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.

The Mythodology of Larry Watts

(purely personal views as always, based on over two decades of prior research and publications)

In the spirit of the season–December, considered by many as open season for Soviet tourists in Romania–Larry Watts has re-gifted his series from earlier this year as, “Myth and Methodology: The Clash Over Soviet “Tourist” Presence During Romania’s December 1989 Revolution,” https://www.academia.edu/19658212/Myth_and_Methodology_The_Clash_Over_Soviet_Tourist_Presence_During_Romania_s_December_1989_Revolution and http://www.ziaristionline.ro/2015/12/16/larry-watts-about-myth-and-methodology-the-clash-over-soviet-tourist-presence-during-romanias-december-1989-revolution/

In reading Larry Watts’ analysis, it is important to keep one fact in mind throughout:  in December 1989, although many people were arrested, not a single “Soviet tourist” was arrested…a fact which means Watts cannot explain his argument without recourse to a vast conspiracy.

Back in February, Watts suggested to Marius Mioc that this series would have five parts.

Alas, I don’t know what happened to part V, which I was looking forward to.  Part V never came and it appears, based on Watt’s packaging the first four parts as a single article, never will come.

Thus, below, at least for the time being, I will cobble together and (re-)post my earlier responses to parts I-IV.

http://larrylwatts.blogspot.com/2015/01/romanian-revolution-december-1989-i.html

https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/all-the-soviet-tourists-where-do-they-all-come-from/

http://larrylwatts.blogspot.com/2015/01/romanian-revolution-december-1989-ii.html

https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/comparing-romanian-and-czech-revisionism-in-1990/

https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/a-czech-mate-for-watts-theory/

http://larrylwatts.blogspot.com/2015/04/romanian-revolution-december-1989-iii.html

https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/a-response-to-watts-the-pitfalls-of-not-having-any-evidence/

http://larrylwatts.blogspot.com/2015/05/romanian-revolution-december-1989-iv.html

https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/a-response-to-watts-ii-preliminary/

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I.

https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/rewriting-the-revolution-1997/

https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/the-dynamics-of-media-independence-in-post-ceausescu-romania-jcstp-1996-redux-2014/

https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2014/10/10/sorin-rosca-stanescu-the-historiography-of-december-1989-and-romanianists/

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https://books.google.com/books?id=Yy2aAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA112&lpg=PA112&dq=%22december+1989%22+romania+%22soviet+tourists%22&source=bl&ots=tJNuNxE-6o&sig=32WFpTBQRY8Ha7XbpIz-9kMffcQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=U1vOVP-NBdXo8AWBnYD4CQ&ved=0CFYQ6AEwCg#v=onepage&q=%22december%201989%22%20romania%20%22soviet%20tourists%22&f=false

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

http://www.rferl.org/content/article/1342503.html

https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2010/09/17/the-securitate-roots-of-a-modern-romanian-fairy-tale-the-press-the-former-securitate-and-the-historiography-of-december-1989-part-2/

https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2010/09/22/the-1989-romanian-revolution-as-geopolitical-parlor-game-brandstatter%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Ccheckmate%E2%80%9D-documentary-and-the-latest-wave-in-a-sea-of-revisionism-part-iii/

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What do previous studies tell us about the Soviets sending in agents posing as “tourists” prior to or during a military action or invasion against another country?

Mark Kramer has detailed Soviet use of “tourist” cover in the following CWIHP Bulletin article (Fall 1993, “The Prague Spring and the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia:  New Interpretations (Second of two parts),.  What is important to take away from this?  The Soviets posed as WESTERN tourists.  They did not pose as…”Soviet tourists”!!!

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http://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/ACF1BD.pdf

Indeed, what Larry Watts seems to miss in his exposition of claimed incidents of Soviet use of “tourist” cover in the context of planned/actual invasion is that in none of the examples do Soviet agents pose as…”Soviet tourists”…Why?  Because it is a relatively poor cover story that doesn’t give much deniability that they were Soviets.  If you are trying to conceal your Soviet links, you would most likely pose as some kind of other tourist, not as a Soviet tourist…

 

The practice of infiltrating paramilitary and clandestine agents into countries for purposes of targeted violence, subversion, sabotage and terrorism is firmly embedded in Soviet security practice. The team of professional revolutionaries that Moscow sent into Hungary in November 1918 arrived under the cover of “humanitarian assistance,” in the guise of Red Cross “military surgeons and medical specialists” (as did a team sent to Poland in the same period.) Indeed, Soviet intelligence often used the Red Cross and “humanitarian missions” as façade for smuggling in agents, assassins, saboteurs, terrorists, etc. (R. W. Leonard, Secret Soldiers of the Revolution: Soviet Military Intelligence, 1918-1933 (1999): 50, 59)

The KGB, the Soviet military and the loyalist bloc member services all sent clandestine operatives under cover of “tourists” into Czechoslovakia in 1968. Different sorts of “tourists” fulfilled different missions. Some were responsible for the commando operations that established a bridgehead by taking over Ruzyne airport in Prague. Some provided reconnaissance of transportation and invasion routes. Some established clandestine command networks to takeover control of both the soon-to-arrive invasion forces as well as the Czechoslovak armed forces. Some provoked opposition members and demonstrators into actions that could be used to justify the invasion. And some simply gathered intelligence on the unfolding events and their various players. (See L. Grigorescu and C. Moraru, “Trupe în Aproprierea Frontieri şi Turişti în Interior” [Troops Near the Frontier and Tourists Inside], Magazin istoric 32, no. 7 (1998): 29; M. Retegan, In the Shadow of the Prague Spring (2000): 93-100; C. Troncota, Duplicitării [The Duplicitous] (2004): 178, 181)

In 1968 in Czechoslovakia, the provocateurs and intelligence gatherers from the KGB’s PROGRESS operation appeared as “tourists” and “journalists” from West Germany, Austria, England, Switzerland, Lebanon and even Mexico. Meanwhile, the Soviets claimed that Western agents disguised as “tourists” were flooding into the country. (V. Mitrokhin and C. Andrew, Sword and Shield (2000): 251-257, 334; O. Kalugin, The First Directorate (1994), p. 107)

In 1968 Romania also experienced an unusual influx of Soviet bloc “tourists,” mostly coming in over the Bulgarian border – Bulgaria being the least threatening of Romania’s Warsaw Pact neighbors. These “Bulgarians” gathered around stores in the immediate vicinity of the Romanian Ministry Defense, which was subsequently relocated. (Retegan, In the Shadow of the Prague Spring (2000): 93-100)

This was the first time local security organs noted the peculiar urge of young men of military service age, with correspondingly short hair cuts and high standards of fitness, to visit Romania during crisis. Former Warsaw Pact Chief of Staff General A. Gribkov described the Romanian reaction in his 1998 memoires:

“The Romanians were concerned they would share the fate of Czechoslovakia. So they adopted a doctrine of “defense of the entire people.” Gradually and secretly they redeployed their troops. The best-equipped and most combat capable divisions were deployed close to the Soviet border and to the Iron Gates [on the Yugoslav frontier], and close to the border with Bulgaria. Later the Hungarian front was strengthened. They deployed anti-aircraft batteries with combat charges, at all airports, including the capital, for destruction of aircraft and airborne troops. The Commander-in-Chief and Chief of Staff of the Warsaw Pact Armed Forces did not have the right to land at Romanian airports or to fly across its territory to Bulgaria without written permission from the Romanian authorities. When a [Soviet] aircraft approached Romania – it was as if it was about to be put under enemy fire.”

(A. I. Gribkov, Sud’ba varshavskogo dogovora: Vospominania, Dokumenty, fakty [Part of the Warsaw Pact: Recollections, Documents, Facts], (1998): 75-76)

The West German military attaché warned that if the Soviets could not force Romania to host a military exercise in order to achieve “the permanent stationing of Soviet troops and also the replacement of several high officials of the party and state who in one way or another oppose the Soviet line” then “the contingency plan of the Soviet leadership provided for instigation of diversions among population and the establishment of pro-Soviet factions to oppose the measures taken by the Romanian government, both domestically and in foreign policy.” (M. Ionescu and D. Deletant, Romania and the Warsaw Pact: 1955-1989 (2004): 86, http://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/deletant-ionescu-romania-and-the-warsaw-pact)

In 1980 and 1981 Soviet bloc “tourists” descended upon Poland. Apparently, their missions were very similar to that of the “tourists” visiting Czechoslovakia (and those involved in aborted missions in Romania) a dozen years earlier. General Gribkov later acknowledged not only that there was a “plan for the entry of allied troops into Poland,” but also that “there was even a reconnaissance of routes of movement and of regions of concentration of troops, in which Polish representatives took an active part.” As part of this plan the “SOYUZ” exercise was mounted and continued for two-months, and the staff headquarters of the Warsaw Pact was relocated from Moscow to Legnica, Poland. (Gribkov (1998): 144-146)

The CIA’s principal asset on the Polish General Staff, Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski, likewise reported that the loyalist Soviet bloc members sent officers into Poland “dressed in civilian clothing” to undertake “reconnaissance of invasion routes as well as the distances and terrain for future operations.” (www.kuklinski.us) Czechoslovak intelligence archives confirm that, in 1980/1981, “several hundred agents” of the Czechoslovak state security “volunteered to go to Poland” as part of a Soviet-planned invasion. That group stood down only after martial law was implemented. (Mladá Fronta Dnes (Prague), 21/12/2005.)

Between the Czechoslovak and Polish crises the USSR had invaded Afghanistan in December 1979. In the best of cases Kabul was an unlikely vacation destination and a sudden influx of “tourists” would have stood out like the proverbial sore thumb. Thus, commando units were infiltrated in as aircraft maintenance and embassy staff personnel. (Gromyko-Andropov-Ustinov-Ponomarev Reports, 28/6/79 and 6/12/79 in Cold War International History Project Bulletin (CWIHP) 8-9 (1996): 152, 159, http://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/bulletin-no-89-winter-1996)

Along with the periodic use of “tourist” and “humanitarian assistance” cover, the exertion of pressure on the borders of non-compliant partners by Moscow had a history of over 70 years before December 1989. Typically, Moscow coordinated reports of border incidents by other bloc members that set the target country in a negative light internationally and registered official complaints against the target country’s border closures. These techniques were applied towards Romania, Poland, Finland and the Baltic states in 1939-40, and again versus Yugoslavia in 1949-51.

As the CIA observed in the latter case, “the Soviet attack was carried on by Hungary and Albania and strongly supported by Bulgaria,” and “included troop concentrations and recurring incidents along the Albanian, Bulgarian and Hungarian borders with Yugoslavia, increased hostile Hungarian espionage activity,” open Bulgarian encouragement of “subversive activities” and sabotage within the country including “harassment by guerilla forays, particularly in Yugoslav Macedonia,” and the “tightening of the economic blockade.” The loyalist bloc members coordinated their propaganda “to undermine Tito’s internal and world position,” giving “considerable play to charges that the other side is suppressing various national minorities and denying their rights.” (CFM Meeting 24/6/49, Tito-Kremlin Conflict 2/9/49 and Propaganda Directed To or About Yugoslavia 1/9/50, www.foia.cia.gov)

There are also several examples of Soviet bloc “tourism” in which the suspicious sightseers took no apparent operational actions. For example, Czechoslovak “tourists” in Poland under Gomulka in 1956, “Bulgarian tourists” in Romania in 1968, and East German “tourists” in Romania (in and around Brasov) in 1987.

None of this proves anything about December 1989. However, it does prove that the concept of Soviet “tourists” was neither an absurd “fairy tale” [likely an indirect reference to my publication from 2002 at http://www.rferl.org/content/article/1342503.html , April 2002, Volume  4, Number  8 THE SECURITATE ROOTS OF A MODERN ROMANIAN FAIRY TALE: THE PRESS, THE FORMER SECURITATE, AND THE HISTORIOGRAPHY OF DECEMBER 1989 By Richard Andrew Hall, Part 2: ‘Tourists Are Terrorists and Terrorists are Tourists with Guns…’ *)   nor a fantastic “myth” invented by Ceausescu. The insertion of Soviet intelligence and military personnel in the guise of “tourists” was eminently plausible precisely because Moscow had done it many times before. The Soviets had even done it before in Romania. By 1989 the precedent of Soviet “tourism” for ulterior purposes was well established.

http://larrylwatts.blogspot.com/2015/01/romanian-revolution-december-1989-i.html

Why then, in December 1989, in Romania, are we to believe, that the Soviets would have abandoned precedent and posed as…”Soviet tourists”…driving around in Soviet automobiles (more easily identifiable in Romania than other Soviet bloc states because of the domestic production of and dominance of the market by Dacia vehicles) with Soviet tags/license plates, and apparently carrying Soviet passports?  Doesn’t sound particularly intelligent, does it?  Instead, such things would draw attention to you and would mint you as…Soviets!

So the question is then–and where the quotation marks are placed is important–who were the so-called “Soviet tourists”?

(to be continued)

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II.

see also my earlier https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/a-czech-mate-for-watts-theory/

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Dr. Larry L. Watts’ argument that the Soviet agents (KGB, GRU, etc.) posing as “tourists” were directly involved in the overthrow of Nicolae Ceausescu’s communist Romanian regime in December 1989 has parallels in the historiography of the collapse of communism elsewhere within the countries of the Warsaw Pact, most notably perhaps, the former Czechoslovakia.  Watts never addresses if he believes Romania was part of a similar process that took place in other countries or whether it was unique in the events of the bloc in the fall of 1989–perhaps in part because of his emphasis on the uniquely (for the Warsaw Pact) antagonistic relationship between the Soviet Union and Nicolae Ceausescu’s Romania.  A comparison of revisionism in the Czechoslovak and Romanian cases suggests interesting similarities.

I first explored the question of the similarity in the historiography of the Romanian and other cases in my Ph.D. dissertation from which I reproduce the fragment below.

https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/rewriting-the-revolution-1997/

“Yalta-Malta” and the Theme of Foreign Intervention in the Timisoara Uprising

At an emergency CPEx meeting on the afternoon of 17 December 1989, Nicolae Ceausescu sought to make sense out of the news from Timisoara by attempting to fit it in with what had happened elsewhere in Eastern Europe thus far that fall:

Everything which has happened and is happening in Germany, in Czechoslovakia, and in Bulgaria now and in the past in Poland and Hungary are things organized by the Soviet Union with American and Western help. It is necessary to be very clear in this matter, what has happened in the last three countries–in the GDR, in Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria, were coups d’etat organized by the dregs of society with foreign help.[1]

Ceausescu was giving voice to what would later become known as the “Yalta-Malta” theory. Significantly, the idea that the Soviet Union and, to different degrees of complicity, the United States and the West, played a pivotal role in the December 1989 events pervades the vast majority of accounts about December 1989 in post-Ceausescu Romania, regardless of the part of the ideological spectrum from which they come.

