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.

Posts Tagged ‘rewriting the revolution’

Rewriting the Revolution (1997): Chapter 8 , “Unsolving” December

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on April 7, 2009

Chapter Eight

“Unsolving” December

In the last chapter, we analyzed how media and political elites in post-Ceausescu Romania have dealt with the question of the “terrorists’” existence.This revealed the tremendous extent of convergence between Securitate and opposition accounts, in fact the degree to which opposition accounts mirror the Securitate’s revisionist and false history of those events.This illustrates the Securitate’s enduring institutional interest in the December events in spite of its post-Ceausescu fragmentation and its enduring ability to influence the behavior of political and civil society elites in the post-authoritarian era.The roots of this lingering and problematic influence lie, as we have seen, in the institutional role of the Securitate in the Ceausescu regime.

In this chapter, we turn to the question of the identity of the “terrorists” rather than merely the question of their existence.We will examine whom domestic and foreign observers believed to be the “terrorists” during and immediately after the events.We will then ask whether or not these original suspicions have been corroborated during the post-Ceausescu era.Finally, we will turn to a much overlooked clue to figuring out the identity of the “terrorists”:the available ballistics’ evidence they left behind.

The significance of the “terrorist” issue for understanding the Romanian transition can be seen in the impact of this issue upon the analysis of other key aspects of the December events:the role played by disinformation, the character of the destruction left by the events, and the circumstances surrounding the trial and execution of the Ceausescus.These three elements have been chosen in part because it is the current understanding of these issues which appears to have most encouraged non-country specialists to accept revisionist views of the Revolution.For example, Linz and Stepan discuss all three of these issues and the issues appear to play some role in encouraging them to countenance the idea that the December events included “an element of staged counter-revolution” and that “of all the narratives, that of the scripted revolution allows the fewest ambiguities and contradictions.”[1]Therefore, it is important to tackle the myth and disinformation which has come to permeate coverage of these three questions.

Who Were the “Terrorists?”:Evidence at the Time

During and immediately after the December 1989 events, observers both inside and outside Romania had little doubt that the “terrorists” existed or that they were members of the Securitate.On 24 December 1989 while the “terrorist” offensive was still raging in Romania, a former Securitate officer who had defected to the United States earlier that summer told the New York Times that he suspected the “terrorists” were men of the Securitate’s Fifth Directorate (numbering between 1,000 and 1,500 men), and its closely-affiliated, special anti-terrorist unit, the USLA (numbering approximately 1,000 men).[2]He described them as exceptionally well-trained and well-equipped, but also–as the numbers he used suggest–relatively small in number.On 30 December 1989, the Washington Post cited an unnamed Western diplomat who maintained that the chaos and death had been caused by that part of the Securitate which had not given up after the flight of the Ceausescus:what he referred to as the approximately 2,000 men of the USLA and Fifth Directorate.[3]In December 1989, outsiders thus had a reasonably clear idea of who the “terrorists” were.

Equally important, we have indications that inside Romania suspicions turned towards the Fifth Directorate, and especially the USLA, while the fighting was still in progress.As we saw in chapter seven, in his televised statement on the evening of 22 December, Army General Tudor specifically identified the “terrorists” as the Securitate’s “anti-terrorist troops.”Interior Minister Tudor Postelnicu, who was arrested in the CC building that same evening, is quoted as having responded to the question of who was shooting:“Who do you think?The USLA!”[4]Mihai Montanu, a former Front member involved in many of the key events during these days, has alleged in the pages of the Ceausist Europa that Brucan and Militaru are responsible for the loss of life during this period:“In the context of the general chaos, these two insisted that the terrorists could only be from the USLA and Fifth Directorate.”[5]Former Securitate officers have made the following accusation:“[Militaru] had a criminal contribution in placing the DSS [i.e. the Securitate] outside the law, twice giving the order for the personnel of the former Fifth Directorate and USLA to be executed for so-called ‘terrorist activities.’”[6]The historical reference conjured up by the former Securitate in this regard is telling of their anti-Soviet obsession:they accuse Militaru of having wanted to perpetrate another “Katyn.”[7]

Comments by regime officials during January 1990 about those suspected of being the “terrorists” and those who had been arrested as “terrorists” also suggest that those to whom they were referring were members of the Fifth Directorate and USLA.When the new Interior Minister, (Army) General Mihai Chitac announced that 800 Ceausescu loyalists had been arrested, he referred to the actions of “special units.”[8]On 19 January 1990, Deputy Prosecutor General, Army General Gheorghe Diaconescu, drew a distinction–similar to that drawn by General Tudor in his televised statement on 22 December–between different components of the Securitate:

Securitate units have nothing in common and cannot be confused with those special [emphasis added] security forces and terrorist elements secretly trained by the dictator…, who were used as urban guerillas and who took action against the Romanian people during the revolution.This can be proved conclusively by the fact that these other units sided from the beginning with the revolution.[9]

During this same month, Anton Socaciu, the military prosecutor investigating the bloodshed in the central Transylvanian town of Sibiu–which had been the fiefdom of Ceausescu’s son Nicu, “the little prince”–affirmed that those who had fired in Sibiu were “USLA men” brought to Sibiu by plane on 20 December at Nicu’s request.[10]Ironically, Nicu Ceausescu himself supplied confirmation for Socaciu’s initial charges in a June 1990 interview in which he contrasted the different phases of his court case:

Therefore, during the first part of the judicial inquest, they were from the Interior Ministry.After that, during the second phase of the judicial inquest, when the USLA and those from the Interior Ministry began to pass ‘into the shadows’ so-to-speak…they turned out to be everyday people.[11]

Cryptically, in the same interview Nicu related how on the evening of 20 December after the plane from Bucharest had arrived in Sibiu, he–the party secretary of Sibiu!–was solicited to “find lodging for a group of tourists”!

Indicative of the degree to which the climate changed during 1990 are the contradictory comments of Socaciu’s successor as prosecutor in the Sibiu case, Marian Valer, in September 1990:

During the December 1989 events in Sibiu, the Army found a map of Securitate safehouses located around the military units in the city, in which Securitate personnel were to be placed in order to act against the Army in the event that the Army defected from the Ceausescu regime.Based on the investigations carried out, it has been established that military units were fired upon from these safehouses beginning on the afternoon of 22 December after the overturning of the Ceausescu regime….[T]here were many Soviet tourists staying in the hotels in the center of Sibiu….I’ll mention that from these respective hotels the demonstrators and Army were fired upon….As concerns the unidentified passengers [who arrived by plane from Bucharest on 20 December], I believe there are two possible versions, either they were USLA fighters sent to aid Nicu Ceausescu, or they were Soviet agents sent to act in the overthrow of the Ceausescu regime [emphasis added].[12]

Significantly, Interior Minister Tudor Postelnicu admitted at his trial in January 1990 that on 20 December Nicu Ceausescu had phoned him requesting “’some troops’” and that he had announced Securitate Director Vlad of this request.[13]

Evidence Since December 1989

Since December 1989, three former Front officials who played critical roles during the December events–Silviu Brucan, General Nicolae Militaru, and Dumitru Mazilu–have maintained that the “terrorists” did indeed exist and that they were members of the Securitate.It is important to point out that all three were marginalized from the new regime soon after the December events:Mazilu was hounded out of the leadership of the National Salvation Front in late January 1990, Brucan was forced to resign in early February, and Militaru was replaced as Defense Minister in mid-February 1990.It is also important to note that between Mazilu on the one hand, and Brucan and Militaru on the other, there has been genuine and continuous animosity since December 1989.They agree on very little ideologically or politically.Nevertheless, they have remarkably similar things to say about the “terrorists.”

The first specific revelations concerning the identity of the “terrorists” came in a celebrated interview with Brucan and Militaru which appeared in the pro-Front daily Adevarul on 23 August 1990.[14]Although Brucan had publicly declared in January 1990 that the “terrorists” were Securitate members, he had not specifically identified which units they came from.[15]In this new interview, Brucan and Militaru argued that four special units of the Securitate (numbering approximately 4,000 men in total) had been trained as snipers:the USLA (800), the Fifth Directorate (450), the Bucharest Municipal Securitate (600), and the Securitate’s Baneasa military academy headed by Ceausescu’s brother General Nicolae Andruta Ceausescu (2,000).[16]According to Brucan:

all these snipers [were] trained in the techniques of urban guerilla warfare and equipped with the most modern types of submachine guns (with infrared sights), which explains why they acted only at night.[17]

Asked whether it was safe to assume that not all of the 4,000 men trained in such tactics had taken part in the “terrorist” activities of December, Militaru suggested that it was difficult to state with certainty how many of them had actually participated.However, Militaru added:

What is certain is that, from the very first moments, these people acted in accordance with a pre-arranged plan for the event of a popular uprising, a plan which entailed securing the main strategic units (including the surrounding buildings where they should deploy their guns), the civilian and military means of communication and transportation, ammunition depots, and various meeting places, including the underground tunnels, which they could enter or leave with great mobility.Some officers had two identities and keys to two apartments with supplies of food, civilian clothes, ammunition, and so forth.They were called terrorists because in the evening of 22 December they occupied positions in the buildings surrounding the party Central Committee, the Radio and Television, the Ministry of National Defense, and so forth, from where they shot indiscriminately into soldiers and civilians alike and, in some cases, tried to enter the Television headquarters, the Ministry of Defense, and other buildings.[18]

Thus, Brucan and Militaru were confirming that the initial suspicions about the identity of the “terrorists” were correct.

