Rewriting the Revolution (1997): Chapter 5 Timisoara 15-17 December 1989
From time to time on this page, I hope to excerpt sections of my Ph.D. Dissertation at Indiana University: Richard Andrew Hall, Rewriting the Revolution: Authoritarian Regime-State Relations and the Triumph of Securitate Revisionism in Post-Ceausescu Romania (defended 16 December 1996). These are the original chapters as they appeared then and thus have not been revised in any form.
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The Beginning of the End: Timisoara, 15-17 December 1989
As we discussed in chapter three, where state institutions become deeply-implicated in authoritarian regime politics, the personnel of these state institutions are more likely to respond to the calls of political leaders to save the regime in the face of a serious challenge to its survival. Moreover, should the authoritarian regime nevertheless collapse, their enduring identification with authoritarian-era institutional interests and identities will prove detrimental to the construction and consolidation of democracy in the post-authoritarian era. The remnants of these authoritarian-era state institutions will constitute unaccountable islands of influence and privilege, resistant to attempts to subordinate them to democratic control, and determined to defend their lingering institutional and personal interests. The elevated role of state institutions in the authoritarian era thus means that the delegitimation and decomposition of the authoritarian regime are likely to be incomplete.
The Timisoara events of 15-17 December 1989–the events which eventually resulted in the collapse of the Ceausescu regime–offer confirmation for both these hypotheses. The details of what happened in Timisoara suggest that in spite of the clearly popular character of the anti-regime demonstrations which took place there, and the backdrop of the events which had already taken place elsewhere that fall in Eastern Europe, state institutions responded faithfully to Nicolae Ceausescu’s orders to repress. This was significantly different than what happened elsewhere in Eastern Europe where the army and security apparatus generally abstained from brutal intervention when aging, hardline leaders attempted to goad them into action against anti-regime protesters.
It is the content of the historiography of the December 1989 events which serves as our window to the ability of former Securitate personnel to influence the behavior of other Romanian citizens in the defense of the lingering institutional interests of the Securitate. Thus, it is the historiography of the December events which is our window to the legacy of Ceausescu era regime-state relations upon post-authoritarian outcomes. To the extent that we can identify an institutional view of the Securitate with regard to any particular event or incident, we can use this view to judge other accounts against. We will say that such an institutional view exists where we can show that, regardless of the directorate or unit they used to serve in, former Securitate personnel express similar views about a particular event or incident. We can conclude that the former Securitate continues to exercise detrimental influence if we can show that there is a high degree of similarity or convergence between the accounts of post-Ceausescu media and political elites, and Securitate accounts, and if we can show that this consensual account is false. Thus, in our analysis of the Timisoara events–and in the analysis of all the events of December 1989–we are interested in establishing the views of former Securitate personnel, comparing these views with accounts of the same event or incident by post-Ceausescu political and media elites, and judging the validity of the these accounts.
Ultimately, it is the behavior of opposition media and political elites which is of greatest importance for judging the Securitate‘s influence. These are the people who express the greatest ideological distaste for the former Securitate and who have given proof of their independence from the Iliescu regime through their consistently vigorous criticism and investigation of the Iliescu leadership and the personnel of the Securitate‘s institutional successors within the regime. Thus, we would expect for their discussion of the December 1989 events to be the most diametrically-opposed to Securitate accounts of those same events. Their behavior is something of a “lowest common denominator,” our true test of the substance of Romania’s young democracy.
In comparing the views of former Securitate personnel (or their unabashed cheerleaders in the Ceausescu nostalgic press) with those of opposition media and political elites, it is important to rely on the accounts of opposition elites who, through the content of their accounts, show that they are not merely repeating what other opposition elites have heard or said, but have come to these conclusions first-hand. Opposition elites routinely express their opinions on the December events, but the vagueness of their allegations usually suggests that these allegations are not originally their own and that they may not be aware of the context of the allegations. Such accounts are thus unsatisfying for our purposes as these elites do not exhibit a degree of knowledgeability which would confirm to us that they are sufficiently conscious of the content, meaning, and implications of their allegations.
We will assume that the closer opposition elites have gotten to the details of the December events, the more aware of, and responsible for, their allegations they must be. Therefore, among opposition elites, we are more interested in those journalists who have investigated the December events in great detail over an extended period of time than in those who sporadically express vague opinions, and in those politicians who have served on parliamentary commissions investigating the December events, rather than politicians who merely drop a line in a campaign speech about the events and clearly do not have such in-depth knowledge of them. These are the people who have set the agenda and “framed the discourse” on December 1989–who have indicated how society should think and believe about the December events–and therefore among opposition elites it is their accounts which are most important. The criteria for determining what constitutes an “opposition account” and thus who is an “opposition elite” are discussed in Appendix One.
The primary institutional interests which former Securitate members seek to defend in the historiography of the Timisoara events–and in the historiography of the December 1989 events in general–are fairly straightforward. First, they wish to deny both that major repression and bloodshed took place, and that if it did, they had any part in it. Second, they wish to cast doubt upon the degree to which the demonstrations were genuine, spontaneous, and peaceful. Third, they wish to suggest that they embraced the popular characteristics of the uprising and enabled the revolution to succeed. From the Securitate point of view, these second and third interests are not mutually exclusive–i.e. they can maintain that foreign agents sparked the protests in order to oust Ceausescu, but that even if the catalyst of the protests was illegitimate, those protests did contain a genuine, understandable, and laudable popular element. In other words, the Securitate wants to “have their cake and eat it too.”
Specifically, the historiography of the Timisoara events reveals the degree to which the Securitate were deeply implicated in the repressive policies of the Ceausescu regime and to which it attempted (especially in the period preceding the outbreak of the anti-regime demonstrations) to impose its institutional interests and interpretation of events upon the regime leadership, including Ceausescu. It also suggests the degree to which the anti-Soviet orientation of regime ideology and legitimacy influenced Ceausescu’s perception of the Timisoara events at the time and have influenced the content of Securitate disinformation in the post-Ceausescu era.
The Timisoara Uprising: An Overview
Timisoara, a multi-ethnic city of approximately 330,000 residents in southwestern Romania, was the birthplace of the December 1989 revolution. Demonstrations began there on Friday, 15 December 1989 when members of a Hungarian Reformed (Calvinist) congregation gathered to protest the imminent eviction of their pastor, Laszlo Tokes. Although originally a small demonstration of several hundred members of the Hungarian minority, many Romanians soon joined the crowd. On Saturday, 16 December and Sunday, 17 December, protest spread throughout the city and began to assume an unambiguous anti-regime tone. On the Sunday evening, the authorities opened fire on the demonstrators, killing approximately 100 and wounding in excess of 300. About 900 demonstrators were arrested. By the Monday morning, the city was described as an armed camp and the repression continued throughout the day. Protests unexpectedly rekindled on Tuesday, 19 December. By Wednesday, 20 December, regime forces were withdrawing from the city and a committee representing the demonstrators was negotiating with regime officials sent from Bucharest. As of Wednesday evening–a day before protests erupted in Bucharest and two days before the unexpected flight of the Ceausescus–protesters appeared to be in control of Timisoara.
In any country, such a sudden change in fortunes might have induced curiosity and suspicion. But because these events had taken place in one of the most tightly-controlled societies in the world, and because popular protest had been so rare and so brutally and effectively repressed in the past, questions arose almost immediately over the spontaneity of the protests and the regime’s surprising inability to crush them. How could the case of Pastor Tokes have been allowed to reach such a dangerous juncture given the extraordinarily tense circumstances in which the Ceausescu regime found itself in December 1989? Why did regime forces wait so long to engage in brutal repression and why did it then fail? How could this seemingly invincible regime lose or abandon this major industrial city to the protesters, especially given what had already happened to communist regimes elsewhere in Eastern Europe that autumn?
The incomplete, contradictory, and bizarre evidence which exists about the Timisoara events has fueled suspicion on two fronts: a) that foreign powers were involved with the intent of exploiting the upheaval and uncertainty which prevailed in Eastern Europe at the time in order to topple Ceausescu, and/or b) that elements within the Ceausescu regime nurtured the Timisoara unrest or dragged their feet in carrying out its repression in order to propel Ceausescu’s ouster. The former Securitate usually favor the first explanation because it tends to deny the spontaneous and popular dimension of the December events and presents Nicolae Ceausescu and their institution as the innocent victims of a diabolical international conspiracy. Nevertheless, it is not difficult to see how the second explanation can also serve the former Securitate‘s interests. It suggests that at least a faction within the Securitate sided with or encouraged the actions of the protesters. In other words, it bestows revolutionary merit upon the Securitate.
“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.
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. 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.
Although one can probably find adherents to the Yalta-Malta theory in every East European country–particularly since the “Return of the Left” through the ballot box–there is little doubt that the theory finds its widest and most convinced audience–both at elite and mass levels–in Romania. This is because, as we have seen, the suggestion that the Soviet Union and the KGB were attempting to undermine the regime leadership and infringe upon national sovereignty was not an ad hoc slogan in Romania in 1989, as it was in East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria where aging political leaderships hinted at such arguments in a last-ditch effort to save their positions. Such appeals had far greater resonance in Romania in December 1989–particularly within the regime–because they had been tenets of the Romanian regime’s ideology for well over two decades. And they have had a lingering popularity in the post-Ceausescu era for that same reason. It is the uniquely antagonistic character of the relationship between the Securitate and the KGB during the Ceausescu era (discussed in chapter four), and the genuine, scarcely-veiled animosity between Ceausescu and Gorbachev, which give the Yalta-Malta scenario a plausibility and credibility (however spurious) in Romania it cannot find elsewhere in Eastern Europe.
Western analysts have frequently caricatured the views of the former Securitate towards the Ceausescu era by suggesting that they uniformly look back favorably and nostalgically upon it. In fact, many of them now openly criticize Nicolae Ceausescu’s misguided policies, erratic behavior, and harsh rule. Clearly, much of this is post facto judgement. The deceased Ceausescu serves as a convenient scapegoat for all that went wrong during his rule and by blaming him they can absolve themselves. Nevertheless, regardless of how they now view Nicolae Ceausescu, almost every former Securitate officer challenges the spontaneity of the Timisoara protests and suggests that the catalyst for the unrest came from outside Romania’s borders. Thus, they argue, even if Nicolae Ceausescu had brought the country to the point of profound crisis, this “foreign intervention” converted the Timisoara events primarily into a matter of national security.
