22 decembrie: Flight of the Ceausescus
Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on December 22, 2010
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.
from Videograms of a Revolution (1992) by Andrei Ujica and Harun Farocki
The Role of the USLA in the Bucharest Repression of 21/22 December
(traducere in limba romana de catre Marius Mioc http://mariusmioc.wordpress.com/2010/11/01/rich-hall-rescrierea-istoriei-revolutiei-5bis-rolul-usla/ , http://mariusmioc.wordpress.com/2009/01/24/rich-andrew-hall-rescrierea-istoriei-revolutiei-triumful-revizionismului-securist-in-romania-6-22-decembrie-1989-ce-l-a-facut-pe-ceausescu-sa-fuga/ , http://mariusmioc.wordpress.com/2009/01/31/rich-andrew-hall-rescrierea-istoriei-revolutiei-triumful-revizionismului-securist-in-romania-7-ceausestii-in-timpul-fugii/ )
Nicolae Ceausescu ended up shortening his speech and scurrying off the balcony of the CC building while regime forces attempted to clear Palace Square. Demonstrators merely took to other parts of the city center. Two major points of confrontation between demonstrators and regime forces developed along the wide Magheru boulevard: the Roman Square and the University Square (site of the hulking concrete monstrosity known as the Intercontinental Hotel). The latter would be the scene of major bloodshed on the night of 21/22 December. At least 50 demonstrators were killed, almost 500 were injured, and as many as 1,200 were jailed on this night in Bucharest alone.
Petre Mihai Bacanu’s seminal month-long series (”Intercontinental 21/22″) exploring the events of University Square is as puzzling as it is enlightening. Bacanu began his series on 14 March 1990, shortly after the new Defense Minister, General Victor Stanculescu, had reversed the official version of the USLA’s actions during the December events. On 15 March 1990, Bacanu began interviewing three employees of the Intercontinental Hotel. They described how, after the ill-fated rally broke up, “USLA troops dressed in civilian clothes” chased after the demonstrators, fired “petarde” at them, and beat them. In the following day’s episode of the interview, the issue of the USLA was not raised except in an unusual postscript in which Bacanu added: “We must clarify that the USLA detachments did not fire a single shot, nor arrest a single person among the columns of demonstrators.”
On 17 March 1990, Bacanu felt compelled to preface the third part of the interview with the following statement:
In the course of this episode, esteemed readers, there are again references to the USLA. We have incontrovertible proof that the USLA soldiers had only one mission, to defend the American embassy and the El Al Israeli airlines offices [both located next to the Intercontinental Hotel].
The same three interviewees who had only two days earlier described the USLA in a repressive posture now came forth with highly incongruent descriptions of the rapport between the crowd and the USLA later on the afternoon of 21 December. According to one of the interviewees:
I saw the incident when a student climbed behind one of them [the USLA soldiers] and kissed him and then offered flowers to those from the USLA. I also witnessed the scene in which the USLA officers received the flowers and held them in their hands.
By 24 March 1990, Bacanu was asking his interlocutors questions such as this: “I have heard that the USLA were served tea. It was something civilized: they were also cold. Are you convinced that they did nothing wrong against you?” On 18 April 1990 a new interviewee recounted how one of the USLA men had begun crying at the sight of the aforementioned girl (who, according to the source, was from Timisoara) distributing flowers to the USLA.
Such a portrayal of the USLA’s behavior and the crowd’s view of the USLA lies in stark contrast with Emilian David’s description (published on 12 January 1990) of events taking place simultaneously less than a mile away at the other end of Magheru boulevard at Roman Square:
3:45 p.m. We are attacked with brutality by the USLA troops. Women and young girls scream, men and boys try to put up whatever resistance they can. They beat us mercilessly…
5:30 p.m. We are attacked again with even greater fury by the USLA troops. The “paddywagons” are filled with people.
Later, after being forced to flee from the Roman Square, David eventually made his to the other end of the boulevard at University Square. David describes the presence of a cordon of USLA troops equipped with shields and clubs at this location. When gunfire erupted towards midnight, David suggests that these USLA “beasts” were among the gunmen. “The dead and wounded littered the streets,” according to David. Paul Vinicius also recalls the arrival of these “special troops” just after midnight: “Who are these beasts who shoot? They are young, and judging by the way they talk amongst themselves, they appear drugged. They shoot in anything that moves.”
The charges drawn up by the Military Prosecutor in the trial of the former CPEx members (dated 4 June 1990) reiterate such allegations. According to this document, between 9 and 10 p.m. on the evening of 21 December at University Square, “the forces of repression composed of USLA, Militia, and Securitate [i.e. uniformed] troops began to encircle the crowd of demonstrators, forcibly detaining some of them whom they beat brutally, many being killed.” The same document cites a witness, Spiru Radet, according to whom, at midnight “USLA troops equipped with helmets, shields, and clubs” followed a tank through the barricade erected by the protesters. The witness continues: “…one of the USLA soldiers, who had a machine gun in his hand, fired a volley of warning shots and then began to shoot into the demonstrators.”
