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.

Alo, Madalin Hodor? What you now argue is what I wrote 10-20 years ago!

(Purely personal view).  As I have said before, I am pleased to find that two decades after I began to make the arguments I made and present the evidence that I presented, finally someone in Romania is embracing my arguments and evidence.  It is just too bad that Madalin Hodor appears incapable of admitting where he has gained inspiration, the sources he uses, and where he gets some of his ideas and information from.  If in previous cases, it appears that Hodor is simply being dishonest and engaging in an all too common Romanian device–plagiarism of various degrees–here I suspect he simply is unfamiliar with what I have previously written.  Still as a researcher it should be incumbent upon him to do his homework, he should know better, and he should give credit where credit is due.

https://revista22.ro/70269322/alo-moscova-iii-ce-i-au-cerut-ceauescu-i-iliescu-lui-gorbaciov-i-ce-au-primit.html

Alo, Moscova? (III) Ce i-au cerut Ceaușescu și Iliescu lui Gorbaciov și ce au primit

Madalin Hodor 2018-02-06

Sunt convins că viitorul (şi poate noi do­cumente) va lămuri pe deplin acest episod şi îl va aşeza în contextul lui corect, din­colo de orice speculaţii, şi nu mă aştept ca interpretarea mea să fie receptată cu prea mare entuziasm. Din contra. Cred că sun­tem în continuare (şi vom fi mult timp de acum încolo), în ceea ce priveşte eve­ni­men­tele din decembrie 1989, prizonierii unei propagande îndelung şi abil între­ţi­nute, care amestecă rusofobia noastră se­cu­lară cu ostilitatea faţă de Ion Iliescu (jus­tificată de politica lui ulterioră), in­te­resele financiare ale aşa-zisului „Dosar al Re­vo­lu­ţiei“ cu „Omerta“ prin care ser­viciile i-au protejat zeci de ani pe cei care au in­trat în structurile lor mânjiţi de sân­gele re­volu­ţionarilor, incompetenţa unor pro­cu­rori militari (de exemplu, Dan Voi­nea), cu im­pos­tura unor istorici şi jur­na­lişti şi, nu în ultimul, rând apetenţa pen­tru „cons­pi­ra­ţii“ şi „comploturi“ a unui public uşor de manipulat, cu nevoie de jus­tiţie.

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https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/meanwhile-20-years-later-revista-22-asasinarea-lui-trosca/

https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/teroristii-din-decembrie-1989-au-fost-pregatiti-incepand-din-1968-annotated/

https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/cu-cine-va-razboiti-acum-si-de-ce-cui-foloseste-azi-acest-tip-de-manipulare-mihalache-v-hodorinvisible-man/

https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/madalin-hodor-gela-and-me-how-20-years-later-details-from-my-dissertation-show-up-on-romanian-tv/

https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/madalin-hodor-revista-22-adio-batrane-asasin-iulian-vlad-v-invisible-man-sau-de-unde-vin-detaliile-lui-hodor-despre-decembrie-1989/

https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/iulian-vlad-80-sau-m-88-madalin-hodor-v-invisible-man/

https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/in-fine-plagiatorul-madalin-hodor-publica-originalul-cine-au-fost-teroristii-iulian-vlad-spune-ca-erau-de-la-securitate-declaratie-olografa-madalin-hodor-2017-12-21/


On the role of how hostility to Ion Iliescu, based on his post-December 1989 political actions, I laid this out in detail in 1999:

The Uses of Absurdity (EEPS Fall 1999)

https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/the-uses-of-absurdity-romania-1989-1999/

 

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I was very much a solitary voice in the wind back in the mid-2000s (2006), expressing doubt about Dan Voinea’s findings and showing in detail where and why I believed he was wrong:

Part I of 10 parts

It Turns Out…the “Terrorists” Were Just a Hallucination

This just in…Breaking News from Romania…

Dateline Bucharest:  General Dan Voinea, Chief Military Prosecutor, “has committed himself to uncovering the truth of the ‘terrorists’ who…killed so many [942] in December [1989].”[1] Voinea spoke of investigating the “terrorist diversion” and “suggested that the former president [Ion Iliescu] might have engaged in arranging the ‘terrorist affair’.”[2]

Wait a minute!  Sorry, that was December 1997.  Let’s try this again.

This just in…Breaking News from Romania…

Dateline Bucharest:  In a stunning development, General Dan Voinea has declared:  “There are no terrorists in the December ’89 files.”[3]

Nope.  That was December 1998.  Here, let’s give it another shot.

This just in…Breaking News from Romania…

Dateline Bucharest:  “In a single blow, the Chief Military Prosecutor shoots down the entire invention of Iliescu:  ‘There were no terrorists!’  General Dan Voinea declares that in December ’89 it was all a diversion.”[4]

A foreign journalist summarizes the quest of the heroic Voinea as follows:  “General Dan Voinea is Romania’s chief military prosecutor and has embarked on a one-man mission to uncover the truth about what exactly happened during those days.  When shooting mysteriously re-erupted on the night of December 22 and continued unabated until December 25, Iliescu and his generals blamed it on dark ‘terrorist forces.’  But Voinea and others believe the whole episode was a scenario crafted by the military.  ‘The same people who had shot before now took power…The Superior Military Council, with its headquarters at the Ministry of Defense, gave orders to the Central Military Command inside the Central Committee building and this Central Military Command directed military operations across the country, or more exactly, where there were masses of demonstrators.’”[5] According to the journalist, Voinea is “on a lonely struggle to bring to justice those responsible for the unexplained deaths in the 1989 revolution.”[6]