The theory suggests that after having first been sold out to Stalin and the Soviet Union at Yalta, in early December 1989 American President George Bush sold Romania out to Mikhail Gorbachev during their summit in Malta. The convenient rhyme of the two sites of Romania’s alleged betrayal have become a shorthand for Romania’s fate at the hands of the Russians and other traditional enemies (especially the Hungarians and Jews). To be sure, similar versions of this theory have cropped up throughout post-communist Eastern Europe among those disappointed with the pace and character of change in their country since 1989.[2] The different versions share the belief that Mikhail Gorbachev and the Soviet KGB engineered the sudden, region-wide collapse of communism in 1989. Their successors in Russia have been able to maintain behind-the-scenes control in Eastern Europe in the post-communist era by means of hidden influence and the help of collaborators within those countries. “Yalta-Malta” has become the mantra of those who seem to have experienced Eastern Europe’s el desencanto most deeply.[3]

[1].. See the stenogram from the emergency CPEx meeting of 17 December 1989 in Mircea Bunea, Praf in ochi. Procesul celor 24-1-2. (Bucharest: Editura Scripta, 1994), 34.

[2].. Tina Rosenberg, The Haunted Land. Facing Europe’s Ghosts after Communism (New York: Random House, 1995), 109-117, 235. Rosenberg suggests the theory’s popularity in Poland and especially in the former Czechoslovakia.

[3].. Huntington discusses the concept of el desencanto (the characteristic disillusionment or disenchantment which sets in after the transition) in Samuel P. Huntington, The Third Wave. Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993), 255-256.

The Czech Case

As in the Romanian case, there was an important outside-in dynamic to revisionism in the former Czechoslovakia in 1990.  Whereas in the Romanian case, it was largely revelations–often from Romanians–in the French media, in the Czechoslovak case, revelations–often from Czechs themselves–came from British media.

The initial salvo in the Czech case appears to have been Michael Simmons’ 23 February 1990 article in The Guardian entitled, “KGB–Prague Plot Claim.”  Dr. Kieran Williams later clarified, however, how deeply compromised these early commissions to investigate the events of the Velvet Revolution–most notably, the circumstances surrounding the events of 17 November 1989–were (see http://english.360elib.com/datu/U/EM309205.pdf pp. 45-48, pp. 53-54), containing among their ranks, almost inevitably, collaborators of the communist-era Czechoslovak secret service, the StB.  Most notably, when one reads the Simmons account, cited by the commission as coming from a “well-placed Czechoslovak source,” the outlined conspiracy leaves the impression that 1) the StB did not intentionally engage in violence to prevent the fall of the communist regime (rather it allegedly encouraged unrest to replace Milos Jakes), and 2) they were in control and prepared for the initial stages of what happened.  Thus, the StB appears both clean AND competent, only being upended by circumstances beyond their control.  One suspects that the commission’s “well-placed source” was someone connected to the old regime, and perhaps from the StB itself, and thus with a vested interest in demonstrating retrospectively that their actions were noble and clairvoyant.

By May 1990, the primary public sources of the revisionist KGB theory appear to have been former Prague communist party chief Miroslav Stepan and Milan Hulik, the head of the parliamentary commission investigated the events of November 1989 (note:  free and fair parliamentary elections in Czechoslovakia were held only in June 1990).  [From Jan Obrman of RFE/RL 6 July 1990, “November 17, 1989:  Attempted Coup or the Start of a Popular Uprising?” reproduced in full at https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/a-czech-mate-for-watts-theory/ ]  It is interesting to note, that Stepan, who was awaiting trial at the time, gave his interview to a newspaper (Lidove Noviny) associated with the anti-communist Civic Forum that had been at the heart of the Velvet Revolution, thus suggesting in the Czechoslovak case something that is well-known from the Romanian case:  the intermixture of revisionism, opposition, disappointment, skepticism, and the forces of a nascent media market where journalists were intent on reexamining the past and revealing its truths.

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The culmination of the burgeoning revisionism was a documentary by the BBC’s John Simpson broadcast on 30 May 1990, as described below:

http://articles.latimes.com/print/1990-06-01/news/mn-156_1_secret-police

Czech Revolution: A Secret Police Plot? : Intrigue: The BBC says leaders of the KGB and its Prague counterpart engineered the uprising ending Communist rule.

June 01, 1990|From Associated Press

LONDON — The peaceful revolution that swept away Communist rule in Czechoslovakia six months ago was engineered jointly by leaders of the secret police in Moscow and Prague, the British Broadcasting Corp. has reported.

A BBC television documentary contends that secret police leaders in both the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia conspired to bring down the hard-line Communist leadership in Prague because it rejected Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s reforms in the Soviet Union.

The plotters planned for more reform-minded Communists to replace the hard-liners but miscalculated the depth of public desire for change, said John Simpson, the BBC foreign affairs editor.

The 50-minute news program, “Czech-Mate: Inside the Revolution,” was broadcast on BBC-TV late Wednesday.

According to the broadcast, Milan Hulik, an investigator for the Czechoslovak parliamentary commission probing the plot, said that is not yet known if the revolution was instigated by the Czechoslovak secret police or the Soviet KGB.

“But all the facts point to KGB connivance,” he said. “We cannot reach any conclusion other than that the whole affair had been given the blessing of the Soviet political leadership.”

The plotters on the Czechoslovak side are now under investigation and some are in prison, charged with misusing their positions as public officials, while a parliamentary inquiry into the plot continues, Simpson said.

(In Prague on Thursday, police chief major Pavel Hoffman said that secret police headquarters have been put under special protection after a heated debate by several dismissed agents ended up in personal threats.)

Simpson said the spark that ignited the Czechoslovak plot was the erroneous report of a death of a youthful demonstrator during an officially sanctioned march in Prague on Nov. 17. The demonstration was held to mark the 50th anniversary of the murder of a Prague student by Nazi troops in 1939.

The plotters believed that a death during the November commemoration “would provoke a hostile reaction,” Simpson said.

According to the BBC report, several thousand young demonstrators were lured into a narrow street leading to Wenceslas Square by Lt. Ludek Zivcak, a secret policeman who had infiltrated the student movement.

The documentary showed a photograph of Zivcak apparently urging the marchers to take the narrow street that had not been part of the original route of the demonstration.

Once in the street, marchers were hemmed in by police and brutally beaten. About 560 people were injured.

Zivcak fell to the ground, his body was covered with a blanket and an ambulance took the body away. The event sparked rumors that riot police had beaten to death a student named Martin Smid.

In the days that followed, people poured into Wenceslas Square in the heart of the capital to mourn the death. And the protests continued to grow.

Demonstrations continued even after the only two students named Martin Smid at Prague University were shown to be alive.

The protests finally brought about the downfall of hard-line President Gustav Husak’s government, the creation of Czechoslovakia’s first non-Communist government in 40 years and the election as president of playwright Vaclav Havel, the country’s best-known opposition figure.

Simpson said the chief plotters were the Czechoslovak secret police chief, Gen. Alois Lorenc; the KGB head in Prague, Gen. Teslenko (first name not given), and KGB deputy chairman Gen. Viktor Grushko.

He said the plotters monitored the Nov. 17 demonstration together in Prague and that Grushko returned to Moscow the next day.

The plotters’ candidate to replace Communist Party chief Milos Jakes was Zdenek Mlynar, who had been a leading figure in Alexander Dubcek’s doomed reform government in 1968.

Mlynar, a friend of Gorbachev when they were law school students together in Moscow, had been purged by his own Communist leaders in 1969.

But Mlynar did not want the job when it was proposed to him, the BBC said, and Havel and his non-Communist Civic Forum were ushered into power by popular acclaim.

The Romanian Case

A week after the Michael Simmons story (23 February 1990) in The Guardian citing a “well-placed Czechoslovak source” on the alleged KGB hand behind the Velvet Revolution of November 1989, Richard Bassett published an article in The Times, citing a source who alleged the KGB was behind not just the revolutions in the GDR and Czechoslovakia, but in Romania too… (I assess it is unlikely, but cannot be completely discounted, that Bassett’s source was cognizant of the account in The Guardian…this was after all, five years before the advent of the Internet and it probably would have been difficult to get a recent copy of The Guardian in Bucharest at the time:  if anyone knows differently, please correct me!)

from https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2014/11/29/schachmatt-strategie-einer-revolution-susanne-brandstatter-the-1989-romanian-revolution-as-geopolitical-parlor-game-brandstatters-checkmate-documentary-and-t/

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

(submitted for CIA PRB Clearance February 2005, cleared without redactions March 2005; printed as it was at the time without changes)

Disclaimer:  This material has been reviewed by CIA.  That review neither constitutes CIA authentication of information nor implies CIA endorsement of the author’s views.

from part 3 of this series

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.

Although revisionism in the Romanian case may have started in the British press, it was really in the French media that the revisionism played out:

from part 4 of the same series

The Evolution of the Initial French Accounts

The engine of the French revisionism of the first half of 1990 was probably the weekly “Le Point,”—although French Television (FR3) and other dailies and weeklies also played a role.  In the 1 January 1990 edition of “Le Point,” Kosta Christitch wrote in an article entitled “Romania:  Moscow’s Hidden Game,” that Ceausescu’s “fate had [not been determined in December] been sealed in Moscow less than a month earlier.”  On New Year’s Day 1990, French Television broadcast the famous video which shows Ion Iliescu, Petre Roman, and Army General Nicolae Militaru talking on 22 December about what to name the(ir) group that had taken power, and in which Militaru claims that the “National Salvation Front has been in existence for six months already” (for details and a good discussion on this issue, see Ratesh, 1991, pp. 53-55, 81, 89-91).  In the 8 January 1990 edition of “Le Point,” Radu Portocala entitled his article “Romania:  The Hand of Moscow.”  Portocala insinuated that Hungarian and Yugoslav media had intentionally exaggerated the number of casualties, particularly in the Timisoara repression [numbers which reached upwards of 10,000-12,000, when in actuality 73 died], while “at the same time, everything was put in motion to publicize that it wasn’t the [Romanian] Army that had opened fire [on the Timisoara demonstrators], but the Securitate.”  On 5 February 1990, Portocala returned with an article, “Romania:  Troubling Facts,” and on 30 April 1990, Olivier Weber wrote a piece, “Romania:  The Confiscated Revolution.”

However, as Ratesh states, “…a fully developed conspiracy theory would not come to light until late May 1990, when the French magazine ‘Le Point’ carried a long and sensational article purporting to unveil the truth about the uprising” (Ratesh, 1991, pp. 81-82).  The article, “Romania:  Revelations of a Plot.  The Five Acts of a Manipulation,” by Weber and Portocala, continued the themes that the authors had developed in their aforementioned articles, that Ceausescu’s overthrow was in fact a coup and that the communist bloc media had distorted information about what was happening inside Romania in order to propel Ceausescu’s fall.  But it also included two new generally new themes, insinuating that foreign agents on the ground in Timisoara had had some role in the protests there—thereby undercutting the “spontaneity” of the Revolution—and that there had been no genuine “terrorists,” only “false terrorists,” part of a scenario for legitimating the coup d’etat.  It was these newer themes that particularly became the focus of the Romanian media, and that prompted the most controversy.

It is difficult to overestimate the long shadow of the 21 May “Le Point” expose over the historiography of the Revolution.  Translated by “Expres,” “Nu (Cluj),” and other key opposition publications in May and June 1990, it seemed to crystallize and explain all the doubts Romanians had about the December events—further confirmed, it seemed, by the manifestly unequal and unfair 20 May election results and then the miners’ rampage in Bucharest against demonstrators and the opposition press and parties during 13-15 June.  The article’s trail shows up everywhere.  American Romanianists Katherine Verdery and Gail Kligman who, in an article written in November 1990 sensibly inveighed against treating the Front, the former Securitate, and other groups as homogenous wholes operating in lock-step on behalf of Iliescu, discussed the Weber and Portocala as the centerpiece of the debate over December 1989 (Verdery and Kligman, 1992, pp. 118-122).  However, although they questioned it, their summary of their own views on the events seemed to repeat many of the arguments of the account.

The Weber and Portocala account also shows up in the travel account of Dervla Murphy—although cited to “Romania Libera,” the description and details of her discussion make it clear the “Le Point” article is the source (Murphy 1995).  Thus, Murphy floats the idea that perhaps the Reverend Tokes in Timisoara was in collusion with the coup plotters of the Front, and that “Soviet provocateurs and some Rumanian soldiers killed most of the victims—though everyone, in Rumania and abroad, was misled to believe the Securitate responsible.”  It is telling, that although always somewhat skeptical of the notion of an external hand in sparking and fanning the Timisoara unrest, that in 1990, without having read the “Le Point” expose, but having followed English-language press and traveling for a month in Romania in July 1990 (I had first visited in July 1987), my own understanding was essentially along the same lines—how could it not be?  My acceptance of the “staged war” theory would inevitably be strengthened in the following years by the accounts of noted Romanian emigres discussed below.

In Romania, Concern over the Unintended Consequences of the First Wave of French Revisionism

Certain key constituencies in Romania were not amused by the French revisionism in particular.  In the wake of a demonstration in the cradle of the Revolution to mark nine months after the December events, Vasile Popovici of the Timisoara Society commented:

“The French press, in particular, with a penchant for excessive rationalization specific to the French, has attempted to accredit the idea of a KGB-CIA scenario, including in Timisoara.  This fantasy variant demonstrates that those who sustain it have no idea of the real course of events in Timisoara and cannot explain in any way how people went out three days in a row (17, 18, 19 [December]) to die on the streets  (Ciobotea 1990, interview with Vasile Popovici, “Vinovati sint mortii? [The Dead are to Blame?], “Flacara,” no. 40, 3 October, p. 3).

It is notable that in the same interview, Popovici who was no friend of the Iliescu regime, denounced the “attacks emanating from anti-FSN [National Salvation Front] publications upon the image of the popular revolt in Timisoara” [emphasis in the original; he included, the anti-Iliescu weekly “Zig-Zag” in the discussion, for more details on “Zig-Zag”’s critical role, see Hall 2002; Mioc 2000).  Popovici underlined that the revisionism started in the anti-FSN press, and only then was integrated by the FSN press.

Specifically in reference to Olivier Weber and Radu Portocala’s 21 May 1990 expose in “Le Point,” (Army) Major Mihai Floca and Captain Victor Stoica declared:  “We do not question the good faith of the French journalists, although the idea promoted by them is remarkably convenient to those who are just dying to demonstrate that, in fact, the ‘terrorists’ did not exist (Major Mihai Floca and Captain Victor Stoica, “Unde sint teroristii?  PE STRADA, PRINTRE NOI (I), “Armata Poporului, no. 24 (13 June 1990), p. 3).”  As this and other articles by the authors make clear, the reference is to the former Securitate—specifically, journalist Angela Bacescu in “Zig-Zag” (for a discussion, see Hall 1999).