Additionally, the transcripts of communications among USLA and Militia units reveal that USLA “intervention units” were dispatched to a number of locations in the city center on this afternoon of 21 December. USLA operatives refer to having “restored order” in Palace Square after the end of the rally, and to their mission to “block” access to the American Embassy and El Al Israel offices (rather than to “defend” them as Bacanu had suggested). Their attitude towards the demonstrators attempting to force their way into the official meeting was hardly supportive: “These hooligans must be annihilated at once. They are not determined. They must be taken quickly. The rest are hesitating.” The question is less whether the “flower” episodes happened at all, or happened as they have been described, but why it was these particular incidents, rather than the incidents revealing the USLA’s brutality actions, which garnered publicity in 1990.
Interestingly, almost four years later, in December 1993, Bacanu appeared to reconsider his earlier unquestioning claims about the role of the USLA on the basis of “new” information brought forth by Army soldiers who had been in University Square on the night of 21/22 December. According to Bacanu:
Very many officers talk about these “civilians” in long raincoats or sheepskin coats [cojoace], who arrested demonstrators from within the crowd and then beat them brutally….No one has been interested until now in these tens 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. [Emphasis added]
One of the Army officers told Bacanu that during the evening
…a Militia vehicle arrived from which tens of men–who appeared almost as if they were brothers, in that they were all solidly-built, dressed in leather jackets, with hats on their heads–disembarked….These individuals had “short barrel” weapons and were from the Interior Ministry….They positioned themselves behind the cordon of shieldbearers and then shot from the pockets of their clothes into the demonstrators and dragged demonstrators out of the crowd…
But what Bacanu termed “new revelations” were hardly new. In mid-January 1990, several Army recruits and officers referred to the actions of these “civilians” in interviews with reporters of the Army daily. According to soldier Rudolf Suster:
About fifteen to twenty (dressed in civilian clothes, but one could tell that they were well-trained) disembarked from a single truck and passed in front of the soldiers with shields and when the tanks broke through the barricade which was on fire, they fired. I saw the flashes in front of their raincoats.
Soldier Tiberiu Florea described a similar scene:
I also saw them. They had long raincoats or overcoats and they had guns hidden under them and they opened fire. They were in front of us, they couldn’t hide themselves from us. They didn’t all fire at the same time…One fired, then the other would.
Furthermore, at the trial of Nicolae’s brother, Nicolae Andruta Ceausescu (director of the Securitate’s Baneasa Academy) in April 1990, military witnesses testified that “after the salvo of warning shots were fired, in the uproar produced, from behind us we saw civilians who were firing–I observed the movement of their clothes–hidden weapons through the pockets of their clothes.” Significantly, former USLA commander, Colonel Gheorghe Ardeleanu, confirmed in a court statement that on 21 December the USLA had “performed their duties in civilian dress.”
As in Timisoara in the preceding days, it appears that the USLA were acting in Bucharest in accordance with Order 2600. In early 1990, opposition journalist Vasile Neagoe argued just this point in his discussion of the events of 21/22 December 1989. According to Neagoe, “because in the meetings convened by Ceausescu it had been established that terrorists were involved in the street [events],” the provisions regarding “anti-terrorist warfare” in Order 2600 had been put into operation. Indeed, we will recall that during his televised address on the evening of 20 December, Ceausescu had specifically denounced what was going on in the country as “terrorist actions.” Order 2600–and not the whimsical decisions of various commanders, as Stoian suggests–explains the presence of the USLA at the rally on 21 December and in Roman and University Squares on the night of 21/22 December.
22 December 1989: What Forced the Ceausescus to Flee?
At midday on Friday, 22 December 1989, a large, overloaded helicopter lifted off from the roof of the Central Committee (CC) building and struggled to clear the grey Bucharest skyline. Moments later, demonstrators reached the roof of the CC building and began destroying the landing pad so as to ensure that no more helicopters could land. Below in Palace Square almost 100,000 people had gathered and were now singing deliriously to the tune of a widely-known English soccer hymn: “Ole! Ole! Ole! Ceausescu nu mai e!” (”Ole! Ole! Ole! Ceausescu is no more!”). The helicopter carried Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu on their final, convoluted journey out of Bucharest and brought to an abrupt and ignominious end Nicolae Ceausescu’s twenty-four year reign. After the violence of the previous night, the peaceful denouement to the confrontation between population and the Ceausescu regime came unexpectedly. Most observers figured that Ceausescu would rather have held out in the Central Committee building–”surrounded by mountains of cadavers,” as one person put it–than flee from power. Thus, these observers have come to assume that the Securitate must have abandoned Ceausescu en masse. Ilie Stoian summarizes the prevailing view when he states that “we are convinced that if the Securitate had not wished it so, no one would have penetrated the CC [building] and Ceausescu would not have fallen on this day.”
Moreover, there has been widespread speculation that the leadership of the former Securitate must already by this time have come to some sort of understanding with the coup plotters who were to lead the National Salvation Front to power. Such speculation is important for if the Securitate as institution abandoned Ceausescu and already had an agreement with the country’s new political leaders, then the “terrorists” who appeared after the evening of 22 December must either have been working on behalf of the National Salvation Front or have been an invention designed to legitimate the Front’s seizure of power.