A reporter for the daily “Ziua” states that a poll, conducted by the CURS  public opinion polling firm at the request of the Open Society Foundation, reveals that “only 11% of Romanians still buy the tale of the terrorists.” [7]

A leading Romanian editorialist declares:  “No one has the right any longer to question that this is the case [i.e., that the “terrorists” were a diversion by those who seized power], especially now that General Dan Voinea, Chief Military Prosecutor, the judge who had access to absolutely all existing documents and information, has officially declared that there were no terrorists.  That it was all just a concoction.”[8]

Sorry.  That was November and December 1999.  My mistake.  You are catching on:  this is Romania’s version of “Groundhog Day,” whereby Voinea steps forward seemingly almost every December, makes the same claims, and his statements are triumphantly reported in the Romanian media as some kind of bombshell that no one has ever heard before.  At this rate this could take a while…so let’s fast-forward to this past December:  December 2005.

Broken News.

Dateline:  Bucharest.  “A ray of hope still exists for finding out the truth [about December 1989].  The lead investigator of the Revolution Dossier, Dan Voinea, declared yesterday that the diversion with the terrorists was used in order to change the goals of the revolution begun in Timisoara.  ‘After 22 December 1989, the communists shot in order to stay in power.  And they remained!,” affirmed General Voinea…All of the events of December 1989 in Romania were directed from the center, from Bucharest, specified General Voinea, who Monday declared that on 22 December 1989, in accordance with a diversion, people were duped into believing in the existence of terrorists.  After 22 December 1989, the Romanian Revolution transformed, through a diversion ‘on television,’  from a fight against communism into one against a non-existent enemy—the terrorists.”[9]

The reactions by some of Romania’s prominent intellectuals have been extraordinary.  Nicolae Prelipceanu writes, “What Dan Voinea says after investigating the terrorist files has been said by many people since 1990.  True, these [people] had little in the way of data or testimonies to support them.  Instead, knowing the people and the mentalities of those who were at the front of this so-called revolution, which confiscated the real one, they drew conclusions that today are being validated, after more substantial research.  Now the conclusion of the prosecutor, according to which there did not exist any type of terrorists, but rather incitement to violence by those from the front of the new power, can no longer be denied.”[10]

According to Stelian Tanase, in an article entitled simply “The Diversion”:  “For 15 years the terrorist scenario has been floated by different politicians courting electoral support.  No one made even a step toward finding out the truth.  An event with hundreds of thousands of participants and eyewitnesses remained, paradoxically, a mystery.  Were the investigators and prosecutors so incapable that they could not reconstitute the events and identify the guilty?  I believe rather that they lacked the will to do it.  I believe that the beneficiaries of this situation were those sufficiently powerful to block the investigations for 15 years.  And do I need to remind anyone that after Dan Voinea’s revelations, Ion Iliescu brought grave accusations against the prosecutor?”[11]

Liviu Cangeopol invoked the comparison with the Kennedy assassination in the U.S.:  “As a result of the investigations of prosecutor Dan Voinea and the investigative accounts of some journalists and historians, Romanians appear to be luckier than their counterparts across the Ocean, who 42 years later still don’t know who left them without a president.  For us, out of the thicket of Decembrist adventures, one thing has become certain:  there weren’t any terrorists!”[12]

The ultimate expression of satisfaction and gratitude may have come from respected historian Stejarel Olaru.  In “A Letter to Dan Voinea (the opinion of a historian),” he wrote:   “Sir, Mr. Prosecutor, you know all these things [referring to events in Timisoara in December 1989].  I write to you now, 16 years after the bloody revolution and a year after the orange revolution [a reference in this case to the fall 2004 Romanian elections], I don’t know how to call it otherwise, tired of so many insincere commemorations.  My theory, Mr. Prosecutor Voinea, is simple enough…If in Timisoara the order to fire at the population was given by “The Comrade [i.e. Ceausescu],” after 22 December, other ‘comrades’ tricked us as if we were a bunch of kids—and we were then!—, inventing a theory that would immediately be accepted:  the terrorists are coming!…Mr. Prosecutor Voinea, I can only hope that you will have at your disposal sufficient computers, printers, food, cars and gas vouchers so that on 17 December 2006 I can enjoy for the rest of my long life that I could see two defendants in the box and not just one:  Nicolae Ceausescu and Ion Iliescu.”[13]

[1] Quote from Andrei Cornea, “The Curse of Ceausescu,” January 1998, in English, at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentaries/commentary.

[2] Recounted in George Baleanu, “Romania at a Historic Crossroads,” Conflict Studies Research Centre No. G65, found at www.pims.org/Events/Projects/CSRC/g65.htm, and second quote from Cornea, “The Curse of Ceausescu.”

[3] Adina Anghelescu, “Generalul Dan Voinea:  ‘In dosarele din decembrie ’89 nu exista teroristi,” Ziua, 16 December 1998, online edition.

[4] Oana Sima, “‘Nu au existat teroristi!’,” Ziua, 25 November 1999, online edition.

[5] Jeremy Bransten, “Romania:  The Bloody Revolution in 1989:  Chaos As the Ceausescus Are Executed,” RFE/RFL, 14 December 1999 at http://www.rferl.org/specials/communism/10years/romania2.asp.  For those coming to the Romanian Revolution for the first time, Brantsen’s series is an excellent journalistic introduction to the December 1989 events.  By contrast, although like many people I continue to be amazed at the value of information that can be found in the Wikipedia, the Romanian Revolution entry (in both Romanian and English) is, to say the least, disappointing.  An immediate flag to the entry’s credibility is its uncritical acceptance of the allegations of former Securitate Colonel Dumitru Burlan, Nicolae Ceausescu’s body-double.  I have elsewhere discussed Burlan’s claims in “Doublespeak:  The All-too-Familiar Tales of Nicolae Ceausescu’s Double,” which can be found online.