It is interesting to recall Nicolae Ceausescu’s own interpretation of the Timisoara events during a rambling, scarcely coherent teleconference on 20 December 1989:
…all of these grave incidents in Timisoara were organized and directed by revanchist, revisionist circles, by foreign espionage services, with the clear intention of provoking disorder, of destabilizing the situation in Romania, of acting in order to eliminate the independence and territorial integrity of Romania….It is necessary to attract the attention of everyone, not only of the communists [emphasis added], but everyone to the shameful…campaign… unleashed right now by different circles, beginning with Budapest, convincingly demonstrates that…, including the declarations of the president of the United States, who declared that he had discussed the problems of Romania with Gorbachev at Malta…
In their discussion of the December events, the former Securitate have expanded upon Ceausescu’s allegations of “foreign intervention.”
In February 1991, while on trial for his part in ordering the repression of demonstrators in December 1989, the former director of the Securitate, General Iulian Vlad, proposed two principal groups of suspects for the Timisoara unrest. He described the first group as Romanian citizens (the majority of whom were presumably of Hungarian ethnicity) who had fled to Hungary, passed through refugee camps, and been sent back to Romania with a mission to engage in “destabilizing acts.” According to Vlad, “only able-bodied males” were sent back. The second group of suspects were large groups of so-called Soviet “tourists.” Here is Vlad’s depiction of this second group:
Halfway through December 1989 massive groups of Soviet tourists began to enter the country. They entered coming directly from the USSR or from Yugoslavia or Hungary. The majority were men and–in a coordinated fashion–they deployed in a convoy of brand-new “LADA” automobiles. During the night of 16-17 December ’89 such a column attempted to enter Timisoara. Some of these cars were forced to make a detour around the town, others managed to enter it…
Pavel Corut, a former high-ranking Securitate counter-military intelligence officer who has written dozens of novels seeking to rehabilitate the reputation of the former Securitate, has written of “the infiltration on Romanian territory of groups of Soviet commandos (Spetsnaz) under the cover of being tourists. It is noteworthy that December is not a tourist month and nevertheless the number of Soviet tourists grew greatly.”
In 1994, the Securitate‘s official institutional heir, the Romanian Information Service (or SRI), declared in a report on the December events:
In addition to gathering information, some Soviet agents from among our ranks received the mission to make propaganda for “changes,” even at the risk of being found out. Actions at direct incitement [of the population] were also initiated by Soviet “tourists,” whose number had grown in the preceding period and had taken on exceptional proportions by the end of 1989.
Beginning on 9 December 1989, the number of Soviet “tourists” in “private” vehicles grew from around 80 to 1,000 cars a day. This phenomenon, although realized at the time, did not lead to the necessary conclusions and measures. The occupants (two to three per car), athletic men between 25 and 40 years in the majority, avoided lodging facilities, sleeping in their cars…The cars were mostly of a “LADA” and “MOSKOVICI” make, deployed in a convoy, and had consecutively-numbered license plates and similar new equipment. The majority were “in transit towards Yugoslavia”…
It is certain that during the Timisoara events there was a large number
of Soviet “tourists.” During 15, 16, and 17 December 1989, to these already in the country were added those “returning from Yugoslavia,” the majority by car.
But the reach of this theory extends well beyond the former Securitate and their cheerleaders in the Ceausist nostalgic press. The head of the first Senatorial commission investigating the December events, film director Sergiu Nicolaescu–a key figure in the newly-formed National Salvation Front during the events of 22-25 December 1989 and a legislator of the ruling Front after 1989–described the catalyst of the December events to a journalist in December 1993 as follows:
By chance, everything began in Timisoara. It could have begun elsewhere since many places were prepared. It is known that in Iasi something was being prepared, and also in Brasov and Bucharest. There was clearly foreign intervention….For example, the intervention of the Russians in Romania. A year before in 1988 about 30,000 Russians came. A year later in 1989, in December, the number doubled. Thus, it reached 67,000. It is known that there were at least 1,000 automobiles in which there were two to three men between the ages of 30 and 40 years old, at a maximum 45 years old. It is very interesting to observe that, only a few months earlier, the Securitate had ordered that for those from socialist countries crossing the border, it was no longer necessary to note their license plate number or how many people were on board.
Asked who in the Securitate gave the order to no longer record this information, Nicolaescu insinuated that they were Soviet “moles” who had been placed there “4, 5, 10, and even 30 years earlier.”
The theory has also found its way into the opposition media. Cornel Ivanciuc, who in 1995 wrote one of the most influential exposes to date on the former Securitate for the weekly 22, maintains that the Soviets achieved their aims in December 1989 by means of the so-called “tourist-incursionists, whose activity during the revolution was identical to those of the Spetsnaz special troops for reconnaissance and diversion of the GRU [Soviet military intelligence].” Two months after General Vlad’s 1991 court statement, Sorin Rosca Stanescu, one of the most prominent journalist critics of the Iliescu regime and the SRI, presented an interview in the leading opposition daily Romania Libera with an anonymous KGB officer residing in Paris who outlined a familiar scenario. The KGB officer claimed that he had entered Romania on 14 December with others as part of a KGB plan to open fire and create confusion. He had been in Timisoara during the events, but suggested he never received the anticipated order to open fire and left the country on 26 December. Rosca Stanescu, however, made sure to remind his audience of “the insistent rumors which have been circulating referring to the existence on Romanian territory of 2,000 “LADA” automobiles with Soviet tags and two men inside each car…” Stanescu closed by asking his readers: “What did the Ceausescu couple know but were unable to say? Why is general Vlad held in this ambiguous chess game?…Is Iliescu protected by the KGB?”
Stanescu’s intentions are further drawn into question by the fact that this particular article has been cited positively by former Securitate officers in their writings. Colonel Filip Teodorescu of the Securitate‘s Counter-espionage Directorate, the second highest-ranking Securitate officer in Timisoara during the repression and sentenced to prison for his role in those events, cites extensively and favorably from this very article by Stanescu in a book on the December events. Pavel Corut also invokes Rosca Stanescu’s interview in support his arguments. Moreover, Rosca Stanescu’s questionable comments make the issue of his (revealed and acknowledged) past collaboration with the Securitate‘s USLA unit between 1975 and 1985 relevant.
Securitate accounts also routinely insinuate that foreign diplomats who came to Timisoara ostensibly to “monitor the situation” there, and foreign radio stations such as Radio Free Europe, Voice of America, the BBC, and Deutsche Welle which transmitted information about Timisoara developments, contributed directly and intentionally to the unrest. For example, the former deputy director of the Timis county Securitate, Major Radu Tinu, highlights the allegedly suspicious role played by representatives of the American and British embassies who came to Timisoara on 15 December 1989 and transmitted back to Bucharest that “everything is in order, we have seen him,” apparently referring to pastor Tokes.
Similar elements also creep into some opposition accounts. Ilie Stoian, a journalist for Expres and then Tinerama, ranks among those who have written most extensively about the December events. Stoian argues for a “Yalta-Malta” interpretation of the December events. In discussing the Timisoara events, he notes the presence of Hungarians who were filming the events from their “LADA” automobiles and the expulsion of Russians across the Yugoslav border by the Securitate–thus insinuating that they were somehow implicated in the unrest. According to Stoian:
…the December revolution was prepared in advance. In order to make things even clearer, we draw your attention to the fact that prior to the date fixed by the authorities for the evacuation of pastor Tokes from the parochial residence, in almost every evening Voice of America and Radio Free Europe would broadcast long pieces about this personage. Moreover, inside the country, foreign diplomats began to fuss….
Finally, Stoian asks:
Wasn’t the presence of foreign diplomats somehow to verify if everything “was in order,” as was said during a telephone conversation intercepted on 15 December? Weren’t they somehow doing more than just supervising and reporting on these events to their superiors? We think the answer is yes.
Questioning the Regime’s Treatment of the Tokes Case
What of the scheduled eviction of the Hungarian pastor, Laszlo Tokes, which apparently sparked the Timisoara uprising? It is known that the Securitate had placed Tokes under heavy surveillance for a long time prior to this event because of his persistent criticism of the subservient hierarchy of the Reformed Church and of the Ceausescu regime’s violation of human rights. At the same time, given the Ceausescu regime’s tradition of snuffing out dissidence before it could gain a foothold among the population–Ceausescu reportedly was fond of counseling his subordinates to “avoid creating martyrs”–the regime’s failure to isolate or silence Tokes appears uncharacteristic. Moreover, the fact that demonstrators could gather to prevent his eviction without being immediately and brutally dispersed is also unexpected.
Radu Ciobotea’s summary of the circumstances surrounding the outbreak of the Timisoara events captures the suspicions of many Romanians:
The Securitate hurries slowly, makes noisy efforts…but doesn’t resolve anything. The situation is quite strange. In a totalitarian state with a top-notch information and counter-information service and a “case” which had been pursued not for months but for years, the chiefs of state security…don’t make a decision, thus allowing matters to proceed. Moreover, the intervention of these organs is–as we say–too noisy to camouflage other hidden projects.
From May until December, a simple eviction from a residence–even if it was a parochial residence–cannot be fulfilled! A single man who had the “daring” to collaborate before all of Europe with the Hungarian mass-media (and not only with them) cannot be “neutralized”! We are looking at a dubious reality, especially when we are speaking of the activity and discretion of the Securitate.
No real threat, no sickness, not even an accident, in the end, nothing, blocks the way of this person, who under the eyes of agents, becomes a personality and gives birth by way of an almost inexplicable stubbornness to a conflict which resonates in the social consciousness…of Romanians.
Where? In Timisoara…[i]n “the Western city” close to the border full of tourists and foreign and Romanian students.
When? During winter vacation when tens of thousands of young people would be on the move from their schools and university departments. When Ceausescu’s trip to Iran was certain. When–around the holidays–Romanians had nothing to put on their tables, nothing to heat their homes with, nothing with which to heal the old and young sick with pneumonia or rheumatism. When nothing was possible.
Upon close scrutiny–with the exception of the date–everything was therefore predictable.
“Romania: Revelations of a Coup d’etat,” the influential expose by the French journalists Radu Portocala and Olivier Weber, challenged the spontaneity of the Timisoara protests. Because the authors suggest that their conclusions are based on information provided by Romanian sources; their account was rapidly translated and published widely in the Romanian press during 1990; and it was the first concerted attempt to analyze the December events and therefore “framed the dialogue” so-to-speak–by creating a paradigm to which future analyses would implicitly have to respond–the article deserves mention.
The authors allege a “Yalta-Malta” scenario in which the KGB plays the pivotal role. They suggest that the Securitate purposely attempted to instigate the Timisoara uprising:
In Romania, it was always known when somebody was arrested, but never that somebody will be arrested. However, in the case of Laszlo Tokes this is exactly what happened. The Securitate launched the rumor from the beginning of December that the pastor would be arrested on the sixteenth or seventeenth of that month. Public opinion was therefore carefully prepared.
