The Archive of the Romanian Revolution of December 1989

A Catch-22 December 1989, Groundhog-Day Production. Presenting the Personal Research & Scholarship of Richard Andrew Hall, Ph.D.

Robert Kaplan v. Tismaneanu on December 1989

(purely personal views as always)

Robert D. Kaplan and Vladimir Tismaneanu, Too far from the West, to close to Russia.

Of course, one Vlad is a good fella at heart despite appearances…and the other, the more you learn of the (gaping) gap between his endlessly self-proclaimed “values” and how he actually behaves, the more you realize…not so much.  (For background…see, for example,

I am entertained to read the transcript of Robert Kaplan with Brian Lamb of C-SPAN regarding the Romanian Revolution of December 1989.  (It should be stated:  Kaplan is faithful to what he wrote two decades ago in Balkan Ghosts and Eastward to Tartary.)

Q&A with Robert Kaplan

February 12, 2016

  • BRIAN LAMB: Robert Kaplan, in your new book In Europe’s Shadow, you started in the prologue by talking about books. Why?…
  • LAMB: You mentioned Ceausescu. I want to run some video from 1989 and we’ll watch it a little bit and then have you explain what this is.
  • (Video)
  • UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaks foreign language)
  • (End of video)
  • LAMB: December 21st, 1989.
  • KAPLAN: Yes.
  • LAMB: Who is he? Who was he?
  • KAPLAN: Nicolae Ceausescu who had been in power since 1965. He replaced the previous communist dictator Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej. Gheorghiu-Dej brought Stalinism to Romania. He was absolute – he was a brutal – a brutal tyrant.
  • What Ceausescu did along with his wife Elena was to add the North Korean element to Romanian Stalinism in terms of the pageantry, the total personality cult. Ceausescu and his wife went to North Korea, and most visitors to North Korea are shocked. They were impressed. They said we can do this in Romania, literally.
  • And they tried to do this. And that was the moment, what you just showed when the crowed turned against the dictator. And the facade of dictatorship collapsed, and from then on a helicopter took him from the top of that building to an area north of Bucharest, Targoviste area, and it was there a few days later when he was executed.
  • LAMB: And his wife?
  • KAPLAN: His wife was executed. The decision to execute him was made by several, what you could call reform communists who had fallen into disfavor. Among them was a man Silviu Brucan who had worked for both, who was a Stalinist in his youth, who worked for Gheorghiu-Dej, who worked for Ceausescu until he broke with him in 1987.
  • And I asked Brucan about the decision to have the Ceausescus executed. Brucan died a few years ago. And Brucan told me, well, you know, we decided to that they both had to be executed or else they could have gathered the Securitate around them, the intelligence service.
  • And we might have had bloodshed going on weeks and months. We had to stop, you know, stop the chaos. So then I asked a naive journalist question, I said, “But did you have to execute her, too?” And he looked at me like I was a fool. And he said it was almost more important to execute her than to execute him.
  • LAMB: What impacted that assassination have on Romania?
  • KAPLAN: First of all, it calmed things down. It quieted things. People knew that they had turned a corner, the violence stopped, order was restored under officially a democracy, but in fact it was reformed communists who took power – Ion Lliescu, (Petru Roma) and others.
  • And they ruled in what we – what you would call officially a democracy, but really a Gorbachev style reformed communism up until the mid-90s, when full democracy finally came to Romania.


If only Kaplan had any idea how vehemently Tismaneanu rejects and argues against the understanding he presents!

Din pacate, nu faceti decat sa reluati justificarile vehiculate de Ion Iliescu si sustinatorii sai de doua decenii si mai bine incoace. Pentru conducerea FSN, procesul cuplului Ceausescu era sansa de a se debarasa de aceste personaje profund stingheritoare si de a a-si consolida imaginea de “revolutionari neprihaniti”. Tema articolului nu este legitimiatea revolutiei anticomuniste (pe care o afirm in toate scrierile mele pe subiect, inclusiv in cartea “Stalinism pentru eternitate”, Polirom, 2005), ci farsa judiciara, ori altfel spus procesul-spectacol, organizat de noii ptotentati impotriva celui aclamat cu cateva saptamani inainte ca lider reales al PCR (ma refer la Congresul al XIV-lea al PCR). Se obtinea prin acel proces, ca si prin cele care au urmat, ale membrilor CPEx, acuzati doar de crimele din decembrie 1989, nu de participare la actiunile unui regim criminal pe parcursul intregii sale existente, amanarea sine die a procesului comunismului din Romania ca sistem bazat pe ideologia urii sociale.