[6] Jeremy Bransten, “Romania:  The Bloody Revolution in 1989: Historic Facts Remain Obscured,” RFE/RL, 15 December 1999 at http://www.rferl.org/specials/communism/10years/romania3.asp.

[7] Gabriel Hizo, “Pentru prima data in ultimii zece ani, un sondaj de opinie national ii intreaba pe cetateni ce cred despre evenimentele din decembrie 1989,” Ziua, 17 November 1999, online edition.

[8] Sorin Rosca Stanescu, “Lui Magureanu  i-a iesit un porumbel din gura,” Ziua, 1 December 1999, online edition.

[9] Marius Batca, “Teroristii tovarasului,” Ziua, 20 December 2005, online edition.

[10] Nicolae Prelipceanu, “Craciunul de la Tirgoviste si urmariile sale,” Romania Libera, 26 December 2005, online edition.

[11] Stelian Tanase, “Diversiunea,” Ziua, 24 December 2005, online edition.  Somehow, this saturation coverage appeared to elude Victor Roncea who in June 2006 wrote, “Sixteen years after the December events the same prosecutor general who has been swimming for years in the files of the “Revolution Dossier,” Dan Voinea, declared—without the central press observing the weight of the announcement [!!!]—that there doesn’t exist any proof of ‘terrorists’ firing into the population during the insurrection of 1989.”  (Victor Roncea, “13-15 iunie, zile negre,” Ziua, 14 June 2006, online edition.)

[12] Liviu Cangeopol, “Realizarile Intregului Popor,” New York Magazin, 23 December 2005, no. 9 (issue 451), at http://www.nymagazin.com/html/451_liviu_cangeopol.html.

[13] Stejarel Olaru, “O scrisoare lui Dan Voinea,” Evenimentul Zilei, 18 December 2005, online edition.  It is worth noting here that those few voices that have been raised against Voinea belong to people who essentially nevertheless accept Voinea’s arguments with regard to the alleged non-existence of the “terrorists.”  Cozmin Gusa accused Voinea in December 2005 of politicizing the investigations and of “playing the game of structures that could have triumphed in December 1989 and could in the future  again,” but nonetheless maintains the 1989 events were a “coup d’etat.”  Ion Cristoiu termed Voinea “sinister” but has declared his own views as follows:

“We have known for a long time now who won the diversion with the terrorists in December 1989:  Ion Iliescu and the Army, which were disturbed that they could be called to account for its involvement in the repression of the preceding days.  Ion Iliescu legitimized himself the savior of the nation against the horrible terrorists who, according to him, were shooting from all positions.  Ion Iliescu created such arguments to justify the trial and execution of Nicolae Ceausescu, accused at his trial by Dan Voinea of having put into action the terrorist campaign in order to reconquer power.  To the Army, was offered the opportunity to cross over in the eyes of the populace as those who were fighting to save the conquests of the Revolution from the terrorists with whom they were fighting….Concerning the terrorist affair from December 1989, which miraculously served the new potentates of Romania to consolidate their power and to execute the Ceausescus, we have not yet found out [the truth], although the hypothesis of a diversion, launched by myself among others, in the article “22 December—an afternoon with too many questions,” from the 23 February 1990 edition of Expres, has now become the standard.  In December 1989, the price of this affair was huge:  over 1,000 innocent deaths, a chief of state (Nicolae Ceausescu) executed, together with his wife, after a farce of a trial….” (see Ion Cristoiu, “De la teroristii din 1989 la Teroristul din 2005,” Jurnalul National, 21 June 2005, online edition.)

In other words, Cristoiu believes that the terrorists were a myth created by those who seized power—i.e. Voinea’s argument.

https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2010/09/28/orwellian%e2%80%a6positively-orwellian%e2%80%9d-prosecutor-voinea%e2%80%99s-campaign-to-sanitize-the-romanian-revolution-of-december-1989-part-one-groundhog-day/


On the vulnerability of Romania’s intelligentsia to a reflexive Russophobia that the former Securitate could effectively use, there are many examples from my research.  Here is one from 2005:

THE 1989 ROMANIAN REVOLUTION AS GEOPOLITICAL PARLOR GAME:  BRANDSTATTER’S “CHECKMATE” DOCUMENTARY AND THE LATEST WAVE IN A SEA OF REVISIONISM

By Richard Andrew Hall

 

Part 3:  Ruse

A SECURITATE RIDDLE:  SOVIET “TOURISTS” AND THE OVERTHROW OF THE CEAUSESCU REGIME

Although I have written a good deal on the “tourist” conundrum in the past (see, for example, Hall 2002), I have not formally addressed the role of foreign histories of Ceausescu’s overthrow in the historiography of December 1989, particularly in regard to this topic.  In the wake of the broadcast of Brandstatter’s “Checkmate” documentary in February 2004, Vladimir Bukovski’s invocation of journalist John Simpson’s 1994 article on the topic (discussed in Part 2 of this series) suggests, however, that it needs to be broached in greater detail.  Moreover, as the year-long look-back at the December 1989 events in “Jurnalul National” shows, the “tourist” question—somewhat surprisingly to me—has become more and more central to arguments about the Revolution, thereby amplifying what is already tremendous confusion over the events in the Romanian press and public.  Of course, as has traditionally been the case, the Soviet/Russian tourists figure prominently, and, to a lesser extent, the Hungarian tourists.  However, the stock of other tourist groups has also gone up.  For example, the role of Yugoslav (specifically Serb) tourists has found a greater emphasis, and, seemingly out of nowhere, so have East German/STASI tourists!  The principal sources for all of these allegations are, as usual, former Securitate and Militia officers, with some military (intelligence) personnel thrown in for good measure.