“Someone therefore had an interest for this small demonstration of 300 to 500 people in support of Tokes to degenerate into a revolt, and then a revolution,” they conclude. In support of their allegation that foreign security services were involved in the Timisoara events, the authors marshal the court statement of Colonel Filip Teodorescu, the Securitate‘s alleged “master spycatcher,” in which he claimed to have personally arrested “foreign agents” during the Timisoara unrest. Regime forces opened fire against the protesters on the evening of 17 December because “in order to create and then maintain a state of revolutionary spirit, a brutal repression also must occur.” In other words, the Timisoara events, from the genesis of the protests, to the crackdown on demonstrators, were staged, part of an elaborate coup d’etat supported–and even masterminded–by the Securitate.
Such arguments have found an echo among some opposition journalists within Romania. For example, Ilie Stoian insinuates that at least a part of the Securitate must have been trying to undermine regime policy towards Tokes:
Returning to the name of pastor Tokes, we must say that very few remember that in the months leading up to the events, [Tokes] was guarded day and night by the Securitate. Well, if he was guarded, then how did he wind up on Radio Budapest every week giving interviews? And how could the reporters who were taping his sermons or opinions smuggle the tapes out of the country? The Securitate, after all, was not made up of children! Don’t we witness in this case, a tacit accord of some men from the D.S.S. [i.e. the Securitate] with the very acts which they were supposed to stop?
Ecaterina Radoi alleges that Tokes had informed his congregation of his imminent arrest on Sunday, 10 December 1989. Sarcastically she asserts: “And, indeed, Friday, 15 December, the authorities intended for this event–announced long ago, and given ample media coverage in Hungary and the West–to take place.” After the protest got under way, “the forces of order intervened, dispersed the few protesters there and arrested a few so that the next day they could be let free.” Moreover, Pastor Tokes has himself become the subject of scrutiny. In 1994, the opposition weekly Tinerama published documents it maintained revealed that ever since the mid-1970s Pastor Tokes had been an informer for the Securitate. Well-known journalist Ioan Itu hinted that the revelation of this fact meant that the story of December 1989 needed to be completely reconsidered in light of this new information.
A Review of the Evidence
Although at first glance the regime’s treatment of Pastor Tokes seems strange and even illogical, within the context of the workings of the Ceausescu regime and the regime’s strategy for dealing with dissent it makes perfect sense. There is simply no convincing evidence to believe that the Securitate–or a faction within it–purposely dragged its feet in enforcing Pastor Tokes’ eviction, or was attempting to spark a demonstration in the hopes of precipitating Ceausescu’s fall. The regime’s decision to evict Tokes was not a last-minute decision. Moreover, the regime exerted tremendous and sometimes brutal pressure to silence Tokes in the months preceding this deadline. Interestingly, according to high-ranking members of the former Securitate, Nicolae Ceausescu’s unwillingness to approve the more definitive measures requested by the Securitate allowed the Tokes case to drag on without resolution (see below). The Tokes case suggests the bureaucratic and byzantine mentalities of the Ceausescu regime, and the clash between a dictator’s instructions and how the institutions charged with defending him interpret their mission.
Contrary to its presentation in the aforementioned accounts, the plan to evict Tokes had not appeared overnight. Tokes had known since 31 March 1989 that he had been suspended from his position as pastor in Timisoara. In August, the Hungarian Reformed Calvinist Bishop of Oradea, Laszlo Papp, had responded to Tokes’ appeal of his suspension. Papp informed Tokes that he was to vacate his residence in Timisoara by 15 December 1989 and leave for the remote village of Mineu. On 14 October 1989, the Reformed Church Council met–according to Tokes, under duress, as a result of Papp’s heavy-handed intimidation of other council members–and sent an ultimatum to Tokes stating that he must leave Timisoara by 20 October 1989 at the latest. In response, Tokes placed himself under “voluntary house arrest” and launched another appeal claiming that the bishop’s actions lacked a legal basis. On 28 November, Tokes received a rejection of this new appeal and was informed that his eviction would definitely be enforced on Friday, 15 December 1989.
Both Laszlo Tokes and his father (who was also a minister) had long had run-ins with the regime. In the mid-1980s, Laszlo Tokes had been defrocked from the ministry because of his persistent criticism of collaboration and corruption among the church’s leadership and of the regime’s policies towards the Hungarian minority. Tokes proved to be more of a problem outside of the church and unemployed than he had been as a pastor, however. Radicalized by his expulsion, he began a letter-writing campaign to slow the regime’s ongoing elimination of Hungarian educational facilities. Moreover, his fight for reinstatement in the church caught the attention of Western embassies and international organizations. This occurred right as the West was beginning to conclude that Gorbachev’s emerging reformist course in the Soviet Union and the deteriorating quality of human rights in Romania were devaluing Romania’s “maverick” status within the bloc. Thus, in 1986, apparently after the issue had been raised in the Foreign Relations Committee of the U.S. Senate and considerable diplomatic pressure had been applied, the Reformed church reinstated Tokes. This incident was once again evidence that in individual, high-profile cases, Nicolae Ceausescu could upon occasion prove surprisingly pliable in the face of external pressure.
Transferred to Timisoara, Tokes rapidly became a popular preacher and continued where he had left off: in his sermons, he routinely made “scarcely veiled attacks” on Ceausescu and assailed regime policies such as the “systematization” (de-villagization) program. Upon Tokes’ arrival in Timisoara in 1986, the Timis county bureau of the Securitate‘s First Directorate (Internal Affairs) “Office for the Study of Nationalists, Fascists, and Hungarian Irredentists” took control of his file and placed him under surveillance. According to Puspoki, by the end of 1987 Tokes had become “public enemy number one of the Timis county Securitate” and the newly appointed director of the local Securitate, Colonel Traian Sima, had taken personal charge of the Tokes case. This reflected both the regime’s increasing fear of Tokes’ dissidence and Sima’s well-known zealotry.
At least initially, the Securitate pursued less heavy-handed tactics in dealing with Tokes. Laszlo Tokes has himself acknowledged the changed methods of the Securitate:
In Dej, I had been threatened, harassed and constantly pressured by the Securitate. Now my chief Securitate spy was Laszlo Papp [the Bishop of Oradea and Tokes’ superior]. From my arrival at the church in 1986 to my departure, I never saw a Securitate man in my office. They were present at Sunday services, visited the presbyters and questioned people with whom I was in close contact. But they did not approach me. At Dej I had made public outside Romania the persecution I was receiving; this time, the Securitate and the authorities were changing their tactics.
Thus, when in March 1989 the regime believed Tokes’ behavior was becoming a serious threat, Tokes was not kicked out of the church as had happened several years earlier, but was instead banished to the remote village of Mineu. As Tokes comments:
open expulsion would have provoked a Church incident and considerable interest from the West. Refusal to accept a bishop’s instruction, however, would look like deliberate disobedience on my part. The skilled foresight that had ensured I was kept a probationary pastor had kept me firmly under the direct jurisdiction of the bishop.
As 1989 progressed and the confrontation between Tokes and the Reformed Church leadership deepened, Tokes’ case once again emerged into the international spotlight. The BBC, Radio Free Europe, and Deutsche Welle began to follow the Tokes case closely and beamed news of it back into Romania. Reflecting the scope of political change inside Hungary, Hungarian state radio broadcast weekly reports on the pastor’s fate. The broadcast by Hungarian state television on 26 July 1989 of an interview with Pastor Tokes (secretly taped earlier that spring) seemed to precipitate a change in the Securitate‘s treatment of Tokes. The Securitate moved beyond the habitual telephone threats and rumor-mongering about Tokes, to detaining, beating up, and arresting (on the pretext of foreign currency violations) members of his congregation and relatives. On 14 September 1989, the church elder Erno Ujvarossy, who had previously organized a petition in defense of Tokes, was found murdered in the woods outside Timisoara. Uniformed and plainclothes Securitate men were posted permanently outside the parochial residence and in the surrounding buildings. About all Tokes was able to do by this time was to go the cemetery to conduct burials.
The suggestion that the Securitate treated Tokes gently prior to his eviction is simply incorrect. On 2 November 1989, four masked men burst through the locked doors of the parochial residence, wielding knives and screaming in a fury. Tokes was slashed on the forehead before his church bodyguards could come to his rescue, causing the four to flee. The numerous Securitate men posted out front of the building had done nothing to intervene in spite of calls for help. Puspoki suggests that these “Mafia-like thugs,” who attacked as if from “an Incan tribe,” were some of Colonel Sima’s “gorillas,” sent to deliver a clear message to Tokes that he should leave immediately. The view of the former Securitate–as expounded by Colonel Sima’s senior deputy, Major Radu Tinu–insinuates a “tourist”-like scenario. According to Tinu, the incident was clearly a “set-up” designed to draw sympathy to Tokes’ cause since the assailants fled away in a car with West German tags. Not for the last time, the Securitate thus appears to attempt to attribute its own actions to foreign agents.
A week after the mysterious attack by the masked intruders, all of the windows of the parochial residence and nearby buildings were smashed. Interestingly, the report drawn up for Bucharest by the Timisoara Securitate attempted to argue that “workers” from the Timisoara Mechanical Enterprise, offended by pastor Tokes’ behavior, had broken the windows. According to Puspoki, the use of a propaganda-like description was not accidental: the local Securitate was trying to present the incident as evidence of “the dissatisfaction of the working people of Timisoara” in the hope that it would finally prompt Ceausescu into approving definitive measures against Tokes.
Was Ceausescu responsible for the fact that the Tokes case dragged on without resolution? Support for such a conclusion comes from the comments of Securitate officers Colonel Filip Teodorescu and Major Radu Tinu. Teodorescu was dispatched to Timisoara with sixty other Securitate information officers in order to “verify” the request of the local Securitate that proceedings for treason be initiated against Tokes. Teodorescu laments:
Unfortunately, as in other situations…Nicolae Ceausescu did not agree because he didn’t want to further muddy relations with Hungary. Moreover, groundlessly, he hoped to avoid the criticisms of “Western democracies” by taking administrative measures against the pastor through the Reformed Church to which [Tokes] belonged.
Major Radu Tinu suggests that Ceausescu’s approval was necessary in the case of Securitate arrests and that the local Securitate remained “stupefied” that after having worked so long and hard in gathering information with which to charge Tokes with the crime of treason, Ceausescu rejected the request. Tinu speculates that Ceausescu “did not want to create problems at the international level.”
