The Unseemly Uses of Ukraine 2014: Romania’s “Recovered Memories” of “Russian Tourists” in December 1989 (Bonus: Pathetic Press Plagiarism)
Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on April 19, 2014
(purely personal views as always, based on more than two decades of prior research and publications cited below; please do not cite or use without prior author permission, thank you)
Almost predictably, Romanian journalists are transposing the current events in Ukraine 2014 back upon the events of December 1989 that overthrew the totalitarian communist dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu. Of course, how they do this is as interesting as the fact that they are doing this. For example, take the following article: http://www.biziday.ro/2014/04/14/pare-ca-a-inceput-sa-va-explic-de-ce-eu-tin-cu-ucrainenii/ (also found here but without the following inset/xerox http://www.romaniacurata.ro/pare-ca-a-inceput-sa-va-explic-de-ce-eu-tin-cu-ucrainenii-4528.htm). It has an interesting inset, the following xerox, with the almost illegible scribbles of some researcher one can assume:
Where, oh where, could it come from? We must ask this, because, there is no indication in the article of from where it was taken. Well, as it turns out: those scribbles are mine! I know the article well: it is from Adevarul 13 June 1994, when I was in Romania on an IIE-Fulbright scholarship for my then dissertation research. In the upper left hand corner you can read my almost illegible notation “Olteanu.” It is taken from the following post: https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2010/12/09/pe-7-8-sau-9-decembrie-a-venit-de-la-bucuresti-la-iasi-generalul-olteanu-cu-o-garnitura-de-tren-plina-cu-trupa-i-au-cazat-pe-la-unirea-traian-si-moldova-v-incepand-cu-data-d/ specifically…https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/top-14.jpg . Unfortunately, this–shameless theft without attribution–continues to be the state of intellectual property in Romania.
There are any manner of methods for debunking the idea of an invasion of Soviet special forces/agents posing as “Soviet tourists” in December 1989. The stakes of this debate should be rather clear. The primary stake is for the former senior state and party officials of the communist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu who through this piece of disinformation–or perhaps, better put, misinformation based on the reporting of partial details sanitized of their critical context–aim to undermine the spontaneous and popular characteristics of anti-regime demonstrations in Timisoara, Cugir, Lugoj, Sibiu, Brasov, Cluj, Bucuresti and other cities during the week of 15-22 December 1989. Foolishly, many Romanians and foreign observers, including journalists and academics, have an ahistorical or amnesiac grasp of this fact and instead think the primary stake in this debate is undermining the “revolutionary” narrative of Ion Iliescu, Petre Roman, Silviu Brucan, Gelu Voican Voiculescu, and the other leaders of the National Salvation Front used to legitimate their seizure of power beginning on 22 December 1989.
To begin with: Even after Nicolae Ceausescu declared at the CPEx meeting on the evening of 17 December 1989 that most tourists from East and West were a den of spies, the Romanians were still permitting entrance to Soviet tourists in transit from Yugoslavia as the following foreign press correspondent discovered:
FBIS-EEU-89-242 (19 December 1989), p. 85. Paris AFP in English 1430 GMT 19 December 1989.
Vatin, Yugoslavia, Dec. 19 (AFP)
Romania’s borders are now closed to all but Soviet travellers, who pass through Romania to return home after shopping trips to Yugoslavia….
An AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE reporter was curtly told to “go back home, only Russians can get through,” after two Romanian border guards–one armed with a Kalashnikov rifle with an Alsatian guard dog at his side–carried out a detailed inspection of the license plates on some 15 cars waiting to cross.
I have been using this source since back in the 1990s when I wrote my dissertation (defended December 1996) at Indiana University (Bloomington), but I still get a kick out of it when I come across it–particularly in light of the seemingly never-ending, snowballing revisionism which alleges that the Timisoara uprising was sparked by “Soviet tourists” or “Russian tourists,” etc.