Silviu Brucan returned to give another interview to Adevarul on 21 December 1990, because, as he argued, in the meantime he had come into possession of Interior Ministry Order No. 2600 from 1988.[19]As he pointed out, although the document had been invoked by the military prosecutors at many of the trials during 1990, this would be the first time the public would learn of its contents.Brucan thus now suggested that there was documentary evidence to confirm the existence and actions of the Securitate “terrorists” in December 1989, and he highlighted the role accorded to the USLA by the document.

In 1991, Dumitru Mazilu, who had sought exile in Switzerland the previous year, published excerpts from his memoirs.[20]Mazilu has few kind words for his former Front compatriots, Brucan and Militaru.Nevertheless, Mazilu claims that during the events, “at least seven times they were informed that the ‘Guarding Directorate’ [the Fifth Directorate] had been trained in guerilla warfare.”[21]Mazilu elaborates:

From the evening of 22 December it turned out that the units and soldiers who continued to shoot in the population belonged to the Interior Ministry….this is confirmed by the following findings:

a) the places from which the population was shot belonged to the Interior Ministry with certainty (as in the case of the Central University Library, which belonged to Ceausescu’s Guarding Directorate) or with probability (the apartments of the building across from the work offices of the tyrant; the apartments in the vicinity of the villas of Elena and Nicolae Ceausescu, as well as those near objects of strategic or political importance, such as the Defense Ministry, Romanian Television and Radio, etc.);

b) the use of special equipment, especially simulators, specific actions of guerilla warfare in order to confuse the revolting population;

c) the actions of snipers with nightscopes around objects of major interest from the inside of neighboring buildings, where the access to other persons was almost non-existent;

d) the organization of commando actions, such as what happened at the command post of the Central Committee building on the night of 23/24 December when many suspects were found with four or five identity cards on them–a procedure used by the Interior Ministry.[22]

Mazilu’s allegations are thus remarkably familiar.

Since these initial revelations, General Militaru in particular has reiterated and expanded upon the allegations concerning the significance of Order No. 2600 and the central role of the USLA.In December 1992, Nicolae Militaru was asked if the “terrorism” of December was part of a plan to counter the revolution and he responded:

There is no doubt about it.After the events of Brasov in 1987–in June 1988–Order 002600 was decreed.In this order, it was specified exactly how to organize a response to any unrest which were to take place on Romanian territory.Plans of this nature were drawn up in every county as well:which forces were to take part, who was to coordinate them, what objectives they were to watch over.You know, that one of the objectives of these plans was the army.The army had to be neutralized.[23]

In this same interview, when asked if he did not know who the “terrorists” were, Militaru replied defiantly and unambiguously:“On the contrary, we know [well].They were USLA men–in their entirety.”[24]Testifying at a trial in May 1995, Militaru maintained that the significance of Order 2600 had first been related to him by Dumitru Ion Pavelescu, deputy commander of the uniformed Securitate troops in December 1989.[25]Significantly, General Militaru observed in his testimony that “only the Interior Ministry was equipped with the special weapons with which the majority of people were killed after 22 December.”[26]

What the Ballistics’ Evidence Tells Us

Indeed, perhaps the easiest and best way to solve the controversies of whether the “terrorists” existed at all, and who they were, is to examine the available ballistics’ evidence.If, for example, the “terrorists” used an unusual caliber of ammunition, the ballistics’ evidence might serve as something of a “calling card.”Had the Romanian judicial system (including the military courts) or the Romanian media made any concerted attempt to piece together the various evidence on the ballistics’ question, it is doubtful that today there would be so much controversy surrounding the very existence of the “terrorists” and their identity.

In February 1991, in the course of his trial, former Securitate Director Iulian Vlad made the following important, if easily neglected statement:“The Securitate had the same weapons as the Army, [but] only the Fifth Directorate and the USLA possessed some Stecikin semi-automatic weapons [emphasis added].”[27]Earlier that same month, Tudor Artenie, a journalist at Romania Libera, had quoted from a training notebook of the Fifth Directorate (dated 15 March 1989) which described the characteristics of these Stecikin (also spelled Stetikin) guns.[28]According to the manual, the Stecikin guns were of a 9 mm caliber.Artenie described the Stecikin gun as

…a gun of whose characteristics we remember from the days and nights of the revolution, during which were clearly heard the [distinctive] rattlings–having a less frequent cadence than a machine gun and emitting a sound more stifled than that of a machine gun–of an unknown weapon.[29]

Artenie asked:“…aren’t the immense quantities of reddened shell casings found in the places where the so-called terrorists were suspected of shooting from not somehow identical to those used for STETIKIN guns?”[30]

It is interesting to compare this information with some first-hand accounts on the December events, touched upon in the preceding chapter.In March 1990, Dr. Sergiu Tanasescu told a reporter that one of the first Securitate officers he came across in the building was a major (likely of the Fifth Directorate) caught changing into civilian clothes, armed with a “‘Stecikin’ 9 mm caliber rifle with 20 cartridges.”[31]In its report on the deaths of its students outside the Defense Ministry on the night of 22/23 December, a commission of the Military’s Technical Academy noted that the students had been shot by sophisticated equipment designed for night-shooting.[32]According to Army Major Mihai Floca and Captain Victor Stoica, on the morning of 23 December a bullet removed from one of the deceased students killed by sniper-fire was of a “9 mm caliber, a bullet unfamiliar until then to military personnel.”[33]Interviewed in a different context about the incident in which the seven USLA officers were killed the following night at the Defense Ministry, Army Captain Gheorghe Tanase maintained that inside the USLA vehicles Army troops found short-barreled machines guns with twenty cartridges, 9 mm guns, and infrared nightscopes, objects which he described as “absolutely new to us.”[34]Thus, there is evidence both that the Fifth Directorate and USLA were the sole possessors of this 9 mm Stecikin weapon prior to the events and that such guns were used during the events.

The 9 mm bullet was not the only unfamiliar bullet found during the events.The so-called “vidia” or “grooved” bullets of a 5.5/5.6 mm caliber were also used.Asked in March 1991 about the ammunition used by the “terrorists” against the Army, then Defense Minister General Stanculescu made the following unexpected and almost coy admission to the reporters:

…I have here two bullets with vidia [grooves].Our Army does not use this type of ammunition.It is of caliber 5.56.As you can see, the bullet has a jacket that got deformed, while its core remained intact.[35]

As if emboldened by Stanculescu’s admission (to which he refers), Gheorghe Balasa recounted to journalist Dan Badea of the opposition weekly Expres what he and a group of Army officers and civilians had found in the Fifth Directorate’s headquarters on the night of 23/24 December.[36]Among the things they saw were:the 25 cm thick training manual of the USLA; a file detailing the tunnels running under Bucharest; cabinets of false passports; a file listing those under the surveillance of the USLA; guns with nightscopes; and “special bullets, 5-6 cm in length and a little fatter than a pencil.”According to Balasa, “outside of the DUM-DUM cartridges they found, everything was of a West German make.”Balasa adds:

In the former Central Committee building all those shot on the night of 23/24 December were shot with special bullets.It is absurd to search for such bullets in the corpses of those shot when such bullets can penetrate a wall.[37]

Given such revelations it is interesting to note the comments of some other participants in the December events.Engineer Dan Iliescu, an employee of the Museum of National Art located in the old Royal Palace across from the CC building, alleged in December 1990 that those who fired from the museum into the square below on 22 and 23 December

…had weapons which sounded different.They had a healthy cadence.The next day [23 December 1989] and over the following days I found bullets in the Museum.They were not normal bullets.They had a rounded head.They appeared to have a lead jacket.It was of a caliber between five, five something.The USLAsi did not want to leave us a bullet.I asked them to leave me at least one as a memento.They did not want to.They said that they needed them for the purpose of identification.They noted where they gathered them from.[38]