Because former Securitate officers rarely pass up the opportunity to absolve themselves of blame, and it would appear both easier and more advantageous to blame the deceased Ceausescu for being too unyielding in the Tokes affair, these allegations seem plausible. Thus, it would appear that because Nicolae Ceausescu was skittish of further damaging Romania’s already deteriorating relations with the international community, and the Tokes case was a high-profile one, he refrained from approving visible, definitive action against the pastor. The Securitate‘s attempt to goad Ceausescu to bolder action would appear to confirm Ghita Ionescu’s suggestion that where the security apparatus comes to dominate regime affairs it attempts to impose its institutional prerogatives upon political superiors. Ceausescu and the Securitate appear then to have had sometimes conflicting views over how to resolve the Tokes affair in the quickest and most efficient fashion.
By December 1989, a huge group of Securitate officers were working on the Tokes case: the entire branch of the First Directorate for Timis county, the special division charged with combatting Hungarian espionage, high-ranking members of the First Directorate and Independent Service “D” (responsible for disinformation) from Bucharest, and members of the division charged with “Surveillance and Investigation.” Puspoki describes Timisoara at this late hour as follows:
Day and night, the telex machines on the top floor of the [County Militia] “Inspectorate” incessantly banged out communications, while the telephones never stopped ringing. Minister Postelnicu yelled on the phone, Colonel Sima yelled through the offices and the hallways. The officers ran, as if out of their minds, after information, besieged neighbors of the pastor, and dispatched in his direction–what they call–“informers with possibilities.”
Yet the case lingered on. On Sunday, 10 December 1989, Pastor Tokes announced to his congregation that he had received a rejection of his most recent appeal: the regime would make good on its threat to evict him on Friday, 15 December. He termed this an “illegal act” and suggested that the authorities would probably use force since he would not go willingly. He appealed for people to come and attend as “peaceful witnesses.” They came.
The Evolution of the Timisoara Protests: Securitate Complicity or Tactical Miscalculation?
From the morning of Friday, 15 December until the afternoon of Sunday, 17 December 1989, regime forces were unable to halt the expansion of the street protests which began with the intention of preventing the eviction of pastor Tokes. Regime forces appear to have had several opportunities to intervene and put an end to these demonstrations, and either chose not to do so, or did so remarkably ineffectively. Indeed, at certain key moments, regime forces seem to have disappeared or ceded control of the streets to the demonstrators for extended periods of time. Moreover, eyewitnesses suggest that there were many plainclothes Securitate operatives among the crowds. Even if the Securitate had not intended for the scheduled eviction of Tokes to spark anti-regime demonstrations, had a faction from within it attempted to exploit this unexpected opportunity?
On the morning of Friday, 15 December 1989, the scheduled day of pastor Tokes’ eviction, small groups of three to four people from his congregation began gathering in front of the parochial residence at Piata Maria. The crowd gradually grew to number in the hundreds. At this stage, most demonstrators were still ethnic Hungarians. By evening, however, many Romanians had joined the crowd. The crowd now exceeded one thousand people. Interestingly, many of these Romanians were members of the Romanian Baptist and Pentecostal communities in Timisoara. Earlier that week, a senior member of Tokes’ congregation had informed these religious communities of the scheduled eviction and they had turned out in support of Tokes. By the evening of Saturday, 16 December 1989, the crowd had been swelled by the addition of high school and university students, and its radicalized contingents decided to march on the principal regime buildings in the city.
Three factors which favored the genesis of these demonstrations deserve mention here. Timisoara, located less than fifty miles from both the Hungarian and Yugoslav (Serb) borders, has an uncharacteristically cosmopolitan climate for this part of the world. Through the years, majority Romanians and minorities of Hungarians, Germans, and Serbs have lived in relative harmony. The traditional absence of inter-ethnic tensions clearly strengthened the chances for protest to bridge ethnic boundaries. That the initial core of the Timisoara demonstrations was provided by members of religious communities–and especially religious communities which were persecuted because of their identification with a particular ethnic group or because they lay outside the mainstream (Orthodox Christian in Romania)–was also vital. Throughout the communist world, after an initial period of attempting to extinguish religious institutions, communist regimes had grudgingly come to tolerate their existence (if under strict control) and even to see them as a beneficial vehicle for absorbing popular dissatisfaction with the regime.
But in a country such as Romania–where almost every other societal institution (no matter how small or seemingly innocuous) had been destroyed, outlawed, or denied local autonomy–at the grassroots level religious institutions served as a unique hub for association and resistance. Thus, Hungarian religious institutions came to be viewed as vehicles for the defense of Hungarian ethnic identity even among secular Hungarians. The sense of community among those religious institutions most persecuted by the regime provided the basis by which a demonstration of a small number of Hungarians could transform into a large crowd in which Romanians were the majority. Finally, Timisoara’s proximity to Hungary and Yugoslavia, which enabled residents to pick up Hungarian and Yugoslav television broadcasts (the latter of which ran taped CNN broadcasts at night at the time), likely meant that the population of Timisoara was better informed than others in Romania about the collapse of communism elsewhere in Eastern Europe.
How had a protest of several dozen timid parishioners evolved into a radicalized crowd of thousands in less than thirty-six hours? The answer appears to lie in the cliched image of a totalitarian regime, so overconfident of its own control and endurance, and so drunk with its own propaganda, that it is caught off-guard by the slightest expression of open dissidence and misjudges the potential for further trouble. Such regimes are prone less to an impulsive, bloody crackdown against demonstrators, than to a confused mix of violence and concessions which reflects the regime’s own confusion and hesitation. The unclear message sent by such a confused response appears to have backfired in this case and emboldened the Timisoara protesters who, perhaps after what had happened elsewhere in Eastern Europe, had come to believe that anything was possible.
After what Tokes describes as an initial “half-hearted attempt to impose control” on the morning of 15 December, around midday the Securitate and Militia men at the scene suddenly withdrew. Guards who had been posted in front of the Tokes residence for weeks disappeared. They even took with them the vehicles they had warmed themselves in during their surveillance operations. That this was merely a tactical retreat is made clear by what happened later that evening. At approximately 10:30 p.m., with about one thousand protesters blocking the entrance to the parochial residence, the authorities finally reappeared.
Mayor Petre Mot and a small delegation of officials arrived on the scene. Mot feigned ignorance of the orders for Tokes’ eviction. Nevertheless, he pledged that he would arrange a temporary civil residency permit for Tokes; that Tokes’ pregnant wife, who was quite ill, would be able to see a doctor; and that the windows–so mysteriously smashed weeks earlier and now allowing the winter air to fill the apartment–would be repaired immediately. The proposed concessions achieved their goal and the crowd began to break up. Only about 150 people stayed to stand vigil through the night. Plainclothes Securitate men then moved in with clubs and dispersed these remaining demonstrators. On this first day, the regime’s carrot-and-stick approach succeeded. It was reminiscent of what had happened in Motru in 1981 and Brasov in 1987. The targets of popular hatred–the Securitate and Militia–had disappeared merely until the setting was more to their advantage.
On the morning of Saturday, 16 December, both the demonstrators and Mayor Mot’s delegation returned to the Tokes residence. The Securitate and Militia apparently kept their distance. Work crews set about replacing the broken glass–quite a sight apparently, since glass had been a rare commodity in Timisoara for months. The crowd demanded written confirmation from Mot that Tokes’ eviction would be canceled. Mot and his delegation left, promising to return with written confirmation in hand. Shortly after their departure, however, news began to filter back to the protesters: such a written promise was impossible, the Bucharest legal department charged with such matters was closed because it was Saturday! Meanwhile, the crowd was steadily growing.
Mot himself did not return. Instead, the deputy mayor came. An angry negotiating session ensued between the deputy mayor and ten representatives of the crowd (six Romanians and four Hungarians, a testament to the multi-ethnic character of the demonstration). The deputy mayor left, promising he would have Bucharest fax him the necessary documents to secure a peaceful end to the demonstration. As Tokes observes: “I did not ask why Bucharest was suddenly able to produce documents on a Saturday.” Instead of the documents, however, the mayor sent back an ultimatum: if the crowd did not disperse by 5 p.m., water cannon would be used against the protesters.
Although Tokes appealed for the crowd to go home, he himself admits that by this time the protest had assumed a dynamic of its own and was not heeding his or anyone else’s pleas. According to Tokes: “though the crowd looked to me as a figurehead, in truth I was a prisoner of their anger.” By the evening, the addition of high school and university students had clearly radicalized the crowd. Buoyed by their sense of growing strength–this time the absence of regime forces at the scene had backfired–protesters were now chanting “Down with Ceausescu! Down with the regime! Down with Communism!” and singing the long-outlawed anthem “Awake, Romanian!” About one thousand of the protesters broke off from the rest of the group and headed for the Romanian Orthodox Cathedral in the central Opera Square. The demonstrators seemed to believe that the regime would be less likely to resort to violence in the shadow of a house of worship.
On their way, the protesters became increasingly aggressive and began ripping down the ubiquitous, rusting billboards extolling the joys of living in Ceausescu’s “Golden era.” Their ranks were strengthened by thousands of university students who had made their way down from the so-called “Student Complex” zone. Initially, these students had been prevented from leaving the “Student Complex” zone by cordons of Securitate men. But as their ranks grew and they became more angry, the Securitate suddenly found themselves vastly outnumbered and decided the better part of valor was to cut and run. This delighted and emboldened the protesters.
The two groups of protesters made their way towards the county party headquarters building. They found it deserted, unlit, and unguarded–save for two fire engines with water cannon. The water cannon were turned against the protesters and the crowd responded with a furious attack against the vehicles and the party building. The demonstrators broke the windows of the building and attempted to destroy any symbol of the regime they could find. Suddenly, Militia men appeared on the scene with clubs and tear gas. The protesters were savagely beaten and many were arrested. Around the same time, back at Piata Maria, two hundred Militia officers and junior officers (some in uniform, some in civilian clothes) had arrived. Violent altercations broke out: windows were smashed and several cars in the area set ablaze. The demonstrators threw pavement stones, bottles, anything they could get their hands on. Numerous arrests were made. Confrontations also occurred between demonstrators and regime forces elsewhere in the city.
Lost in the revisionist coverage of the December events is the fact that the Securitate and Militia did indeed enforce Tokes’ eviction notice. Sometime after 3 a.m. on Sunday, 17 December, a large number of plainclothes and uniformed Securitate and Militia men broke into the parochial residence. The Tokes family sought refuge in the church. Laszlo Tokes was captured inside the church and beaten severely, then taken back to the apartment where Securitate and Militia officers, the local party secretary, and the Minister of Cults from Bucharest were waiting for him. Tokes was forced to sign a blank sheet of paper which was to serve as his resignation from the Timisoara congregation. As Tokes notes, in spite of the fact that he was bleeding profusely over his clerical robe, “there was a veneer of formality about the proceedings. One of the people in the office was a lawyer in charge of evictions, and a form of official procedure was being precariously observed.” Tokes and his wife were taken by car out of Timisoara. Initially, they believed they would be killed. But as they kept on driving, they realized they were heading north to Transylvania, to the village of Mineu, their ordained place of exile.