Nor was the source of a key statement in Weber and Portocala’s article suggesting a fictitious “staged war” with fictitious “terrorists”—“There needed to be victims in order to legitimate the new power in order to create [the image of] a mass revolution,” according to the source—credible (see Hall 1999, p. 540 n. 90).  Its source was former Navy Captain Nicolae Radu, a virulently anti-Semitic interloper and mercenary, who would become a regular in the former Securitate’s mouthpiece, “Europa,” in 1991, alleging all sorts of conspiracies about December 1989 that inevitably bestowed a primary role on Romanian Jewry and the MOSSAD.  If Nicolae Radu’s claim about a “fictitious war with fictious terrorists,” sounds familiar from earlier parts of this series, it is:  see, for example, the discussions of Dominique Fonveille (Part 2) and Ion Mihai Pacepa (Part 3).

As the above-cited observation by Floca and Stoica demonstrates, even if initially independent, streams French sensationalism and Securitate-inspired revisionism ended up converging and intermingling—a historical accident that redounded decidedly to the benefit of the latter.  This was not only the case with the “terrorists,” but also with the issue of alleged “foreign agents” on the ground in Timisoara and their alleged role in the uprising.  It is undoubted, has been reported, and has been admitted publicly that at one point or another, particularly in monitoring regime treatment of the Hungarian Pastor Laszlo Tokes, around whom the uprising broke out, that embassy and consulate personnel from the Yugoslavia (which has a consulate in Timisoara), United States, Japan, and other countries (likely to include Hungary, the UK etc.) appeared in Timisoara during these events.  It would be naïve to believe that there were no intelligence personnel among those at the scene among these countries’ representatives.  Of course, monitoring unfolding events is one thing, fomenting an uprising or monitoring the progress of a manufactured uprising by the countries for which they worked, quite another.

It is clearly the latter scenarios that foreign and domestic revisionists have alleged about Ceausescu’s overthrow.  There are glaring contradictions in the logic of these revisionist accounts on this score, however.  For example, accounts of the first Franco-German revisionist wave allege that the Hungarian and Yugoslav media intentionally inflated the casualty counts in Romania to move the coup forward by fueling anger at the Ceausescu regime.  In doing so, we are told, these communist services were likely doing the bidding or aiding the effort of the Soviet-backed coup plotters, and thus of the Gorbachev leadership.  In their 21 May 1990 expose, Weber and Portocala mention the presence of “Soviet observers” in Timisoara since at least 16 December 1989, when the demonstrations really began to take shape.  They cite Tanjug, the Yugoslav news agency, as the source of this claim.  Since this claim was first mentioned in the 1 January 1990 “Le Point” article by Kosta Cristitich, I can only surmise that the Tanjug claim was published sometime during the last week of December 1989.  (I have been unable to find this reference in FBIS, which translated many Tanjug dispatches at the time, but I have no reason to doubt that this is what Tanjug related.  It is therefore unclear who Tanjug heard this claim from—a fact which as we saw in the case of Mr. Corpasescu in Part 3 is important, since the claim could reflect disinformation or rumor.)  A similar claim turns up in Andrei Codrescu’s book, The Hole in the Flag, in which he maintains that during the first week of January 1990, a Soviet journalist drinking-buddy for that night told Codrescu that he had been in Timisoara and that there in fact had been “a dozen TASS [Soviet news agency] correspondents” in Timisoara since 10 December 1989 (Codrescu, 1990, p. 171).

In essence, we are thus asked to believe that the exact media personnel who were behind a disinformation campaign to exaggerate the death toll in Romania and aid the Soviet-engineered coup, nonchalantly publicized the role of the Soviets in the uprising in Timisoara.  This does not make a lot of sense, does it?  Moreover, the presence of unhindered “Soviet observers” in Timisoara from 16 December—to say nothing, of the Codrescu claim, of “a dozen TASS correspondents” in Timisoara from the 10th—does not seem realistic.  To begin with, Tokes only announced to his congregation on 10 December that the regime was probably going to deliver on their long-existing threat of evicting him on 15 December—meaning that either the “TASS correspondents” would have had to have had advance information of Tokes’ announcement or a certain amount of good luck/clairvoyance.  Given the well-documented difficulties all journalists experienced in late 1989 in trying to get into the country, especially following the upheaval elsewhere in the bloc, it is hard to believe these “ dozen TASS correspondents” would have received visas into the country, presenting themselves as such—they certainly did not do much reporting from Timisoara, as like other news associations it was only on the 23rd that a Soviet journalist filed a report from there.*  Moreover, it is significant that on the morning of 11 December 1989, Budapest’s Domestic [Radio] Service announced that the day before three staff members of the ruling party daily “Nepszabadsag” were banned for five years for attempting to approach Tokes’ residence—their film and tape recordings were also predictably confiscated (FBIS, 11 December 1989, and “New York Times,” 12 December 1989).  So, how then is it, that the Hungarian correspondents were expelled, but the “a dozen TASS correspondents”—apparently somehow keeping well out of sight, and feeling no compunction to write on the topic of the Hungarian correspondents—were allowed to stay?

*Indeed, there appear to be no TASS dispatches from Timisoara throughout this period.  According to FBIS translations, there appear to have been 3 TASS correspondents in Romania, in addition to one from “Izvestiya” and one from “Pravda,” all of whom reported during these days from Bucharest.  A fourth TASS correspondent reported from Timisoara on 23 December, after the flight of the Ceausescus, and when most foreign reporters were able to enter Timisoara for the first time.  Once again, according to FBIS translations, during the events of 15-22 December, TASS correspondents in Bucharest had to rely on other news services and sources in Bucharest to find out what was happening in Timisoara.

SOURCES

“Armata Poporului,” 1990.

Brown, J. F., 2001, The Grooves of Change:  Eastern Europe at the Dawning of a New Millenium (Durham, NC:  Duke University Press).

Budapest Domestic Service, 11 December 1989, in FBIS, 12 December 1989.

Calinescu, M. and Tismaneanu, V., 1991, “The 1989 Revolution and Romania’s Future,” “Problems of Communism,” Vol. 40, No. 1 (April), pp. 42-59.

Castex, M., 1990.  Un Mensonge Grosse Comme Le Siecle (Paris:  A. Michel).

Codrescu, A., 1991.  The Hole in the Flag. A Romanian Exile’s Story of Return and Revolution (New York:  William Morrow and Company).

Codrescu, A., 2002.  “Codrescu Cogitates on Communism,” American Library Association Midwinter Meeting 18-23 January 2002, New Orleans, at http://www.ala.org.

“Flacara,” 1990, 1991.

Gabanyi, A.U., 1990. Die Unwollendete Revolution, (Munich: Serie-Piper).

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 1:  The Many Zig-Zags of Gheorghe Ionescu Olbojan,” “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 7.

“Jurnalul National (online),” 2004, 2005.

“Le Point (Paris),” 1990.

Mioc, M., 2000. “Ion Cristoiu, virful de lance al campaniei de falsificare a istoriei revolutiei” at http://www.timisoara.com/newmioc/51.htm.

Murphy, D., 1995, Transylvania and Beyond.  A Travel Memoir (Woodstock, NY:  Overlook Books).

“Neue Zurcher Zeitung,” 1999, (English edition) at http://www.nzz.de.

“New York Times,” 1989.

Ratesh, N. 1991, Romania:  The Entangled Revolution, (New York:  Praeger).

Shafir, M., 1990, “Preparing for the Future by Revising the Past,” Radio Free Europe’s “Report on Eastern Europe,” Vol. 1, No. 41, (12 October), pp. 29-42.

Stokes, G., 1993, The Walls Came Tumbling Down:  The Collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, (New York:  Oxford University Press).

Verdery K. and Kligman G., 1992, “Romania after Ceausescu:  Post-Communist Communism?” in Banac, I (ed.)., Eastern Europe in Revolution (Ithaca, NY:  Cornell University Press), pp. 117-147.

“Zig-Zag,” 1990.

 

(for a summary advocacy of both the Czech and Romanian revisionism, several years later, see John Simpson’s “How the KGB Freed Europe,” in the 5 November 1994 edition of The Spectator (UK), http://archive.spectator.co.uk/article/5th-november-1994/11/how-the-kgb-freed-europe

Five years after the Berlin Wall came down,

John Simpson reveals who really caused the

overthrow of East Europe’s dictators

Berlin MOST HISTORIANS, and most journal- ists, instinctively distrust conspiracy theo- ries. They know that reality does not work so tidily: that entropy and Sod’s law are the most satisfactory explanations for most events. The instinctive assumption that behind every great event there must be a group of politically motivated conspirators doing the bidding of some great power is not one that sensible, rational people make.

Now that the fifth anniversary of the col- lapse of the Berlin Wall is upon us, there is a welter of television specials and special newspaper articles about the domino effect of 1989: how Hungary opened its borders with Austria, allowing East Germans to flock through the gap in their hundreds of thousands; how the government in East Berlin opened the crossings into West Berlin without meaning to on 9 November; how, eight days later, a peaceful demon- stration in Prague was met with violence by the Czechoslovak authorities and the resulting anger brought down the govern- ment; how, on 21 December, crowds in the main square in Bucharest forced President Ceausescu of Rumania to flee.

The pattern is clear enough; what scope could there be for conspiracy? And yet there is strong evidence that the secret police in East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Rumania worked with the KGB, which ‘Room service? Send up someone to pay my bill, please.’ supported Mikhail Gorbachev’s reformist approach, to bring down the old, conserva- tive leaders in these three countries and replace them with glasnost- and perestroi- ka-friendly regimes which would co-oper- ate with the new Soviet Union. The plan succeeded in the first objective and failed in the second: the old guard was indeed swept away, but only in Rumania did a reformist communist government come to power; and soon, anyway, Marxism-Lenin- ism had evaporated in Russia itself.

I first heard about it all in .May 1990, from a Czech dissident who was shortly to return to a senior official position in Prague. We had met at the Chelsea Arts Club and, at her insistence, were sitting in the garden so that no one would overhear us. Soon her story broke down my reserves of politeness. ‘Listen,’ I said, ‘I hate con- spiracy theories. I simply don’t believe a word of any of this.’ The very suggestion that the peaceful revolution in Czechoslo- vakia, the most moving and impressive event I had ever witnessed, might have been organised by the Czechoslovak secret police, the StB, with the KGB’s help, offended every principle I had. ‘I don’t blame you,’ said the woman. `Maybe, though, you should take a look at this.’

She handed me a sheaf of photocopies: it was the report of a ten-man parliamentary commission set up by President Vaclav Havel to look into the circumstances of the demonstration on 17 November 1989, the key moment of the Prague revolution. That evening a student was said to have been killed by the police, and although it turned out later to have been untrue, there was such anger among ordinary Czechs and Slovaks that they came out onto the streets in vast numbers and eventually forced the collapse of the old regime. I leafed through the report: there were interviews with virtu- ally everyone involved, including several with men of the StB who had taken part in the conspiracy. At the end was the summa- ry by one of the most senior figures on the commission, Dr Milan Hulik:

There is no doubt that the leading personali- ty of the whole operation … was General Lorene [the head of the StB] … The con- tacts between Lorenc and KGB officials which have been discovered couldn’t, in my opinion, point to any other conclusion than KGB connivance in the whole action .

The man who was supposed to have been killed gave evidence to the commission; he was, in fact, a young StB lieutenant, Ludek Zifcak, who pretended he had been struck over the head by a police baton. Someone covered him with a blanket, and his body was taken away in an unmarked ambu- lance. The news that someone had been killed by the police created a mood of implacable anger in the country. It was 50 years to the day since the German army, entering Prague, had shot dead a student who had demonstrated against them. The symbolism was overwhelming, and within a few days the old communist regime, truth- fully but pointlessly protesting its inno- cence of Zifcak’s ‘death’, simply evaporated. The plot had worked perfectly; the trouble was, no one had the slightest interest in reformist communism any more. Vaclav Havel and his Civic Forum were swept to power on an immense tide of pop- ular enthusiasm.

It would be a mistake to think that under the Soviet system the secret police was nec- essarily against political change. Yuri Andropov, as Chairman of the KGB in the 1970s, realised the terrible condition of the Soviet economy and the need to do some- thing radical about it. When he succeeded Brezhnev as head of the Soviet Communist Party in November 1982, he was too ill, and died too soon, to achieve anything; but he made sure that his protégé, Mikhail Gor- bachev, would be a contender for the top job. After Chernenko’s brief reign ended in March 1985, Gorbachev duly took over. The plans which Andropov had first formu- lated as head of the KGB were put into practice; and the KGB supported them.

It wasn’t the first time the Russian secret police had espoused ideas which were more radical than those of the established sys- tem; in the 1880s and 1890s, the head of the Tsarist secret police in Moscow, Colonel Zubatov, decided that the only way to protect the power of the throne was to set up unions for the working class which would compete for support with those run by genuine socialists. In 1902, thousands of workers appeared at the Kremlin bare- headed and kneeling and chanting, ‘God save the Tsar,’ But the mood of the author- ities changed; and when Father Gapon, a secret police agent, led a crowd of support- ers of the Zubatov unions to the Winter Palace in St Petersburg on 9 January 1905, the Cossacks shot them down. It was the start of the 1905 revolution, and of the eventual destruction of Tsarism.

In November 1989, then, the KGB played an active part in the overthrow of the hard-line, anti-reformist government in Czechoslovakia. In Rumania a month later, it is now abundantly clear that the unsavoury President Ceausescu was also the victim of a conspiracy between a pro- Soviet faction within the military and the security police on the one hand, and reform-minded communist politicians on the other. The vast crowd which on 21 December 1989, in full view of the live tele- vision cameras, booed Ceausescu in the square in front of the Central Committee building was carefully organised by the Securitate. As the viewers watched Ceaus- escu’s marvellously comical amazement at being given the bird by the huge number of people assembled before him, the chief of his personal bodyguard walked up behind him and said audibly into his microphone, `They’re getting in.’

They weren’t, and it wasn’t until the next day that the crowd broke into the Central Committee building and,Ceausescu had to escape by helicopter from the roof. But the television coverage had alerted people all over the country that the revolution was beginning. Nothing could stop it. Once again, the conspiracy had been successful and an anti-Gorbachev hardliner had been eased out. The new President, Ion Iliescu, was ideal material for the new Eastern Europe Mikhail Gorbachev hoped to cre- ate: flexible yet a faithful communist, pleas- ant-looking, unknown outside Rumania, capable of being elected in a vote that was more or less genuine; though it was already becoming clear that the overall plan, by which a more democratic Soviet Union would surround itself with popularly elect- ed governments favourable to Moscow, would come to nothing.

As for the event which began the revolu- tionary chain, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, that was brought about by a more complex set of circumstances. Here too there are signs of a conspiracy, though they are harder to trace. Senior figures in the East German Communist Party, the SED, knew very well that Gorbachev wanted them to get rid of the ultra-conservative Erich Honecker, even though Gorbachev himself was unwilling to give them their instructions directly. Marcus Wolf, the for- mer leader of the espionage branch of the Stasi, the security ministry, was in close contact with the KGB and knew perfectly well what was expected of them. Wolf was the model for John Le Carre’s East Ger- man intelligence chief in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, and perhaps also for his anti-hero, Karla. Having fallen out with Honecker, he had resigned from the Stasi in 1986, and had lived in retirement ever since. He seems to have been the link between the KGB and the anti-Honecker members of the Politburo.