Similarly, Nicolae Stefan Soucup maintains he found bullets of a 5.6 caliber on 23 and 24 December 1989 in the vicinity of the Television station.[39]Tying together these observations and Balasa’s claim about the bullets found in the headquarters of the Fifth Directorate is Major Mihai Floca’s statement on 5 January 1990 that according to specialists, those who had fired from the villas surrounding the Television station had used “a Heckler-Koch gun of 5.6 caliber with a cartridge which burns away completely allowing the bullet to have a great penetration capability.”[40]During the trial of Nicolae’s brother, Nicolae Andruta Ceausescu, head of the Securitate’s Baneasa academy, it was also disclosed that at his home “a gun with a night-sight and 695 cartridges of 5.6 mm bullets were found.”[41]

Moreover, 5.6 caliber weapons and bullets show up in other major flashpoints of the revolution.In Brasov (where 100 people died and 250 were wounded), a “terrorist” wearing a black jumpsuit was captured on 23 December opening fire with a “5.65 caliber Thomson auto-matic rifle.”[42]In Braila (where 42 died and 95 were wounded), Lt. Major Ionut Voicu told the military prosecutor of what he found while on a mission in the Stejarul forest on the night 23/24 December:

Again I heard the sound of bullets.They had a specific whistle, I figured they were of a reduced caliber (the next morning this hunch was confirmed when I found bullets of a 5.6 caliber).There wasn’t any flash from the mouth of their gun-barrels.Thus, they [must have] had a silencer over it.[43]

Finally, there are the intriguing comments of Army Captain Mircea Apostol, who participated in the defense of the airport in the southwestern town of Caransebes, to a reporter in February 1990:

Apostol:No, we only found blood stains and that was it.We didn’t even find shell casings, because these melted away after firing.It sounds incredible.It was a real battle.From our ranks there were a few victims shot precisely in vital organs by bullets with a “vidia” tip, which were not in the arsenal of our Army, but we don’t know against whom we fought.A fact which the enemy uses now.

Reporter:The enemy?But the fighting is over!

Apostol:The armed fighting, yes.But presently there is taking place another war, a very dangerous one:that of rumors meant to destabilize things.There has begun, among other things, [an attempt] to compromise the Army morally…[44]

Undoubtedly, similar evidence can probably be found from other sites where there was fighting in December 1989.

The Role of Disinformation

In their discussion of the Romanian transition, Linz and Stepan note the “[r]umors of deliberately poisoned water supplies, of 10,000, 60,000, even 100,000 dead, filled the news channels and streets” and conclude that “disinformation played an important role in the events.”[45]They have in mind, however, the idea that this disinformation was disseminated in order to help the Front seize power.This, of course, echoes the dominant view on this theme.As we saw in the preceding chapter, both Securitate and opposition sources maintain that disinformation pervaded the December events, and they uniformly attribute it to the Front and the Front’s supporters at television, and, in some cases, to foreign actors such as the Soviet Union.

Yet there has been very little effort to investigate the context in which particular rumors originated and the relationship between actual events and those rumors.Take, for example, this rumor alleging the poisoning of the water supply which is so frequently invoked by both domestic and foreigner observers.To what are they referring?Around 3 p.m. on the afternoon of 22 December–therefore approximately three hours after the Ceausescus had fled Bucharest–television commentator Teodor Brates began to issue periodic, sometimes frantic reports about fighting between the Army and the Securitate in the city of Sibiu and about rumors that the water supply had been poisoned by the Securitate.Here are some excerpts of what Brates said on television on that afternoon:

One moment, please…from Sibiu it has been communicated to us that the army no longer has ammunition and the Securitate troops continue to attack military units….We want to inform you that in Sibiu, military units are urgently requesting help…We are constantly receiving communications…of course, we do not have the possibility to verify their authenticity…but we ask for your attention…It is said that these enemy elements, the securisti, have poisoned the water in Sibiu, in Timisoara,…the water must be boiled before being consumed.[46]

How far from the truth were Brates’ statements?To answer this question, we must examine what was going on Sibiu at that hour.Although throughout most of Romania the unexpected flight of the Ceausescus had left the Militia and Securitate flat-footed and searching for ways to drop out of sight, the fact that Nicu Ceausescu was party boss in Sibiu inevitably complicated matters and set Sibiu apart from the rest of the country.Indeed, at about approximately the same time Nicu’s parents were lifting off from the Central Committee building in Bucharest (several minutes after noon), gunfire between the Securitate and the Army erupted in Sibiu and it continued intensely for the next four hours.Although this may not have been directly associated with the “terrorist” offensive which began after nightfall throughout the country (including in Sibiu), the tactics and the protagonists were clearly a precursor of things to come.

As we saw earlier, as many as eighty USLA personnel had been transported to Sibiu by plane on 20 December 1989 after Nicu requested more troops.[47]In this context, it is interesting to note the following exchange in November 1990 between Colonel Aurel Dragomir, commander of the Army’s officer school in Sibiu at the time of the events, and the reporter for the Army daily, about the events of this day in Sibiu:

Dragomir: Events began to unfurl quickly on 22 December.In the morning some of the students posted in different parts of the town began to observe some suspect individuals in black jumpsuits on the roofs in the lights of attics of several buildings.

Reporter:The same equipment as the USLAsi killed out front of the Defense Ministry….

Dragomir:And on the roof of the Militia there were three or four similar individuals…[48]

Around noon while a delegation of Army officers and demonstrators was entering the Militia’s Inspectorate to confirm that all civilians arrested the previous night had been released, a group of men in these “black jumpsuits” and in the uniforms of the civilian “patriotic guards” suddenly opened fire on those gathered outside the Inspectorate.[49]In addition, there was shooting from the Inspectorate itself.Civilians were gunned down, two students from Dragomir’s military school (UM 01512) wounded, and one student was killed.[50]

When gunfire re-opened approximately twenty minutes later it came not only from the Inspectorate but also from the surrounding buildings.Dragomir ordered the Army to open fire in response.Commander Dragomir was called repeatedly from Bucharest and claims he was given diametrically-opposed orders depending upon with whom he spoke. Nicolae’s brother, Army General Ilie Ceausescu (Deputy Defense Minister), yelled at him to cease fire and “surrender if necessary!”[51]On the other hand, General Stanculescu told him “defend yourselves!”Thus, it would seem that there was a legitimate basis to Brates’ statements that the Army had come under attack from the Securitate in Sibiu and fierce fighting had ensued.

Significantly, according to Dragomir the attacks against the Army were accompanied by the spreading of rumors suggesting that he, Dragomir, had surrendered, and that the Army was on the verge of collapse.There were also the reports on television suggesting that the Army was running low on ammunition.None of these were true.In fact, as Dragomir maintains, the Army still had enough ammunition to hold out for several days.Dragomir’s comments on such rumors, however, are enlightening:

The telephone would not stop ringing.We received information that enemy columns were heading towards Sibiu.Among them was to be a parachutist detachment from Oltenia.There were other indications that tanks, helicopters, and airplanes which, however, never materialized.Nevertheless, we felt ourselves to be in real danger.Now [after the fact] it is very easy to say [that this was] “disinformation.”At the time it was not [emphasis added]….I don’t know what minds unleashed all this, but I must tell you, in their own way, they deserve admiration….[52]

This suggests that to the extent that those appearing on television were broadcasting disinformation, they were doing so as unwitting accomplices.The very real attacks transpiring in Sibiu and the fear that forces loyal to Ceausescu might attempt to launch a counter-revolution–an instinctive, but as it turned out, well-founded fear–made both the Army and those at television extremely vulnerable to disinformation which under the circumstances seemed eminently plausible–such as the idea that the Army was running low on ammunition.Moreover, it is important to point out that Brates informed the television audience when the fighting had ceased in Sibiu, when supplies of bottled water were on their way to Sibiu, and when the competent authorities verified that the water in Bucharest was safe to drink.[53]Such actions directly contradict the idea–embodied in allegations that he and others purposely disseminated disinformation–that he was consciously attempting to panic the population.