If the authorities had misjudged the intentions and resolve of the demonstrators on 15 and 16 December, by Sunday 17 December they were no longer taking any chances. Throughout the night of 16-17 December, Securitate and Army reinforcements arrived in Timisoara from bases elsewhere in the country. By mid-morning, thousands of demonstrators (as many as 7,000-8,000) had returned to the city center and were shouting for freedom, bread, and an end to Ceausescu’s rule. In an ill-conceived show of force, the Army paraded through the town with full fanfare and bugle corps, only to be pelted with rocks and jeered by the townspeople. As on the previous night, demonstrators made their way to the county party headquarters building.
The demonstrators found the building with its windows repaired, the previous night’s graffiti scrubbed away, the flowers and grass replanted, and trees broken the previous night tied together with wire! This was the fantasy world of totalitarianism, where the regime goes to the most absurd lengths to convince the population that black is white and white is black, to make even those who saw an event wonder if it had not all been a dream. Unlike the previous night, this time the building was guarded better. Nevertheless, the unexpectedly large numbers of protesters initially overwhelmed the regime forces and began ransacking the building. As on the previous night, however, the regime forces regrouped quickly and intervened brutally: the Militia and Securitate appeared on the scene and began savagely beating and arresting demonstrators. The first fatalities of the events also occurred at this time.
Nevertheless, demonstrators continued to mass elsewhere in the city. Their numbers were perhaps in excess of ten thousand. The political character of the protests was made clear by the slogans calling for Ceausescu’s ouster and free elections. As Mircea Balan suggests, many protesters had prepared for the worst:
[v]ery many [of the demonstrators] had bags in their hands and children with them. It was a naive rationalization–that if they were arrested by the forces of order they could escape by claiming they had been out shopping or taking a walk.
Perhaps because in a number of instances soldiers had fled rather than confront the crowds, and because of the widely-held impression that it was possible to appeal to the sympathy of Army soldiers, the crowds began to chant more insistently “Armata e cu noi” [The Army is with us]. Protesters challenged soldiers with phrases such as “We are the people, who are you defending?” and “You also have wives and children.” The demonstrators were clearly hoping to precipitate insubordination in the Army’s ranks and to create a rift among regime forces. According to Ratesh, on the afternoon and evening of Sunday, 17 December, “[f]or some unexplained reason, the protestors thought that either the authorities would not dare to massacre the people or the army would not follow orders to shoot with live ammunition.” Ratesh’s claim seems to be born out by the testimonies of some of the demonstrators. A rumor (based on the comments of a former Army officer) circulated, according to which because a “state of emergency or war” had not been declared, the soldiers weapons were not loaded with live ammunition. Tragically, the rumor was incorrect.
The “Window Breakers”
The reportedly unusual scope of physical destruction which occurred in Timisoara, particularly on the afternoon and evening of 17 December 1989, has fueled revisionist arguments. Estimates of the damage during the Timisoara unrest are in the neighborhood of four to five billion lei (approximately forty to fifty million dollars at the time), a reasonably large sum given Romania’s standard of living at the time. A huge number of windows was broken and as many as 300 to 400 stores suffered some sort of damage, although relatively few were actually looted. On the evening of 17 December, stores, vehicles, and kiosks were burning in at least ten different areas of the city.
Former Securitate officers clearly wish to link this destruction to the “foreign tourists” who were supposedly so ubiquitous in Timisoara during these days. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, former Securitate Director Iulian Vlad argued at his trial that
…the acts of vandalism, theft, destruction, arson… acts without precedent…could not have been the work [“opera”] of the faithful [apparently referring sarcastically to Tokes’ parishioners], nor the revolutionaries. They were produced by elements which wished to create a certain atmosphere of tension.
“A group of former Securitate officers” wrote to the Ceausist Democratia in September 1990 that after the Militia and Securitate refused to respond to the demonstrations provoked by the “foreign tourists”: “they advance[d] to the next stage: the massive destruction of public property designed to provoke forcible interventions–human victims were needed.”
Nevertheless, here is how one opposition journalist, Grid Modorcea, has described the strange character of Timisoara destruction:
For the first time in history, a revolution…was announced in a previously unknown and absolutely original manner, both literally and figuratively speaking: through the methodical breakage of thousands of windows. On 16 and 17 December 1989, Timisoara was the city of [glass] shards. Well-trained groups of athletes spread throughout the town, tactically, but energetically smashing to pieces hundreds of huge windows without apparently being interested in stealing from these stores…they were like mythical Magis coming to announce the end of one world and the beginning of another. And they gave it an apocalyptic quality: the sound produced by the breaking glass was infernal. The panic this caused was indescribable….Those who “executed” the windows did so with karate-like kicks while yelling “Liberty and Justice”!…The crowds of people who came out into the streets transformed spontaneously into columns of demonstrators, of authentic revolutionaries. The effect was therefore monumental: the breaking of the windows unleashed the popular revolt against the dictator.
Modorcea is convinced that the Tokes case was “merely a pretext” and that “someone–perhaps those who planned the vandalizing of the windows–has an interest in preventing it from being known who broke the windows.” Although Modorcea maintains he is unsure who was responsible, he insists on observing that:
Only the Customs people know how many tourists there were. All were men and long-haired. Inside their cars they had canisters. This fits with the method of the breaking of the windows, with the Molotov cocktails, and the drums used as barricades–they were exactly of the same type….To what extent the new regime which came to power was implicated, we cannot say!
Many Timisoara protesters appear torn between wishing to rationalize the extensive destruction as the courageous response of an enraged, long-suffering population, and denying that the perpetrators could have come from among their ranks. Even those investigators attuned to the retroactive psychology of the protesters cannot help but admit that widespread destruction occurred and that it could not have been wholly spontaneous. Furthermore, as Laszlo Tokes has observed in discussing the events at Piata Maria, manipulation and attempts to instigate the crowd to violence were constant features during these days.
Tokes maintains that Securitate provocateurs had tried to agitate the crowd by shouting things like, “Let’s break into the house. The Securitate are in there; they’re trying to kidnap Laszlo Tokes! Let’s rush them!” and by appealing for him to “Come down into the street and lead us!” According to Tokes:
I was alarmed at the obvious provocation from individuals in the crowd clearly intent on making the situation uncontrollable….Later, thinking about the events of those two days, I realized that the authorities would have had a great deal to gain if the situation had become a riot.
Mircea Balan questions whether the protesters would have set stores on fire which were located on the ground floor of the buildings in which the protesters themselves lived. Moreover, he wonders how even the revolutionary fury of the crowd could drive protesters to break so many windows, particularly given the presence of repressive forces on the streets. It is what Balan has termed the “systematic devastation” of property which raises questions.
Eyewitness accounts recorded soon after the events–therefore at a time before the various plots and scenarios had permeated the popular imagination–support the hypothesis that the vandalism was organized. Moldovan Fica remarks:
I admit that I cannot escape a certain conclusion. All of this [destruction] was done by a group of about five or six individuals, whose calm demeanor and self-control continues to stay with me to this day. They did not run from the scene, they appeared as if they did not fear anything; I would say that, in fact, they were doing what was required of them, something which had been ordered directly of them!
Describing destruction in a different part of the city, Andras Vasile observed that
…four young men with shaved heads and wearing civilian clothes had sticks–I would term them special sticks–1.7 to 1.8 meters long, equipped with metal rings on the top of them. They were breaking the windows, but not taking anything, as if they only had something against the windows, something which they thus went about with great enjoyment…they were led by two individuals in leather jackets.
Other eyewitnesses supply details which confirm the widespread character of the vandalism; its undeniably organized quality; the disinterest of its perpetrators in looting the stores; and the almost “drugged” nature of the perpetrators, who seemed unperturbed by the chaos and repression going on around them.
Mircea Balan has little doubt who committed this “systematic destruction”:
Demonstrators might have thrown rocks in windows, but the destruction of the entire store was not their work…Nobody need believe that for such a thing foreign intervention was necessary, seeing as there were enough first-class specialists in destruction and demolition right here at home. The Securitate could not have been foreign to what happened, no matter how much it fiercely attempts to deny this today. They were professionals in the art of destruction. They needed a justification for the bloody repression.
In March 1990, Puspoki had been willing to identify the culprits more specifically. According to Puspoki, as the demonstrators began to gather to prevent Tokes’ eviction:
The USLA’s Sabotage and Diversion team was readied to break store windows, to devastate and set fires–to create the conditions necessary for mass repression: the existence of disorder in the streets and theft on the part of the demonstrators.
Securitate Major Radu Tinu’s observation that the commercial complex “in front of the county Militia building” (i.e. the Inspectorate in which both the Securitate and Militia offices were located) was one of only two such complexes in the whole city to remain intact during these days may also be an indication of the source of the destruction.
It is possible then that to the extent that this destruction did indeed contain an organized component, it was designed by the regime to subvert and cast suspicion upon the intentions of the protesters and to create a pretext for repression. To the extent that an organized component did contribute to the destruction, it was far more likely to have been regime forces attempting to undermine the protests than foreign agents attempting to provoke an uprising against the regime.
Ceausescu Gives the Order to Open Fire
On the afternoon of 17 December 1989, Nicolae Ceausescu convened an emergency session of the CPEx in which he berated his three main commanders–Milea (Defense), Postelnicu (Interior), and Vlad (State Security)–for their failure to put an end to the Timisoara protests. He was particularly incensed by the fact that twice in less than twenty-four hours, demonstrators had penetrated the Timisoara party headquarters building. As with Stalin, failure to accomplish a task was equated with insubordination: there was no plausible alternative explanation.
When challenged as to why their troops had not been armed and had not fired at the feet of the demonstrators as he had ordered, the commanders told Ceausescu that they had misjudged the scope and potential of the protests. In the words of General Vlad: “Our thoughts were that it was an action of small proportions and that we could resolve it without cartridges.” Their inability to crush the protesters thus appears to have been the product of a colossal over-confidence and complacency regarding their own abilities and a serious underestimation of the resolve of the demonstrators.
