Czechoslovakia August 1968 on the Mind: Nicolae Ceausescu and December 1989
Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on August 21, 2014
Col. Dumitru Dumitrascu, sef al Inspectoratului Muncipiului Bucuresti al Ministerului de Interne, Declaratie, 19 martie 1990
“In seara de 20 dec. 1989 in jurul orelor 23:30-24:00 eu fiind la inspectoratului am fost informat de primul secretar Barbu Petrescu, care in mod confidential mi-a spus ca ceausescu nicolae l-a intrebat daca se poate organiza in ziua de 21 XII 89 un mare miting in piata palatului asa cum a fost cel din 1968–cu privire la evenimentele din Cehoslovacia.”
Tudor Postelnicu, Ministrul de Interne, Declaratie, 21 iunie 1991
“Asa se explica ca Ceausescu a fost cel care a initiat in seara de 20 dec. sa se organizeze pt. a doua zi in P-ta Palatului acel miting cu muncitorimea din Bucuresti, fiind convins ca asa va demonstra tuturor sprijinul populatiei de care s-ar fi bucurat el.”
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.
Ceausescu’s Fatal Mistake: The Pro-Regime Rally of 21 December
By the morning of Thursday, 21 December 1989, the regime was no longer master of the situation in Timisoara. Moreover, it was rapidly losing control in several nearby cities: Lugoj and Cugir. Nevertheless, the regime might have withstood these challenges had it not been for Nicolae Ceausescu’s insistence on convoking a mass rally and addressing his “adoring” subjects in person. It was Nicolae Ceausescu’s delusion of his own invincibility which ensured that the regime would be unable to reestablish control. Ceausescu’s inflammatory, rambling tirade on national television on Wednesday evening had signalled panic to those who watched it. If Ceausescu was so worked up, they concluded, something serious must have occurred in Timisoara. Following his televised address, Ceausescu decided to hold an open-air, pro-regime rally the following day in the sprawling square in front of the Central Committee building in the center of Bucharest. The event was to be carried live over Romanian radio and television.
Precisely because this mass rally turned out to be the deathknell for the Ceausescu regime speculation has surrounded who “goaded” Ceausescu into making such a colossally-misguided decision. In January 1993, the opposition daily Romania Libera suggested that “the meeting was organized at the suggestion of [CPEx member] Gogu Radulescu.” The same article maintained that Radulescu had been followed during these days and was “observed transmitting something abroad,” thereby once again insinuating the role of foreign powers in the Romanian events.
Yet it is doubtful that Nicolae Ceausescu required Radulescu’s encouragement to convoke such a rally. It seems highly likely that the idea was Ceausescu’s own brainchild and that as usual the docile members of the CPEx did not dare contradict him. It was a typically instinctive, rash, and overconfident reaction to crisis on Ceausescu’s part. Moreover, as we have seen, for Nicolae Ceausescu the events confronting him in December 1989 were a replay of August 1968: not only was socialism at stake, but Romania’s national sovereignty and independence. Thus, in this crucial moment, he would appeal not primarily to the party’s political interests, but to what were the core institutional interests of the Securitate. And he would rely on a trusted totalitarian, mobilizational technique: the “spontaneous” mass rally of support for the regime.
.. R.M., “Dezvaluiri [Revelations],” Romania Libera, 19 January 1993, 1. Radulescu died in 1994.
.. Ibid. Presumably that foreign power would have been the Soviet Union.
As I previously wrote here: it appears the Securitate was accorded a critical, if rarely discussed role in contingency plans for a possible invasion and occupation of Romanian territory, the so-called lupta de rezistenta (“resistance war”) or lupta pe teritoriul vremelnic ocupat (“war on temporarily occupied territory”)–which explains the “strange” and “anonmalous” characteristics of the “terrorists” after 22 December 1989. (It is this which I believe also in part explains the refusal and reluctance of Romanian authorities to clarify the identity, intentions, and actions of the “terrorists” of December 1989.)