Brates’ description of what transpired at television on the evening of 22 December suggests that after a time those at television did begin to realize that some of the information they were being bombarded with was deliberate disinformation.However, once these rumors were accompanied by real “terrorist” attacks and their volume increased, it became extraordinarily difficult to separate real information from the disinformation.According to Brates, the climate changed drastically after during the televised mass rally called by Front leaders in Palace Square gunfire broke out (sometime after 6 p.m.):

In this newly-created and extremely serious situation, where there had been gunfire exchanges witnessed by millions of spectators for tens of minutes, the content of the messages received by telephone directly into the studio or through couriers to the eleventh floor changed radically.Most of them spoke of fighting, attacks, and terrorist actions.Meanwhile, the places in which such news was being received multiplied considerably (in a geometric progression).In addition to the team in studio 4…telephone calls were being received in the director general’s office, his deputy’s office, at the editorial office of the news division, at the office of the service officer on the first floor, in many of the studios, and even in…the infirmary.Consequently from tens of sources…Given this situation, were confronted, once again, but to a much more serious extent than before, with the following dramatic question:what news should we relay and which should we not relay?[54]

Brates suggests that as a consequence he proposed to (reserve) Army General Tudor, who had installed himself in charge of the military command at television, that

…all these numerous messages about attacks and fighting could be–pure and simple–acts of diversion and disinformation, designed to frighten the population, to prevent them from acting in large, compact groups, so that those interested in the return of the dictator could achieve their criminal goals.[55]

It was thus decided that instead of reporting every piece of information which arrived at the television station–as had happened up until then–only that information would be broadcast which had passed through a filter composed by a group of military officers.In the chaos, uncertainty, and suspicion of the moment–something which, as Brates implies, the Securitate had banked upon–such a solution was inevitably to prove only imperfect over the following days.

In 1995, General Militaru alleged that this campaign of psychological warfare had been the handiwork of the Securitate’s Directorate “D” (Disinformation).[56]It seems likely, however, that the disinformation campaign against the Army was waged by the Securitate’s Fourth Directorate (Military counter-intelligence).One possible explanation of the Securitate’s disinformation campaign is that it was designed to confuse the Army and population and to create doubt concerning the revolution’s prospects for success.Precisely because Ceausescu’s unexpected flight had caught everybody off-guard and many members of the Securitate had abandoned Ceausescu only for lack of an alternative option, the intention of this disinformation campaign to exaggerate the degree of resistance to the installation of a new regime proved critical.To some extent, it was intended to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.The Securitate campaign was premised on some basic assumptions concerning mass psychology in revolutionary situations.

Indeed, the Securitate plan appears to have been premised upon the mirror-image of Granovetter’s “threshold” hypothesis concerning the propensity of citizens to participate in collective violence.[57]Granovetter suggests that any individual’s propensity to participate is contingent upon the actions of others:once a certain threshold has been crossed “band-wagoning” ensues.The Securitate realized that the actual military situation of the resistance was far less important than its perception.Create the impression that the number of Securitate resisters was larger than it actually was, and gradually many of those Securitate commanders who had abandoned Ceausescu for lack of an alternative option might begin to play a “double game,” fearful of punishment should the resisters somehow put Ceausescu back in power.Those Securitate members associated with the disinformation campaign reckoned that the perception of the revolution’s chances of success would influence the perception of self-interest on the part of other Securitate members and influence their behavior.

It is this then which explains one of the favorite “enigmas” and “mysteries” of the revolution:why, if the “terrorists” were fighting to save Ceausescu, did they not interfere with the television and radio transmissions or interrupt phone connections?The answer lies in the fact that the Securitate indeed wished to fuel confusion, panic, and uncertainty, but not for the purposes which today most people assume as a given–helping the Front to seize power.All means of communication–television, radio, and telephone–needed to be in service so that the whirlwind of rumor could achieve its purpose.Indeed, while the rumor that General Vlad could have disabled television by simply pressing a single button in the CC building may have been voiced first and in greatest detail in the opposition press, it has nevertheless proved remarkably convenient for the former Securitate.[58]In fact, in his famous letter to Adevarul in January 1991, General Vlad attempted to argue that his failure to use this button was evidence of his allegiance to the revolution:“…if the paralysis of Television had been intended, there was no need to penetrate inside the television station.It would have been enough to press a button in order to disrupt the transmission….But none of this happened.”[59]Vlad’s key words here may have been “if the paralysis of Television had been intended.”Outside of the context of the Securitate’s disinformation effort, Vlad’s defense seems to confirm his innocence.Inside the context, however, it hardly seems so innocent.

The Character of the Destruction Left by the December Events

Linz and Stepan are willing to accept the notion of a “scripted revolution,” in part apparently because of the following puzzle (to which they refer):

If during the uprising, the forces of Iliescu in the Central Committee building in Bucharest’s main square were under siege by Securitate loyalists, why are the surrounding buildings destroyed and the Central Committee building unscarred by bullets?[60]

In fact, ordinary Romanians frequently reference this puzzle in support of the idea that the Front controlled the “terrorists.”[61]It first gained widespread popularity both at home and abroad when in early 1990 Romania Libera’s senior journalist Octavian Paler raised the issue in relation to the events at the television station:why had the houses in the area of the television building suffered such extensive damage, while the television building itself seemed to emerge relatively unscathed.[62]In 1991, Nestor Ratesh captured well the surprise and bewilderment of all those who came to Bucharest during 1990:

The visitor to Bucharest’s Palace Square was struck by an unreal sight:the Central Committee building sat there virtually untouched, with no visible sign of damage, while almost all the buildings around it, including the former Royal Palace, which housed the National Museum of Art at the time of the revolution, and the University Library, were destroyed.Anyone visiting the television station, in a different part of the city, could see a similarly shocking landscape…[63]

In fact, such a contrast was to be found around every strategic objective where there was fighting during the December events.

What explains this seemingly bizarre pattern of destruction?In order to answer this question, it is instructive to examine how participants in the events describe the “terrorist” attacks and the response of the Army.Silviu Brucan recalls events on the night of 22/23 December at the television station as follows:

As a rule, the sharpshooters operated only after dark; their machine guns had infrared devices.From some vantage points on the eleventh floor I could see the buildings they [the terrorists] were hiding in and the totally inadequate response of the army units defending the television station; they were shooting from tanks and armored cars with an apparent lack of precision.I saw the mobility of the terrorists, who moved rapidly from the house already marked by the soldiers to nearby houses, immediately firing from the new place.Obviously, they knew perfectly well the locus of the presidential cabinet [on the eleventh floor of the television tower] because they focused their fire there; hundreds of bullets struck the upper part of the back wall.We were thus compelled to move on our bent knees to stay below window level, and most of the time I had to read and write on the carpet.On the way to Studio 4 was a corridor with glass walls where we also had to move on our knees; the temperature there reached freezing after most of the glass was smashed by bullets.[64]

Brucan’s nemesis, Dumitru Mazilu, describes a remarkably similar scene:

After the presentation of the Proclamation [declaring the formation of the National Salvation Front] on radio and television, the gunfire against the building on Pangrati street (i.e. Television) reached an indescribable intensity.We found ourselves under a hail of bullets.On the eleventh floor where the office of the director general was located and where the provisional command center had been set up, all the windows were pulverized….When the sun rose, the bombardment did not cease.On the contrary, the machine guns rattled louder.We were informed that there was shooting from the villas of the dictator’s relatives, that around the central television station there were many points under the control of special units of the Interior Ministry.[65]

Sixty-two people in fact died in the defense of the television station during the events.[66]

Thus, both Brucan and Mazilu suggest that the “terrorists” were clearly aiming their gunfire and they were skilled enough that when they fired they hit the glass of office windows rather than the structure of the building.This seems in accordance with the idea that the “terrorists” were not just novices who had picked up a gun for the first time, but were professionals with sophisticated rifles.On the other hand, the Army, completely untrained and unequipped for urban warfare, confused, scared, and utterly taken by surprise by the attacks, fired back indiscriminately and elusively after the “terrorists.”In spite of their attempt to avoid civilian targets, they caused great physical damage to the buildings occupied by the “terrorists,” apparently without much success in neutralizing them.

Indeed, after the events, the Defense Ministry admitted that the members of one of the Army units dispatched to the Television station on the evening of 22 December had only two months of instruction prior to these events–like so many other units they appear to have been pressed into construction detail or helping with harvest–and that the parachutists dispatched had never before been deployed.[67]Similarly, it is instructive to note Colonel Dragomir’s blunt discussion of the Army’s poor performance in their showdown with the Securitate on the afternoon of 22 December:

For every shot [from the other side], the students [of the Sibiu military school] responded with several hundred.The state of tension and the absence of [sufficient] training of the first year students who had been participating in a lengthy agricultural campaign showed.[68]

In fact, General Militaru admits that the confusion of the moment took a heavy toll on military decisions.Questioned by a reporter in 1992 if the Television station had ever really been in danger, Militaru responded:

No….You see, not even those of our commanders who were responsible for the defense of such objectives thought through and analyzed well enough exactly whom they were confronting.Because the adversary did not have an extraordinary number of men with which to take an object such as the TV tower by assault.They [the Army commanders] did, however, have to face a very well-equipped, well-prepared, and perfidious enemy.Not having sufficient forces, they [the “terrorists”] resorted to “gunfire simulators” which caused extraordinary confusion.They thus sought to do something completely different:to infiltrate…They succeeded in infiltrating into the TV station…[69]

Dumitru Mazilu has also commented upon the impact these “gunfire simulators” had upon the Army:

In several locations “simulators” were found.These emitted the “rat-a-tat-tat” sound of machine guns perfectly, making an infernal racket which provoked panic in the population and confused the young revolutionaries and even the soldiers.In many cases, the Army opened fire, aiming for the place where they assumed the deadly target was located.In the course of such bombardments not only was there much material damage, but lives were lost.[70]

The root cause of the mystery surrounding the bizarre character of the destruction in December 1989 appears to lie then in the fact that the Army was ill-prepared and ill-equipped to engage in urban warfare–and for that matter, any type of warfare given its use as a conscript labor force by the Ceausescu regime–while the Securitate “terrorists” were well-equipped, well-trained, and following a well-organized plan, but also relatively small in number.