Opposition sources have provided fodder for both conclusions. According to Liviu Valenas: “In Bucharest, it is certain that the Securitate had crossed over practically in corpore to the side of the plotters already from the night of 21/22 December 1989, probably around midnight.” He speculates that General Vlad had already been engaging in dissident activity over the preceding days: “it appears that he [Securitate Director General Iulian Vlad] is the person who transmitted to Timisoara the orders…’that in Timisoara there will not be calm,’ ‘for the workers to go out into the street,’ and ‘for the Army to be withdrawn to barracks.’” Ilie Stoian attempts to imply that during the evening of 21/22 December 1989, General Vlad was already attempting to distance himself from the other regime commanders. Stoian contrasts the actions of Defense Minister Milea–who remained among the group of party, Army, Securitate, and Militia officials who were coordinating the repression–and those of General Iulian Vlad who “stood alone on the sidewalk across from these [officials], a place from which he did not leave until the morning of 22 December and in which he remained quiet and did not attempt to make contact with anyone.”
This allegation seems doubtful, however. In March 1990, a demonstrator alluded to Vlad’s role at University Square on the night of 21/22 December: “we were several hundred people then, when the sinister person who hid behind the codename ‘M-88′ gave the order for us to be massacred.” In the transcript of communications among USLA and Militia personnel on 21 and 22 December, “88″ is indicated as General Vlad’s code. Furthermore, as our discussion of the events in University Square revealed, Securitate forces were clearly involved–and in fact appear to have been the main component–in the brutal repression which took place on this night.
The sudden death of Defense Minister Vasile Milea just before 9:30 a.m. on 22 December 1989 was a critical moment in the evolution of events. The announcement on national television a little more than an hour later (10:50 a.m.) that “the traitor Milea has committed suicide” only seemed to hasten the fraternization already underway between Army recruits and the protesters heading for the city center. The official explanation of General Milea’s sudden death raised incredulity then and has continued to ever since. The title of an interview with one of Milea’s deputies sums up the details of Milea’s death which make the official “suicide” explanation questionable: “A curiosity: you shoot yourself in the heart, place the gun on the table, and then lie down on the sofa.”
In 1995, Liviu Valenas publicized the claims of a former officer of the Securitate’s foreign intelligence branch (DIE)–now sharply critical of the Iliescu regime and SRI–regarding Milea’s death. According to this Securitate source, the Securitate was already serving the interests of the National Salvation Front by the morning of 22 December. He alleged that Milea was shot by the Securitate “on the orders of Ion Iliescu” and that this “smoothed the way for the success of a coup d’etat of KGB inspiration.”
This allegation is highly suspect. Questioned at his summary trial on 25 December 1989 just prior to his execution, Nicolae Ceausescu maintained that Milea was a traitor because “he did not urge his unit to do their patriotic duty.” Ceausescu had expanded in greater detail at the emergency CPEx meeting immediately following Milea’s death:
General Milea left from my office and two minutes later I was informed that he had shot himself. Taking into account his behavior during this entire period, it is clearly evident that he sabotaged the application of measures and worked in close coordination with foreigners…In the Capital, they did not apply a measure, they did not assign the specified units to the Capital, but used them elsewhere….The traitor Milea left from here and committed suicide. I told him to go issue the order to call military units and he committed suicide….
According to Rady, Milea’s alleged insubordination was not merely in Ceausescu’s imagination:
When daybreak came, the extent of Milea’s disobedience became clear. The Central Committee Building was only lightly guarded and the streets leading up to it were inadequately protected. At the same time, the earliest reports began to come in from local party secretaries and securitate offices that the army was no longer taking any action to put down demonstrations in the provinces. Thus whereas the previous day, the army had shot down six demonstrators in Tirgu Mures, it had now assumed a passive position, simply guarding the party headquarters and leaving the streets to the crowds.
Rady proposes that for this is the reason, Milea was summoned to Ceausescu’s office and instructed “to order the army to recommence active operations immediately and to open fire on such units as proved recalcitrant.”
Army sources suggest that after exiting the first emergency CPEx meeting of the morning (at approximately 8:30 a.m.), Milea gave the order that the Army units on the streets of Bucharest should mass around their equipment, ignore “provocations,” and refrain from opening fire. To some extent, Milea was merely responding to the realities in the field, for already after 7 a.m. huge columns of workers from the IMGB and other major factories were on the march towards the city center. Overwhelmed commanders in the field were constantly inquiring of their superiors as to how they should proceed in light of the rapidly-changing situation. In some cases, they apparently received the order from mid-level commanders to mass around their equipment; in others, they apparently followed their own conscience. According to Army sources, the effect of the soldiers grouping around their equipment was de facto to break up the cordons of regime forces designed to prevent the forward progress of the demonstrators. Milea’s order solidified the unhindered passage of the demonstrators all the way into Palace Square.