FOREIGN FORUM, ROMANIAN CONTEXT

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact first mention of “the tourists” and their alleged role in the Revolution, but it appears that although the source of the claim was Romanian, the publication was foreign.  James F. Burke, whose name is unfortunately left off the well-researched and widely-consulted web document “The December 1989 Revolt and the Romanian Coup d‘etat,” alludes to the “Romanian filmmaker” who first made these allegations (Burke, 1994).  The claims are contained in an article by Richard Bassett in the 2 March 1990 edition of “The Times (London).”  According to Bassett,

“Mr. [Grigore] Corpacescu has no doubt that the revolution here was carefully stage-managed—as was the case in Prague and East Berlin—by the Russians…According to Mr. Corpacescu a party of Soviet ‘tourists,’ all usually on individual visas, arrived in Timisoara two days before the first demonstration outside Mr. [i.e. Pastor] Tokes’ house.  Police records trace them reaching Bucharest on December 20.  By the 24th, two days after Ceausescu fled by helicopter, the Russians had disappeared.  No police records exist to indicate how they left the country. (“The Times (London),” 2 March 1990)

But Bassett’s interlocutor, Mr. Corpacescu, says some strange things.  Bassett is not clear but it appears that Corpacescu suggests that the post-Revolution Interior Minister Mihai Chitac, who was involved in the Timisoara events as head of the army’s chemical troops, somehow purposely coaxed the demonstrations against the regime because the tear-gas cannisters his unit fired failed to explode—the failure somehow an intended outcome.  But beyond this, Corpacescu, who is at the time of the article filming the recreation of Ceausescu’s flight on the 22nd—using the same helicopter and pilot involved in the actual event—makes the following curious statement:

“The pilot of this helicopter is an old friend.  I have many friends in the police, Timisoara was not started by the Hungarian pastor, the Reverend Laszlo Tokes [i.e. it was carefully stage-managed…by the Russians].” (“The Times (London),” 2 March 1990)

The pilot of the helicopter was in fact Vasile Malutan, an officer of the Securitate’s V-a Directorate.  What kind of a person would it have been at that time—and how credible could that person have been–who has the pilot as an old friend and “many friends in the police?”  And it would have been one thing perhaps two months after the revolution to talk about the presence of foreign agents “observing” events in Timisoara, but to deny the spontaneity of the demonstrations and denigrate Tokes’ role at this juncture is highly suspicious.  I have been unable to unearth additional information on Mr. Corpacescu, but his revelations just happen to serve his friends extremely well—particularly at at time when the prospect of trials and jail time, for participation in the repression in Timisoara and elsewhere during the Revolution, still faced many former Securitate and Militia [i.e. police] members.

THE FORMER SECURITATE AND MILITIA REMINISCE ABOUT THE SOVIET “TOURISTS”

A week after “The Times” article, the chief of the Securitate’s Counter-espionage Directorate, Colonel Filip Teodorescu, mentioned at his trial for his role in the Ceausescu regime’s crackdown in Timisoara that he had in fact detained “foreign agents” during the events there (“Romania Libera,” 9 March 1990).  In his 1992 book, he developed further on this theme, specifically focusing on the role of “Soviet tourists:”

“There were few foreigners in the hotels, the majority of them having fled the town after lunch [on 17 December] when the clashes began to break out. The interested parties remained. Our attention is drawn to the unjustifiably large number of Soviet tourists, be they by bus or car. Not all of them stayed in hotels. They either had left their buses or stayed in their cars overnight. Border records indicate their points of entry as being through northern Transylvania. They all claimed they were in transit to Yugoslavia. The explanation was plausible, the Soviets being well-known for their shopping trips. Unfortunately, we did not have enough forces and the conditions did not allow us to monitor the activities of at least some of these ‘tourists’” (Teodorescu, 1992, p. 92).

Reporting in July 1991 on the trial involving many of those involved in the Timisoara repression, Radu Ciobotea noted with what was probably an apt amount of skepticism and cynicism, what was telling in the confessions of those on trial:

Is the End of Amnesia Approaching?…

Without question, something is happening with this trial.  The Securitate doesn’t say, but it suggests.  It let’s small details ‘slip out.’…Increasingly worthy of interest are the reactions of those on trial….Traian Sima (the former head of the county’s Securitate) testifies happily that, finally, the Securitate has been accepted at the trial, after having been rejected by Justice.  Filip Teodorescu utters the magic word ‘diplomats’ and, suddenly, the witness discovers the key to the drawer with surpise and declares, after five hours of amnesia, that in Timisoara, there appeared in the days in question, foreign spies under the cover of being journalists and diplomats, that in a conversation intercepted by a mobile Securitate surveillance unit Tokes was reported as  ‘well,’ and that all these (and other) counterespionage actions that can’t be made public to the mass media can be revealed behind closed doors to the judge….[Timis County party boss] Radu Balan ‘remembers’ that on 18 December at midnight when he was heading toward IAEM, he passed a group of ten soviet cars stopped 100 meters from the county hospital. (It turns out that in this night, in the sight of the Soviets, the corpses were loaded!).” [emphasis in the original] (Flacara, no. 27, 1991, p. 9).