The Execution of the Ceausescus:“Masquerade” or “Justifiable Homicide”?

Linz and Stepan echo the sentiments of many foreign observers in their discussion of the trial and execution of the Ceausescus:

To understand the new regime and the doubts we have about its liberal democratic character, we cannot but remind the reader of the grotesque nature of the “trial” and “judicial murder” of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu, which were totally in contradiction with the principles of rule of law and formal justice.The hurried execution has left many doubts about how it was handled, even though the entire world was shown the trial and the official version of the execution on television.It would seem that the new rulers wanted to exploit the hatred of the Ceausescus and at the same time to prevent embarrassing accusations of their own past involvement under the sultan.[71]

Let us re-examine the trial and execution of the Ceausescus and the circumstances surrounding them.

Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu were executed in the courtyard of the Tirgoviste military garrison on Christmas Day, 25 December 1989.Paul Goma, Romania’s famous exiled dissident, seemed to capture the frustration and anger of many Romanians when he alleged that this act “stole Ceausescu from those who suffered because of him.”[72]Writing in early February 1990, Vladimir Tismaneanu argued:“Questions about what is true and false in the story of Romania’s revolution begin with the execution of the Ceausescus.”[73]Tismaneanu asked:“Did those who ordered Ceausescu killed have a personal interest in his quick and private death?…And are they using the myth of revolutionary justice and military expediency to hide other motives?”[74]Bitterness over the lack of public trial has permeated the post-December dialogue about this event.

Precisely because such doubt has been created over the very existence of the “terrorists,” most discussions of the execution of the Ceausescus tend to devolve into parlor-room moralizing and ethics debates largely divorced from reality.Because it is taken for granted that the “terrorists” were a mere invention or worked on behalf of the Front, the actions of Front leaders are judged outside the context of the military realities confronted by Front leaders at the time.It is frequently insinuated that the Ceausescus were eliminated less for military reasons than for political reasons:the Ceausescus knew their accusers all too well; they could reveal unpleasant truths about the “coup d’etat” which was taking place; a “trial of communism” could thereby be avoided; and Front leaders could manufacture revolutionary credentials for themselves.[75]

In his December 1995 interview with Senator Valentin Gabrielescu, Sorin Rosca Stanescu acknowledged the importance of the “terrorist” phenomenon for judging the correctness of the Ceausescus execution and outlined the stakes of the competing arguments:

Did the terrorists exist or not?If yes, if the organized formations tried to bring the dictators back to power, then their execution after a mock trial can be partially understood and partially forgiven by history.Even if this act shocked and revolted the entire free world.If there existed terrorist formations, then these over one thousand victims recorded after the arrest of the Ceausescu couple can be explained at this price by the defense of freedom.However, if after extremely thorough investigation, you sir did not identify organized formations of terrorists, then it turns out the Ceausescus were assassinated, and the authors of this act are guilty of a crime, and the deaths from the period 22-25 December are the victims of a genocide resulting from [the staging] of the terrorist scenario, by the authors of the coup d’etat, with Ion Iliescu at the forefront.[76]

Clearly, Rosca Stanescu opts reflexively for the latter scenario, as does Gabrielescu.

Key members of the Front’s leadership during these days–including some now-bitter foes, Ion Iliescu, (former prime minister) Petre Roman, and Silviu Brucan–insisted at the time, and have continued to maintain, that although they weighed political, juridical, and military considerations in determining the fate of the Ceausescus, military considerations ultimately prevailed.[77]According to these officials, because “terrorist” attacks were continuing in the capital and reports from commanders at the Tirgoviste military garrison suggested that the barracks had come under “terrorist” gunfire, they feared that:

should the Securitate have managed to set the two free and a madman like Ceausescu be given a chance to take over the command of those troops, we would have been heading for a bloodbath, with the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives.[78]

Does the evidence support the contention of Front leaders that the Tirgoviste garrison was under attack and that they feared a suicidal rescue attempt by Ceausescu loyalists?According to General Gheorghe N. Popescu (commander of the anti-aircraft artillery unit based in the garrison) tank, anti-tank, armored vehicles, and “mountain hunter” units and sub-units were summoned to Tirgoviste during these days to strengthen the defense of the town, bringing the total number of troops involved to 1,200.[79]Major Ion Tecu maintains that the garrison was so heavily-fortified that it would have taken at least an entire division to conquer the barracks.[80]General Popescu describes some familiar conditions during the days and nights while the Ceausescus were held at the Tirgoviste garrison:

Among the numerous incidents from that time, I would first of all emphasize the false objectives, the false targets, the false alarms, in a word the disinformation…the barracks were shot at, there was especially shooting from the direction of the train station, from the nearby high school, there was shooting from the neighboring blocks of flats, from the roofs of those blocks.These men were prepared by Ceausescu….I am convinced that elements of the Securitate were not foreign to these activities.[81]

Lt. Col. Ion Mares recounts an incident from the morning of 23 December as follows:

[The telephone rang] I picked the telephone up and heard:“If in thirty minutes you don’t surrender the traitors we will wipe you from the face of the earth!”…Exactly thirty minutes later at 7:25 a.m. gunfire was opened against the barracks and on the radar five targets appeared.Later five helicopters were seen first-hand.Whether they were helicopters, balloons, or whatever I don’t know if we will ever know.What is certain is that it was thirty minutes after the threat.[82]

Fearing that if the Ceausescus’ exact whereabouts were not kept secret, the Securitate might launch a successful rescue raid or Army soldiers or townspeople might take justice into their own hands and lynch the couple, the commanding officers of the Timisoara garrison spread disinformation of their own.For example, even after the Ceausescus had been brought within the garrison at 6:35 p.m. on Friday 22 December, groups of Army officers were dispatched into the countryside in search of the couple.[83]While being moved from room to room on the base, the Ceausescus were made to wear Army greatcoats and hats.According to Lt. Col. Mares, “it is certain that by the time of the execution on 25 [December], no more than fifty percent of the personnel at the barracks knew of their [the Ceausescus’] presence [on the base].”[84]

Moreover, realizing their phone calls were probably being listened to, they even lied to Front leaders in Bucharest about exactly where the couple was being held.When those officials charged to carry out the trial arrived on 25 December, they requested that they be taken to the “nearby wood” where the Army had hidden the Ceausescus:the Ceausescus had in fact never left the barracks but this is where the Tirgoviste commanders had told Bucharest the couple was located.[85]Furthermore, because of information on the evening of 24 December that the land and air campaign of the “terrorists” would increase, and because it was difficult to move the Ceausescus from room to room in the barracks as the gunfire intensified, between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. on 25 December, the Ceausescus were hidden in an armored transport on the base.[86]

The tactics adopted by those officials sent from Bucharest to try the Ceausescus suggest that they genuinely feared the “terrorists” and modified their behavior accordingly.On the night of 24 December, the Front’s “executive bureau” commissioned Army General Victor Stanculescu–the very man who had hustled the Ceausescus into the helicopter which carried the couple from the CC building on 22 December–with the task of organizing the trial (and thus, their execution).Stanculescu brought with him to Tirgoviste representatives of both the civilian and military prosecutor’s offices, and at least two other Front “observers”:Gelu Voican Voiculescu, who went on to be named deputy prime minister and formed the first post-December security service (UM 0215), and Virgil Magureanu, who would become director of the Securitate’s official heir, the SRI.