It remains unclear whether Milea was assassinated by the Securitate for this insubordination or did indeed commit suicide. For example, one Army officer has admitted that (apparently after his showdown with Ceausescu) a very emotional Milea ordered him to give him his gun and then Milea slammed the door to his office and shot himself. What is clear is that immediately following news of Milea’s death, the CPEx met in emergency session again. The transcript of the emergency CPEx meeting sometime after 9:30 a.m. offers some surprises. While most CPEx members obediently answered Ceausescu’s appeal for them to fight to the bitter end, several members appeared to equivocate in the face of the now massive numbers of protesters. Gogu Radulescu argued: “Based on the information we have, columns of workers have headed towards the center and it is necessary to take measures in order to avoid a bloodbath.” Even Prime Minister Constantin Dascalescu admitted: “I have been and will be by your side until the end, but I believe that it is necessary to consider what will happen if we shoot into honest workers.”
The views of the CPEx members seem also to have been influenced by news that some Army soldiers had been “disarmed” by protesters. Ion Radu stated that “Minister Vlad says that there are still isolated, small groups of disarmed soldiers.” Significantly, in the absence of a representative from the Army at the meeting, it was Securitate Director Vlad (officially not even a CPEx member) who assured those gathered that “the Army will not allow itself to be disarmed.” In the end, it was decided that only if the demonstrators were armed or attacked would regime forces open fire. While the post-Ceausescu media has occasionally recorded Vlad as having responded to Ceausescu’s appeal to “fight to the end” with the phrase “like hell we will,” the stenogram quotes him as replying obediently “we will proceed as you have instructed.”
In the wake of Milea’s death, Nicolae Ceausescu personally appointed General Victor Stanculescu–freshly-arrived from Timisoara and a notorious favorite of Elena’s–as Defense Minister. From a bureaucratic standpoint, the Army Chief of Staff, General Stefan Guse, should have legally succeeded Milea. But Guse was still in transit from Timisoara and in such cases Ceausescu’s word was always the final arbiter. According to Stanculescu, Milea had phoned him the previous night and told him that “problems” had developed and that he should return to Bucharest immediately. In one of the most famous pieces of folklore concerning the December events, upon returning to Bucharest in the early morning hours of 22 December, Stanculescu–according to his own account–was so determined to avoid being further implicated in a repression similar to what he had been involved in in Timisoara that he arranged for a doctor to put his left leg in a cast. Nevertheless, this did not prevent him from being appointed Defense Minister.
Between 9:30 a.m. (when Milea was found dead) and 10:45 a.m. (when Stanculescu arrived at the CC building), the Army was essentially without a commander-in-chief and officers continued to transmit Milea’s last order prior to his death, calling on the troops not to open fire. After Stanculescu arrived at the CC building, at 10:45 a.m. he expanded Milea’s “Rondoul” order to include the return of all Army units to barracks. At the same time, however–according to Air Force Commander, General Gheorghe Rus, immediately after the events–Stanculescu instructed him to dispatch three hundred parachutists, with helicopters and airplanes, ready to descend and engage in battle in Palace Square. While on trial in 1990, CPEx member Manea Manescu confirmed that the initial plan had been to evacuate the entire CPEx from the CC building.
Sauca is probably correct that Stanculescu realized that if he did not quickly find a way to get rid of the Ceausescus, he too might suffer Milea’s fate. The choice for Stanculescu was simple: “either him [Nicolae] or us!” Stanculescu maintains that because the hallways of the CC building were teeming with well-armed guards and “windows could already be heard shattering at the entrance to the CC,” he took the decision to evacuate the Ceausescus by helicopter in order to avoid a bloodbath or the lynching of the first couple. According to Lieutenant Colonel Ion Pomojnicu, one of the few Army officers in the building at the time, the Securitate inside were indeed “armed to the teeth” with machine guns and piles of ammunition and “determined to face anything.”
Although the former Securitate contest the popular and “revolutionary” dimension of the December events, they routinely take credit for the fact that they did not open fire on demonstrators on the morning of 22 December 1989. For example, “a group of former Securitate officers” ask “a final question of all those ‘revolutionaries’ and ‘dissidents’ who attack the personnel of the former Securitate“: why if the officers of the Fifth Directorate located inside the CC building had 200,000 cartridges at their disposal did they not open fire? General Vlad has gone to great lengths to detail the orders he gave to his subordinates on the morning of 22 December, instructing them not to open fire and to allow the peaceful entrance of demonstrators into the CC building and television station.
Vlad’s statements are drawn into question, however, by the fact that they accompany claims that as early as 17 December 1989 he was disobeying Ceausescu’s orders and instructing his men in Timisoara not to open fire and to stay off the streets, and that on 18 December he issued such an order for the whole country. The transcript of communications among USLA and Militia units does reveal that after 9:40 a.m. frequent references were made to a decision from “central headquarters” that regime forces were to open fire only if demonstrators attempted to penetrate regime buildings, in which case only warning shots were to be fired. Yet the timing of this decision suggests that it was a reaction to the action–or rather, lack of action–of the Army which had allowed demonstrators to overwhelm the city center, and that it was in accordance with the decision taken at the second emergency CPEx meeting.