18-19 December 1989: The Timisoara Crackdown in Ceausescu’s Absence
Considering the centrality of the “foreign tourist” scenario to Securitate-inspired accounts of the December events, it is interesting to note the actions taken by the Ceausescu regime on 18 December 1989. At the close of the emergency CPEx meeting on Sunday afternoon, Nicolae Ceausescu had announced:
I have ordered that all tourist activity be interrupted at once. Not one more foreign tourist will be allowed in, because they have all turned into agents of espionage….Not even those from the socialist countries will be allowed in, outside of [North] Korea, China, and Cuba. Because all the neighboring socialist countries are untrustworthy. Those sent from the neighboring socialist countries are sent as agents.
On Monday, 18 December 1989, in typical Ceausist-style it was therefore announced that Romania would not accept any more tourists because of a “shortage of hotel rooms” and because “weather conditions” were “not suitable for tourism.” Ironically, the only ones exempted from this ban were: “Soviet travellers coming home from shopping trips to Yugoslavia”(!)
Most damning for the proponents of the “Soviet tourist” theory of December 1989 are the declarations of senior Securitate members right after the December 1989 events:
The Timisoara files about December 1989 are now publicly available (when the link works!) on the Internet at http://dosarelerevolutiei.ro/. What they show is that Securitate, Militia, and other regime officials from Timis County were asked by Bucharest–communicated via the person of Securitate Director, General Iulian Vlad–to investigate the role of foreign elements, specifically tourists, in the Timisoara protests of mid-December 1989. But they were not the only ones. General Vlad tasked senior Securitate officials from Bucharest sent to Timisoara to report back to him on this very topic alleging external involvement and manipulation of the Timisoara demonstrations. What remains unclear is how much of this tasking was General Vlad communicating his own “hypothesis” or how much of it was he relaying Nicolae Ceausescu’s “theory” about what was going on. This much is clear: neither those stationed in Timis County, nor those officials sent from Bucharest could find evidence of a foreign hand in the Timisoara uprising, despite being asked to investigate exactly this aspect. How do we know this? From their own written confessions immediately after the December 1989 events. (Below are four of them: Nicolae Mavru, Liviu Dinulescu, Emil Macri, and Filip Teodorescu.)
Niculae Mavru, fost sef al sectiei ‘Filaj si investigatie’ de la Securitatea Timis, declaratia din 13 ianuarie 1990: …la ordinul col. Sima Traian, am primit…misiuni de a observa si sesiza aspecte din masa manifestantilor, din diferite zone ale orasului in sensul de a raporta daca sint straini (ceea ce nu prea au fost) care incita la dezordine, acte de violenta sau altfel de acte… 25 iunie 1991 “Desi ne-am straduit nu am putut raporta col. Sima implicarea completa a vreunui cetatean strain in evolutia demonstratiilor cit si fenomenlor care au avut loc la Timisoara,..”
“Sarcina primordiala pe care am primit-o de la col. Sima a fost daca in evenimentele declansate la Timisoara erau implicate elemente straine din afara tarii. Cu toate eforturile facute nu a rezultat lucru pe linia mea de munca.”
26 iunie 1991, Declaratia lui Liviu Dinulescu, cpt. la Serviciul de Pasapoarte al jud. Timis (in decembrie 1989, lt. maj. ofiter operativ Securitate judetean la Serv. III, care se ocupa de contraspionaj)
“Precizez ca anterior declansarii evenimentelor de la Timisoara din datele ce le detineam serviciul nostru nu rezulta vreun amestec din exterior in zona judetului Timis.”