The reference to the corpses being loaded is to an operation by the Militia and Securitate on the night of 18-19 December 1989, in which the cadavers of 40 people killed during the repression of anti-regime protesters were secretly transported from Timisoara’s main hospital to Bucharest for cremation (reputedly on Elena Ceausescu’s personal order).

Finally, as yet another of many possible examples, we have the recollections of Bucharest Militia Captain Ionel Bejan, which apparently appeared in print for the first time only in 2004, in a book by Alex Mihai Stoenescu (excerpted in “Jurnalul National,” 7 December 2004).  According to Bejan, around 2 AM on the night of 21-22 December, not far from University Plaza, where at that moment regime forces were firing their way through a barricade set up by protesters (48 were killed that night, 604 wounded, and 684 arrested), he spotted two LADA automobiles with Soviet plates and two men and a woman studying a map and pointing to different locations among the surrounding buildings.  Bejan recalled:

“One thing’s for sure, and that is that although they looked like tourists, they didn’t behave like tourists who had just arrived in town or were lost, especially as close by there were compact groups of demonstrators, while from armored personnel carriers there was intense warning fire and a helicopter hovered overhead with lights ablaze.  I don’t know what kind of tourist tours somewhere in such conditions. They left the impression that they were sure of themselves, they didn’t need any directions, proof which was that they didn’t ask us anything even though we were nearby and, being uniformed Militia, were in the position to give them any directions they needed.  One thing’s for sure when I returned to that location in January 1990…the buildings displayed visible signs of bullet holes…[emphasis added]” (“Jurnalul National,” 7 December 2004)

STRANGE “TOURISTS”…STRANGER STILL, THE REACTIONS OF THE AUTHORITIES

We can agree with Ionel Bejan in one respect.  One thing is for sure:  these were some very strange tourists.  (They give a whole new meaning to the term, “adventure tourism.”)  As curious as the “Soviet tourists” themselves is how little the Romanian authorities who claim to have seen them did to stop them—or even try to collect more information about them.  Why is it that no official questioned the enigmatic “Soviet tourists” or asked them to leave the area when, as Radu Balan claims, he saw ten LADAs outside the Timis county hospital at 1 AM in the morning the night the cadavers of protesters were being loaded onto a truck for cremation?  Or, as Ionel Bejan claims, he spotted several of them in the center of Bucharest at 2 AM, when the area was essentially a warzone of regime repression?  The regime had closed the borders to virtually all other foreigners, tourists or otherwise, it was trying to prevent any word of the repression from reaching the outside world, and yet Romanian authorities were not concerned about these “tourists” taking pictures or relaying what they were seeing?!

As I have written before, if it was obvious before 18 December, as these Ceausescu regime officials claim, that “Soviet tourists” were involved in the events in Timisoara, then why was it precisely “Soviet travelers coming home from shopping trips to Yugoslavia” who were the only group declared exempt from the ban on “tourism” announced on that day (see AFP, 19 December 1989 as cited in Hall 2002b)?  In fact, an Agent France-Presse correspondent reported that two Romanian border guards on the Yugoslav frontier curtly told him:  “Go back home, only Russians can get through”!!!  The few official documents from the December events that have made their way into the public domain show the Romanian Ambassador to Moscow, Ion Bucur, appealing to the Soviets to honor the Romanian news blackout on events in Timisoara, but never once mentioning—let alone objecting to—the presence or behavior of “Soviet tourists” in Romania during these chaotic days of crisis for the Ceausescu regime (CWHIP, “New Evidence on the 1989 Crisis in Romania,” 2001).  It truly strains the imagination to believe that the Romanian authorities were so “frightened” of committing a diplomatic incident with the Soviets that they would allow Soviet agents to roam the country virtually unhindered, allowing them to go anywhere and do anything they wanted.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE…A “SOVIET TOURIST” ENCORE IN 1990

Add to all of this (!), the allegations that the “Soviet tourists” were seen again on the streets during major crises in 1990, such as the ethnic clashes between Romanians and Hungarians in Tirgu Mures in March 1990 (for evidence of the reach of the allegation of KGB manipulation via the “tourist” mechanism both in December 1989 AND in March 1990, see Emil Hurezeanu, “Cotidianul,” 23 December 1999; according to Hurezeanu, “It appears they didn’t leave the country until 1991, following a visit by [SRI Director] Virgil Magureanu to Moscow”!).  Then there is the famous April 1991 interview of an alleged KGB officer—who spoke flawless Romania and was in Romania during the December 1989 events—who the interviewer, the vigorous anti-Iliescu foe, Sorin Rosca Stanescu, claimed to have just stumbled into in Paris.  Of all the reporters who could have stumbled into a KGB officer present in Romania during the Revolution—the only such case I know of—it was Rosca Stanescu, who, it turned out later, had been an informer for the Securitate until the mid-1980s—but not just for anybody, but for the USLA.  Intererstingly, although the article appeared on the non-descript page 8 of the primary opposition daily at the time (“Romania Libera”), the aforementioned Filip Teodorescu and Radu Balan invoked it in support of their contentions regarding the the “tourists” (for a discussion of this, see Hall 2002).  Even more suprising, or not, depending on your point of view, in his April 1991 article, Stanescu attempted to tie together December 1989 with December 1990 (!):

“As you will recall, persistent rumors have circulated about the existence on Romanian soil [in December 1989] of over 2,000 Lada automobiles with Soviet tags and two men in each car. Similar massive infiltrations were witnessed in December 1990, too, with the outbreak of a wave of strikes and demonstrations. What were the KGB doing in Romania?” (emphasis added) (“Romania Libera,” 18 April 1991)

Indeed, what were they doing in Romania?  But, more aptly:

WHO COULD THEY HAVE BEEN?