According to Army Lieutenant Colonel Ion Pomojnicu, the Securitate were fully-prepared to repress, but they were caught off-guard by the rapid development of events precipitated by the defection of the Army from the regime:
Generally-speaking, you know the withdrawal of the Army created great surprise. The moment the Army withdrew, the other forces fragmented and those forces belonging to the Interior Ministry fled. If this momentary disorganization of theirs had not intervened between 11 and 12 a.m. when it happened, it is possible that these Interior Ministry forces would have intervened. This moment of panic and disorientation favored the future evolution of events.
Moreover, the evacuation of the Ceausescus from the CC building left them flat-footed:
…[The Securitate] fled as soon as their mission was finished; their mission was to defend this person, Ceausescu. If he had remained, they would have [opened fire]. I believe that for these people the flight of Ceausescu from the CC building eliminated the object they were supposed to defend in the building and would have defended indefinitely had he stayed….Don’t forget that there were similar forces not only inside the CC building. There were also troops barricaded in the headquarters of the Fifth Directorate and in the [National] Library. They did not come down from the top of the building until the helicopter had taken off….I am convinced that neither at the television station would anybody have penetrated inside if it had not been known that Ceausescu had fled. The flight of Ceausescu was vital to the unfolding of the Romanian Revolution.
Further evidence that the Securitate were left in disarray by Ceausescu’s flight comes from Dr. Sergiu Tanasescu, one of the first people to enter the CC building:
…I must tell you those there were taken completely by surprise. We found half-finished coffees, abandoned cigarettes in the ashtrays….They were ripping off their epaulets, they had on shirts of one color and pants of another, trying to confuse us….At Entrance A there were many Securitate….who took advantage of the fact that they were dressed in civilian clothes and attempted to mix into the crowds….five in civilian clothes opened fire without any warning, even if it is true that they shot over the heads of the crowd…
The Ceausescus on the Run
The situation in Palace Square evolved so quickly that in the end only one helicopter was able to land. Air Force Commander General Rus was forced to cancel the order for the parachutists and called the other helicopters back to base. Here was indeed a case where a slight change in timing might have had huge consequences. Had the demonstrators not made it to the roof of the CC building and set about destroying the landing pad–thus making it inoperable–Stanculescu would probably have boarded one of the other helicopters en route. The Army would have been far less likely to threaten to shoot down any of the helicopters knowing that the acting Defense Minister was aboard one of them. The helicopter carrying the Ceausescus might then have made it to the heavily-fortified Boteni air force base. Had the commanders there obeyed the orders issued in person by the Supreme Commander (Ceausescu) “the situation would have become enormously complex.”
But as things turned out, the protesters reached the roof of the CC building just as the Ceausescus were boarding the first helicopter–indeed, Ceausescu’s bodyguards from the Fifth Directorate had to hold back the demonstrators at gunpoint. Moreover, there were a host of eyewitnesses who distinctly heard Elena shout back to Stanculescu: “Victoras [a diminutive], take care of the children!” According to Brucan, Stanculescu was highly-aware of this fact, and realizing that Ceausescu was clearly finished, “with his characteristic elegance [he] made a sharp U-turn: ‘La stinga imprejur [About-Face]!’.” Brucan suggests that he had complete confidence that from this moment, Stanculescu broke definitively with the Ceausescus and allied with the revolution. Sauca states things more colorfully: “It is clear that from the moment when the helicopter lifted off from the roof of the CC, Victor Stanculescu no longer gave a damn for the lives of the Ceausescus and their clan.”
Initially, it was assumed that the Ceausescus were headed for “an Arab country, presumably Libya, where they could count on their dollar deposit at Swiss banks.” But, as Silviu Brucan writes: “our assumptions were wrong. No, Ceausescu was not a man to accept defeat so readily.” After a short stopover at their Snagov villa–where Nicolae phoned frantically to find a safe haven within the country and where Elena packed four more bags of jewels, bathrobes, and towels to put aboard the already over-laden helicopter–they took off again headed for Tirgoviste (from which Nicolae had received the most encouraging reports). When the pilot of the helicopter, Lieutenant Colonel Vasile Malutan, informed Nicolae and Elena that the helicopter had been spotted on radar and could be shot down at any moment, the Ceausescus decided it was better to land. Ceausescu’s Fifth Directorate bodyguards then flagged down a passing car at gunpoint and the first couple attempted to “hitch” their way to Tirgoviste. Their first lucky driver, doctor Nicolae Deca, has maintained that the Ceausescus “never thought for a moment of fleeing the country.”
After nightfall, the Ceausescus ended up at the Inspectorate of the Militia and Securitate in Tirgoviste. According to Army Major Ion Tecu, in the preceding hours Militia men had held the couple in a nearby forest, apparently trying to decide what to do with them. When they turned up unexpectedly at the Inspectorate, the head of the local Securitate, Colonel Gheorghe Dinu, agreed to turn the couple over to the Army detachment which had arrived to take control of the building. Brucan describes Dinu’s actions in the following quotation:
As was typical of the situation that fateful afternoon, the local Securitate commander could not make up his mind how to proceed. In the meantime, radio and television were signaling to the whole nation that the balance was tilting in favor of the revolution. The security officers started leaving the building, and very soon everybody was gone.