On Christmas morning, two helicopters departed from the Boteni parachutist base, collected these officials at the Ghencea stadium in Bucharest, and headed towards Tirgoviste.[87]On the way, three helicopters, equipped with missiles, joined them.[88]According to Stanculescu and Voiculescu in March 1990, the helicopters flew at a very low altitude and in a zig-zag route with only one of the helicopters in touch with the ground.[89]The commanders at the Tirgoviste garrison knew of the helicopters’ arrival, but did not know exactly for what purpose they had come, so they loaded the Ceausescus back into the armored vehicle and drove out to the edge of the runway.According to Major Ion Tecu:

We were convinced that they were coming to take the dictator and that we could finally escape from this dreadful burden, from this nightmare (because, in fact, these three days and three nights with the Ceausescus on our minds was the most dreadful period for us, [a period] which aged us and negatively marked every life).[90]

Instead of the Ceausescus being crowded into the helicopter for transport to Bucharest, Stanculescu and the others disembarked and the entourage hurried into the barracks to conduct what would pass for a trial.Iliescu later suggested that conditions were just too uncertain to transfer Ceausescu and there was a fear that somewhere along the way he might escape or be rescued.[91]Brucan describes the trial as follows:

The proceedings had all the features of a war trial….The whole trial reflected the urgency of the case.The prosecutor documented the charges briefly, the interrogation was telegraphic, and the defense lawyer spoke at maximum five minutes.[92]

Behr explains the rationale behind the actions of those in charge of the trial:

As we now know, the trial’s purpose was not to bring the Ceausescus to justice but to provide a legal pretext for executing them as soon as possible.The Securitate sharpshooters would only give up, the leaders of the newly constituted National Salvation Front believed, once it was clear that the Ceausescus were no longer alive.Speed was therefore essential, and the court members were also desperately anxious to leave Tirgoviste as quickly as possible for safety reasons:The later their departure, the more hazardous the journey home through Bucharest’s streets to the safety of the Defense Ministry.Their trip to Tirgoviste had taken nearly two hours instead of a mere twenty minutes, for the helicopter pilots had been so fearful of a sneak Securitate attack by a loyalist Ceausescu commando that they had taken a long, circuitous route, and this meant that on the way home, they would have to stop to refuel.[93]

Although the accused were given a formal medical exam to determine their fitness to stand trial, and had a chance during the proceedings to plead insanity, these were perhaps the only elements which even came close to respecting judicial etiquette.Behr, who unlike most analysts accepts the Front’s stated rationale for executing the couple, nevertheless admits:“Even by the standards of the infamous Stalinist trials of the thirties, the proceedings were farcical.”[94]The principal charges against the Ceausescus were that they were responsible for the genocide of at least 60,000 persons and for siphoning off in excess of one billion dollars from the state budget to foreign bank accounts for their own personal use.According to Rady, the severity of the charges explains the fact that the president of the court at the trial was Colonel Gica Popa, head of the Bucharest Area Military Tribunal.[95]A 1968 Presidential decree issued by Nicolae Ceausescu himself had stipulated that those who were charged with serious offenses were subject to courts martial and denied the right of appeal.[96]

The problems with the trial itself were manifold.Both the presiding judge, Colonel Gica Popa, and the Ceausescus’ appointed defense lawyer from the civilian prosecutor’s office, Nicu Teodorescu, were as vituperative towards the couple as the prosecutor himself.The Front’s three representatives–General Stanculescu, Voican Voiculescu, and Virgil Magureanu–hardly qualified as disinterested, neutral “observers.”There was no effort to prove the charges of which the Ceausescus were accused.Indeed, the charge of “the genocide of 60,000 people” was a gross exaggeration.[97]From this standpoint, Vladimir Tismaneanu’s characterization of the trial seems legitimate:“…Romania’s new leaders chose the worst of all alternatives:tyrannicide pretending to be law.By attempting to keep the revolution pure, they sullied it.”[98]

Some of the sharpest allegations against Front officials surround the videotape of the trial and execution of the Ceausescus.A heavily-edited version of the original tape was broadcast on Romanian Television on 26 December.The film did not show the execution of the Ceausescus or their corpses.According to Iliescu, it had been decided “not to show the macabre images of the execution and the cadavers since we were not attempting to satisfy morbid curiosity but only to transmit a political message.”[99]A second version of the tape showing the bullet-riddled bodies of the couple was, however, broadcast several times the following day.

Then on 22 April 1990 French television broadcast a new version of the tape which it had apparently purchased from an undisclosed source.This version showed not only the trial, but the tying of the condemned couple’s hands before being led to their execution, their bleeding corpses, and their burial–thus explaining in part why it ran for eighty-six minutes, substantially longer than previously-broadcast versions.For the first time, the faces of the Front’s “observers”–Defense Minister Stanculescu, Deputy Prime Minister Voiculescu, and SRI Director Maguareanu–were revealed.Scenes from the actual execution remained missing.On the same night, Romanian television broadcast the same tape but without the four-minute scene in which the couple’s hands were tied.[100]

The new version broadcast by French television and the actions of Romanian television raised tremendous suspicion and injected an international dimension into the dispute over the trial and execution.The French analyst Michel Tatu noted that the four-minute scene censored by Romanian television also included a pathetic appeal for mercy by Elena and a final embrace by the couple, sequences which paradoxically left the viewer with a dignified impression of the couple and sympathetic to their plight.[101]Based on what appeared on the tape and the missing sequence of the execution, French forensic experts claimed that the final scenes of the film had been faked:the Ceausescus had been killed otherwise (by a single shot to the head or under torture) and then propped against the courtyard wall and shot by the firing squad![102]

Most of the revisionism surrounding the trial, the execution, and the videotape is groundless and simply incorrect.For example, Calinescu and Tismaneanu declare that the original broadcast of the videotape showed only fifty-odd minutes “from a trial that lasted approximately nine hours.”[103]Yet Behr (based on interviews with several of the Army participants) and Brucan both suggest the trial lasted fifty-five minutes.[104]Moreover, 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.”[105]

According to Lt. Col. Ion Mares, only seven minutes elapsed between the announcement of the sentence and the execution, and the execution was not filmed because in the rush to the courtyard the electrical cord for the camera (which did not run on batteries) was jolted loose.[106]After the showing of the new version of the tape on French television, Voiculescu admitted that the soldiers had rushed to open fire on the couple while the cameraman was still in the corridor when the first shots rang out.[107]Major Tecu flatly rejected the conclusions of the French forensic experts (which had been based upon “a discrepancy in their [the couple’s] rigidity and in the blood flow”) by arguing that Nicolae’s thick overcoat had absorbed much of Ceausescu’s blood and that Elena had fainted when the first shots rang out and thus the bullets which killed her had hit her while she was lying flat on the pavement stones.[108]

Front leaders were criticized almost immediately because the original versions of the videotape did not show the faces of those who were trying the Ceausescus (most especially the Front’s observers) or show the burial of the couple.[109]The first omission was interpreted as a sign that the Front feared embarrassment were it to be found out who Ceausescu’s (not completely unfamiliar) accusers were.The second omission led to rumors that the couple might still somehow be alive somewhere inside or outside Romania.Yet Front leaders have consistently maintained that they intentionally edited out footage revealing the identities of those trying the Ceausescus, for fear of reprisals against them, and footage which might indicate the location of the Ceausescus’ burial site, because they wanted to prevent the site from either being turned into a shrine or vandalized.[110]Brucan and Behr have suggested that this first concern was not unfounded since on the night of 25 December, upon arriving back in Bucharest the Ceausescus’ senior defense lawyer, Nicu Teodorescu, was wounded in the back.[111]On 1 March 1990, Colonel Gica Popa, who had presided over the trial, was reported to have been found dead of an apparent suicide.The official explanation was that Popa had suffered a “nervous breakdown.”The influence of the allegations made by the French forensic experts upon reinterpreting historical events could be seen in a 1991 article by Calinescu and Tismaneanu.Based on the forensics’ hypothesis, the authors speculated that because the Ceausescus had been killed before the execution (he of a heart-attack; she “gangland style” after going into hysterics), Popa had been forced “to sentence two corpses to death!”[112]They therefore suggest:

For a judge, such an act would be tantamount to professional suicide….the judge’s suicide could have been an act of desperation by an essentially honest man who had been forced to go through a criminal charade.[113]

Yet this contrasts sharply with Tismaneanu’s own characterization of the incident in April 1990 shortly after returning from a visit to Romania.Then, Tismaneanu had written that most Romanians were skeptical of the official explanation of Popa’s death and spoke instead “about the unnerving phone calls and hate mail received by those directly involved in tearing down the Ceausescu regime.”[114]Indeed, there is some evidence to believe that immediately prior to his death, Popa was so agitated that he had sought permission to leave indefinitely for Switzerland.[115]Moreover, Popa and the other officials involved in the trial are known to have carried arms for their own safety long after the trial was over.[116]