Some other recollections and comments may offer clues to the answer to this vexing question.  For example, the Caransebes Militia Chief claims he helped a group of “Soviet tourists” coming from Timisoara on the night of 20-21 December when one of their cars—as usual, “it was part of a convoy of 20 cars, all of the same make and with 3-4 passengers per car”—went off the road (from “Europa,” no. 20, 1991, see the discussion in Hall 2002b).  According to Teodorescu, the “tourists” greeted the militia chief with the phrase “What the hell?  We are colleagues; you have to help us” (Teodorescu, 1992, p. 93).  The militia chief opines that despite their Soviet passports, “to this day, I don’t really know where they were from.”

Nicu Ceausescu, Nicolae’s son and most likely heir and party secretary in Sibiu at the time of the Revolution, claimed that he also had to deal with enigmatic “tourists” during these historic days (the following several paragraphs borrow heavily from Hall 2002b).  From his prison cell in 1990, Nicu recounted how on the night of 20 December 1989, a top party official came to inform him that the State Tourist Agency was requesting that he — the party secretary for Sibiu! — “find lodgings for a group of tourists who did not have accommodation” He kindly obliged and made the appropriate arrangements (interview with Nicu Ceausescu in “Zig-Zag,”, no. 20, 21-27 August 1990).

Interestingly, in the same interview Nicu discusses the “tourists” for which he was asked to find accommodations in the context of a group of mysterious passengers who had arrived by plane from Bucharest on the evening of 20 December 1989. We know that in the period immediately following these events, the then-military prosecutor, Anton Socaciu, had alleged that these passengers from Bucharest were members of the Securitate’s elite USLA unit (Special Unit for Antiterrorist Warfare) and were responsible for much of the bloodshed that occurred in Sibiu during the December events.  Nicu Silvestru, chief of the Sibiu County Militia, admitted in passing in a letter from prison that on the afternoon of 19 December in a crisis meeting, Ceausescu’s son announced that he was going to “call [his] specialists from Bucharest” to take care of any protests (“Baricada,” no. 45, 1990).  Ceausescu’s Interior Minister, Tudor Postelnicu, admitted at his trial in January 1990 that Nicu had called him requesting “some troops” and he had informed Securitate Director General Iulian Vlad of the request (“Romania Libera,” 30 January 1990.)

The rewriting of the story of the Revolution, the “tourists,” and the “terrorists” was already in full swing, when in August 1990, Nicu wryly observed:

“…[T]he Military Prosecutor gave me two variants. In the first part of the inquest, they [the flight’s passengers] were from the Interior Ministry. Later, however, in the second half of the investigation, when the USLA and those from the Interior Ministry began, so-to-speak, to pass ‘into the shadows,’ — after which one no longer heard anything of them — they [the passengers] turned out to be simple citizens…” (interview with Nicu Ceausescu in “Zig-Zag,” no. 20, 21-27 August 1990).

The impact of this “reconsideration” by the authorities could be seen in the comments of Socaciu’s successor as military prosecutor in charge of the Sibiu case, Marian Valer (see Hall 1997, pp. 314-315). Valer commented in September 1990 that investigations yielded the fact that there were 37 unidentified passengers on board the 20 December flight from Bucharest and that many of the other passengers maintained that “on the right side of the plane there had been a group of tall, athletic men, dressed in sporting attire, many of them blond, who had raised their suspicions.”  The USLA, which were responsible for airport security and had “air marshals” on all flights (three in this case), refused to discuss the identity of these passengers with Valer.  While investigations revealed that during this time there “were many Soviet tourists staying in Sibiu’s hotels,” they also established that “military units were fired upon from Securitate safehouses located around these units as of the afternoon of 22 December, after the overthrow of the Ceausescu regime.” He thus carefully concludes:

“As far as the unidentified passengers are concerned, there are two possible variants: Either they were USLA fighters sent to defend Nicu Ceausescu, or they were Soviet agents sent to act with the intent of overthrowing the Ceausescu regime” (“Expres,” no. 33, September 1990).

Clearly, one of these hypotheses is a lot more plauisble than the other…As I wrote in December 1996, partly based on the statements of the Military Prosecutor Marian Valer who stepped down from investigating the Sibiu events in fall 1990, citing duress:  “thus as the USLA began to disappear from the historiography and therefore history of the Revolution, so the Soviet tourists began to enter it.” (Hall, 1996).

RED HERRINGS:  THE CHRONICLES OF A FORMER COMMUNIST SPY CHIEF’S VIEWS ON DECEMBER 1989

Inevitably, too, in the wake of the Brandstatter film the Romanian media dragged out its old warhorse for such occassions, the former Director of communist Romania’s Foreign Intelligence Service, General Ion Mihai Pacepa, the man whose defection in 1978 led to his being sentenced to death in abstentia and whose sensational revelations about Ceausescu’s repressive and profligate rule helped erode the myth of Ceausescu in the West.  Pacepa’s break from Ceausescu and the communist regime, and his stinging criticism of the administrations of President Ion Iliescu for their incorporation of and reliance upon former Securitate personnel, have led Pacepa to be lionized in the West and to be highly-respected and thoroughly-trusted among Romania’s intellectual and media elites.