Elena, whose comments suggest that she was by far the more bloodthirsty of the two, goaded her husband into taking strict action against the three generals. Nicolae accused the three of treason and threatened to remove them from their posts and send them before a firing squad. Perhaps sensing that they might be next, the other CPEx members gingerly persuaded Nicolae to give the three generals one last chance to prove their loyalty. The three generals promised that they would not fail this time. To ensure that he had a person of unquestionable loyalty in the field, earlier that day Ceausescu had dispatched Ion Coman, party secretary in charge of coordinating military and security affairs and trusted crony, to Timisoara. The Ceausescus now awaited word from Coman on the status of the repression.
Two other aspects of this emergency CPEx meeting deserve mention. It is significant that in spite of the fact that at the beginning of this meeting Nicolae reiterated his conviction that foreign espionage services had stimulated the unrest in Timisoara, and in spite of the fact that Ceausescu’s commanders were threatened with a death sentence, none of them mentioned the “foreign tourists” who have become so famous in the post-Ceausescu era. It would seem that had the “foreign tourists” truly been thought to be responsible for the Timisoara unrest at the time, these commanders would not have hesitated to invoke a discussion of their activities, particularly after having been confronted with the prospect of being sent before a firing squad. In fact, it was Ceausescu and not his commanders who at the close of the meeting proposed that the borders must be closed to “foreign tourists” because they had “all transformed into espionage agents.” This suggests that the “foreign tourist” scenario is–at a minimum–pure hindsight and, worse yet, is based on Ceausescu’s paranoid interpretation of the events at the time–hardly facts which enhance the credibility of this theory.
Secondly, Nicolae Ceausescu was clearly obsessed with the events of August 1968 and was interpreting this new challenge to his regime through this historical prism. For example, Ceausescu stated:
We will fight to the last and we must submit to the approval of the party, because the independence and sovereignty is won and defended through battle, because in 1968 had we not acted and brought the people here [apparently in reference to the main square outside the Central Committee building], if we had not armed the Patriotic Guards, they would have invaded us, as they did in Czechoslovakia, because the Soviets and Bulgarians were at the border.
He thus appealed not merely or even predominantly to the need to defend the “achievements of socialism,” but to the need to defend the Romanian nation-state.
After nightfall (around 5 p.m.) on Sunday, 17 December, regime forces opened fire on demonstrators in several locations in the center of Timisoara. Erroneous, inflated death tolls reported in both the East European and Western media over the following days (suggesting that anywhere between 1,000 and as many as 12,000 people had been killed), and the realization after the events that the actual death toll was substantially lower, has tended to obscure the fact that by almost any definition a massacre did indeed occur on the evening of 17 December 1989 in Timisoara.
Doctors and staff at the Timisoara county hospital describe an “infernal” night, with estimates of at least one hundred dead and with the pace of incoming wounded (several hundred) so great that it was impossible for a time to note information about those being admitted. Most accounts after the events placed the actual death toll at between 90 and 130, with between 300 and 400 wounded. For the next thirty-six hours, Timisoara was in a state of terror: the hospitals were overflowing with dead and wounded and almost one thousand people were arrested. The brutality of the Timisoara repression would seem to undermine any argument that Ceausescu’s commanders were encouraging or attempting to exploit the Timisoara protests to provoke Ceausescu’s ouster.
The Role of the Securitate in the Timisoara Massacre
Predictably, the former Securitate deny that they fired on the demonstrators. Instead, they allege that the multi-talented “foreign tourists” killed the Timisoara protesters:
On the basis of the general confusion which was building in the town, the Army intervened with the goal of reestablishing the gravely-disturbed order. This was the opportunity long-awaited by the “tourists”; they began–under the cover provided by warning shots–to shoot and stab demonstrators in the back while at the same time inciting them…
In court, General Vlad maintained that throughout the events of 16 and 17 December, he repeatedly ordered his subordinates in Timisoara “not to open fire and not to become involved in what was going on in the streets.” In general, Securitate and Militia officers called before the court to testify about the Timisoara events, have stuck to this line of defense: they were unarmed and–then redundantly and suspiciously–they did not open fire.
Indeed, in 1994, Colonel Dumitru Rasina, the former head of the Arad county Securitate, gave testimony before the second Senatorial commission investigating the December events which appeared to preclude ipso facto the possibility that the Securitate could have been responsible for the Timisoara bloodshed. According to Rasina, at a secret meeting on 11 November 1989, General Vlad had issued instructions which stipulated that in the event of a challenge to Ceausescu’s rule, “the Securitate is not to implicate itself in the street actions or in the repression of the demonstrators.” As significant as the argument itself was the source who brought it to light for public consumption: the aforementioned opposition journalist, Sorin Rosca Stanescu, who claimed he had been given this “sensational” testimony by an anonymous source within the commission.
In spite of these denials, it is clear that the Securitate took part in the repression. Even the transcript of the emergency CPEx meeting of 17 December (prior to the opening of gunfire) shows General Vlad telling Ceausescu that he had dispatched Securitate officers “with rubber clubs and tear gas” against the demonstrators–hardly an “indifferent” and “uninvolved” posture. One of the few Securitate officers to deviate from the courtroom routine of steadfast denial of the institution’s involvement was Colonel Ion Bunoaica, the commander of the Securitate‘s uniformed troops in Timisoara. Testifying as a witness in late 1990, Bunoaica eventually admitted both that his men had been armed during the Timisoara unrest and, suggestively, that they had taken up “battle formations” behind Army units which opened fire. This might shed light on the claim of Army Lieutenant Colonel Dumitru Damian in January 1990 that approximately every unit of
…twenty soldiers was subordinated to a Securitate officer who would stand behind them and monitor them. These Securitate officers would give the order to shoot and threaten to shoot the soldiers on the spot if they refused the order to open fire.
At the very least then, their persistent denials notwithstanding, the Securitate indeed appear to have been out on the streets and to have participated in the repression.
As the most controversial aspect of the Securitate‘s behavior in the December 1989 events concerns the activities of the so-called USLA (the special anti-terrorist warfare unit), it is important to examine their role in the Timisoara crackdown. Colonel Gheorghe Ardeleanu, the USLA commander at the time of the December events, has strenuously denied the allegation that the USLA participated in the Timisoara repression. He maintains that they could not have because their standard mission was merely the defense of embassies and airports.
When Army General Victor Stanculescu (who had himself been part of the Army team coordinating the Timisoara repression) became the new Defense Minister in February 1990, he declared that the USLA had neither been responsible for the “terrorist actions” after 22 December, nor had they taken part in the repression of demonstrators in Timisoara and Bucharest in the week prior to 22 December. At the time of Stanculescu’s clarification, Horia Alexandrescu, the editor of the daily Tineretul Liber, thanked Stanculescu for “lifting the haze” which had hung over the USLA since the December events. In reference to the Timisoara events, Alexandrescu wrote that Colonel Popescu, “director of the USLA service in Timisoara,” had four times refused to obey orders to engage in repressive actions against the demonstrators.
Yet there is good reason to question such claims. Captain Marian Romanescu, a former USLA officer, revealed in 1991 that:
On 17 December 1989, the USLA was put on a state of alert and entered into formation. In Timisoara, the “Scutul” (“shield”) subunit was put into action, and it is possible that in addition to these persons, an intervention unit made up of the “soimii” (“eagles”) taken from their aviation duties [the “eagles” apparently performed security detail on all flights] participated.
The USLA commander, Gheorghe Ardeleanu, has denied that the USLA participated in the “Scutul” action and claimed that this formation was made up only of “intervention units of the Militia.” This is an artificial distinction, however. Puspoki describes the Timisoara USLA brigade as having consisted of “young officers of the [Militia] Inspectorate and those who guarded the local international airport.” Moreover, according to Romanescu: “it is well-known that the Militia served as the cover for the majority of the USLA’s personnel.”
Writing in early 1990, the Timisoara journalist Puspoki maintained that even as the crowds began to gather around the residence of pastor Tokes, the USLA, “the most feared organism in this part of the country,” was put on a state of alert. Those regime forces which violently intervened on the evening of 16 December at the Tokes residence, and arrested as many as two hundred protesters in this area, included members of the USLA. The confrontations were fierce enough that several of the USLA ended up at the hospital.
Dr. Octavian Onisei, a surgeon at the county hospital, maintains that he treated “six members of the USLA between 9 and 10 p.m.” on 16 December, thereby clearly confirming their presence among the repressive forces. Considering the frequency of the allegation in December 1989 that those captured as “terrorists” had been drugged, Dr. Onisei’s comments concerning Captain Dorneanu, the “Director of the Office of Guarding and Order of the Municipal Militia,” deserve mention:
Dorneanu I certainly won’t forget for a long time…I would say that he was drugged [emphasis added]….He behaved in a totally unnatural way. He was continuously shouting, shouting in the truest sense of the word, that these individuals were hooligans, vagabonds, that they had to be crushed; he was shouting that we wasn’t just any man, but was a commander and that he had to be among his men, if not in body at least in mind, in order to command them, to tell them what to do, his big regret being that he had not given them the order to open fire...
Other sources refer to the fact that by the early hours of 17 December–when Tokes was forcibly evacuated–“the USLA troops had mastered the situation” at Piata Maria. When the party headquarters building was overrun for a second time at midday on 17 December, it was USLA officers who participated in the brutal recapture of the building. The USLA was also spotted making mass arrests in the center of town. Writing in mid-January 1990, Alexandra Indries described the role of the USLA in yet another part of the city:
The soldiers with shields would ambush the demonstrators and throw them into paddywagons. They were known as the USLA: specialized units of anti-terrorist warfare; they are those who today we call in a more realistic manner: terrorists, in fact, their elite and avantgarde: professional killers.
Did the USLA fire on protesters? According to at least one source, they did. In December 1994, a young man who had served briefly in the USLA told the A.M. Press agency:
In December 1989, I was in Timisoara and Bucharest….Anti-terrorist formations of recruits and professionals received war-munitions. In Timisoara, demonstrators were shot at from close distances. I saw how skulls fly when riddled by bullets. Those wearing masks, using their own special weapons, shot with exploding bullets. In January 1990, all active duty USLA troops were interned for detoxification. We had been drugged….Don’t publish my name. I fear for myself and for my parents.
Was there a juridical basis to the Securitate‘s intervention? In early 1990, at the trial of twenty-one Securitate and Militia officers arrested for their alleged participation in the Timisoara repression, the Military Prosecutor suggested that regime forces had intervened in Timisoara in accordance with the provisions of Interior Ministry Order No. 2600 of 1988. In charging the Inspector General of the Timisoara Militia, Colonel Ion Popescu–the individual referred to earlier by Alexandrescu as the “head of the USLA service in Timisoara”–the Military Prosecutor called attention to Article Six of this order:
The unique commander of all activities to be carried out on the territory of the county, in response to a grave turbulence of order and public calm, and also the unique commander of the intervention forces, will be the county’s Inspector General of the Interior Ministry, who will bear complete responsibility for the efficiency of the actions undertaken.
