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.

“Coup by Revolution:” My Views 1990-1993

I am (slightly) entertained by Larry Watts’ following allegation:  “Hall persistently confuses the ethical problem of responsibility with that of agency, seeking “who is to blame” rather focusing on “how something happened.”  Setting off from the premise that the DSS was culpable for all or most of the violence perpetrated in 1989 necessarily blinds the analyst to any evidence of outside involvement.

(see my broader response here:

The reality is quite different.  Like so many Romanians, Romanian emigres, Romanianists, and Romania observers, by late 1990, everything seemed to be pointing in a far different direction than we thought in December 1989 and immediately after.  Below, my precis and presentation summary [I rambled and went way over time!] for an April 1991 conference at my undergraduate alma mater, the University of Virginia.  A key sentence that jumps out is the following:  “Evidence suggests that the Securitate intentionally–and in direct contravention of Ceausescu’s orders–allowed “the fire to breathe,” [in Timisoara] hoping to secure an influential, but camouflaged , role in the larger Brucan-Militaru-Iliescu conspiracy centered around the military–a conspiracy whose dimensions it was fully cognizant of thanks to past surveillance.


I cannot find the paper upon which the precis was based.  I do know I wrote it for a class in the fall of 1990 and revised it through the early months of 1991, in the lead-up to the conference.  I also recall that my conclusions were based on what I had heard while visiting Romania for three weeks in July 1990, English and French language newspaper articles, radio reports and television documentaries, and articles from publications we received at Indiana University, the opposition daily Romania Libera and the weeklies Zig-Zag and Flacara, among others, as I was beginning to study Romanian at the time (the late Ilinca Zarifopol Johnston, my first Romanian teacher, was kind enough to help me work my way through those articles).


I also recall that I called Professor Vladimir Tismaneanu and spoke at length in November 1990, and that I asked him if he thought that the Securitate and its Director, General Iulian Vlad, had dragged their feet in Timisoara–after all that is what the media seemed to be suggesting, with all its focus on the Army’s role in the Timisoara repression, as 1990 progressed–and he agreed that he had a similar suspicion.  I knew Tismaneanu from his impressive and memorable appearances during December 1989 on PBS’ McNeil-Lehrer Newshour, and, prior to doing dissertation field research in Romania, I actually thought he had a good handle on what had happened in December 1989 (how painfully naive!).

(Little could I have imagined that almost 17 years later, because I had the temerity to criticize the chapter on December 1989 in the Final Report of the Presidential Commission for the Study of the Communist Dictatorship in Romania–the so-called Tismaneanu Commission–and to criticize Tismaneanu for refusing to address serious critiques of information and interpretations in the report–that he would repay my phone call of 1990 thusly:  by calling my employer (! how many other American-raised and -educated academics would even contemplate doing such a thing?…let alone actually do it?) to complain about the outrage of me criticizing him and The Report (!)…and threatening to go to higher bureaucratic levels unless action was taken against me…thereby essentially attempting to get me fired!  (Significantly, Tismaneanu never asked himself this simple question:  what could a CIA analyst who had researched this event inside and outside government for 17 years know that he most assuredly does not know?) Meanwhile his clients on the Commission (Sorin Iliesiu) and in the media (Andrei Badin) demanded that I publicly apologize to all 33 members of the Commission (!) while they claimed that I had been fired by CIA after an initial probationary period of six months (not just a lie, a stupid and easily demonstrated lie)–neither of which I could respond to, precisely because I actually was employed by CIA and because of the climate of fear created by Tismaneanu’s phone call!  That, my friends, is the definition of a Catch 22 (December, as I like to call it)…not to mention, a window to who Tismaneanu is when he thinks his tactics of intimidation won’t be found out!  There are many naive people out there–as I once was–who take Tismaneanu’s elegant prose denouncing totalitarian tactics and extolling freedom of opinion and expression at face value–as I once did.  Don’t be a fool, like I once was!)


(to be continued…)

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