Shortly after 6 p.m., the couple was transported to the Army garrison. Major Tecu states: “From 22 December at 6:20 p.m. until 25 December at 2:45 p.m., when the execution took place, [the Ceausescus] did not leave the perimeter of the barracks.” Meanwhile, speaking from the balcony of the CC building in Bucharest, Ion Iliescu announced to a huge crowd that “the armed forces have been ordered to arrest Ceausescu. We have news that he has been captured near Tirgoviste and when this news is confirmed we will make it public…he will be arrested, and submitted to public justice!” Not long after, the sporadic gunfire which had broken out after nightfall would become more sustained and erupt not only in Bucharest, but throughout the country. Phase two of the Revolution–the “terrorist” phase–had begun.
In two of the Eastern European countries with the most hardline regimes in the fall of 1989–East Germany and Czechoslovakia–the outbreak of unprecedented anti-regime demonstrations instigated and enabled officials within the party hierarchy to remove the hardline party leader (Erich Honnecker and Milos Jakes respectively). Moreover, after poorly-planned attempts by the security services to crush these demonstrations backfired and in fact catalyzed anti-regime sentiment, these institutions largely withdrew to the sidelines. The withdrawal of the state institutions of law and order from the aggressive defense of the party leadership and the communist regime allowed first for the removal of the hardline leadership and then for the collapse of the communist regime.
Anti-regime protest in Romania highlighted the basic differences in the institutional character of the Romanian regime even when compared to two such hardline regimes. Anti-regime protest in Romania could not precipitate Ceausescu’s removal from the position of general secretary by other party officials because the Romanian communist party had long since lost its corporate character. Instead, as we have seen, CPEx members obediently supported Ceausescu’s decision to suppress the Timisoara demonstrations. Moreover, the state security apparatus and the military participated in the aggressive and bloody defense of the regime in Timisoara. Significantly, even when given the perfect opportunity provided by Ceausescu’s two-day absence during his trip to Iran, senior party officials did not act to remove him as general secretary and neither the Securitate nor the Army launched a coup d’etat to end his rule.
The Romanian case supplies confirmation for the arguments of Theda Skocpol and Charles Tilly that it is the action or inaction of the state which plays a critical, catalytic, and often unintended role in making revolution possible. The heavy-handed, absurd speeches of party activists dispatched to the Timisoara factories, the tactical withdrawal of Army troops to barracks in Timisoara, Ceausescu’s rambling televised tirade on the evening of 20 December, and his tremendously misguided idea of convoking a pro-regime rally on 21 December and then assuring live transmission of this event to the entire nation, all emboldened the population and made fundamental contributions to the eventual collapse of the regime.
Finally, contrary to most accounts, the Ceausescu regime appears to have fallen on 22 December 1989 not as the result of some conspiracy or Securitate magnanimity, but as the result of a sudden expansion of protest and the reasonably spontaneous decisions of mid-level field commanders who took the initiative when confronted with events which were fast out-pacing them. This forced the Army high command to first allow the protesters to pass unhindered to the city center and then for the Army to retreat to barracks. The Army’s slippery-slope towards defection put the Securitate in an unenviable and somewhat unanticipated (if not wholly unprepared for) position. The evidence seems to suggest that the Securitate was simply overtaken by events, by the protesters and by the Army’s behavior. The Romanian events thus confirm the importance accorded by D.E.H. Russell to the centrality of the Army’s defection in making revolution possible.
.. Raportul Comisiei Senatoriale, “Cine a tras in noi, in 16-22?”
.. There were substantial numbers of dead and wounded in many other cities between the afternoon of 21 December and the morning of 22 December: especially in Cluj, Sibiu, Tirgu-Mures, and Cugir. For example, most of the 26 people killed and 105 injured in Cluj during the events were shot during this period.
.. It also followed on the heels of series by the editors of Tineretul Liber (Horia Alexandrescu) and Libertatea (Octavian Andronic) which had exonerated the USLA of wrongdoing in December.
.. Bacanu, “Intercontinental 21/22,” 15 March 1990, 1, 3.
.. Idem, 16 March 1990, 3.
.. Idem, 17 March 1990, 1.
.. Ibid., 2.
.. Idem, 24 March 1990, 1. Bacanu’s interviewees responded by describing the “flower” episode yet again.
.. Idem, 24 April 1990, 1, 3. For an equally dubious revision of the USLA’s role in the December events see Horia Alexandrescu, “Adevarul despre USLA [The truth about the USLA],” Tineretul Liber, 4-15 March 1990. In episode three (7 March 1990, “Flori pentru ‘uslasi’ [Flowers for the USLA troops”) demonstrators shout at the USLA troops “and you also are dying of hunger!” and place flowers in the epaulets and helmets of the USLA troops. The USLA unit merely attempted to prevent “elements who had escaped the control of the revolutionaries” from approaching the American embassy and had allowed demonstrators to paint anti-Ceausescu slogans on nearby walls. According to Alexandrescu, the USLA had been withdrawn in their entirety from the zone at 9:30 p.m., thus before gunfire was opened.