In the wake of Brandstatter’s film, and, indirectly, in support of Bukovski’s allegations, Pacepa’s claims about December 1989 were once again invoked.  Thus, for example, excerpts of an August 2000 interview on the Hungarian Duna TV channel (rebroadcast on Duna TV two nights before the debut of the Brandstatter film) were published (“Jurnalul National,” 26 February 2004).  In the interview, Pacepa maintained that there were no so-called “terrorists” during the Revolution—that the “terrorist” phenomenon was all a pretext used by the party-state officials who ousted Ceausescu to legitimate a Soviet intervention:

“Interviewer:  What exactly was the essence of the the ‘Dnestr’ Plan?

Pacepa:  It was necessary to find a motive [to justify] the Soviet intervention, if the coup was to succeed by itself.  Therefore it is very easy to understand.  On 22 [sic. 23] December 1989, at 2 pm in the afternoon, Romanian Television announced:  “The National Salvation Front has requested Soviet help because unidentified foreign terrorists are attacking Romania.”  Already on this day, Iliescu declared that the Ceausescu couple had been arrested and a trial would be held, only for Television to announce [later] that their trial and execution had taken place.” (“Confessions of a Spy Chief” in “Jurnalul National,” 26 February 2004)

Since the early 1990s, Pacepa has maintained that the events of December 1989 were part of a well-scripted Soviet plan—the so-called “Dnestr Plan”—to remove Ceausescu (for a summary, see Deletant, 1995, pp. 89-90).  According to Pacepa, the Soviet plan was a response to the 1969 visit of US President Richard Nixon to Bucharest.  Pacepa claims that Iliescu had been designated Ceausescu’s replacement in accordance with this plan as early as 1971!  Dennis Deletant cautions with regard to Pacepa’s account:

“Pacepa’s use of the term ‘Front for National Salvation’ smacks too much of an attempt to compromise the more recent Front for National Salvation, set up after the 1989 revolution, by suggesting that the seeds of it had been sown some twenty years earlier by Moscow.  It is difficult to believe that such a name could have been chosen so many years earlier.” (Deletant, 1995, p. 90)

Pacepa’s claims are even more questionable than Deletant’s moderate skepticism suggests.  As I wrote in 1997:

“Moreover, it is intriguing to note that Pacepa revealed these details [i.e. those of the ‘Dnestr’ plan] only after the December 1989 events (in his 1993 book ‘The Inheritance of the Kremlin’).  Although in ‘Red Horizons’ (his 1988 detail-filled, “tell-all” book on the Ceausescus and the Securitate) he mentioned cases in which alleged Soviet agents (including Army General Nicolae Militaru…) were caught, he did not mention anything about the so-called ‘Operation Dnestr’.” (Hall, 1997, p. 117).

Pacepa had no problem in “Red Horizons” revealing alleged Soviet agents in Romania and alleged secret plans by which Ceausescu’s fabled “independence from Moscow” was all a Moscow-created ruse, yet he somehow did not feel the need or desire to outline Moscow’s plan for further increasing their control over Romania through “Operation Dnestr?”  This is hard to believe.

Furthermore, there is his amazing about face on the question of the “terrorists”/Ceausescu loyalists during the Revolution.  At the time, Pacepa spoke of “Plan M” as the source of the “terrorists” (see AP, Bryan Brumley, “Ceausescu Had Planned to Flee to China, Former Security Chief Says,” 5 January 1990).  According to Pacepa, “Plan M” called for Securitate forces to “retreat to hidden bunkers and wage guerilla war.”  He spoke about the use of safe houses and of a maze of secret tunnels, descriptions that were similar to what was being heard from Romanian during and immediately after the Revolution.  Significantly, Pacepa’s details mirror many of the points in the so-called “Plan Z” for the event of an attempt to remove Ceausescu, the reputed 1987 copy of which was published in the daily “Evenimentul Zilei” in July 1993 and which apparently was still in effect in December 1989 (for a good discussion of the plan, see Deletant, 1995, pp. 84-88).  Pacepa’s claim that Securitate forces were at the center of the Ceausescu resistance following his flight on 22 December echoed the claims of Liviu Turcu, a Securitate foreign intelligence officer who had defected earlier in 1989, who told David Binder of “New York Times” on 24 December 1989 that the “terrorists” were likely from the Securitate’s Fifth Directorate (he estimated at 1,000-1,500 members) and the USLA (which he estimated at 1,000 members) (“New York Times,” 25 December 1989, p. A12.)

Of course, that was then.  By 1993—and as we have seen from the quote from the 2000 interview, continuing long after that, to the present day—Pacepa was claiming that there had been no “terrorists,” that it was all just a pretext by the KGB agents who seized power from Ceausescu (Iliescu, Militaru, Brucan, etc.) for justifying Soviet military intervention (see, for example, his comments in “Evenimentul Zilei,” 10 April 1993; 29 April 1993).  The Ceausescus had been shot KGB-style to prevent them from revealing to the Romanian people and the world that the coup-plotters were KGB agents, according to Pacepa.  One must ask:  if Pacepa possessed this knowledge prior to December 1989—and he claims that the plan originated in 1969—and therefore had suspicions that the “terrorist” phase was merely a diversion designed to serve as a pretext for Soviet intervention, then why did he say what he said, and why did he not reveal his knowledge and voice his concerns before, during, or immediately after December 1989?