During the course of the trial, it was established that–contrary to Alexandrescu’s protestations of Popescu’s innocence–Colonel Popescu had ordered the “intervention platoon” into action which violently dispersed the protesters in Piata Maria on the evening of 16 December.
Ever since 1990, Silviu Brucan and Army General Nicolae Militaru have insisted that there is little mystery as to which regime forces participated in the repression and “terrorism” of December. Silviu Brucan maintains that the USLA were intimately linked to Order No. 2600:
In all the thirty-eight pages, the document speaks of “antiterrorist” fighting units. Just change their name to “terrorist” units and that’s it. Article 11 says: “In case public order has been seriously troubled, at the order of the local chief inspector of the Interior Ministry and on the basis of a unique plan of action, units of antiterrorist defense jointly with available units of Securitate-Intervention will participate in the restoration of public order.”
According to Brucan, Order No. 2600 was drafted upon Ceausescu’s orders after the Brasov riots of November 1987 caught the regime off-guard.
Information supplied by former USLA captain Marian Romanescu would seem to confirm Brucan’s claim. Romanescu has sarcastically acknowledged the USLA’s role in the 1987 Brasov events as follows:
In November 1987, in Brasov, the USLAsi had the occasion to give a plenary demonstration of their aptitude for clubbing. Back then, it was still only clubbing…
According to Romanescu, although nominally charged with defending Romania from international terrorism, through 1986 the USLA were part of a so-called Plan “Aldea” which stipulated that in the event of unrest, the USLA would be responsible for arresting the most virulent opponents, and potential opponents, of the regime. “The continuation of plan ‘Aldea’ was Order 2600…”
The historiography of the Timisoara events illustrates how Ceausescu’s paranoid explanation of those events at the time has not only been given a new lease on life in the post-Ceausescu era, but in a particularly ironic and tragic fashion, has come to dominate post-Ceausescu accounts of what happened. Ceausescu’s vague fears and delusions have been given form and content since December 1989 by the former Securitate. By suggesting that the Soviets and others instigated the Timisoara unrest, the “foreign tourist” scenario fits in perfectly with the anti-Soviet paranoia of the Securitate and the Romanian regime during the Ceausescu era. Moreover, it is interesting to note the juxtaposition or transference which sometimes occurs in Securitate accounts whereby actions which appear to have been the work of the Securitate are attributed to the mysterious and ubiquitous “tourists”: for example, when the attack by masked intruders on the Tokes residence is accredited to people driving cars with West German tags, or when the “tourists” are accused of having opened fire among the demonstrators. This, as we shall see, is a common occurrence throughout the coverage of the December events.
Perhaps one of the most important facts militating against the existence of the “foreign tourists” is that when given ample opportunity by Ceausescu to raise this point, and indeed when they were most in need of this argument–during the emergency CPEx meeting of 17 December 1989–none of Ceausescu’s commanders uttered a word to him about it. There is simply no evidence to believe that the Securitate were seeking to abandon Ceausescu; on the contrary, the evidence suggests that the Securitate obediently and ruthlessly fulfilled Ceausescu’s orders. Whereas the army and security apparatus failed to open fire on protesters in other East European countries when waves of mass protests challenged the ailing leaderships, in Romania they did.
Significantly, the theme of foreign involvement in the Timisoara events is accompanied by, and intertwined with, the denial of the Securitate‘s role in the repression, especially in opening fire on the demonstrators. Thus, accounts alleging foreign involvement not only inevitably raise questions about the spontaneity and popular character of the Timisoara events–thereby placing in doubt the revolutionary definition of the events which sparked Ceausescu’s ouster–but they divert attention away from the issue of the Securitate‘s culpability in the bloodshed. As we shall see, it is not only the Timisoara repression from which the USLA have been clumsily removed, but also the events in Bucharest and elsewhere on 21 and 22 December, and their disappearance from their part in the repression prior to the flight of the Ceausescus is necessitated by their disappearance from the more controversial events after 22 December 1989.
.. 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.
.. 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.
.. 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.
.. By contrast, Rosenberg clearly suggests that those who buy into the Yalta-Malta conspiracy theory elsewhere in Eastern Europe are a distinct minority in political circles and marginal figures in the post-communist era.
.. This has come through, for example, in the novels and articles of the well-known, former high-ranking military counter-intelligence officer, Pavel Corut, and in the comments of the former head of the First Directorate (Internal Affairs), Colonel Gheorghe Ratiu, in an extended interview during 1994 and 1995 with the Ceausist weekly Europa.
.. See the transcript in Bunea, Praf in Ochi, 47. Ceausescu goes on to link the US invasion of Panama which was taking place at this time to a general offensive by the superpowers to eliminate the sovereignty of independent states. The fact that Ceausescu appeals “not only to the communists” suggests his attempt to play on a non-ideological Romanian nationalism.
.. See Vlad’s testimony in Mircea Bunea, “Da sau Ba?” Adevarul, 16 February 1991, in Bunea, Praf in Ochi, 460-461.
.. Pavel Corut, Cantecul Nemuririi [The Song of Immortality] (Bucharest: Editura Miracol, 1994), 165.
.. See the excerpts of the SRI’s preliminary report on the December events in “Dispozitivul informativ si de diversiune sovietic a fost conectat la toate fazele evenimentelor (III) [Soviet information and diversion teams were connected to all phases of the events],” Curierul National, 11 July 1994, 2a.
.. Sergiu Nicolaescu, interview by Ion Cristoiu, “Moartea lui Milea, Momentul Crucial al Caderii,” Expres Magazin, no. 48 (8-15 December 1993), 31.
.. Cornel Ivanciuc, “Raporturile dintre Frontul Salvarii Nationale si KGB [The Relations between the National Salvation Front and the KGB],” 22, no. 21 (24-30 May 1995), 11.
.. Sorin Rosca Stanescu, “Iliescu aparat de K.G.B.? [Iliescu defended by the KGB]” Romania Libera, 18 April 1991, 8.
.. Ibid. Rosca Stanescu had in fact already floated this theory. In June 1990, he wrote: “…in the Army, more and more insistently there is talk of the over 4,000 ‘LADA’ automobiles with two men per car, which travelled by various routes in the days preceding the Revolution and then disappeared…” (Sorin Rosca Stanescu, “Se destrama conspiratia tacerii? [Is the conspiracy of silence unravelling?]” Romania Libera, 14 June 1990, 2a). At that time it could be argued that Rosca Stanescu was unaware of the Securitate account. It is difficult to say the same of his comment in April 1991.
.. Filip Teodorescu, Un Risc Asumat: Timisoara, decembrie 1989 (Bucharest: Editura Viitorul Romanesc, 1992), 93-94. Curiously, Teodorescu adds: “Besides, I have no reason to suspect that the journalist Sorin Rosca Stanescu would have invented a story in order to come to the defense of those accused by the judicial system and public opinion of the tragic consequences of the December 1989 events.”
.. Although Corut does not mention Stanescu by name as does Teodorescu, the references are unambiguous. See Pavel Corut, Floarea de Argint [The Silver Flower] (Bucharest: Editura Miracol, 1994), 173; idem, Fulgerul Albastru [Blue Lightning] (Bucharest: Editura Miracol, 1993), 211.
.. In April 1992, documents were leaked (presumably by regime sources) to the media and foreign embassies showing that Stanescu had been an informer for the Securitate‘s elite anti-terrorist unit (the USLA) between 1975 and 1985. Stanescu admitted that the charges were true. Although released from Romania Libera in June 1992, he was picked up elsewhere in the opposition press, returned to Romania Libera the following year, and eventually became editor of an opposition daily owned by the trust which runs Romania Libera. Prominent opposition figures have steadfastly defended him as a victim of the Iliescu regime, and in spite of his past, his writings have largely gone unscrutinized. On Stanescu’s case, see Sorin Rosca Stanescu, “Securea lui Magureanu,” Romania Libera, 17 April 1992, 1, 3 (the article which personally attacked the SRI’s Director Virgil Magureanu and appears to have prompted the release of Stanescu’s file); Anton Uncu, “Opriti-l pe Arturo Ui,” Romania Libera, 30 April 1992, 1, 3; Rosca Stanescu, “Sint H-15,” Romania Libera, 9 May 1992, 5; idem, interview by Andreea Pora, “‘H-15’ in slujba patriei,” 22, no. 120 (15-21 May 1992), 13; “Catre SRI,” Romania Libera, 9 June 1992, 1; “Goodbye Magureanu,” The Economist, no. 2212 (18 June 1992) in Tinerama, no. 85 (10-17 July 1992), 3.
.. See, for example, the comments of the deputy director of the Timis county Securitate, Major Radu Tinu, in Angela Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea Navalirilor Barbare [Once again in the path of barbaric invaders] (Cluj-Napoca: Editura “Zalmoxis,” 1994), 72-74. This book consists of articles and interviews which appeared in the Ceausist weekly Europa between 1990 and 1994.
.. Ibid., 73.
.. Ilie Stoian, Decembrie ’89: Arta diversiunii. (Bucharest: Editura Colaj, 1993), 7-10. This book is a collection of articles he wrote while at Expres between 1991 and 1993.
.. Ibid., 11.
.. Ibid., 12.
.. Excerpts from Ultimul Decembrie in Radu Ciobotea, “Inceputul Sfirsitului [The Beginning of the End],” Flacara, no. 51 (19 December 1990), 6.
.. See, for example, Radu Portocala and Olivier Weber, trans. Liviu Man, “Romania: Revelatii asupra unui complot,” Nu, no. 17 (July 1990), 6-7. The original article appeared in Le Point, no. 922 (27 May 1990).
.. Stoian, Decembrie ’89, 9.
.. Ecaterina Radoi, “Remember 15 decembrie 1989-20 mai 1990,” Zig-Zag, no. 190 (23-31 December 1993), 4-7.
.. Ioan Itu, “Laszlo Tokes nu e un episcop real [Laszlo Tokes is not a real bishop],” Tinerama, no. 178 (12-19 May 1994), 2; idem, “Laszlo Tokes–informator al Securitatii [Laszlo Tokes–Securitate informer,” Tinerama, no. 182 (10-16 June 1994), 3.
.. Laszlo Tokes, with David Porter, With God, For the People: The Autobiography of Laszlo Tokes (Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton Publishers, 1990), 2-3, 121, 138-139, 141.
.. Martyn Rady, Romania in Turmoil (New York: IB Tauris & Co. Ltd., 1992), 83-86.
.. Ibid., 86; Tokes, With God, for the People, 105-109.