Honecker was duly deposed in October, and the reformists took power, Thus far the plan had worked. But the new leader- ship had no clearer idea than the old one how to cope with the demonstrations demanding more open government and the right to travel freely to the West. At the Politburo meeting on 9 November it was decided to allow everyone to apply for an exit visa without having to state a reason. No one there foresaw the effect this would have. That evening the Politburo spokesman, Giinter Schabowski, walked into a news conference in East Berlin thor- oughly confused, with his papers in com- plete disorder. It was only as the news conference was drawing to an end that he found the document with the details of the Politburo decision, right at the bottom of the pile. He read it out hesitantly. When he had finished, someone asked when people would be able to apply for the new visas. Forgetting that the Politburo had decided that the process would begin the following morning, Schabowski said, `Unverziiglich: immediately. Someone asked him what that meant. Tired, confused by the shouted questions, blinking in the bright camera lights, Schabowski blurted out the words that brought the Berlin Wall down and led to the collapse of Marxism-Leninism throughout Europe. ‘It just means straight- away,’ he said. The news conference was broadcast at 7.30 that evening. Within nun” utes people were heading for the crossing- points in the Wall to see if it were true. At several places the VoPo guards, not having any orders about it, let the crowds through. It was all over. In East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Rumania, the secret police began the pro- cess of reform and revolution. But conspir- ators usually get more than they bargain for. As in Russia in 1905, the revolutions took on a life of their own; and in the end the plotters were swept away, as well as those they had plotted against.

John Simpson is an associate editor of The Spectator and foreign affairs editor of the BBC.)

The similarities between the Romanian** and Czechoslovak cases are then pretty clear.  The initial sources of the revisionism had a vested, if not always obvious or publicly identified, interest in an account that absolved or even extolled the role of the domestic security services during the momentous events of late 1989.  This intersected with the market-driven forces and journalistic culture of local, but also international media, looking for a sensationalist scoop and an advantage against competitors, with a readership at the time still interested in what had then only recently transpired.  It is perhaps ironic, that precisely because the opposition, anti-communist media of the time was the most open to journalistic inquiry, that the revisionism alleging a Soviet hand, found its early home in these countries in that section of the media–although other potential factors cannot be totally discounted.

**In the Romanian case, I have outlined such arguments about the confluence of sources on several occasions, especially here:  https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/the-uses-of-absurdity-romania-1989-1999/

 

Dr. Larry L. Watts’ argument that the Soviet agents (KGB, GRU, etc.) posing as “tourists” were directly involved in the overthrow of Nicolae Ceausescu’s communist Romanian regime in December 1989 has parallels in the historiography of the collapse of communism elsewhere within the countries of the Warsaw Pact, most notably perhaps, the former Czechoslovakia.  Watts never addresses if he believes Romania was part of a similar process that took place in other countries or whether it was unique in the events of the bloc in the fall of 1989.  I first explored the question of the similarity in the historiography of the Romanian and other cases in my Ph.D. dissertation from which I reproduce the fragment below.  My main exposure at the time for the other cases was Tina Rosenberg’s 1995 The Haunted Land, especially for the Czechoslovak case, xeroxes of which I append below.

image0-004

https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/rewriting-the-revolution-1997/

“Yalta-Malta” and the Theme of Foreign Intervention in the Timisoara Uprising

At an emergency CPEx meeting on the afternoon of 17 December 1989, Nicolae Ceausescu sought to make sense out of the news from Timisoara by attempting to fit it in with what had happened elsewhere in Eastern Europe thus far that fall:

Everything which has happened and is happening in Germany, in Czechoslovakia, and in Bulgaria now and in the past in Poland and Hungary are things organized by the Soviet Union with American and Western help. It is necessary to be very clear in this matter, what has happened in the last three countries–in the GDR, in Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria, were coups d’etat organized by the dregs of society with foreign help.[1]

Ceausescu was giving voice to what would later become known as the “Yalta-Malta” theory. Significantly, the idea that the Soviet Union and, to different degrees of complicity, the United States and the West, played a pivotal role in the December 1989 events pervades the vast majority of accounts about December 1989 in post-Ceausescu Romania, regardless of the part of the ideological spectrum from which they come.

The theory suggests that after having first been sold out to Stalin and the Soviet Union at Yalta, in early December 1989 American President George Bush sold Romania out to Mikhail Gorbachev during their summit in Malta. The convenient rhyme of the two sites of Romania’s alleged betrayal have become a shorthand for Romania’s fate at the hands of the Russians and other traditional enemies (especially the Hungarians and Jews). To be sure, similar versions of this theory have cropped up throughout post-communist Eastern Europe among those disappointed with the pace and character of change in their country since 1989.[2] The different versions share the belief that Mikhail Gorbachev and the Soviet KGB engineered the sudden, region-wide collapse of communism in 1989. Their successors in Russia have been able to maintain behind-the-scenes control in Eastern Europe in the post-communist era by means of hidden influence and the help of collaborators within those countries. “Yalta-Malta” has become the mantra of those who seem to have experienced Eastern Europe’s el desencanto most deeply.[3]

[1].. See the stenogram from the emergency CPEx meeting of 17 December 1989 in Mircea Bunea, Praf in ochi. Procesul celor 24-1-2. (Bucharest: Editura Scripta, 1994), 34.

[2].. Tina Rosenberg, The Haunted Land. Facing Europe’s Ghosts after Communism (New York: Random House, 1995), 109-117, 235. Rosenberg suggests the theory’s popularity in Poland and especially in the former Czechoslovakia.

[3].. Huntington discusses the concept of el desencanto (the characteristic disillusionment or disenchantment which sets in after the transition) in Samuel P. Huntington, The Third Wave. Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993), 255-256.

Romanians and Romania specialists should have the strange sensation of a feeling of deja vu in reading about Czechoslovakia in November 1989!

image0-006

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Much of the revisionism in the Czechoslovak case appears to date from the period of May-June 1990.  A key role in the revisionism appears to have been a BBC documentary by John Simpson “Czech-mate” shown on 30 May 1990 where the emerging revisionist counter-narrative in Czechoslovakia got a Western platform and legitimation.  It is not without irony, that it should be the same John Simpson whose documentary on Romania in 1994–“10 Days that Fooled the World”–should also relay a domestically-voiced conspiracy theory alleged a Soviet-engineered coup d’etat in the dying days of 1989.  Or that, Susanne Brandstatter’s 2004 conspiratorial documentary about the Romanian case…should intentionally or unintentionally be called…”Checkmate”!

For some of my related, previous research on these accounts see:

https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2014/12/14/john-simpsons-bbc-documentary-10-days-that-fooled-the-world-annotated/

Unfortunately, although both “10 Days that Fooled the World” and Brandstatter’s “Checkmate” can be watched online, I have been unable to find an online copy of Simpson’s 1990 “Czech-mate.”  Here, however, is an LA Times article discussing the film.

Czech Revolution: A Secret Police Plot? : Intrigue: The BBC says leaders of the KGB and its Prague counterpart engineered the uprising ending Communist rule.

June 01, 1990|From Associated Press

LONDON — The peaceful revolution that swept away Communist rule in Czechoslovakia six months ago was engineered jointly by leaders of the secret police in Moscow and Prague, the British Broadcasting Corp. has reported.

A BBC television documentary contends that secret police leaders in both the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia conspired to bring down the hard-line Communist leadership in Prague because it rejected Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s reforms in the Soviet Union.

The plotters planned for more reform-minded Communists to replace the hard-liners but miscalculated the depth of public desire for change, said John Simpson, the BBC foreign affairs editor.

The 50-minute news program, “Czech-Mate: Inside the Revolution,” was broadcast on BBC-TV late Wednesday.

According to the broadcast, Milan Hulik, an investigator for the Czechoslovak parliamentary commission probing the plot, said that is not yet known if the revolution was instigated by the Czechoslovak secret police or the Soviet KGB.

“But all the facts point to KGB connivance,” he said. “We cannot reach any conclusion other than that the whole affair had been given the blessing of the Soviet political leadership.”

The plotters on the Czechoslovak side are now under investigation and some are in prison, charged with misusing their positions as public officials, while a parliamentary inquiry into the plot continues, Simpson said.

(In Prague on Thursday, police chief major Pavel Hoffman said that secret police headquarters have been put under special protection after a heated debate by several dismissed agents ended up in personal threats.)

Simpson said the spark that ignited the Czechoslovak plot was the erroneous report of a death of a youthful demonstrator during an officially sanctioned march in Prague on Nov. 17. The demonstration was held to mark the 50th anniversary of the murder of a Prague student by Nazi troops in 1939.

The plotters believed that a death during the November commemoration “would provoke a hostile reaction,” Simpson said.

According to the BBC report, several thousand young demonstrators were lured into a narrow street leading to Wenceslas Square by Lt. Ludek Zivcak, a secret policeman who had infiltrated the student movement.

The documentary showed a photograph of Zivcak apparently urging the marchers to take the narrow street that had not been part of the original route of the demonstration.

Once in the street, marchers were hemmed in by police and brutally beaten. About 560 people were injured.

Zivcak fell to the ground, his body was covered with a blanket and an ambulance took the body away. The event sparked rumors that riot police had beaten to death a student named Martin Smid.

In the days that followed, people poured into Wenceslas Square in the heart of the capital to mourn the death. And the protests continued to grow.

Demonstrations continued even after the only two students named Martin Smid at Prague University were shown to be alive.

The protests finally brought about the downfall of hard-line President Gustav Husak’s government, the creation of Czechoslovakia’s first non-Communist government in 40 years and the election as president of playwright Vaclav Havel, the country’s best-known opposition figure.

Simpson said the chief plotters were the Czechoslovak secret police chief, Gen. Alois Lorenc; the KGB head in Prague, Gen. Teslenko (first name not given), and KGB deputy chairman Gen. Viktor Grushko.

He said the plotters monitored the Nov. 17 demonstration together in Prague and that Grushko returned to Moscow the next day.

The plotters’ candidate to replace Communist Party chief Milos Jakes was Zdenek Mlynar, who had been a leading figure in Alexander Dubcek’s doomed reform government in 1968.

Mlynar, a friend of Gorbachev when they were law school students together in Moscow, had been purged by his own Communist leaders in 1969.

But Mlynar did not want the job when it was proposed to him, the BBC said, and Havel and his non-Communist Civic Forum were ushered into power by popular acclaim.

Jan Obrman of RFE/RL reports sought to analyze the revisionist arguments in the following from 6 July 1990, “November 17, 1989:  Attempted Coup or the Start of a Popular Uprising?”

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Dr. Kieran Williams clarified some of the important contextual information behind those who in 1990 birthed and circulated the revisionist counter-narrative on the Velvet Revolution:  people who had collaborated with or been compromised by the former Czech security services, the StB (see especially fn# 116 and 117 below concerning Miroslav Dolejsi and the three alleged StB agents on the original parliamentary commission).  An obvious parallel with the Romanian case seems appropriate here, since in Romania it was former Securitate officials and collaborators who spread the theory of Soviet “tourists” and a KGB coup in 1990-1991.  By blaming an outside and resented force, the Soviet KGB, the local security services are absolved from repressive intentions and actions and their behavior during the revolutions of 1989 can be interpreted as either innocuous or actually progressive in playing a role that ousted the former totalitarian regime.

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III.

(purely personal views as always, based on two decades of prior research and publications…I originally treated this topic as early as my 1997 Indiana University Ph.D. Dissertation, Rewriting the Revolution:  Regime-State Relations and the Triumph of Securitate Revisionism in Post-Ceausescu Romania, chapters of which can be found on this webpage.)

In response to:

http://adevarul.ro/cultura/istorie/revolutia-romana-decembrie-1989-iii-capcanele-marturiilor-dovezi-1_55250389448e03c0fd5b8f18/index.html

http://larrylwatts.blogspot.com/2015/04/romanian-revolution-december-1989-iii.html

It is an understatement to say that Dr. Larry L. Watts has a HUGE problem in proving that Soviet “tourists”–Soviet KGB, GRU, or other agents, using the cover of being “tourists”–were present and somehow linked to the outbreak of anti-Ceausescu regime protests in Timisoara in mid-December 1989.  Especially when one reads the testimonies in the initial period after December 1989 by senior Securitate officials–including some who had been dispatched to Timisoara with the express purpose of demonstrating the role of Soviet “tourists”–stating that they could not confirm such a role.

How does Mr. Watts seek to deal with this cognitive dissonance?  He argues that 1) the fact that these officials state that they did not confirm the idea that Soviet “tourists” were involved, cannot be interpreted as evidence that…they were not involved…in fact, he argues it should be interpreted as evidence that Soviet “tourists” may have been involved! and 2) because suspected Soviet spy Army General Nicolae Militaru was Defense Minister and these officers gave their testimonies while under Army custody, they must have all decided to withhold details about the Soviet “tourist” role…out of fear!  That Watts is reaching mightily to come up with anything to salvage his argument should be clear to almost any reader.

MY COMMENTS IN RED INTERSPERSED IN LARRY WATTS’ ORIGINAL TEXT

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Romanian Revolution December 1989 (III): Pitfalls of Testimony as Evidence

There are a number of problems with the current use of “evidence” regarding the presence or absence of Soviet (and Soviet bloc) “tourists” in Romania during the 1989 revolution. They appear repeatedly, for example, in perhaps the only (partly) English-language blog dedicated solely to Romania’s revolution, run by Richard Andrew Hall. (See Richard Hall Blog)
Hall begins a series of posts on what he regards as lessons learned about the 1989 Revolution with one entitled: “The Securitate Deny Foreign Instigation of the Timisoara Uprising” (Securitate being Romanian short-hand for the Department of State Security or DSS). Hall claims to prove that the presence of Soviet tourists is a “myth” and an “absurdity” based on former DSS officer witness depositions and a media report. (#1 Securitate Deny Foreign Instigation)
Hall insists that this evidence proves his argument in many of his subsequent posts, (see, for example, #8 Romania Closes its Borders to Almost All Foreigners … Except Russian Tourists Returning from Shopping Trips to Yugoslavia.) Before examining this evidence it is worth noting that Hall steadfastly ignores the context of Soviet-Romanian relations, nor does he seem aware of the USSR’s repeated use of “tourist” cover for intelligence, paramilitary and military operations in the Soviet bloc (including Romania) prior to 1989. He also appears to assume that Moscow had no motives for forcing a change in Romanian policy under the right circumstances. (See Romanian Revolution December 1989 (II) Divining Soviet Intent)

Yes, that’s it!  Neither as an academic, nor as an analyst, has “the USSR’s repeated use of “tourist” cover for intelligence, paramilitary and military operations in the Soviet bloc (including Romania) prior to 1989″ occurred to me!  What has never occurred to Watts is that in the very historical examples he invokes THE SOVIETS ROUTINELY AVOIDED THE USE OF “SOVIET TOURIST” COVER AND INSTEAD POSED AS WESTERN TOURISTS OR TOURISTS FROM OTHER SOVIET BLOC COUNTRIES, but NOT as Soviet tourists!

