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.

On 23 December 1989 Leaders of the National Salvation Front Requested Soviet Military Assistance: Addressing the What and the Why (I)

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on May 10, 2014

(purely personal views, based on two decades of prior research and publications; please do not cite without prior author approval, thank you)

Despite Ion Iliescu’s fervent and repeated denials to the contrary, leaders of the National Salvation Front, including apparently Ion Iliescu and Silviu Brucan, panicked on 23 December 1989 and requested Soviet military assistance.  The reporting from the time seems pretty clear on this point, and what is significant is that it was the Soviets themselves who acknowledged the existence of the request.  Here, for example, is a Los Angeles Times report (available on the Internet) by Michael Parks from Sunday 24 December 1989 reporting from Moscow, the previous day’s statements by Soviet officials on Saturday 23 December 1989:

Upheaval In Romania : Moscow Pledges Aid but Rejects Troop Request : Soviet Union: Gorbachev says Romania’s new government can expect humanitarian help from the Warsaw Pact.


MOSCOW — The Soviet Union, affirming its support for the popular uprising that overthrew Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu, pledged Saturday to provide “immediate and effective humanitarian aid” to the country but drew the line at military assistance….

Gorbachev told the deputies that the Kremlin had considered a request for military assistance by leaders of the Front of National Salvation, the provisional government established by former Communist Party and government officials, military commanders and intellectuals in Bucharest. But he said Moscow had decided against sending in forces as the fighting appeared to abate….

Gorbachev said the request for military assistance had come overnight when Romanian army units, apparently loyal to Ceausescu, “turned against the people” and were threatening to retake strategic positions in Bucharest–including the Communist Party’s headquarters, where the provisional government’s leaders were meeting. But the loyalists’ counterattack was “suppressed,” Gorbachev said, when more troops were brought in….


Nestor Ratesh noted in his 1991 The Entangled Revolution, notes the broadcast of this appeal as follows (commenters on online articles often express exasperation to denials of the appeal because personally they recall seeing or hearing it):

In any case, on December 23, 1989, between 10:00 and 11:00 A.M., Romanian television and Radio Bucharest in a joint broadcast carried the following announcement: 

“We are informed that the help of the Soviet army was requested through the Embassy of the USSR, due to the fact that the terrorists have resorted to helicopters through foreign interventionists.”


As further confirmation, the Polish researcher Adam Burakowski unearthed a document from the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs that is translated below by Tomasz Kluz:

Copies of the document were published here:

* * *

Ministerul Afacerilor Externe

După utilizare, mesajul cifrat trebuie distrus conform prevederilor referitoare la utilizarea documentelor secrete

Exemplar 12

Mesaj cifrat nr. …
din Bucureşti 23.12.89

Către dir. J. Mąkosa
Însărcinat cu afaceri, Bauer informează prin depeşa nr. 189 din data de 23 luna curentă:

Ora 15.00.

1. De la sovietici:
În numele Frontului Salvării Naţionale, I. Iliescu şi S. Brucan au solicitat ajutor militar Ambasadei URSS, pentru că singuri nu se vor descurca.
Fără să aştepte răspunsul, FSN a anunţat la TV că Ambasada a promis ajutorul.
Răspunsul URSS: sunt gata să acorde orice fel de ajutor cu excepţia intervenţiei trupelor.
2. Polonezii de la aeroport sunt deocamdată în siguranţă. Ne sună. Noi nu putem [să-i sunăm]. Au primit pături şi hrană. Nu există nicio posibilitate de a ajunge la aeroport şi
de a-i lua de acolo.
3. Sovieticii au probleme cu cetăţenii lor, care s-au adăpostit în ambasadă după distrugerea Biroului Consilierului Comercial şi a locuinţelor.
4. La radio s-a anunţat că trupe arabe atacă Televiziunea.
La ora 15.00 auzim de acolo împuşcături care devin din ce în ce mai intense.

Spre ştiinţă:
(nume – fiecare primeşte câte un exemplar, în ordinea dată)

Întocmit în 15 exemplare a câte o pagină.
Bătut la maşina de scris nr. 7157 de Kowalczyk



2 Responses to “On 23 December 1989 Leaders of the National Salvation Front Requested Soviet Military Assistance: Addressing the What and the Why (I)”

  1. […] On 23 December 1989 Leaders of the National Salvation Front Requested Soviet Military Assistance: Ad… […]

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