Of course, when it comes down to it, Tismaneanu is just plain clueless about what happened in December 1989, as evidenced by his constant shifting between accounts he has only superficially digested.  First it was French journalists’ intellectuals’ revisionism about December 1989, [I’ll exclude here his cozy early 2000s book length interview with his then friend Ion Iliescu in which he accepted without any push back Iliescu’s claim that the Ceauesescus were executed to forestall further casualties], later it was Grigore Cartianu’s accusations of a KGB conspiracy and coup (that even mildly engaged Romanian observers recognized as imbued with former Securitate revisionism but to which the superficial Tismaneanu was oblivious), and now it is the work of Grosescu and Ursachi.  The only thing that is consistent is that Tismaneanu thinks there were no Securitate “terrorists” fighting on behalf of Ceausescu and that Iliescu and co. killed the Ceausescu couple out of pure self-interest and to cover their own pasts.


In a 2005 article , I deconstructed the source base upon which Tismaneanu based his argument in 1990, as follows:

It is telling that when one reads the analysis of the “mysteries of the Revolution” in National Public Radio commentator Andrei Codrescu’s engaging “The Hole in the Flag” or in Matei Calinescu and Vladimir Tismaneanu’s penetrating “The 1989 Revolution and Romania’s Future”—both of which appeared in 1991—French sources dominate the discussion of what happened in December 1989.  None of the skepticism about the accuracy of the French sources—as related in the comments of Popovici, Floca, and Stoica above—is voiced in these accounts.

The Walls Come Tumbling Down…

What is arguably still the best historical account of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, Gale Stokes’ “The Walls Came Tumbling Down (1993),” repeats as fact a list of allegations regarding the trial of the Ceausescus that first were given publicity by Vladimir Tismaneanu and Matei Calinescu.  (Even where Stokes cites others, those articles are usually themselves derivative and their arguments can be traced back to Tismaneanu and Calinescu).  Based in large part on the broadcast of the full tape of the Ceausescus’ trial and execution in April 1990, analyses in the French press, and the allegations of French forensic experts (which apparently derived solely from having watched the tape (!)), Tismaneanu and Calinescu clearly showed their preference in a 1991 article for the French theory of the events.  They therefore write that the trial of the Ceausescus lasted nine hours but only “fifty-odd minutes” was shown on the tape, that the execution of the couple had been faked, since Nicolae had likely suffered a heart-attack—“during the trial or during a separate interrogation, possibly under torture”—that caused Elena to go into hysterics, which necessitated that she be killed on the spot “gangland style.” (Stokes, 1993, pp. 292-293, n.118; Calinescu and Tismaneanu, 1991, p. 45-46, especially n. 14).  They then go on to speculate that the 1 March 1990 suicide of the chief judge of the trial, General Gica Popa, “could have been an act of desperation by an essentially honest man” who would have had to go through “the criminal charade” of sentencing two corpses to death.

Of course, all of these judgments—and I contend this is the cornerstone of so many accounts/theories of the Revolution, although many researchers do not appear to acknowledge or realize it—are premised on their understanding of the identity and intentions of the “terrorists.”  For example, if one believes there was no real “terrorist” threat, then one can countenance a leisurely nine-hour trial and the idea that the Ceausescus died during a “separate interrogation, possibly under torture.”  On this question, Tismaneanu and Calinescu clearly reject the idea that those firing were fighting to topple the new leadership and restore the Ceausescus to power:

“In retrospect, the purpose of the reports of terrorism appears to have been to create apprehension among the populace and induce people to forgo further public demonstration against communism.  It was used, in effect, to help the new power structure.” (Calinescu and Tismaneanu, 1991, p. 45, n. 12)

As to the allegations made by Calinescu and Tismaneanu in their 1991 account:  even at the time of their article, there were very strong reasons to question the validity of their information and speculation.  Numerous testimonies by Army personnel present at Tirgoviste while the Ceausescus were there negate their claims (see, for example, the interviews in “Ceausestii la Tirgoviste,” “Flacara,” 19 December 1990, pp. 8-10, which place the length of the trial anywhere between 50 minutes and one hour).  As I wrote in 1997:  “…even a year after the events, one of the eyewitnesses to what transpired, Maria Stefan, the cook in the officer’s mess, continued to maintain that the trial itself lasted ‘an hour’ (Hall, 1997, p. 342).  When it comes to the question of Nicolae having been tortured prior to his death, Ratesh in 1991 notably stated that this version was “attributed to an official of the Romanian Ministry of the Interior”—i.e. likely former Securitate, and indeed given its utility for them it is not surprising that the former Securitate have sought to promote this idea in their literature on the Revolution (Ratesh, 1991, p. 76).  Military and civilian personnel present at the execution are simply dismissive at the contentions of the French forensic experts that the Ceausescus were already dead by the time they were executed (they have effective counter-arguments regarding bloodflow—Nicolae’s greatcoat, Elena’s hysterical reaction by that point).  They consider it ridiculous and the product of Westerners with no knowledge of the events (this comes through again on several occasions in the year long set of interviews in “Jurnalul National” during 2004).