Generalul Emil Macri (seful Dir. II-a Securitatii, Contrainformatii Economice),
Declaratie 2 ianuarie 1990:
“Rezumind sintetic informatiile obtinute ele nu au pus in evidenta nici lideri si nici amestecul vreunei puteri straine in producerea evenimentelor de la Timisoara. Raportarea acestor date la esalonul superior respectivi generalului I. Vlad a produs iritare si chiar suparare…”
Filip Teodorescu (adj. sef. Dir III Contraspionaj D.S.S.), Declaratie, 12 ianaurie 1990: Seara [luni, 18 decembrie 1989], dupa 23:00, responsabili (anumiti ?) de generalul-maior Macri Emil pe diferitele linii de munca au inceput sa vina sa-i raporteze informatiile obtinute. Au fost destul de neconcludente si cu mare dificultate am redat o informare pe care generalul-maior Macri Emil a acceptat-o si am expediat-o prin telex in jurul orei 01:00 [marti, 19 decembrie 1989. In esenta se refera la: –nu sint date ca ar exista instigatori sau conducatori anume veniti din strainatate… https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2013/04/29/high-time-to-unpack-already-why-the-restless-journey-of-the-soviet-tourists-of-the-romanian-revolution-should-come-to-an-end/
Mai jos, declaratiile lui Petre Pele, Tudor Postelnicu, Gheorghe Diaconescu, si Iulian Vlad Excerpt from Chapter 5 of 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 have not been revised in any form. https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/rewriting-the-revolution-1997/
A Review of the Evidence
Although at first glance the regime’s treatment of Pastor Tokes seems strange and even illogical, within the context of the workings of the Ceausescu regime and the regime’s strategy for dealing with dissent it makes perfect sense. There is simply no convincing evidence to believe that the Securitate–or a faction within it–purposely dragged its feet in enforcing Pastor Tokes’ eviction, or was attempting to spark a demonstration in the hopes of precipitating Ceausescu’s fall. The regime’s decision to evict Tokes was not a last-minute decision. Moreover, the regime exerted tremendous and sometimes brutal pressure to silence Tokes in the months preceding this deadline. Interestingly, according to high-ranking members of the former Securitate, Nicolae Ceausescu’s unwillingness to approve the more definitive measures requested by the Securitate allowed the Tokes case to drag on without resolution (see below). The Tokes case suggests the bureaucratic and byzantine mentalities of the Ceausescu regime, and the clash between a dictator’s instructions and how the institutions charged with defending him interpret their mission. … The suggestion that the Securitate treated Tokes gently prior to his eviction is simply incorrect. On 2 November 1989, four masked men burst through the locked doors of the parochial residence, wielding knives and screaming in a fury. Tokes was slashed on the forehead before his church bodyguards could come to his rescue, causing the four to flee. The numerous Securitate men posted out front of the building had done nothing to intervene in spite of calls for help. Puspoki suggests that these “Mafia-like thugs,” who attacked as if from “an Incan tribe,” were some of Colonel Sima’s “gorillas,” sent to deliver a clear message to Tokes that he should leave immediately. The view of the former Securitate–as expounded by Colonel Sima’s senior deputy, Major Radu Tinu–insinuates a “tourist”-like scenario. According to Tinu, the incident was clearly a “set-up” designed to draw sympathy to Tokes’ cause since the assailants fled away in a car with West German tags. Not for the last time, the Securitate thus appears to attempt to attribute its own actions to foreign agents. A week after the mysterious attack by the masked intruders, all of the windows of the parochial residence and nearby buildings were smashed. Interestingly, the report drawn up for Bucharest by the Timisoara Securitate attempted to argue that “workers” from the Timisoara Mechanical Enterprise, offended by pastor Tokes’ behavior, had broken the windows. According to Puspoki, the use of a propaganda-like description was not accidental: the local Securitate was trying to present the incident as evidence of “the dissatisfaction of the working people of Timisoara” in the hope that it would finally prompt Ceausescu into approving definitive measures against Tokes. Was Ceausescu responsible for the fact that the Tokes case dragged on without resolution? Support for such a conclusion comes from the comments of Securitate officers Colonel Filip Teodorescu and Major Radu Tinu. Teodorescu was dispatched to Timisoara with sixty other Securitate information officers in order to “verify” the request of the local Securitate that proceedings for treason be initiated against Tokes. Teodorescu laments: Unfortunately, as in other