(In fact, Watts’ own words betray him:  “In 1968 in Czechoslovakia, the provocateurs and intelligence gatherers from the KGB’s PROGRESS operation appeared as “tourists” and “journalists” from West Germany, Austria, England, Switzerland, Lebanon and even Mexico. Meanwhile, the Soviets claimed that Western agents disguised as “tourists” were flooding into the country….In 1968 Romania also experienced an unusual influx of Soviet bloc “tourists,” mostly coming in over the Bulgarian border – Bulgaria being the least threatening of Romania’s Warsaw Pact neighbors. These “Bulgarians” gathered around stores in the immediate vicinity of the Romanian Ministry Defense, which was subsequently relocated…There are also several examples of Soviet bloc “tourism” in which the suspicious sightseers took no apparent operational actions. For example, Czechoslovak “tourists” in Poland under Gomulka in 1956, “Bulgarian tourists” in Romania in 1968, and East German “tourists” in Romania (in and around Brasov) in 1987.”  See his http://larrylwatts.blogspot.com/2015/01/romanian-revolution-december-1989-i.html and my discussion in https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/all-the-soviet-tourists-where-do-they-all-come-from/)

I won’t dwell here on the allegations regarding “steadfastly ignoring Soviet-Romanian relations” or that I appear to assume that “Moscow had no motives for forcing change in Romania,” other than to say that Watts assumes that during the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev the policy of Soviet institutions toward Romania continued essentially unchanged from the Brezhnev, Andropov, and Chernenko eras.  Watts never fully addresses what he expects or he wants us to believe:  either a) that Romania was part of a broader Soviet plan to oust anti-reformist leaderships in Eastern Europe, most notably in Czechoslovakia where the “Soviet tourist” theory most prominently shows its face, or b) that having “lost” East Germany and Czechoslovakia in November and early December 1989 the Soviets suddenly switched policies and gears to oust the regime of Nicolae Ceausescu?  Watts appears to suggest that Nicolae Ceausescu’s renewed rhetoric on Soviet Moldova (with its large Romanian-speaking population and incorporating land taken from pre-communist Romania) and Ceausescu’s continued efforts to “go his own way” in the Warsaw Pact threatened Moscow as 1989 progressed.  This ignores the fact that as long as Ceausescu was in power Romanian speakers pushing for reform in Soviet Moldova hardly looked to or wanted Ceausescu’s support, let alone to be incorporated into the Romania of Ceausescu’s “Golden Era,” and that in the context of fellow Warsaw Pact countries that were increasingly reformist or saw the communist party lose power, Romania’s calls for sovereignty had become little more than a thinly-veiled alibi for preserving, unchanged, Ceausescu’s anti-reformist policies and hold on power.

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. Indeed, when arguing this hypothesis Hall repeatedly shifts from a discussion of “tourist” presence to the specific roles “tourists” played (or rather did not play) in Timisoara, thus misusing testimony to the effect that foreigners were not observed playing such roles as proof that they were not observed – and therefore not present – at all.

This is a cheap shot, but also just plain wrong.  The issue of “who is to blame” is first and foremost a factual issue and only then an ethical issue.  My emphasis in my research has always been upon the issue of “what happened” and only then “how it happened” and finally “who is to blame” as a factual question.  Watts assumes that I set off “from the premise that the DSS was culpable for all or most of the violence perpetrated in 1989.”  This is ahistorical and incorrect.  In fact, like many and probably most observers beginning in 1990 I began to question that original premise (https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/coup-by-revolution-my-views-1990-1993/) .  It was only while doing field research in Romania in 1994 with an IIE-Fulbright grant that–based on what I was finding in my research–I began to question the revisionism I and so many others had imbibed. 

Watts sets off from the premise that because of the (longstanding) animosity between Moscow and Bucharest, the Soviets overthrew Nicolae Ceausescu–including relying on/using large numbers of Soviet agents posing as tourists–and that the DSS were either largely innocent bystanders, scapegoats, or victims of this diabolical foreign intervention.  Watts has a big problem with testimonies suggesting that foreigners were not observed playing such roles, in that he seeks to suggest that just because someone says they didn’t see them doing anything, doesn’t mean they weren’t actually there, doing something (thus declarations by DSS officers that they did not see/conclude that Soviet tourists were involved in the Timisoara unrest, in Watts’ interpretation, means that Soviet agents posing as tourists may still have been present and perhaps even engaging in actions that went unreported or undetected)!

Unfortunately, none of the DSS testimony cited by Hall was generated during the event for internal purposes. All of it was generated after the fact and for a specific audience: the Romanian courts. Each of the DSS officers giving testimony was under investigation. No matter their individual strength of character, each had a vested personal interest in not antagonizing their interrogators.
The reader should know that historians and courts both regard eyewitness testimony as the least reliable form of evidence because memory is so easily manipulated. The reliability of testimony rapidly declines within days of an event. Weeks and months after the fact the accuracy and value of testimony becomes highly questionable. With time, memory falls increasingly under the influence of emerging public interpretation while subsequently formed impressions increasingly replace forgotten details.

Once again, a pendantic no-duh and thoroughly unnecessary “lesson.” Indeed, I couldn’t agree more.  Whereas the testimonies I use were in the initial weeks and months after December 1989, and the latest was from 1991, the vast majority of what Watts refers to in his rebuttal are from far later:  1992, 1994, and 2011!  Physician heal thyself!

Hall claims that the four testimonies he originally cited were written “immediately after the December 1989 events.” That is not true. The testimony most proximate to those events, that of Niculae Mavru, was written more than three weeks later, and a second citation from Mavru eighteen months later. The second-most proximate, Emil Macri, testified one and a half months later. The third, Filip Teodorescu, submitted his testimony one month and three weeks after the events. And the least proximate, Liviu Dinulescu, gave his testimony a full year and half later.

Pathetic parsing.  From the standpoint of two decades later “immediately after the December 1989 events” refers to the initial weeks and months after December 1989.

Testimony Under Duress

The fact that Hall does not dwell on how those testimonies came into being is also problematic. The circumstances in which testimony is given can have a significant influence on its content. Testimony is highly susceptible to distortion over time even when third-party influence is benign. Testimony is even more susceptible to distortion when given under duress.
General Vlad on Trial
Several DSS officers have complained of being told during the 1990 trials that they would be acquitted if they denied any Soviet bloc presence during the revolution. Interestingly, none of the DSS sources cited by Hall as denying the existence of “tourists” was convicted (3 were acquitted and one died before trial). All of their cited testimonies had been made in the quality of witness in the trials of others. On the other hand, several of the DSS officers convicted, including DSS chief Iulian Vlad, insisted on the Soviet bloc presence at their trials and in later hearings before various Senate commissions of inquiry. A rigorous comparison of the depositions given by the convicted and the acquitted DSS officers might set this particular devil to rest, one way or the other. (See e.g. S. Sandulescu, Decembrie ’89: Lovitura De Stat A Confiscat Revolutia Romana (1996): 158-208)

Watts provides no source for the following claim:  “Several DSS officers have complained of being told during the 1990 trials that they would be acquitted if they denied any Soviet bloc presence during the revolution.”  Indeed, it is true that after their former boss DSS Chief Iulian Vlad started talking about the “Soviet tourists” in February 1991, former DSS employees suddenly started to “remember” about the “Soviet tourists,” an issue I have highlighted on many previous occasions (see for example, https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2010/03/14/presa-din-1991-indicatii-pretioase-despre-turistii-rusi-din-decembrie-1989/ and https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2014/08/15/fara-indoiala-se-intimpla-ceva-securitatea-nu-spune-dar-sugereaza-lasa-sa-i-scape-mici-detalii/) As for Vlad’s testimony before the Senate commission of inquiry, included in the pages of Sandulescu (1996), it’s date is 19 October 1993, thereby begging the question of what happened to Watts’ application of his own admonishments about testimony, memory, and the passage of time (above)?

Hall evades discussion of these problematic circumstances with the rather astonishing claim that coercive influence on DSS officer testimony is not “terribly plausible.” A serious effort to gauge plausibility would start with an examination of the circumstances in 1990-1991 when these depositions were given. Mainstream opinion at that time held the DSS to be the “most brutal” repressive institution in the Soviet bloc. There was even a concerted effort to brand it – along with the entire communist regime – as a completely illegitimate criminal institution (an anomaly among the former Warsaw Pact members).

Ah, but former Securitate collaborators in the media–from Angela Bacescu to Pavel Corut to Sorin Rosca Stanescu to Gheorghe Ionescu Oblojan to name but a few better-known names–were working hard in the media to reeducate “mainstream opinion” about the “true” role of the DSS in December 1989, and to good effect already by 1991 (for some articles, see https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2009/12/20/dezinformare-securista-despre-decembrie-1989-in-actiune-zig-zag-anul-1990-angela-bacescu-teroristii-n-au-fost-securisti-nici-n-au-existat-teroristi-gheorghe-ionescu-olbojan-teroristii-au/ ; https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2009/12/20/dezinformare-securista-despre-decembrie-1989-in-actiune-zig-zag-anul-1990-angela-bacescu-teroristii-n-au-fost-securisti-nici-n-au-existat-teroristi-gheorghe-ionescu-olbojan-teroristii-au-2/ )

By the end of December 1989, DSS personnel had not only lost their jobs, they were also subject to criminal investigation and incarceration, with the distinct possibility of long-term imprisonment. Some of the very officers cited by Hall spent time in jail previous to their testimony. Only the most obtuse would not have experienced these circumstances as coercive pressure. Contrary to Hall’s denials, it is in fact highly plausible that a number of DSS personnel tailored their testimony in order to please their jailers (or potential jailers). Such “tailoring” does not require one to commit perjury. Topics towards which interrogators show disinterest or hostility can simply be avoided. And one can employ ambiguity to allow for multiple interpretations; that preferred by interrogators as well as the truth.

Even more implausible:  that all of these officers in question decided to leave out details about the presence and/or activities of the “Soviet tourists.”

The Brief Coup of Pro-Soviet Officers

Pressure on those affirming a Soviet presence was particularly evident, and it is obvious why it should have been so. In the midst of the revolution, on December 23, General Nicolae Militaru, forcibly retired eleven years earlier when he was caught red-handed spying for the Soviet Union, set himself up as the new head of the Romanian Army. He was confirmed as defense minister on December 24, 1989, only to be dismissed from that position seven weeks later for bringing about the disintegration of the Romanian Army. Militaru bragged about his Soviet contacts in his famous joint interview with co-conspirator Silviu Brucan. (Adevarul, 23/8/90)
General Nicolae Militaru
The DSS was subordinated to the military on December 26, two days after Militaru officially took over the Defense Ministry and the Army, which gave the Soviet agent control of the DSS while it underwent reorganization. Whatever residual bureaucratic leverage the DSS may have possessed disappeared with its formal dissolution on December 30, 1989. Militaru reactivated some 30, mostly Soviet-trained officers (many known or suspected of being Soviet agents) and appointed them to senior positions in the military and in the newly forming security intelligence institutions under his control. This wave included the new foreign intelligence chief (and former DSS foreign counterintelligence chief) Mihai Caraman, and the advisor to the vice-prime minister (and former DSS foreign intelligence chief) Nicolae Doicaru, as well as the new interior minister, chief of the general staff, chief of military intelligence, etc.
The military prosecutors and military court trying DSS personnel in the immediate aftermath of the revolution were also subordinate to Defense Minister Militaru. In fact, Militaru exercised direct control over who was incarcerated, tried and convicted until February 14, 1990, when he was dismissed. And no major reforms were undertaken or personnel changes instituted in the military justice system prior to the first constitutional election in 1992.
Even if the kangaroo court and summary execution of the Ceausescus on the flatly ridiculous charge of genocide had not made the entire world aware of how fast and loose the Romanian military justice system operated at that time, it would still strain credulity to deny the manifest interest of Soviet agents in obscuring their roles.

Ah, yes, the very dead–and therefore unable to rebut anything–suspected Soviet-spy General Nicolae Militaru.  Here we see Watts’ approach to questions in general:  it is all about establishing a structural, circumstantial case, and then by analogy, supposition, pure speculation, and innuendo hoping the reader will arrive at his magical conclusions.  He presents zero evidence to demonstrate his claim that the reason DSS officers did not mention the role of “Soviet tourists” in their declarations was that they feared Militaru (whom Watts also just assumes would have known about the “Soviet tourists”).  Watts’ core problem is that he lacks credible declarations and evidence to demonstrate his claims.

The more closely one examines Hall’s evidence the more problematic it appears. Hall quotes Filip Teodorescu from a January 12, 1990 deposition regarding his report from Timisoara on the evening of December 18 that “there is no data indicating any leaders or instigators coming from abroad.” [nu sint date ca ar exista instigatori sau conducatori anume veniti din strainatate.]“ In another posting Hall draws attention to General Vlad’s July 19, 1991 deposition stating “More precisely, those sent by me to Timisoara reported that they had no evidence indicating any foreign involvement in producing the events in Timisoara.” [Mai exact, cei trimis de mine la Timisoara mi-au raportat ca nu au elemente din care sa rezulte vreum amestec al strainatatii in producerea evenimentelor de la Timisoara.] (Vlad Testimony, 19/07/91)

Cherry-Picking the Testimony

It would appear that Hall is cherry-picking the evidence. As related by Vlad’s chef de cabinet and confirmed by General Vlad to this author, Teodorescu’s initial report on December 18, 1989 stated that “there was not enough manpower to prevent access [to Timisoara] on the Buzias Road” and the militia thus “left access into Timisoara from this direction open.” [nu au existat fortele necesare pentru interzicerea accesului prin Calea Buziasului, deoarece … a ramas descoperitat directia respective de access in Timisoara.] This lead to the following exchange:

Col. Teodorescu
Gen. Vlad:       “And did they enter?”
Teodorescu:     “Some 3-4 automobiles entered, each with 2-3 occupants.”
Gen. Vlad:       “And what did they do?”
Teodorescu:     “We don’t know.”
Gen. Vlad:       “I’ll tell you what they did. They performed their mission and moved on. Do not leave      the [local DSS] headquarters, so that you are not blamed for their provocations.”
(A. Rogojean, Fereastra serviciilor secrete (2011): 158-9)

“As related by Vlad’s chef de cabinet and confirmed by General Vlad to this author”!  Watts cites a book published in 2011, the exchange does not mention “Soviet tourists,” and since it is the text reported by a senior DSS official (Rogojan) many years after the fact (is a facsimile of the document reporduced in the book?) this passage inevitably raises questions of credibility.  Since the former head of the DSS General Vlad personally confirmed this to Watts, I would suggest that he also inquire of Vlad:  “In 1989, what was the Securitate’s cover mechanism for operation ‘in territory controlled by a foreign (i.e. Soviet) invader’?” In other words, how did the Securitate plan on conducting surveillance of or penetrating units, buildings, and grounds held by the Soviets?  https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2014/01/24/what-would-it-have-looked-like-if-nicolae-ceausescus-securitate-executed-a-plan-to-counter-an-invasionbut-the-invaders-never-came-iii/) And, oh yes, “cherry-picking”:  interesting, innuendo-laden choice of terms, Mr. Watts.