<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>.. Emilian David, “Dreptate si adevar pentru ziua intii [Justice and truth on the first day],” Libertatea, 12 January 1990, 1, 2. At least eight people were killed at Roman Square. As if to almost confirm Emilian David’s allegations, three days later, the USLA commander during the events, Colonel Gheorghe Ardeleanu, responded in Libertatea with a public denial of David’s description. See Colonel Gheorghe Ardeleanu, “Precizari,” Libertatea, 15 January 1990, 3.
.. Paul Vinicius, “Remember 21-23 decembrie ‘89: Revolutia minut cu minut,” Flacara, no. 51 (19 December 1990), 7.
.. See Bunea, Praf in Ochi, 87.
.. Ibid., 88.
.. Ibid. The witness himself was injured as a result of this gunfire and later transported to the hospital.
.. See “Dintre sute de catarge,” Libertatea, 27/29/30/31 January 1990.
.. “Dintre sute de catarge,” 31 January 1990, 2.
.. “Dintre sute de catarge,” 29 January 1990, 2.
.. Petre Mihai Bacanu, “Au evacuat ‘materialele.’ Stropite cu sange [The got rid of “the materials” Covered with blood],” Romania Libera, 28 December 1993, 10. The reference to these civilian gunmen dressed in “sheepskin coats” (cojoace) brings back into discussion one of the articles from Horia Alexandrescu’s March 1990 series (”Adevarul despre USLA” [The truth about the USLA]) in Tineretul Liber exonerating the USLA of any wrongdoing for their actions in December. The title of the 6 March 1990 article–”‘Ace’ pentru ‘cojoacele’ teroristilor,” [‘Pins’ for the ‘sheepskin coats’ of the terrorists]–appears to bear no connection whatsoever to the article, which has no mention of “sheepskin coats” and does not even refer to the role of the USLA in University Square (events discussed in a later episode). Yet this clue and a number of others–including Alexandrescu’s introduction of this article as a “calmant,” an apparent reference to the treatment given to the drugged USLA after the events–suggest that in spite of the fact that the text of the article clears the USLA, Alexandrescu is fully conscious of the USLA’s guilt.
.. “Seful represiunii: maiorul Amariucai” in Bacanu, “Au evacuat ‘materialele’.”
.. Colonel Gh. Vaduva et. al., “Nici o pata sa nu planeze pe onoarea Armatei! [Not a stain can be placed on the Army’s honor]” Armata Poporului, no. 3 (17 January 1990), 1-2.
.. Captain Mihai Margineanu, “Un ‘inger’ cu aripile murdare [An ‘angel’ with dirty wings],” Armata Poporului, no. 15 (11 April 1990), 5. The witness, Lieutenant Colonel Teodor Amariucai, appears to bear his own share of the guilt for the bloodshed on the night of 21/22 December.
.. Stefanescu, Istoria Serviciilor Secrete, 288. The former Securitate once again appear to transfer their actions onto others in their discussion of the events in University Square. According to “a group of former Securitate officers,” the “tourists” took advantage “of the sound of shots fired in the air and resorted as in Timisoara to shooting the demonstrators in the back to produce victims to ‘mobilize’ Bucharest’s citizens.” See A Group of Former Securitate Officers, “Asa va place revolutia!”
.. Vasile Neagoe, “Noaptea cea mai lunga [The longest night],” Expres, no. 14-15 (May 1990), 15.
.. Alexandru Sauca, K.G.B.-ul si Revolutia Romana (Bucharest: Editura Miracol, 1994), 80.
.. See, for example, Vladimir Tismaneanu, “The Quasi-Revolution and Its Discontents: Emerging Political Pluralism in Post-Ceausescu Romania,” East European Politics and Societies 7, no. 2 (Spring 1993): 328 (fn. 31 especially). According to Tismaneanu: “So far, however, the only certain elements are that the Securitate and the army switched allegiances and abandoned Ceausescu during the early hours of December 22, 1989…”
.. Stoian, Decembrie ‘89: Arta Diversiunii, 28.
.. See, for example, Tismaneanu, “The Quasi-Revolution”: 328 (fn. 31): “…generals Stanculescu, Guse, and Vlad acted like traditional praetorian guard chieftains in that they abandoned the losing tyrant and played a crucial role in the selection of his successor (the palace coup).”
.. Liviu Valenas, “Lovitura de palat din Romania,” Baricada, no. 26 (10 July 1990), 3.
.. Stoian, Decembrie ‘89: Arta Diversiunii, 24. Indeed, according to Stoian, Defense Minister Milea was the supreme commander of the repressive forces on this night. In December 1993, on the fourth anniversary of these events, the opposition daily edited by Horia Alexandrescu, Cronica Romana, reiterated the claim that Vlad distanced himself from the team supervising the repression (Cronica Romana, 21 December 1993, 3.).