Mircea Marian 22 iunie 2010

Bietul Cartianu! A ajuns și vuvuzela Securistului Patriot.

Dacă vă era dor de tezele aripii patriotice a securiștilor, teze care susțin că evenimentele din decembrie 1989 au fost opera spionilor unguri și ruși, iar cei care i s-au opus lui Nicolae Ceaușescu erau plătiți de către „cercurili” din străinătate, vă recomand cu căldură cartea „Sfârșitul Ceaușeștilor”, în care Grigore Cartianu scrie după dictare poveștile fostului vicepreședinte al lui Gigi Becali, Alex Mihai Stoenescu. Din această carte veți afla că rușii au invadat România în decembrie 1989 (Cartianu identifică nu mai puțin de 30.879 de turiști dubioși, echivalentul a aproape trei divizii sovietice motorizate), iar ceea ce s-a întâmplat la Timișoara în 16 decembrie 1989 a fost o „diversiune”. Dovada? Printre altele, un interviu al lui Stoenescu cu S.O.Vântu, care însă nu spune tot, pentru că se teme! Și, strecurate printre aceste vechi teorii conspiraționiste, o informație inedită: „Tovarăşul se întoarce cu faţa spre boscheţi, slăbeşte cureaua de la pantaloni, deschide nasturii unul câte unul, scoate… vorba aia… şi dă drumul unui jet subţire. Marele Conducător termină repede, ca de obicei, iar ultimul strop, tot ca de obicei, îi cade în pantaloni.” De unde o fi știind Cartianu că „Marele Conducător” termină repede, „ca de obicei”?

But don’t worry, Professor Vladimir Tismaneanu and his clients from CPADCR and IICCMER (in this case, Dragos Petrescu) “know” better…intuitively, of course…and have been promoting Grigore Cartianu in English and Romanian, for years now 

“There are remarkable works on the subject of the life and death of Ceausescu (Mary Ellen Fischer, Pavel Campeanu, Edward Behr, Catherine Durandin, including also the recent journalistic reconstitution of Grigore Cartianu, to name a few of the contributions).

“The only coherent [!!!] project of this kind, which indeed rescued from oblivion the memory [!!!] of many participants in the revolution, was conducted by a young journalist and materialized in a series of three volumes, Sfarsitul Ceausestilor…Crimele Revolutiei:  Singeroasa diversiune a KGB-istilor din FSN…and Teroristii printre noi:  Adevarul despre ucigasii Revolutiei.”– (Cristina and Dragos Petrescu, “The Canon of Remembering Romanian Communism,” Remembering Communism:  Private and Public Recollections of Lived Experience in Southeast Europe, eds. Maria Todorova, Augusta Dimoiu, and Stefan Troebst, New York:  Central European University Press, 2015)

“Este un lucru demonstrat cu prisosinta si de onesta ancheta jurnalistica a lui Grigore Cartianu (publicata sub titlul de carte: “Sfârşitul Ceauşeştilor”). “ (with key commentary from Petru Clej!)

Joi, 16 decembrie, 11.30h dezbatere publica la IICCMER: Armand Gosu, Raluca Grosescu, Grigore Cartianu, Mihail Neamtu

Cartianu vorbeste despre GRU, si “politica de cadre,” cine a studiat la Moscova samd

min 5:30 despre “turisti”…


Cum au afectat schimbarile din Uniunea Sovietica evolutia politica est-europeana in anul 1989? Ce contributie a avut societatea civila la caderea regimului Ceausescu? Ce miza a avut implicarea Armatei in represiunea miscarii anticomuniste din Timisoara? Cum poate fi inteleasa istoria “teroristilor” dupa 21 de ani? Restauratie sau revolutie?

La toate aceste intrebari vor raspunde jurnalisti, cercetatori si universitari preocupati de istoria sociala si politica a totalitarismului. Institutul de Investigare a Crimelor Comunismului si Memoria Exilului Romanescva invita joi, 16 decembrie 2010, ora 11.30h, la un dialog cu Grigore CARTIANU, Armand GOSU, Raluca GROSESCU si Mihail NEAMTU. Adresa: Str Alecu Russo 13-19 (in apropiere de Piata Spaniei), et. V, sect. 2, Bucuresti.

and, for context, as to why…it continues into the present:

For my review of Grosescu and Ursachi’s lamentable chapter, see here:
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