Within two months of his initial testimony Teodorescu was describing publicly how he had “detained foreign agents during the Timisoara events.” (Romania Libera, 9/03/90) In his subsequent statements Teodorescu consistently noted how DSS attention was “drawn to the unjustifiably large number of Soviet tourists” claiming to be “in transit to Yugoslavia.” “Unfortunately,” Teodorescu notes, “we did not have enough manpower and conditions did not allow us to monitor the activities of at least some of these ‘tourists’.” [Ne-a atras atentia numarul nejustificat de mare de turisti sovietici, fie cu autobuze, fie cu autoturisme. … Declarau cu totii ca sint in transit pentru Iugoslavia. … Din pacate nu dispuneam de forte si nici conditiile nu au permis; pentru a urmari activitatea macar a unor dintre “turisti”.] (F. Teodorescu, Un Risc Asumat (1992): 92)

I find it relatively stunning that Watts invokes the reported March 1990 statement by Teodorescu when it has long since been established that the people Teodorescu was referring to were undercover personnel of the Army’s intelligence unit (DIA).  I mentioned this as early as 1996, https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/rewriting-the-revolution-1997-chapter-6-18-22-december-1989/ (see text and fn. #11), and it has also been clarified by Marius Mioc (https://mariusmioc.wordpress.com/2009/10/09/rich-hall-brandstatter-11/) and Gino Rado ( http://memorialulrevolutiei.ro/index.php?page=revista-on-line/memorial-7/agentii-straini , see Emil Macri quote).  In fact, the head of DIA Stefan Dinu discusses it directly in the Sandulescu volume (p. 220) invoked by Watts (see xerox below). Conveniently, Watts quickly jumps to Teodorescu’s book published later in 1992, for a book-buying audience and when he was out-of-the-woods so-to-speak and with “mainstream opinion” already well-contaminated by public Securitate disinformation over the previous two years.  Talk about context important to take into account when evaluating its credibility!

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Hall misrepresents the testimony of General Vlad in a similar manner. Elsewhere in facsimile reproduction of that testimony (but not translated by Hall), Vlad made the following clarification: “I mention that the mission of Gen. Macri and of the others that I sent to Timisoara was to establish, in the first place, what involvement foreigner and foreign interests had in setting off the events, because the data base of which we disposed from foreign sources indicated this…” [Mentionez ca misiunea gl. Macri si a celorlalti pe care l-am trimis la Timisoara a fost aceea de a se stabili in primul rind ce amestec au strainii si strainatatea in declansarea evenimentelor, intrucit pe baza datelor pe care le detineam din surse externe, rezulta acest lucru…] (Vlad Testimony, 19/07/91)

So according to Watts, what is important here is that Vlad refers to the reason for why he suspected foreigners were involved in Timisoara.  Vlad was in fact clear that those high level DSS officers whom he dispatched to Timisoara told him that they found no evidence that a foreign element produced or continued the unrest there.  Incepind cu noaptea de 16/17 dec. si in continuare pina in data de 20 dec. 1989 organul de securitate local col. Sima cit si gl. Macri si in lipsa lui col. Teodorescu imi comunicau date din care rezulta ca sute de elemente turbulente au devastat orasul, si ca elementul strain nu rezulta a se fi implicate in continuarea fenomenului.”  “Mai exact, cei trimis de mine la Timisoara mi-au raportat ca nu au elemente din care sa rezulte vreum amestec al strainatatii in producerea evenimentelor de la Timisoara.” https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2013/03/17/o-indicatie-pretioasa-de-pe-malurile-dimbovitei-implicarea-strainilor-in-evenimentele-de-la-timisoara-paranoia-lui-nicolae-ceausescu-sau-confirmarea-lui-iulian-vlad/

 A related problem appears when one reads the entire page of Nicolae Mavru’s testimony, of which Hall translates only those sections asserting that “(there were not any [foreigners]) who incited disorder, acts of violence or other acts”; that “Although we tried we could not report to Col. Sima the complete involvement of any foreign citizen in the evolution of the demonstrations”; and that he was unable to discover any foreign involvement. [(nu prea au fost) care incita la dezordine, acte de violenta sau altfel de acte… (13/01/90) Desi ne-am straduit nu am putut raporta col. Sima implicarea completa a vreunui cetatean strain in evolutia demonstratiilor. Cu toate eforturile facute nu a rezultat lucru pe linia mea de munca.] (25/06/91)]

(I respond to the claims re. Mavru further down).  Notably, Watts forgets to even quote from the other testimonies presented on the post in question, for example:  Generalul Emil Macri (seful Dir. II-a Securitatii, Contrainformatii Economice), Declaratie 2 ianuarie 1990:“Rezumind sintetic informatiile obtinute ele nu au pus in evidenta nici lideri si nici amestecul vreunei puteri straine in producerea evenimentelor de la Timisoara.  Raportarea acestor date la esalonul superior respectivi generalului I. Vlad a produs iritare si chiar suparare…”

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 IMG_1215

Hall is using Mavru to support his compound assertion that Soviet “tourists” were neither involved nor present during the revolution in Timisoara. According to Hall, therefore, Mavru, Tedorescu, Macri and Dinulescu all claimed that: “they could find no such presence and role played by Soviet tourists.” However, none of those officers claim that Soviet tourists were not present. They insist only that, according to their investigation, foreigners were not leading or overtly instigating the events in Timisoara. In the facsimile reproduced by Hall, Mavru actually goes on to explain that Vlad’s request for intelligence on possible foreign involvement was motivated by the extraordinarily large numbers of foreigners appearing in the region:
“The order of Col. Sima referring to foreign elements was justified because an exodus of visitors from foreign states to the dwelling of Pastor Tokes had begun two months earlier. Thus, there existed suspicion of the implication of circles from other states in the launching of the events in Timisoara. I would also like to point out that in November approximately 1500 persons from one and the same neighboring state appeared in Timis county and the city of Timisoara, usually men, whom I was not able to keep under surveillance, because of lack of manpower. I reported details regarding these foreigners only verbally without drawing up any notes.” [Ordinul col. Sima referitor la elementele straine era justificate pentru ca cu 2 luni mai inainte incepuse un exot de vizitatori din statele straine la locuinta pastorului Tokes. Deci exista banuiala implicarii cercurilor din alte state in declansarea evenimentele la Timisoara. Tin sa precizez ca in noiembrie aproximativ 1500 din unul si acelasi stat vecin au aparut in judetul Timis si orasul Timisoara, de regula barbate care nu i-am putut supraveghea, din [lipsa] de oameni (forte).] (#1 Securitate Deny Foreign Instigation)

It is well-established and known that Pastor Tokes’ dwelling had been under constant Securitate surveillance for months prior to December 1989.  The idea that these people would have been suspect at the time, that the Securitate would have taken no action against them, and that the Securitate was unable even to write down details about them strains credulity.  Besides the reference is to “stat vecin,” pretty clearly in this context, a reference to ethnic Hungarians, not Soviets.  And none of this changes Mavru’s declaration that, despite the tremendous pressure they were under from Bucharest and General Vlad to find a foreign hand behind the Timisoara protests and unrest, they tried really hard but could not find any!    The following remains the most appropriate response to the background  Securitate justifications Watts seeks to invoke here:  https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2014/12/19/25-for-the-25th-anniversary-of-the-romanian-revolution-8-romania-closes-its-borders-to-almost-all-foreigners-except-russian-tourists-returning-from-shopping-trips-to-yugoslavia-18-19-december-19/

[Un Grup de Ofiteri din Garnizoana Timisoara, Romania Libera, 15 octombrie 1991

“4.  Existenta unui mare numar de turisti straini, care s-au deplasat (cu autoturisme) spre Timisoara si prin Timisoara.

Cine au fost acei turisti?  Turisti banuiti, si ei, de intentii destabalizatoare.

Daca fortelor speciale de securitate si contrainformatii militare li s-au parut suspecti, de ce nu s-au procedat la verificarea acestora?  Oare in acel rastimp, securistii si contrainformatorii nu mai stiau sa-si faca meseria?  Au uitat pentru ce erau platiti, din bugetul statului, cu bani grei?”]

Two the original four testimonial sources cited by Hall as proof of Soviet non-implication in the Timisoara events provide much stronger evidence for the counterargument; that the Soviets were present and vexatious. Indeed, both Mavru and Teodorescu insist on the unusual influx of Soviet bloc “tourists” into Romania immediately preceeding and during the December 1989 revolution.

None of the testimonies says that Soviet agents were “present and vexatious” in Timisoara.  Moreover, no Soviet citizen or Soviet tourist was arrested during the Timisoara unrest (Timisoara participant and researcher Marius Mioc has posted the ethnic breakdown of those arrested as reported by the Interior Ministry from the dosarelerevolutiei at https://documente1989.wordpress.com/2014/08/10/situatia-retinutilor-din-revolutia-timisoreana/).

But testimonies from former DSS officers are not the only evidence cited by Hall. He also cites media reporting as providing ‘definitive’ proof that there were no Soviet “tourists” coming over the border in worrisome quantity.

Mr. Watts, how about providing some eyewitness accounts from the time or in the initial aftermath, by people who were not members of the Securitate, of the Soviet “tourists” coming over the border in worrisome quantity and being “present and vexatious” in Timisoara?  (So far, as your “evidence,” you have cited Filip Teodorescu, Aurel Rogojan, and Iulian Vlad–all high-ranking officers of the former Securitate with an obvious vested interest in seeking to justify their actions in December 1989!)

Until then, I am reminded of a memorable characterization that also seems to describe in some measure Watts’ approach to building his case.  Until  next time!

https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2014/08/15/fara-indoiala-se-intimpla-ceva-securitatea-nu-spune-dar-sugereaza-lasa-sa-i-scape-mici-detalii/

Fara indoiala…se intimpla ceva. Securitatea nu spune dar sugereaza. “Lasa sa-i scape” mici detalii.

“Without a doubt…something is going on.  The Securitate doesn’t say but it suggests.  It allows small details to leak out.”

In the meantime, Watts continues to invoke as “evidence” to support his case, things he has superficial and inaccurate knowledge of:

in an exchange with Marius Mioc in the comments section at http://larrylwatts.blogspot.com/2015/04/romanian-revolution-december-1989-iii.html?showComment=1429265678355#c1059532130391066370 he argues:

RE: Your perplexing insistence of no Hungarian involvement
This is rather off-topic but since it suggests a strong cognitive bias I thought it worth mentioning. You have no doubt heard of the refugee camps in Hungary. Aside from Vlad’s testimony cited above scholarly articles have since been published by Hungarians in Hungary regarding the phenomenon. At a commemoration service broadcast on Romanian national television in 1993, and commented on by the Romanian Ambassador to Hungary who was in attendance, the Hungarians dedicated a statue at their military base in Egger for Hungarian personnel fallen in the Romanian revolution. In the testimony cited by Hall and reproduced in this blog, DSS officer Mavru insisted on clarifying that “in November approximately 1500 persons from one and the same neighboring state appeared in Timis county and the city of Timisoara, usually men, whom I was not able to keep under surveillance, because of lack of manpower.” To date, no equivalent surge of Yugoslav or Bulgarian visitors has been reported (or even rumored).

Fullscreen capture 4182015 53155 PM

Here is information about the monument in question, which is dedicated to the people of Timisoara, from most notably the Romanian Military Attache in Budapest in December 1989, Colonel Ioan Todericiu:

image0

Page 53 above

Fullscreen capture 4182015 50558 PM

https://www.yumpu.com/ro/document/view/13722025/format-electronic/94

From approx. minute 4 Todericiu discusses the Eger monument and that it was dedicated to the Romanian people of Timisoara; despite the obstinacy of the reporter–including what may be a clip from the 1993 program invoked by Watts–Toderciu confirms that there are no documents which would testify to an organized Hungarian role in the December 1989 events in Romanian.

On Todericiu’s comments, see also the following posting by a forumist below.
continuare(Duminică, 4 ianuarie 2009, 20:08)Lucidul [anonim]

După moartea lui Milea şi căderea lui Ceauşescu, ungurii au luat din nou legătura cu Ministerul Apărării, condus acum de Stănculescu şi Militaru. Una dintre rugăminţile ungurilor era protecţie pt. Tokes. Stănculescu a trimis nişte militari, şi pastorul a fost pus sub pază. (Securiştii vroiau să-l lichideze).

 

La rândul lor, românii au cerut ajutor umanitar: sânge, medicamente, alimente pt. copii, chestii din astea.

 

Atunci, organizaţii de caritate din Ungaria, cât şi unele spitale militare (!) au pregătit pachetele, şi normal că şoferii acestor vehicule erau tot militari. Câţiva dintre aceşti subofiţeri au murit în rafalele care se trăgeau pe atunci în toată ţara. Trupurile lor au fost repatriate în Ungaria, şi înmormântate cu toate onorurile. La înmormântarea din Eger a participat şi ataşatul militar român pe atunci la Budapesta, Todericiu. Este şi vina bătrânului măgar că niciodată nu a spus clar, (nici pe videoclipul ăla care e pe Youtube), că aceşti militari nu au murit pe teritoriul român în luptă, ci în timpul unor misiuni umanitare.

 

Ei, atât despre “agenturile străine”. Dacă ei nu aduceau sânge şi medicamente, ar fi fost şi mai multe victime.

from the following thread:
  • Lui judex în primul rând (Duminică, 4 ianuarie 2009, 19:59)Lucidul [anonim]

    judex scrie: “Va aduceti aminte de afirmatia “agenturili straine”? Se pare ca, in 1990, au aparut niste monumente comemorative pentru niste eroi cazuti la datorie in unitati militare la Debretin si alte locuri in Ungaria.”Auzi, dar deştept te dai tu, cu diversiunea ta securistă. Fi-ţi-ar mintea deşteaptă, să-ţi fie. Şi ne mirăm noi, cum dracu a reuşit Securitatea să-şi salveze oamenii, de sunt şi acuma în posturi de cheie.Dar, hai să trecem la subiect.În 1989 TOATE ţările vecine aveau spioni în România, şi România avea spioni în toate ţările vecine. Dar, şi ce-i cu asta? Numai proştii ca tine, se miră, şi încep să invoce “agenturile steine”. Tu chir crezi că astăzi este altfel? Şi azi toate ţările se spionează reciproc, asta înseamnă “culegere de in formaţii”. Aşa cum şi tu “pălăvrăgeşti” despre vecinii din scara blocului, şi întrebi ce mai e cu Fănică al Smarandei.Cu cei 40 arşi de Ceaşca în crematoriul din Bucureşti, iar ai zis o prostie colosală. Măi, campion de IQ, îţi dai seama ce senzaţie internaţională era, ce scandal ieşea la ONU, inclusiv la Consiliul de Securitate, dacă iubitul tău Ceauşescu găsea UN SINGUR terorist din afara graniţelor? Nu-l ardea nici în ruptul capului, ci-l păstra ca dovadă, băi.Acum, hai să ne întoarcem la afirmaţia: “eroi cazuti la datorie in unitati militare la Debretin si alte locuri in Ungaria”.