.. F. Puspoki, “Piramida Umbrelor (II) [The Pyramid of Shadows (II)],” Orizont, no. 10 (9 March 1990), 4.
.. Ibid. Colonel Sima had been transferred from Oradea to Timisoara after a particularly ugly action carried out against several Roman Catholic priests had gotten him into trouble with his superiors. Radio Free Europe had drawn attention to the incident and, according to Puspoki, news of it had reached the “‘sensitive’ ears of the dictator,” prompting Sima’s reassignment. Upon arriving in Timisoara, the particularly ambitious and unscrupulous Sima immediately set about replacing those in the “Office for the Study of Nationalists, Fascists, and Hungarian Irredentists” with young officers who were personally loyal and appealed to his sense of zealotry for such work.
.. Tokes, With God, for the People, 102. According to Puspoki F., the pre-existing relationship between Securitate chief Traian Sima and Bishop Laszlo Papp facilitated Tokes’ surveillance: Papp had been “initiated into ‘the secrets’ of security work by the same Colonel Sima when the latter was Securitate chief of Bihor country.” See Puspoki, “Piramida Umbrelor (II).”
.. Ibid., 120.
.. The very fact that this broadcast was permitted in Hungary was symbolic of the scope of political change which had occurred in that country in the preceding two years alone. As the transition from one-party communist rule unfolded and political pluralization became more and more tolerated and formalized, Hungarian nationalism (which had theretofore been muted by the technocratic bent of the Kadar regime’s legitimacy) gained greater public expression. Inevitably, this meant raising the issue of the Romanian regime’s treatment of its approximately two million member Hungarian minority–something which had been done gingerly in the past.
A month after Kadar’s removal from power in May 1988, on 27 June 1988 40,000 Hungarians demonstrated in the largest protest since the 1956 uprising against the systematization program and human rights abuses in Romania (Rady, Romania in Turmoil, 73). During 1989, the Hungarian government launched protests at the United Nations against Tokes’ treatment and the Hungarian parliament nominated Tokes in conjunction with the ethnic Romanian dissident Doina Cornea from Cluj for the Nobel peace prize (Ibid., 88).
.. Rady, Romania in Turmoil, 87; Puspoki, “Piramida Umbrelor (II)”; Tokes, With God, for the People, 139.
.. Puspoki, “Piramida Umbrelor (III),” Orizont, no. 11 (16 March 1990), 4.
.. Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea, 78.
.. Puspoki, “Piramida Umbrelor (III).”
.. Teodorescu, Un Risc Asumat, 45-46.
.. Ibid., 90.
.. Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea, 78.
.. Puspoki, “Piramida Umbrelor (II).”
.. Tokes, With God, for the People, 1-4.
.. For information on the evolution of events on the 15 December see ibid., 1-20.
.. Ibid., 145-151.
.. Ibid., 153.
.. Ibid., 155.
.. Ibid., 154-157. Evidence of the rare solidarity of this moment was the fact that Hungarians were reported to have also sung this Romanian nationalist anthem.
.. Miodrag Milin, “Sapte zile care au zguduit Romania (II) [Seven days which shook Romania],” Orizont, (13 January 1990), 2; idem, “Sapte zile care au zguduit Romania (III),” Orizont, (19 January 1990), 2; Mircea Balan, “Au tras cu disperare ca sa inabuse revolutia [They shot out of desperation in order to crush the revolution],” Cuvintul, no. 36 (2-8 October 1990), 8.
.. The fire department was a component of the Interior Ministry.
.. Milin, “Sapte zile…(II)”; idem, “Sapte zile (III).”
.. Tokes, With God, for the People, 165.
.. Tokes and his wife firmly believed that only Western publicity about their case had prevented the Ceausescu regime from killing them at this point (Rady, Romania in Turmoil, 88).
.. Mircea Balan, “Masacrul,” Cuvintul, no. 37 (9-15 October 1990), 7.
.. Ibid.; testimony of Florica Curpas, medical assistant, in Titus Suciu, Reportaj cu Sufletul la Gura (Timisoara: Editura Facla, 1990), 62-63.
.. Balan, “Masacrul.”
.. Nestor Ratesh, Romania: The Entangled Revolution (New York: Praeger, 1991), 29.
.. Suciu, Reportaj cu Sufletul, 75, 104.
.. See, for example, Grid Modorcea, “Spargerea Geamurilor [The Breaking of the Windows],” Expres Magazin, no. 49 (1991), 8-9; Mircea Bunea, “Eroii noi si vechi [New and old heroes],” Adevarul, 2 February 1991, in Bunea, Praf in Ochi, 448-449; Suciu, Reportaj cu Sufletul, 57-58.
.. See, for example, the comments of Radu Tinu, the deputy director of the Timis County Securitate, in Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea, 67-85.
.. Mircea Bunea, “Ipse Dixit,” Adevarul, 21 February 1991, in Bunea, Praf in Ochi, 463. Vlad’s determination to emphasize that these were “acts without precedent” makes one wonder if they were indeed without precedent.
.. A group of former Securitate officers, “Asa va place revolutia? Asa a fost! [You like the revolution? Here is how it was!],” Democratia, no. 36 (24-30 September 1990), 4. The lengthy defense by these officers of the Fifth Directorate in this letter suggests that they were members of this directorate.
.. Modorcea, “Spargerea Geamurilor,” 8.
.. Balan, “Masacrul.”
.. Tokes, With God, for the People, 153, 156.
.. Ibid., 156.
.. Balan, “Masacrul.”
.. Suciu, Reportaj cu Sufletul, 96.
.. Ibid, 118. The fact that the two persons supervising the destruction are described as having worn “leather jackets” strongly suggests they may have been Securitate men. Mihai Decean claims that on a train headed for Bucharest on 25 December (therefore after Ceausescu’s flight), he helped in the arrest of two USLA officers whom he describes as “athletic, with shaved heads, and wearing leather jackets.” See Laura Ganea, “La Timisoara se mai trage inca” Tinerama, no. 77 (July 1991), 3.
.. Ibid., 71, 122. Some of the eyewitnesses cited in Modorcea, “Spargerea Geamurilor,” say similar things; Modorcea, however, gives them a very different interpretation.
.. Balan, “Masacrul.”
.. Puspoki, “Piramida Umbrelor (III).”
.. Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea, 80.
.. For the text of the transcript see Bunea, Praf in Ochi, 23-35.
.. Ibid., 31.
.. Ibid., 34.
.. Ibid., 29.
.. Florica Curpas, medical assistant, in Suciu, Reportaj cu Sufletul, 63.
.. A Group of Former Securitate Officers, “Asa va place revolutia.”
.. Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea, 42-44.
.. See, for example, the comments of defendants as recorded in Iosif Costinas’ series throughout 1990 covering the Timisoara trials, entitled “Procesul ‘Titratilor’ [The Trial of those with degrees],” in the Timisoara cultural weekly Orizont.
.. Sorin Rosca Stanescu brought this testimony to light in a December 1994 article in his daily Ziua. Reprinted in Cornel Dumitrescu, “Dezvaluiri senzationale despre decembrie ’89 [Sensational revelations about December 1989],” Lumea Libera, no. 324 (17 December 1994), 16.
.. Bunea, Praf in Ochi, 27.
.. Iosif Costinas, “Nu sinteti dumneavoastra colonelul Bunoaica? [Aren’t you colonel Bunoaica?],” Orizont, 2 November 1990, 5; idem, “Jur sa spun numai adevarul… [I swear to tell the whole truth],” Orizont, 9 November 1990, 5.
.. Lt. Col. Dumitru Damian and Major Viroel Oancea, interview by William Totok, Die Tageszeitung, 23 January 1990, in trans. Heinz Lahni, “Generalul m-a facut dobitoc,” Contrapunct, 2 March 1990, 11.
.. Gheorghe Ardeleanu in Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea, 115.
.. See the 8 March 1990 Rompres dispatch in FBIS-EEU-90-051, 15 March 1990, 57.
.. Horia Alexandrescu, “Eroi cazuti la datorie [Heroes fallen on duty],” Tineretul Liber, 4 March 1990, 1. Tineretul Liber was something of a middle-of-the-road publication at the time. Alexandrescu went on later to edit the opposition daily Cronica Romana.
.. Idem, “Flori pentru ‘uslasi’ [Flowers for the USLA],” Tineretul Liber, 7 March 1990, 3.
.. Captain Marian Romanescu, with Dan Badea, “USLA, Bula Moise, teroristii si ‘Fratii Musulmani’,” Expres, no. 75 (2-8 July 1991), 8. On 22 August 1991, former deputy prime minister (1990-1991), Gelu Voican Voiculescu, confirmed this allegation on television. See Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea, 115.
.. Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea, 115.
.. Puspoki, “Piramida Umbrelor (III).”
.. Romanescu, “USLA, Bula Moise,” 8.
.. Puspoki, “Piramida Umbrelor (III).” Stoian, who clearly attempts to whitewash the role of the USLA, nevertheless makes the following coy reference to their role in Timisoara: “Moreover, we should recall the ‘surveillance’ of Pastor Tokes” (see Stoian, 86).
.. Suciu, Reportaj cu Sufletul, 36-37.
.. Vasile Popovici, Viorel Marineasa, and Marius Romulus Proks, “Cazul Tokes (VIII),” Orizont, no. 10 (9 March 1990), 5.
.. See Dr. Atanasie Barzeanu’s comments in Suciu, Reportaj cu Sufletul, 44.
.. Dan Mindrila, “Armata si uscaturile ei,” Gazeta de Vest, no. 3, 6; idem, “Din armata pentru zeita Cali,” Gazeta de Vest, no. 4, 6.
.. Alexandra Indries, “Ce am trait,” Orizont, no. 4 (16 January 1990), 5.
.. A.M. Press (Dolj County), “Dezvaluiri despre implicarea USLA in evenimentele din Decembrie ’89,” Romania Libera, 28 December 1994, 3.
.. See the Military Prosecutor’s charges in Teodorescu, Un Risc Asumat, 285.
.. See Cici Iordache-Adam, “Timisoara: Revolutia si reprimarea, vazute din sala,” Flacara, (4 April 1990), 18. The “intervention platoon” was made up of thirty to forty members of the Militia’s Inspectorate who were equipped with visored helmets, shields, and clubs.
.. See, for example, Brucan, The Wasted Generation, 172, 183-184, 194; Nicolae Militaru, interview by Corneliu Antim, “Ordinul 2600 in decembrie 1989,” Romania Libera, 17 December 1992, 2.
.. Brucan, The Wasted Generation, 183.
.. Marian Romanescu with Dan Badea, “USLA, Bula Moise,” 8.