situations…Nicolae Ceausescu did not agree because he didn’t want to further muddy relations with Hungary. Moreover, groundlessly, he hoped to avoid the criticisms of “Western democracies” by taking administrative measures against the pastor through the Reformed Church to which [Tokes] belonged. Major Radu Tinu suggests that Ceausescu’s approval was necessary in the case of Securitate arrests and that the local Securitate remained “stupefied” that after having worked so long and hard in gathering information with which to charge Tokes with the crime of treason, Ceausescu rejected the request. Tinu speculates that Ceausescu “did not want to create problems at the international level.” Because former Securitate officers rarely pass up the opportunity to absolve themselves of blame, and it would appear both easier and more advantageous to blame the deceased Ceausescu for being too unyielding in the Tokes affair, these allegations seem plausible. Thus, it would appear that because Nicolae Ceausescu was skittish of further damaging Romania’s already deteriorating relations with the international community, and the Tokes case was a high-profile one, he refrained from approving visible, definitive action against the pastor. The Securitate‘s attempt to goad Ceausescu to bolder action would appear to confirm Ghita Ionescu’s suggestion that where the security apparatus comes to dominate regime affairs it attempts to impose its institutional prerogatives upon political superiors. Ceausescu and the Securitate appear then to have had sometimes conflicting views over how to resolve the Tokes affair in the quickest and most efficient fashion. By December 1989, a huge group of Securitate officers were working on the Tokes case: the entire branch of the First Directorate for Timis county, the special division charged with combatting Hungarian espionage, high-ranking members of the First Directorate and Independent Service “D” (responsible for disinformation) from Bucharest, and members of the division charged with “Surveillance and Investigation.” Puspoki describes Timisoara at this late hour as follows: Day and night, the telex machines on the top floor of the [County Militia] “Inspectorate” incessantly banged out communications, while the telephones never stopped ringing. Minister Postelnicu yelled on the phone, Colonel Sima yelled through the offices and the hallways. The officers ran, as if out of their minds, after information, besieged neighbors of the pastor, and dispatched in his direction–what they call–”informers with possibilities.” Yet the case lingered on. On Sunday, 10 December 1989, Pastor Tokes announced to his congregation that he had received a rejection of his most recent appeal: the regime would make good on its threat to evict him on Friday, 15 December. He termed this an “illegal act” and suggested that the authorities would probably use force since he would not go willingly. He appealed for people to come and attend as “peaceful witnesses.” They came.
.. Puspoki, “Piramida Umbrelor (III),” Orizont, no. 11 (16 March 1990), 4.
Tudor Postelnicu: “Ceausescu Nicolae facuse o psihoza, mai ales dupa ce s-a intors de la sedinta de la Moscova in toamna lui ’89. Era convins ca se planuieste si de cei de pe plan extern caderea sa, era convins ca toti sint spioni…” Petru Pele (Dir I, DSS). Declaratie, 16 ianuarie 1990: “Printre sarciniile mai importante efectuate de catre acestia in perioada 17-22.12.1989 s-a numerat (?) constituierea (?) listelor celor retinuti de organele militie cu listele celor predati sau reintorsi din Ungaria, intrucit s-a emis ipoteza ca evenimentele de la Timisoara au fost puse la cale in tara vecina…” Gheorghe Diaconescu, Declaratie 31 decembrie 1989 “Luni 18 decembrie gl. col. VLAD IULIAN a avut o convorbire cu colegul meu (local?) RADULESCU EMIL … Vlad Iulian (continuarea, declaratia lui Gheorghe Diaconescu) “?… foarte dur (?) ca nu (?) ca ‘un grup de turisti isi fac de cap in Timisoara’” Tocmai Iulian Vlad, el insusi, recunoaste ne-implicarea strainilor in evenimentele de la Timisoara, aici… “Incepind cu noaptea de 16/17 dec. si in continuare pina in data de 20 dec. 1989 organul de securitate local col. Sima cit si gl. Macri si in lipsa lui col. Teodorescu imi comunicau date din care rezulta ca sute de elemente turbulente au devastat orasul, si ca elementul strain nu rezulta a se fi implicate in continuarea fenomenului.” “Mai exact, cei trimis de mine la Timisoara mi-au raportat ca nu au elemente din care sa rezulte vreum amestec al strainatatii in producerea evenimentelor de la Timisoara.” https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2013/03/17/o-indicatie-pretioasa-de-pe-malurile-dimbovitei-implicarea-strainilor-in-evenimentele-de-la-timisoara-paranoia-lui-nicolae-ceausescu-sau-confirmarea-lui-iulian-vlad/