Finally, there is the problem of the similarity of Pacepa’s arguments on the Revolution with those of other former Securitate officers.  True, they hate Pacepa and Pacepa hates them equally.  But take, for example, the following quote:

“The coup d’état which ‘recovered the Revolution’…brought to power the FSN [the National Salvation Front] crew…[which] initiated the criminal scenario with Securitate-terrorists in order to spill blood and justify the assumption of power by people who had no business proclaiming themselves to be revolutionaries…[I]t was a diversion of the FSN in order to escalate the terror, suspicion, blood-letting, [and] chaos necessary to resolve the problem of taking state power and calling the Soviets.”

The source of this quote is not Pacepa, but the well-known “protochronist,” “national communist” former Securitate officer Pavel Corut (Corut, 1994, “Cantecul Nemuririi [Song of the Undying]” (Bucharest:  Editura Miracol, 1994), pp. 170, 172, quoted in Hall, 1997, p. 257).  The point is, as the accusations of Pacepa discussed at the beginning of this section demonstrate, Pacepa’s claims are identical to what Corut’s alleges.  By forcing an analytical, but also partisan ideological distinction by dividing protoWesterners from protochronists, as if the two were night-and-day and so easily identifiable, critical similarities such as this one—which demands attention and analysis precisely because it is unexpected—are ignored.

One of the precious few non-partisan deconstructions of the whole Pacepa circus is Peter Banyai’s penetrating article “Pacepa:  a tortenelem bizalmasa [Pacepa:  History’s Confidant]” (Banyai 2004a; 2004b makes pretty clear that he is no shill for Pacepa’s adversaries within Romania).  Banyai notes how Dan Pavel has compared Iliescu and Pacepa and suggested that “our political culture has determined” that the criterion for where one stands on the political spectrum—and no less than democracy itself!—is where one stands on Pacepa.  As Banyai summarizes:  “[According to Pavel,] [h]e who loves Pacepa, he is a democrat, he who doesn’t is a post-communist!…Thus has taken shape the Pacepa myth in Romania.  The latest among countless other self-deceiving revisionisms.”  Banyai hits the nail on the head in this conclusion:

“How is it that Pacepa has managed to pull the wool over the eyes of the greater part of Romanian public opinion with such primitive claims?  Clearly, because it draws on what resonates best in the Romanian public.  The conspiratorial mindsets, the Russophobia, the KGB-mania that make up the collective Romanian political psyche.” (Banyai 2004a)

SOURCES

Banyai, P., 2000a, “Pacepa:  a tortenelem bizalmasa [Pacepa:  History’s Confidant], “Beszelo [Speaker],” Vol. 9, September, at http://beszelo.c3.hu/04/09/06banyai.htm.

Banyai, P., 2004b, “Tortenelmihamitisok es penzmosok baratai tarsasaga:  Talpes, Treptow, Watts— es Tender. [Revisionist and Money-laundering Friendship Society],” “Beszelo [Speaker],” Vol. 6, June, on the internet at http://beszelo.c3.hu/04/06/06banyai.htm.

“Baricada (Bucharest),” 1990.

Burke, J. F., 1994, “The December 1989 Revolt and the Romanian Coup d‘etat,” at http://www.timisoara.com/timisoara/coup.html.

Ciobotea, R., 1991, “Politia Politica in Instanta [The Political Police on Trial],” “Flacara,” 3 July.

“Cotidianul” (Bucharest), 1999, web edition, http://www.cotidianul.ro.

CWIHP (Cold War International History Project), 2001, “New Evidence on the 1989 Crisis in Romania,” (ed. Mircea Munteanu), at http://wwics.si.edu/topics/pubs/e-dossier5.

Corut, P., 1994, Cantecul Nemuririi [Song of the Undying] (Bucharest:  Editura Miracol).

Deletant, D., 1995, Ceausescu and the Securitate:  Coercion and Dissent, 1965-1989 (Armonk, NY:  M.E. Sharpe).

“Evenimentul zilei” (Bucharest), 1999, web edition, http://www.evenimentulzilei.ro.

“Europa (Bucharest),” 1990, 1991.

Hall, R.A., 1996, “Ce demonstreaza probele balistice dupa sapte ani? [Seven Years After:  What Does the Ballistics’ Evidence Tell Us]” trans. Bobeica, A., in “22 (Bucharest),” 17-23 December.

Hall, R. A. 1997, “Rewriting the Revolution: Authoritarian Regime-State Relations and the Triumph of Securitate Revisionism in Post-Ceausescu Romania,” (Ph.D. Dissertation, Indiana University).

Hall, R. A., 1999, “The Uses of Absurdity: The Staged War Theory and the Romanian Revolution of December 1989,” in “East European Politics and Societies,” Vol. 13, no.3, pp. 501-542.

Hall, R. A., 2002, “Part 2:  Tourists are Terrorists and Terrorists are Tourists with Guns,” “The Securitate Roots of a Modern Romanian Fairy Tale:  The Press, the Former Securitate, and the Historiography of December 1989,” Radio Free Europe “East European Perspectives,” Vol. 4, no 8.

“Jurnalul National,” (Bucharest), 2004, web edition, http://www.jurnalul.ro.

“New York Times,” 1989.

Pacepa, I.M., 1987, Red Horizons:  Chronicles of a Communist Spy Chief (Washington, DC:  Regnery Gateway).

Pacepa, I.M., 1993, Mostenirea Kremlinului [Inheritance of the Kremlin], (Bucharest:  Editura Venus).

“Romania Libera,” 1990.

Teodorescu, F., 1992, Un Risc Asumat: Timisoara, decembrie 1989, [An Assumed Risk: Timisoara, December 1989] (Bucharest: Editura Viitorul Romanesc).

“The Times (London),” 1990.

“Zig-Zag” (Bucharest), 1990.

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