    Înainte de 22 decembrie armata română se afla în contact permanent cu un grup operativ al armatei ungare. Milea a vorbit la telefon cu ministrul maghiar al apărării, Karpati Ferenc, care s-a interesat de evenimentele din Timişoara. Milea l-a asigurat pe colegul său ungur, că armata română nu a tras şi nu va trage în populaţie, şi spus clar, că armata română va combate orice intervenţie străină.
    Ungurii şi-au mobilizat cei drept câteva unităţi militare în apropiere graniţei, dar stăteau şi ascultau, atât.
    (voi continua)

    raspunde trimite

  • 0 (0 voturi)    
    continuare (Duminică, 4 ianuarie 2009, 20:08)Lucidul [anonim]
    După moartea lui Milea şi căderea lui Ceauşescu, ungurii au luat din nou legătura cu Ministerul Apărării, condus acum de Stănculescu şi Militaru. Una dintre rugăminţile ungurilor era protecţie pt. Tokes. Stănculescu a trimis nişte militari, şi pastorul a fost pus sub pază. (Securiştii vroiau să-l lichideze).La rândul lor, românii au cerut ajutor umanitar: sânge, medicamente, alimente pt. copii, chestii din astea.Atunci, organizaţii de caritate din Ungaria, cât şi unele spitale militare (!) au pregătit pachetele, şi normal că şoferii acestor vehicule erau tot militari. Câţiva dintre aceşti subofiţeri au murit în rafalele care se trăgeau pe atunci în toată ţara. Trupurile lor au fost repatriate în Ungaria, şi înmormântate cu toate onorurile. La înmormântarea din Eger a participat şi ataşatul militar român pe atunci la Budapesta, Todericiu. Este şi vina bătrânului măgar că niciodată nu a spus clar, (nici pe videoclipul ăla care e pe Youtube), că aceşti militari nu au murit pe teritoriul român în luptă, ci în timpul unor misiuni umanitare.Ei, atât despre “agenturile străine”. Dacă ei nu aduceau sânge şi medicamente, ar fi fost şi mai multe victime.
    raspunde trimite

  • 0 (0 voturi)    
    infiltrarea (Duminică, 4 ianuarie 2009, 20:25)Lucidul [anonim]
    Să lămurim odată şi cu infiltrarea aceasta.Nimeni nu a spus, că securiştii, câte unul s-au infiltrat printre militarii în termen.Ceea ce se poate deduce din mărturiile martorilor oculari, este, că militarii în termen erau în dispozitiv, şi trăgeau focuri de avertizare, în sus. Securiştii însă, care erau pe rândul doi, au tras printre aceşti militari (că doar nu era dispozitivul compact, ermetic), şi de pe cuiburile de tragere instalate pe clădirile din jur, direct în demonstranţi. Scenariul a fost acelaşi peste tot, şi la Timişoara, şi la Bucureşti, Sibiu, Braşov, Cluj, Târgu Mureş etc. Ochitori speciali, dotaţi cu puşti cu lunetă, îmbrăcaţi de obicei în combinezoane negre, din cadrul forţelor speciale ale Securităţii, erau plasaţi în etajele superioare sau pe acoperişurile clădirilor înalte care înconjurau piaţa centrală a fiecărui oraş.Aceste echipă de comando câteodată soseau în provincie deghizaţi în sportivi, erau cazaţi în hotelurile să zicem luxoase pe ultimul etaj, de unde nici n-au trebuit să iasă afară. Nu-i întâmplător că în acele zile, dar mai ales în noaptea de 22 spre 23 focurile de armă veneau dinspre hoteluri (de ex. la Braşov: Hotel Negoiu). Când au văzut că balanţa nu se înclină în favoarea lui Ceauşescu, datorită – hai să spunem clar – trecerii armatei de partea revoluţiei, băieţii ăştia s-au evaporat. S-au întors la slujbele lor acoperite ca civili, sau la unităţile securiste unde erau încadraţi. Iar noi, nu reuşim să le dăm de urmă nici după 19 ani. (Ce-i drept, procurorii nici nu s-au omorât să facă investigaţii serioase. Îia prinşi au fost lăsaţi să plece liber. Cică, au executat un ordin, şi asta se respectă între militari.)
    raspunde trimite
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IV.

(purely personal views as always, based on two decades of prior research and publications…I originally treated this topic as early as my 1997 Indiana University Ph.D. Dissertation, Rewriting the Revolution:  Regime-State Relations and the Triumph of Securitate Revisionism in Post-Ceausescu Romania, chapters of which can be found on this webpage.)

see also, https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/a-response-to-watts-the-pitfalls-of-not-having-any-evidence/

in response to:

http://adevarul.ro/cultura/istorie/revolutia-romana-decembrie-1989-iv-evaluarea-celor-mai-bunedovezi-1_554b3da1cfbe376e35f1018c/index.html

http://larrylwatts.blogspot.com/2015/05/romanian-revolution-december-1989-iv.html

Larry Watts is running out of time in his series examining December 1989 in Romania. In a comment to the steadfast Timisoara participant and researcher, Marius Mioc https://mariusmioc.wordpress.com/, on Watts’ English language blog back in February 2015, Watts stated that this is a 5 part series (http://larrylwatts.blogspot.com/2015/01/romanian-revolution-december-1989-i.html#comment-form).  This is now the 4th part of the 5 part series and Larry is still deconstructing the claims of others who negate his arguments–two episodes in a row now being focused on my research–rather than providing evidence that substantiates his claims. Mr. Watts, we are still waiting:  when will we read the sightings of such Soviet “tourists” engaging in nefarious behavior in December 1989 as witnessed at the time by average citizens who were in the streets?…as opposed to the recovered memories of former Securitate officials (see his episode 3) or Nicolae’s Ceausescu’s “indicatii pretioase” of the time! (see below)?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Romanian Revolution December 1989 (IV): Evaluating “Best Evidence”

The utility of any primary source evidence for evaluating leadership policy (whether state, government or party) is dependent on its origins and intention.  There is often a wide variance between declared policy – produced for public consumption and expressed in official statements and media reports – and actual policy as reflected in internal reports, military planning and deployments and clandestine operations. Any thorough comparison of the two documentary records in any country reveals that governments frequently do not mean what they say. (See, e.g., J. L. Gaddis, “Expanding the Data Base: Historians, Political Scientists, and the Enrichment of Security Studies,” International Security, vol. 12, no. 1 (1987): 7, 9)

Oh, no!  You’ve got to be kidding me! 

Looks like we are headed for another one Larry’s Long Laborious Lectures on Lessons Learned from Looking at Literature in Libraries.

Please say it ain’t so, Larry! 

Historians rank primary source evidence according to their general reliability, accuracy and vulnerability to interested manipulation. The least accurate and least reliable are media reports. For a variety of reasons the press as institution is the most vulnerable to internal and external manipulation. Public communiqués establishing official positions and reactions, while usually more accurate in terms of declaratory policy, are also a form of self-interested and self-conscious political advertising – an image of policy that leaders purposefully project to domestic populations, allies and adversaries – and thus often not a faithful reflection of actual policy.

Damn, my fears have been confirmed!  “The utility of any primary source evidence for evaluating leadership policy (whether state, government or party) is dependent on its origins and intention….Historians rank primary source evidence according to their general reliability, accuracy and vulnerability to interested manipulation.”  You mean, Larry, for example, that the post-facto claims and recovered memories of high ranking officers of the security establishment of a repressive regime who want to cover up their misdeeds and crimes might not be accurate and devoid of self-interest?

More accurate are diplomatic correspondence and instructions. However, diplomats often employ misrepresentation, misdirection, and subterfuge at the direction of their superiors in pursuit of state and national goals. And, on occasion, leaderships mislead their own diplomats to achieve such ends; so that the diplomat believes the misdirection he propagates and therefore does so more credibly.

Most accurate and reliable are executive decisions, internal discussions and intra-governmental instructions that are not designed for public consumption. These documents best reflect real intent and policy. Actual military (and intelligence) plans and deployments are often considered highly accurate indicators of intent and policy. However, these institutions are also more susceptible to bureaucratic inertia and may reflect defunct policies of former leaders, regimes and international situations rather than current policy during periods of transition. The Brezhnev-Andropov-Chernenko era plans and deployments that for the most part remained in effect in the Soviet military and KGB under Gorbachev’s “New Thinking in Foreign Policy” during 1988-1991 provide a case in point.

Larry, how about the musings and justifications of a DICTATOR, surrounded by toadies, so “rupt de realitate”–out of touch with reality–that he believes the only way people could protest against him is if they were manipulated by tourists from surrounding countries all of which, according to him, had become “foreign agents” bent on overthrowing his regime?

Ceteris paribus, executive decisions and internal governmental discussions not meant for public consumption easily trump media reports in terms of accuracy and credibility. They especially trump reports from international (rather than local) media, which are the least likely to reflect accurately the internal deliberations, decisions and intentions of a foreign leadership. Where a media report contradicts a contemporaneous internal report, the internal report easily constitutes the better evidence (unless, of course, it can be proven that it was created specifically to be “leaked” publicly or for disinformation purposes.)

Ceteris paribus, I would be able to respond to Watts’ claims and allegations in the pages of the publication in which his attacks appear, Adevarul.  Whatever chances for that were wiped out by the mindbogglingly vengeful actions of the megalomaniacal phony Vladimir Tismaneanu in the fall of 2007 (for details, see here:   https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/coup-by-revolution-my-views-1990-1993/)

In his discussions of Romania’s December 1989 revolution, Richard Andrew Hall overturns this hierarchy, dismissing the primacy of documented internal leadership deliberations in favor of international media reporting that supports his argument, and accepting and promoting their dubious assertions as solid fact. From this rickety base Hall then makes other assertions dependent upon it such that the careless reader is led off into a wilderness of speculation and self-contradiction.

Damn, Larry, I gotta give you credit:  comparative source credibility/reliability and chain of acquisition in collecting information, never crossed my mind!  Thanks for the tip, Larry!

Larry, apparently you have already forgotten that in episode 3 of your series, you attacked my use of the declarations of high ranking Securitate officers in the immediate weeks and months after December 1989 while in custody?  Now, you allege here, that I hinge everything on a single foreign media report?

Larry wants internal regime documents.  Good.  Here is one I have used elsewhere on multiple occasions before (dating back to the 1990s).  I am sure Larry will have some mechanism of denial, but for the sake of other readers:  The Securitate’s Last Report to Nicolae Ceausescu in December 1989 (includes discussion of events from 16-20 December)!

Please note:  No mention whatsoever of the alleged role played by “Russian tourists” or “Soviet tourists” as being behind the uprising against Nicolae Ceausescu and his communist regime!

published in Evenimentul Zilei, 28 iulie 1992, p. 3.

https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/ultimul-raport-al-securitatii-catre-nicolae-ceausescu/

Was Ceausescu Worried About “Soviet Tourists” Or Not? 

For example, Hall claims that the Ceausescu regime was not especially concerned regarding Soviet “tourists” in December 1989 based on an Agence-France Press (AFP) report of December 19, 1989. According to the French journalist, a Romanian border guard declared that the “border was closed to everyone but the Soviets!” In more than a dozen blog posts Hall insists that this proves the regime was neither worried about nor taking measures against Soviet “tourists.” (AFP 19/12/89 reproduced in Hall)

Larry, it’s a direct quote.  I don’t know what problem you may have had in translating from English to English.  The quote is “go back home, only Russians can get through.”

To his credit, after his first use of this evidence in his dissertation written in the 1990s, Hall has cited the subsequently published transcripts of the December 17, 1989 meeting of Romanian Communist Party’s (RCP) Political Executive Committee (PolExCom), in which Ceausescu condemns Soviet bloc “tourism” and orders that it be shut down immediately:

I have also given the order to interrupt all tourist activity. Not a single foreign tourist should be allowed in, because all have become espionage agents. Likewise, the small cross-border traffic should be shut down immediately. I have given the order to the Ministry of Interior but those from [Ministry of] Tourism must be called immediately, and the unoccupied rooms should be given to Romanian citizens.

No one should be allowed in from the socialist countries, aside from Korea, China and Cuba. Because none of the neighboring socialist countries can be trusted. Those from neighboring socialist countries are sent as agents. We are shutting down all tourist activity.

A state of emergency is declared for all counties. The units of the Military, of the Ministry of Interior, of the State Security are in a state of emergency.

            We should give the instruction in the teleconference to take all measures against any attempt, because we must defend the independence of the fatherland and socialism against anyone, no matter who it is.

[Am dat, de altfel, indicatia sa se intrerupa orice activitate de turism. Nu trebuie sa mai vina niciun turist din strainatate, pentru ca toti s-au transformat in agenti de spionaj. De asemenea, sa se intrerupa micul trafic de frontiera imediat. Am dat ordin la Ministerul de Interne, dar trebuie chemati si cei de la turism imediat, iar locurile neocupate sa fie date la cetateni romani.  Nici din tarile socialiste sa nu mai vina, in afara de Coreea, de China si din Cuba. Pentru ca toate tarile socialiste vecine nu prezinta incredere. Cei din tarile socialiste vecine sunt trimisi ca agenti. Intrerupem orice activitate de turism. La toate judetele se va declara stare de alarma. Unitatile militare, ale Ministerului de Interne, ale Securitatii sunt in stare de alarma.  Sa dam la teleconferinta indicatia ca sa se ia toate masurile fata de orice incercare, pentru ca trebuie sa aparam independenta patriei si a socialismului impotriva oricaruia, indiferent cine este.  Acestea sunt problemele care se pun acum. (Hall cites M. Bunea, Praf in ochi (1994): 34. The original transcript was found in the military court archives by V. Roncea and is reproduced here CPEX Transcript 12/17/89.)

From what I can tell in the chronology of your research on the topic, Mr. Watts, you did not know or think of this until I posted Bunea’s reproduction, which dates from several years earlier.

“Soviet bloc “tourism” – the only significant “tourism” during that period – was likewise implicitly condemned in the teleconference following that meeting: “We have ordered that foreign tourists will not be received for awhile and that the so-called small cross-border traffic will also be discontinued. We suspend it! We will restart it later. Now we do not have time for small cross-border traffic! Each one should be occupied with their own problems! We must not admit anyone, neither foreigners and nor anyone from the country, those who are caught engaging in anti-socialist activities should be struck without mercy, with no [other] justification, and we should tell the people clearly, to avoid any ambiguity!”

[Am stabilit sa nu mai primim in perioada urmatoare turisti straini sis a nu mai aiba lo casa-zisul mic trafic de frontiera. Il suspendam! Vom reveni mai tirziu. Acum nu avem timp de mic trafic de frontiera! Fiecare sa se ocupe de problemele lor!

