquarters building. They found it deserted, unlit, and unguarded–save for two fire engines with water cannon.[56] The water cannon were turned against the protesters and the crowd responded with a furious attack against the vehicles and the party building. The demonstrators broke the windows of the building and attempted to destroy any symbol of the regime they could find. Suddenly, Militia men appeared on the scene with clubs and tear gas. The protesters were savagely beaten and many were arrested. Around the same time, back at Piata Maria, two hundred Militia officers and junior officers (some in uniform, some in civilian clothes) had arrived. Violent altercations broke out: windows were smashed and several cars in the area set ablaze. The demonstrators threw pavement stones, bottles, anything they could get their hands on. Numerous arrests were made. Confrontations also occurred between demonstrators and regime forces elsewhere in the city.[57]

Lost in the revisionist coverage of the December events is the fact that the Securitate and Militia did indeed enforce Tokes’ eviction notice. Sometime after 3 a.m. on Sunday, 17 December, a large number of plainclothes and uniformed Securitate and Militia men broke into the parochial residence. The Tokes family sought refuge in the church. Laszlo Tokes was captured inside the church and beaten severely, then taken back to the apartment where Securitate and Militia officers, the local party secretary, and the Minister of Cults from Bucharest were waiting for him. Tokes was forced to sign a blank sheet of paper which was to serve as his resignation from the Timisoara congregation. As Tokes notes, in spite of the fact that he was bleeding profusely over his clerical robe, “there was a veneer of formality about the proceedings. One of the people in the office was a lawyer in charge of evictions, and a form of official procedure was being precariously observed.”[58] Tokes and his wife were taken by car out of Timisoara. Initially, they believed they would be killed.[59] But as they kept on driving, they realized they were heading north to Transylvania, to the village of Mineu, their ordained place of exile.

[51].. Ibid., 145-151.

[52].. Ibid., 153.

[53].. Ibid., 155.

[54].. Ibid., 154-157. Evidence of the rare solidarity of this moment was the fact that Hungarians were reported to have also sung this Romanian nationalist anthem.

[55].. Miodrag Milin, “Sapte zile care au zguduit Romania (II) [Seven days which shook Romania],” Orizont, (13 January 1990), 2; idem, “Sapte zile care au zguduit Romania (III),” Orizont, (19 January 1990), 2; Mircea Balan, “Au tras cu disperare ca sa inabuse revolutia [They shot out of desperation in order to crush the revolution],” Cuvintul, no. 36 (2-8 October 1990), 8.

[56].. The fire department was a component of the Interior Ministry.

[57].. Milin, “Sapte zile…(II)”; idem, “Sapte zile (III).”

[58].. Tokes, With God, for the People, 165.

[59].. Tokes and his wife firmly believed that only Western publicity about their case had prevented the Ceausescu regime from killing them at this point (Rady, Romania in Turmoil, 88).


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