.. Vasile Neagoe, “Noaptea cea mai lunga,” Expres, no. 8 (23-29 March 1990), 6.
.. See “Dintre sute de catarge,” Libertatea, 1 February 1990; 9 February 1990; 12 February 1990.
.. Captain Alexandru Barbu, interview by Horia Alexandrescu, “O curiozitate: te impusti in inima, asezi pistolul pe masa, apoi te intinzi pe canapea!” Tineretul Liber, 2 June 1990, 1-2.
.. Liviu Valenas, “Dosarele secrete ale neocomunismului din Romania [The secret files of Romanian neo-communism],” Romanul Liber XI, no. 8-9 (August-September 1995), 32. This appears to have originally been published in the opposition daily Evenimentul Zilei.
.. See FBIS-EEU-89-248, 28 December 1989, 63.
.. Bunea, Praf in Ochi, 53, 56.
.. Rady, Romania in Turmoil, 103. Indeed, information elsewhere suggests that before 10 a.m. demonstrators had taken control of local government in Alba Iulia, Arad, and other important towns in Transylvania.
.. See the comments of Lieutenant Colonel Rafaelescu Alexandru in Ion D. Goia, “Chiar daca fugea, Ceausescu nu scapa! [Even if he was fleeing, Ceausescu was not escaping!],” Flacara, no. 5 (6-12 February 1991), 8-9.
.. Lieutenant Colonel Ion Cotirlea and Lieutenant Colonel Rafaelescu Alexandru in ibid.
.. Even Brucan is unsure. See Brucan, The Wasted Generation, 2.
.. See the comments of Army Major Engineer Tufan as recounted by Lieutenant Colonel Alexandru Andrei in Goia, “Chiar daca fugea,” 9.
.. See Bunea, Praf in Ochi, 53-56.
.. Stanculescu, interview by Ioan Buduca, 9.
.. Ibid. Hence, his satirical nickname in the Romanian media: “Ghipsulescu,” from the Romanian word “ghips” which means “cast.”
.. See the comments of Lieutenant Colonel Alexandru Andrei in Goia, “Chiar daca fugea,” 9.
.. Ibid. See also Stanculescu, interview by Ioan Buduca, 9. According to the First Senatorial Commission report on the events, at 10:45 a.m. he instructed all units in Bucharest and on the road to Bucharest to return to barracks, and at 12:15 a.m. the order was transmitted for all units throughout the country to return to barracks (see “Cine a tras in noi, in 16-22?” Romania Libera, 27 May 1992, 5).
.. Brucan, The Wasted Generation, 2-3. Interestingly, Brucan comments: “[Rus’] statement was recorded in early January 1990 when his memory of events was still fresh and before political conditions began to engender the inhibitions that later would prevent generals from making such forthright statements….”
.. Ibid., 3.
.. Sauca, KGB-ul si Revolutia, 80-82.
.. Stanculescu, interview by Ioan Buduca, 9.
.. See Goia, “Chiar daca fugea,” 9.
.. A Group of Former Securitate Officers, “Asa va place revolutia?”
.. Iulian Vlad, “Ce mai aveti de spus?,” Adevarul, 19 January 1991, 5a.
.. “Dintre sute de catarge,” Libertatea, 3-14 February 1990.
.. Ion D. Goia, “Chiar daca fugea,” 9.
.. Dr. Sergiu Tanasescu, interview by Ion K. Ion, “Dinca si Postelnicu au fost prinsi de pantera roz! [Dinca and Postelnicu were caught red-handed!],” Cuvintul, no. 7 (14 March 1990), 15.
.. Sauca suggests this idea in Sauca, KGB-ul si Revolutia, 82.
.. Silviu Brucan, Generatia Irosita (Bucharest: Editura Univers & Calistrat Hogas, 1992), 16. This discussion does not appear in the English version of his memoirs, The Wasted Generation.
.. Ibid., 16, 220-221.
.. Sauca, KGB-ul si Revolutia, 82.
.. Silviu Brucan, The Wasted Generation, 2.
.. Ibid., 4.
.. Nicolae Deca, interview by Petre Mihai Bacanu, “Ceausescu nu s-a gindit sa fuga din tara,” Romania Libera, 23 December 1993, 15.
.. See Tecu’s comments in Ion D. Goia and Petre Barbu, “Ceausestii la Tirgoviste,” Flacara, no. 51 (19 December 1990), 9-10.
.. Brucan, The Wasted Generation, 5. Tecu confirms that between 2 and 5 p.m., the Securitate and Militia personnel began evacuating the Inspectorate building in Goia and Barbu, “Ceausestii la Tirgoviste,” 10.
.. Goia and Barbu, “Ceausestii la Tirgoviste,” 10.
.. Revolutia Romana in Direct (Bucharest, 1990), 85.
.. Theda Skocpol, States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979); Charles Tilly, From Mobilization to Revolution (New York: Random House, 1978).
.. D.E.H. Russell, Rebellion, Revolution, and Armed Force (New York: Academic, 1974).