The comments of Lt. Col. Ion Mares on the one year anniversary of the events suggest that it was not only the judges and lawyers who continued to be marked by their involvement in Ceausescu’s trial.Mares declared:“Personally, at this very moment I must tell you that I question whether or not what we did then is still good, since so much has happened to me since then….”[117]After recounting the problems he, his wife, and his daughter had encountered at work or at university, Mares added:“Then there are the threatening letters, I have one from Alba-Iulia if you want to see it…The threatening telephone calls, and more.I have already suffered a breakdown.”[118]As Major Tecu concluded:“…we continue to reap the damages even today, these two poisoned our lives[…and have done so] even after they died.”[119]

Front officials have maintained that the broadcast of the original version of the videotape of the trial on 26 December 1989 led to a substantial reduction in the scope and intensity of the “terrorist” attacks and encouraged the “terrorists” to turn themselves in. However, because this version did not show the corpses of the dead Ceausescus and rumors continued to swirl that the couple was still alive (and this was probably partly manufactured), they were forced to make a new copy of the videotape–this time showing the Ceausescus’ bullet-riddled bodies–and broadcast it on television on 27 December.According to Silviu Brucan, this action was taken after one of the captured “terrorists” “refused to talk on the ground that he had made the commitment to defend Ceausescu so long as he was alive.”[120]The sentencing of the Ceausescus at the trial was not enough because the “terrorists” had taken a loyalty oath to defend Ceausescu:they had to be given incontrovertible proof that the Ceausescus were dead.This second broadcast, according to Front officials, was the nail in the coffin and convinced most of the remaining “terrorists” that they had nothing left to fight for.In addition, a decree promised those “terrorists” who did not turn themselves in by the evening of 28 December that they would meet with the same fate as the Ceausescus.Together, these actions definitively scuttled the “terrorist” offensive.

In spite of the evidence against revisionist accounts, false–and even absurd–presentations of the trial, the execution, and the tape continue to be given favorable publicity.It is telling of the warped state of affairs in post-Ceausescu Romania that in 1995 opposition journalist Liviu Valenas should present the following views of a former Securitate colonel on these events (under the title “The Secret Files of Romanian Neocommunism”) as daring truths:

No one today doubts that the trial of Nicolae Ceausescu was a sinister masquerade, worthy of the French Revolution, that such an “execution” was of a purely political type.The order to physically liquidate Ceausescu came directly from Moscow, the KGB having in mind many variants for physically eliminating Ceausescu.The fact that among all East European communist leaders, only Ceausescu had to die was the response of Moscow to his real attitude of independence towards Moscow since 1965.Furthermore, Ceausescu had to disappear because he knew very many compromising things for the KGB and the Kremlin.[121]

According to the source, the Ceausescus may have been killed as early as 23 December (the next forty-eight hours being necessary for inventing an appropriate version for public consumption) with the culprit being Gelu Voican Voiculescu, who had shot them in the neck in “a typically characteristic NKVD-KGB style.”


As we have seen, during and immediately after the December events, observers both inside and outside the country identified the “terrorists” as belonging to the Securitate, and above all to the Fifth Directorate and the closely-affiliated USLA unit.Since then these initial claims have been corroborated by major participants in those events.A look at the available ballistics’ evidence–not merely from Bucharest, but from diverse parts of the country–suggests a clear pattern:the “terrorists” used and killed with ammunition which was simply not a part of the Army’s arsenal.This fundamentally undermines the assertion that the Army “fired into itself” in December 1989.Moreover, the available evidence on the arsenal of the Securitate suggests that they possessed the types of ammunition used in December.Precisely because of what we know about the Securitate’s role in the Ceausescu regime, this is hardly an unexpected outcome.

The significance of the “terrorist” question can be seen in the fact that the failure to resolve this issue has allowed myth and disinformation to pervade the understanding of other key elements of the December events, especially the circumstances surrounding the trial and execution of the Ceausescus.This pernicious mix of alluring myth and disinformation has made its way from the Romanian media, to the foreign media, to Romanian specialists, and ultimately to the broader academic community.The erroneous consensus which prevails within Romania has thus been replicated in scholarly analysis of the Romanian case.


[1].. Juan J. Linz and Alfred Stepan, “The Effects of Totalitarianism-cum-Sultanism on Democratic Transition:Romania,” chapter in Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation:Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe (Baltimore:The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), 344-347, 358-359.

[2].. Liviu Turcu, interview by David Binder, “Ceausescu’s ‘Private Army’ a Force of Unabated Cruelty and Fierce Loyalty,” New York Times, 25 December 1989, A12.

[3].. Blaine Harden, “Doors Unlocked on Romania’s Secret Police,” Washington Post, 30 December 1989, A1, A14.

[4].. This appears in episode four of Horia Alexandrescu’s aforementioned series “Adevarul despre USLA [The Truth About the USLA].”The article fervently clears the USLA of responsibility for the “terrorist” actions, but also is tinged with sarcasm.After stating that the USLA were unassailably innocent, he introduces Postelnicu’s statement with the following observation:“Nevertheless, there exist people who probably have an interest in explaining the inexplicable by uttering the initials of the USLA, the best example being the following…”.See Horia Alexandrescu, “In Actiune,” Tineretul Liber, (13 March 1990), 4.

[5].. Angela Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea Navalirilor Barbare (Cluj-Napoca:Editura “Zalmoxis,” 1994), 145.Mihai Montanu is typical of so many of those who defected from the Front during 1990.Initially, he floated towards the opposition press where he was well received–Montanu could be found giving an interview to Liviu Valenas in the opposition weekly Baricada in late February 1990.Only a few years later, he was giving interviews to the Ceausist Europa.

[6].. A Group of Former Securitate Officers, “Asa va place revolutia?Asa a fost!” Democratia, no. 36 (24-30 September 1990), 4.They are referring to Militaru’s unsuccessful demand that the personnel of these two units “fall out” for inspection in Ghencea cemetery near the Defense Ministry.

[7].. See, for example, Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea, 113, 119.The reference is to the massacre of the Polish Army’s officer corps by the Soviets after they entered Poland at the beginning of World War II.

[8].. Adevarul, 14 January 1990, 4.

[9].. Adevarul, 20 January 1990, 2 as cited in Sturdza, “How Dead is Ceausescu’s Secret Police Force?” Radio Free Europe. Report on Eastern Europe, (April 1990), 30.Sturdza may have correctly interpreted this as an effort to “whitewash” the bulk of the Securitate, but it can also be seen as an indirect admission of the Securitate’s responsibility for the December bloodshed.

[10].. Ilie Stoian, Decembrie ‘89:Arta Diversiunii (Bucharest:Editura Colaj, 1993), 42.Stoian, however, contradicts Socaciu and suggests that these were actually “Army parachutists.”

[11].. See Nicu Ceausescu, interview, “Nicu Ceausescu se destainuie [Nicu Ceausescu confesses],” Zig-Zag, no. 20 (24-30 July 1990), 3.By the time of this interview, it appears Socaciu had long-since been removed from this case.

[12].. Marian Valer, interview by Monica N. Marginean, “Marian Valer:Asistam la ingroparea Revolutiei [Marian Valer:We are witnessing the burial of the Revolution],” Expres, no. 33 (September 1990), 2.Valer had just stepped down as prosecutor when he gave this interview.

[13].. Emil Munteanu, “Postelnicu a vorbit neintrebat! [Postelnicu spoke without being asked to!],” Romania Libera, 30 January 1990, 1.Moreover, according to Nicu Silvestru, former commander of the Sibiu county Militia, Nicu told the local Securitate and Militia on 19 December that he was calling his “specialists” from Bucharest to reinforce forces in Sibiu.See Nicu Silvestru’s open letter printed in “Cine a ordonat sa se traga la Sibiu?[Who gave the order to open fire in Sibiu?” Baricada, no. 45 (20 November 1990), 5.Silvestru, of course, maintains that the Securitate and Militia in Sibiu had no responsibility for the December bloodshed.

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[14]<! [endif]–>.. See General Nicolae Militaru and Silviu Brucan, interview by Darie Novaceanu, “Adevarul, numai adevarul [The truth, nothing but the truth],” Adevarul, 23 August 1990, 1, 3. It is indicative of the degree to which observers had already begun to take for granted that the Front had “hijacked the revolution” in December 1989 and that the “terrorists” had not been a real threat, that this interview gained notoriety (especially in the West) for what Brucan and Militaru revealed about the pre-December activities and links of those (including themselves) who took power in December 1989.The real “scoop,” however, lay in their comments concerning the identity of the “terrorists.”See, for example, Mark Champion, “Romanian Revolution Depicted as Planned Coup, Not Uprising,” The Washington Post, 24 August 1990.Even a well-argued rebuttal to this misinterpretation of Brucan and Militaru’s argument touched upon the “terrorist” issue only in passing.See Michael Shafir, “Preparing for the Future by Revising the Past,” Radio Free Europe.Report on Eastern Europe, no. 41 (12 October 1990):29-42.The date is significant in Romania history for it was on this date that the wartime military dictator, Marshal Antonescu, had been ousted from power in 1944 and it was the national holiday during the communist era.The fact that this interview appeared on a date so closely identified with the previous regime has been used to discredit its content.

