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.

Conu Tismaneanu fata cu (documente descretizate despre) Revolutia din 1989

(purely personal views, as always)

One simply expects more of academics outside of Romania when it comes to analyzing recent historical events.  For example, one would and should expect someone who frequently invokes 1989 would be interested in what the American CIA wrote in December 1989 about the overthrow of Nicolae Ceausescu.

That is not the case for Professor Vladimir Tismaneanu of the University of Maryland College Park.  Instead, Tismaneanu prefers to quote himself as the ultimate authority on contemporary Romanian politics.  Thus, he recently wrote:

Unii din rândurile birocrației de stat erau pregătiți să folosească o explozie de revoltă populară pentru a se descotorosi de Ceaușești. Acesta a fost sensul rebeliunii din decembrie 1989: o izbucnire spontană de furie antidictatorială l-a alungat pe Ceaușescu de la putere, dar a eșuat în a genera o revoluție sistemică. În schimb, un grup de versați aparatcici comuniști și-a croit drum spre cârma țării, a declanșat un război al nervilor și a inventat un „pericol terorist”, justificându-și lovitura prin invocarea vidului de putere.

Convinced that this passage sounded vaguely familiar, I did a quick internet search.  Indeed, it is recycled material, from 1997!, merely translated unaltered into Romanian, as if nothing new or important had come to light in the meantime:

Some within the bureaucracy were ready to use a popular explosion of rage to get rid of the Ceausescus. This was the meaning of the December 1989 rebellion : a spontaneous outburst of antidictatorial rage forced Ceausescu out of power, but it failed to result in a systemic revolution. Instead, a group of seasoned apparatchiks found their way to the helm, unleashed a war of nerves,invented a “terrorist threat” and justified their coup invoking a vacuum of power.


Click to access 1997-811-23-Tismaneanu.pdf

If the boundless arrogance and willful ignorance of someone who recycles his own words from two decades earlier–without, as he frequently does, citing the original source of his words–is not enough, Tismaneanu loves to adopt a relativistic framework when challenged on historical topics:  “This does not mean that you need to share all my views or viceversa.”

This from someone who never ceases to invoke Hannah Arendt’s “little verities of fact” and Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

Here, for Professor Tismaneanu (and especially many Romanian emigre academics outside of Romania) is as close as you can get to a “little verity of fact.”  The “terrorists” were from the Securitate, the “terrorists” were fighting on behalf of Ceausescu, and the “terrorist threat” was not “invented” as you argue, but very real.  It is high time to read this document and to address it, rather than ignore it as if it does not exist.  (And, yes, it undermines what you have written and argued for the better part of three decades.)

On 10 December 2019, the Wilson Center released the following:

  • December 28, 1989

    Romania: New Regime Consolidating Security

    An analysis of the new government’s efforts to eliminate the threat posed by Securitate troops.

    Fullscreen capture 1252019 85638 AM

    (Although, for clear reasons of the need to protect sources and methods, the higher/highest levels of reporting are redacted…the reader can be assured that the conclusions must be in keeping with the redactions…as a result of standard tradecraft)

    ROMANIA: CIA National Intelligence Daily 28 December 1989 (declassified from Top Secret and Released to the public on 10 December 2019)

    Romania: New Regime Consolidating Security

    The government continues to make limited progress in eliminating the threat from Securitate diehards, but Romanians are increasingly skeptical of Communist dominance of the new government.

    On Tuesday [26 December 1989], the new government put internal security forces and border guards under the Defense Ministry and set a new deadline for the Securitate troops to surrender. The government is also calling on civilians to turn in all arms issued to defeat Nicolae Ceausescu. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Information not declassified for protection of sources and methods xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx nearly half of an estimated 200 Securitate members in Timisoara were dead, captured, or had escaped. xxxx Classification not declassified xxxx

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