Nu trebuie sa admitim, si oricine, si strainii, dar si din tara, care sint prinsi ca desfasoara ativitate antisocialista trebuie loviti fara crutare, fara nici un fel de justificare si trebuie sa supunem poporului clar, nu sa umblam cu subintelesuri!] (Arhiva Nationale, fond CC al PCR, Sectia Cancelarie, dosar 338/1989; See also page 8 of Teleconference 12/17/89)

I will invoke Timisoara participant and researcher Marius Mioc’s comment on Watts’ Adevarul post here:  if the specific Soviet threat was so important here–in, at the time, closed, behind the doors, discussions–why did Nicolae Ceausescu not single out the Soviets DIRECTLY? http://adevarul.ro/cultura/istorie/revolutia-romana-decembrie-1989-iv-evaluarea-celor-mai-bunedovezi-1_554b3da1cfbe376e35f1018c/index.htmlMy hunch:  a truly paranoid person makes few distinctions between those who are perceived as “against them,’ regardless of the reality!

How does Hall deal with this? He insists Ceausescu was merely being paranoid and argues that, since “Ceausescu had ordered not just that Soviet tourists, but that all tourists, from East and West” be stopped, the dictator was not especially concerned with Soviet “tourists.”

(Hall on Soviet Tourists #1)

The problem with Hall’s reasoning is that specific complaint was made only against Soviet bloc“tourists.” Aside from the odd Bucharest-based diplomat attempting to visit Timisoara the only troublesome Westerners were the journalists who attended the RCP Plenum in November and never left. Although Ceausescu never mentioned western “tourists,” he did single out the socialist countries three times.  First, to order that none of their citizens be allowed into Romania, then to underscore that none of them were trustworthy, and finally, to underscore that all “tourists” sent to Romania from the socialist countries came as hostile espionage agents. And the repeated reference to “small cross-border trafficcan only refer to the traffic into Romania from its socialist neighbors.

Note the key phrases in Watts’ summary:  First, to order that none of their citizens be allowed into Romania, then to underscore that none of them were trustworthy, and finally, to underscore that all “tourists” sent to Romania from the socialist countries came as hostile espionage agents.   Just a tad paranoid, no???

Hall dismisses more recent evidence regarding Ceausescu’s preoccupation with Soviet “tourists” in similar fashion. Consider, for example, the correspondence between Bucharest and its embassy in Moscow in December 1989. (Originally reproduced in D. Preda and M. Retegan, 1989: Principiul Dominoului (2000): 445-498. Some of this correspondence is translated in M. Munteanu, “New Evidence on the 1989 Crisis in Romania (2001): 3-11, Munteanu – Correspondence on Soviet Tourists)

According to Hall, this diplomatic correspondence “never once” mentions or objects to “the presence or behavior of ‘Soviet tourists’ in Romania during these chaotic days of crisis for the Ceausescu regime.” (Hall on Romanian Diplomatic Correspondence)

Read carefully FOR NUANCE, Mr. Watts:  “Significantly, then, there is no mention of “Ceausescu protesting a sudden influx Soviet “tourists” to Moscow at the time.”  Instead, as Munteanu discusses, the access of Soviet citizens to Romania was restricted beginning 18 December 1989–Munteanu speculates, in part to “maintain secrecy on the events taking place in Romania,” and in part because of Ceausescu’s longstanding hysteria about the machinations of “foreign espionage agencies” (that this was Ceausescu’s suspicion and mindset is clear; that it had a genuine basis in reality is not–as even his leading Securitate officers dispatched to Timisoara were to admit (https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2013/04/29/high-time-to-unpack-already-why-the-restless-journey-of-the-soviet-tourists-of-the-romanian-revolution-should-come-to-an-end/)”

One wonders whether Hall read the diplomatic correspondence that he reproduces. The December 17 PolExCom meeting not only identified the Soviet “tourists” as agents entering the country to engage in hostile espionage – which certainly qualifies as “mentioning” and “objecting” to Soviet behavior in Romania – it also ordered a halt to all Soviet bloc tourism (Telegram no. 20/016 750, 12/17/89).  Reporting on his implementation of the December 17 order the next day, the Romanian ambassador in Moscow noted  that as of “the morning of December 18, Soviet citizens have been telephoning the Embassy from border points with Romania, reporting that there are hundreds of automobiles that are not being permitted entry into our country.”

One wonders whether Watts understands the difference between the suppositions and paranoid delusions of a dictator on the ropes in the face of his own people, and the diplomatic language of officials having to deal with decisions based on a dictator’s paranoia?

[Incepand din dimineata zilei de 18 decembrie a.c., cetateni sovietici au inceput sa faca apeluri telefonice la Ambasada, de la punctele de frontiera cu Romania, semnaland ca sunt sute de masini carora nu li se permite intrarea in tara noastra si anticipam ca autoritatile sovietice vor solicita explicatii in legatura cu decizia luata.] (Doc. 258 in Preda and Retegan; Doc. 1 in Munteanu – Correspondence on Soviet Tourists)

The ambassador then requested instructions from his ministry on how to field Soviet demands for explanation of the border closure.

On December 21 the Romanian ambassador explained to the Soviet Foreign Ministry that the closure of the border “to Soviet citizens, especially tourists” was a “temporary” measure “for limiting the access of some groups of foreign tourists,” much like Moscow had done in “restricting the travel of Romanian tourists” at certain times to Georgia and Armenia. The ambassador then suggested the linkage between Soviet “tourists” and espionage agents by following up with a reiteration of Romania’s “decision to repulse any attempt to interfere in its domestic affairs and to take decisive measures against any provocative or subversive actions initiated by reactionary, anti-Romanian circles, secret services or foreign espionage agencies.” (Doc. 278 in Preda and Retegan; Doc. 4 in Munteanu – Correspondence on Soviet Tourists)

In one document apparently missed by Hall (and Munteanu), the Romanian Embassy in Moscow relayed the Soviet television broadcast of December 19, which reported “the closing of the border in a unilateral manner by our country” and presented the official communiqués issued “by the Soviet tourist agency Intourist, and by the [tourist] agency of the GDR, regarding the temporary halting of tourist travel to our country from these countries.” Thus, it would appear, Soviet media sources did confirm the ban against Soviet “tourists.” On December 20 further confirmations appeared in Pravda, Sovietskaia Rossiia, Izvestia, Selskaia Zhizni, Komsomolskaia Pravda, and Sotsialisticheskovo Industriia bearing titles like “A Worsening Border Regime,” Tensions with Romania,” and “Tensions on the Borders of Romania.”  (Document 276 in Preda and Retegan)

In spite of this daily mention of Soviet “tourists” ever since Ceausescu first ordered that they be stopped at the borders on December 17, Hall considers his contention that the regime was unconcerned by Soviet “tourism” proved by the AFP report of December 19, 1989, claiming that two Romanian border guards at the frontier with Yugoslavia told a journalist to: “Go back home, only Russians can get through!” Hall reproduces this report in subsequent posts as if it were an unproblematic truth – and better evidence than the Transcript of the PolExCom meeting of December 17, 1989. “Why,” Hall asks rhetorically, “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?” (Hall on Soviet Tourists #1) It is possible, although not plausible, that the journalist actually heard – and the border guards actually made – such a declaration. In no way, however, could that be taken as representative of Romanian policy at the time. Documentary “best evidence” indicates that no such exemption was ever given.

Yeah, that’s it:  the journalists misheard the border guards…

Importance of Nuance 

Relying on a translation provided by Mircea Munteanu (Document 5 in Munteanu – Correspondence on Soviet Tourists) Hall makes much of an alleged statement on December 21 by the Romanian ambassador to the Soviet Foreign Ministry, that the “limitations do not apply to business travel or tourists transiting Romania,” as proving Bucharest’s lack of concern regarding Soviet “tourists”. (Hall on Soviet Tourists #1)

Unfortunately, Munteanu’s translation is in error. In fact, the ambassador specifies an exemption only for “those in transit” and not for “tourists transiting Romania.” Given that the Romanian-Soviet discussion at that point was precisely about “the closing of the Soviet-Romanian frontier” to tourists, it stands to reason that the ambassador’s reference was to transit for non-touristic purposes. Readers may judge for themselves which of these translations best reflects the meaning of the original:

To the extent that Mircea Munteanu wishes to address this, I will leave it to him.  As in the previous episode 3 of Watts’ series, this is an example of absolutely pathetic parsing:  “those in transit” vs. “tourists transiting Romania”!!!

In legatura cu problema turismului, am mentionat ca nu dispun de o comunicare oficiala privind inchiderea frontierei soviet-romane. Am aratat, totodata, ca au fost adoptate unele masuri temporare privind limitarea accesului unor grupuri de turisti straini, din considerente legate de dificultatile de asigurare a hotelurilor si a conditiilor corespunzatoare. Aceste masuri nu afecteaza calatoriile in interes de serviciu si nici pe cele in transit.” (Romanian original – Doc. 278 in Preda and Retegan)

English translation by Munteanu:

“With regard to the issue of tourists crossing the border in Romania, I said that I did not possess an official communication in this regard. I suggested that some temporary measures were adopted due to the need to limit access of certain groups of tourists [in the country]. [Those limitations were imposed] due to difficulties in assuring their access to hotel rooms and other related essential conditions. Those limitations do not apply to business travel or tourists transiting Romania.

(Doc. 5 in Munteanu – Correspondence on Soviet Tourists. Brackets added by Munteanu.)

English translation by Watts:

“In connection with the issue of tourism, I mentioned that I did not dispose of an official communication regarding the closing of the Soviet-Romanian frontier. I explained, at the same time, that some temporary measures were adopted for limiting the access of some groups of foreign tourists, from considerations connected with the difficulties of assuring hotels and appropriate conditions. These measures do not affect travel for official purposes or those in transit.

In fact, only several days earlier Bucharest had decided to continue a very specific form of non-tourist transit traffic from the Soviet Union. This exception is described by the Romanian ambassador in his December 18 Telegram.

“The Consulate Section has continuously accorded transit visas for Jews from the USSR who have approval to settle in Israel, as well as for foreign students studying in the USSR. Since the chief representative of TAROM has received instructions to continue this transit traffic in the normal way, we request that you communicate to us clarification on how to act in such cases.” (Watts translation from Doc. 258 in Preda and Retegan)

[In mod continuu, la Sectia consulara s-au acordat vize de transit pentru evreii din URSS, care au aprobare sa se stabileasca in Israel, precum si pentru studentii straini care invata in URSS. Intrucat seful reprezentatei TAROM a primit orientarea de a continua traficul de transit in mod normal, rugam sa ni se comunice clarificari asupra modului cum actionam in astfel de cazuri.] (Romanian original – Doc. 258 in Preda and Retegan)

In his translation of the same document Munteanu intercedes with a note of his own specifying that the approvals were given by Moscow:

“Continuously, at the Consular Section, we have given transit visas to Soviet Jews who have the approval [of the Soviet government] to emigrate to Israel.”

(Doc. 1 in Munteanu – Correspondence on Soviet Tourists. Bracket added by Munteanu.)

This time the error is one of nuance. But that nuance has significant implications. Munteanu translates “se stabileasca” as “emigrate (emigra)” but it is more accurately translated as “to settle” or “immigrate (imigra).” Obviously, only Tel Aviv could decide who was approved to settle in or immigrate to Israel. Munteanu’s stipulation of Soviet government approval for such transit does not clarify; it misleads. The sentence actually describes an established Romanian practice of granting visas to Soviet Jews leaving the USSR. It makes no reference to Soviet authority because the visa exception existed as a result of Romania’s long-term cooperation with Israel, not because of Soviet initiative. The TAROM representative was instructed to continue this practice by Bucharest, not by Moscow.

In the internal deliberations of the Political Executive Committee on December 17, 1989, Ceausescu ordered a halt to “all tourism” from “the neighboring socialist countries” because those tourists operated as “espionage agents.” He also forcefully expressed his belief that the USSR bore chief responsibility for organizing “all that happened and is happening in [East] Germany, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria now, and in the past in Poland and Hungary.” (See  CPEX Transcript 12/17/89.) Ceausescu viewed Moscow as driving this process, and the United States in a supporting role. The diplomatic correspondence between the Romanian foreign ministry and its embassy in Moscow explicitly identified Soviet tourism as a problem that Bucharest prohibited. Together, the internal executive deliberations and Romanian diplomatic correspondence soundly debunk AFP’s claim that Soviet tourists had free entry, not the other way round.

“In the internal deliberations of the Political Executive Committee on December 17, 1989, Ceausescu ordered a halt to “all tourism” from “the neighboring socialist countries” because those tourists operated as “espionage agents.” He also forcefully expressed his belief that the USSR bore chief responsibility for organizing “all that happened and is happening in [East] Germany, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria now, and in the past in Poland and Hungary.” (See  CPEX Transcript 12/17/89.) Ceausescu viewed Moscow as driving this process, and the United States in a supporting role.”  Need I say more?  Watts proves his own counter-case!

Media Meltdown in December 1989 

There are, however, other problems with credibility of the AFP report. Although the violence had produced 50-70 casualties at the time, AFP reported “thousands” were killed in Timisoara. AFP likewise claimed that “at least 1,000” of these alleged fatalities were located in a single hospital, when the total number of losses in Timisoara during the entire revolution was less than 200. These are grim comparisons and they were not confined to AFP or the French media, but they bear directly on factual reliability. Although Hall focused his attention on the claim that the tourism ban applied to “all but Soviet travellers,” later in the same article AFP reversed itself to report that the ban applied to “all travellers.” (“Travelers Say ‘Hundreds’ Dead, Wounded” in Foreign Broadcast Information Service, East Europe, FBIS-EEU-89-242, 19 December 1989: 85)

In fact, international press coverage of the Romanian revolution was so outrageously manipulated that it is now used as a case study of journalistic ineptitude and media failure. According to the conclusions of one inquiry into the manipulation of news coverage during December 1989, the “misreporting of events in Timisoara by French media,” including even that of the “usually reputable French news agency AFP,” will “go down in history” as “an example of journalists failing to check the accuracy of the news they broadcast.” (Failure of French Media Coverage in December 1989)

Yeah, there is no difference between the reported speech of claimed eyewitnesses to events and journalists who claim to hear something first hand?  Just generalize and taint en masse!

Solid research methodology might not deliver results anticipated or desired, but it will bring us closer to answers that the evidence actually supports. Testimony after the fact and media reports crafted for public consumption are almost never superior in accuracy and reliability to non-public internal deliberations and decisions produced in the course of events. Continued reliance on the former to the neglect of the latter is unlikely to answer or clarify the outstanding questions regarding Romania’s Revolution of December 1989.

Solid research methodology might not deliver results anticipated or desired, but it will bring us closer to answers that the evidence actually supports.”  PHYSICIAN:  FIRST, DO NO HARM!  SECOND, HEAL THYSELF!

To be continued.

The Romanian version is at Adevarul.ro

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