[15].. Silviu Brucan, interview, Adevarul, 16 January 1990.

[16].. Militaru and Brucan, interview by Darie Novaceanu, “Adevarul, numai adevarul.”Brucan also revealed that 30 foreigners “in their majority Palestinians undergoing training at Baneasa or in other Securitate centers” were involved.

[17].. Ibid.

[18].. Ibid.

[19].. Silviu Brucan, interview by Sergiu Andon, “Cine au fost teroristii? [Who were the terrorists?],” Adevarul, 21 December 1990, 1, 2.

[20].. He maintains that the initial copy of his memoirs was stolen from him when he was attacked by masked, Romanian-speaking assailants.

[21].. Excerpts from Revolutia Furata in Dumitru Mazilu, “Cine sint teroristii? [Who are the terrorists?],” Flacara, 25 Septemeber 1991, 4.

[22].. Ibid.Mazilu clearly attempts to draw no distinction between the Interior Ministry and the Securitate.

[23].. General Nicolae Militaru, interview by Corneliu Antim, “Ordinul 2600 in Revolutie din decembrie,” Romania Libera, 17 December 1992, 2.

[24].. Ibid.

[25].. Ondine Gherghut, “Generalul Militaru acuza Securitatea de crima [General Militaru accuses the Securitate of crime],” Cotidianul, 25 May 1995, 3.Militaru was testifying at the so-called “Otopeni–23 December ‘89″ trial.

[26].. Ibid.This is Gherghut summary of Militaru’s testimony.

[27].. See Vlad’s comments in Mircea Bunea, “Intrebari, Intrebari” Adevarul, 26 February 1991, in idem, Praf in Ochi.Procesul celor 24-1-2. (Bucharest:Editura Scripta, 1994), 467.

[28].. Tudor Artenie, “Stetikin–Arma din Dotarea Securitatii?[Stetikin–>Romania Libera, 13 February 1991, 3.

[29].. Ibid.

[30].. Ibid.The irony of Artenie’s article appearing in Romania Libera is clear when one considers that only a half year earlier (25 July 1990), the paper’s editor, Petre Mihai Bacanu, had confidently cleared the Fifth Directorate of any wrongdoing during the events.Bacanu’s actions are all the more baffling when one considers that less than two weeks prior to Bacanu’s exoneration of the Fifth Directorate, he referred in an article on another subject that “9 mm bullets are real projectiles.”See Petre Mihai Bacanu, “Secrete de Stat [State Secrets],” Romania Libera, 14 July 1990.

[31].. Dr. Sergiu Tanasescu, interview by Ion K. Ion, “Dinca si Postelnicu au fost prinsi de pantera roz!” Cuvintul, no. 7 (14 March 1990), 11.

[32].. Major Mihai Floca and Captain Victor Stoica, “Unde sint teroristii?PE STRADA, PRINTRE NOI,” Armata Poporului, no. 24 (13 June 1990), 3.

[33].. Ibid.

[34].. Major Mihai Floca, “Crima?!” Armata Poporului, no. 23 (6 June 1990), 3.

[35].. Defense Minister Victor Atanasie Stanculescu, interview by Aurel Perva and Gavrila Inoan, Tineretul Liber, 5 March 1991, 1-2, in “Stanculescu:‘Terrorists’ Used Arms in Revolution,” FBIS-EEU-91-047, 11 March 1991, 39.Interestingly, this interview, which is far more provocative and open than any previous interview by Stanculescu, came only a month before he was replaced as Defense Minister.In it he even suggests that he would show a film of those arrested in December 1989 with foreign-made arms on them.He may have been attempting to turn up the heat on political adversaries within the regime, although he never appears to have specified the Securitate’s relationship to these bullets and weapons.

[36].. See Gheorghe Balasa’s comments in Dan Badea, “Gloante speciale sau ce s-a mai gasit in cladirea Directiei a V-a [Special bullets or what was found in the Fifth Directorate’s building],” Expres, no. 64 (16-22 April 1991), 12.

[37].. Ibid.Significantly, the journalist, Dan Badea, concludes that these testimonies provide more than enough evidence for the Police or Prosecutor’s Office to begin an inquest.

[38].. Dan Iliescu, interview by Ion Zubascu, “Misterioasa revolutie romana [The Mysterious Romanian Revolution],” Flacara, no. 51 (19 December 1990), 11.

[39].. See the comments of Nicolae Stefan Soucup in Revolutia Romana in Direct (Bucharest:Televiziunea Romana, 1990), 133-134.

[40].. Major Mihai Floca, “Reportaj la USLA,” Tineretul Liber, 5 January 1990, 4.

[41].. Victor Dinu, Romania Libera, 12 April 1990, 2.

[42].. Stoian, Decembrie ‘89:Arta Diversiunii, 43-44.

[43].. Ciprian Banciu, “Braila–lotcile ucigase [Braila–killer boats],” Nu, no. 22 (24-31 August 1990), 7.

[44].. Radu Ciobotea, “Teroristii au tras.Unde sint teroristii? [The terrorists fired.Where are the terrorists?],” Flacara, no. 8 (21 February 1990), 8.

[45].. Linz and Stepan, “The Effects of Totalitarianism-cum-Sultanism,” 345-346.

[46].. See the text of the transcript, Revolutia Romana in Direct (Bucharest:Televiziunea Romana, 1990), 47, 48, 51.

[47].. The number eighty is used, for example, in Dan Badea, “Cine au fost teroristii?” Expres, no. 90 (15-21 October 1991), 10.This is apparently based on General Militaru’s comments.

[48].. Lt. Col. Aurel Dragomir, interview by Colonel Dragos Dragoi, “Sub tirul incrucisat al acuzatiilor (II) [In the crossfire of accusations],” Armata Poporului, no. 46 (November 1990), 3.I take Dragomir’s response as confirmation of the reporter’s inquiry, but one which he is leery of stating outright.If from December 1989 to November 1990 the truth about the “terrorists” was already beginning to melt away, it is interesting to read Dragomir’s discussion of these events four years later in the Army daily where he refers both to the “special forces of Ceausescu” and the “Soviet tourists” brought by plane to Sibiu on 20 December (those whom in January 1990, the military prosecutor Socaciu had claimed were USLA men).His discussion is indicative of a changed climate even since November 1990.See Lt. Col. Aurel Dragomir, “N-am nimic de ascuns! [I have nothing to hide],” Armata Romaniei, no. 233 (1-7 June 1994), 7.

[49].. Ibid.

[50].. Ibid.According to one source, in total 16 people were killed and 57 were injured as a result of this incident.See Iustin Moraru, Dimineata, 26 May 1990, 3 in “Nicu Ceausescu Trial Begins in Sibiu,” FBIS-EEU-90-116, 15 June 1990, 63.

[51].. Ibid.

[52].. Ibid.In spite of these facts, the tendentious treatment of Colonel Dragomir and the Army’s role in the Sibiu events is remarkably familiar in both the Ceausist press and the opposition press.See, for example, Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea, 180-181; idem, “Sibiu:Adevarul despre Sibiu,” Zig-Zag, no. 15 (19-26 June 1990), 8; Profesor I. S. Deladeva, “Silviu Brucan intre Adevar si Ipocrizie,” Europa, no. 15 (January 1991), 8; Ilie Stoian, Decembrie ‘89:Arta Diversiunii (Bucharest:Editura Colaj, 1993), 40-42; Petre Mihai Bacanu, “Rol dublu:Si Teroristi si Invingatori,” Romania Libera, 20 May 1992, 1.

[53].. Revolutia Romana in Direct, 71, 72, 75.

[54].. Brates, Explozei Unei Clipe, 110.

[55].. Ibid., 110-111.It is important to point out that this is a significantly different take on the goals of the “terrorist” actions.Opposition accounts suggest that the “terrorists” wanted to frighten the population from acting in large, compact groups but so the Front could seize power, not so that they could pave the way for the return of the dictator.But, as we have seen, such an assumption is based on the suggestion that the “terrorists” were controlled by the Front.

[56].. For Militaru’s claim, see Ghergut, “General Militaru acuza.”

[57].. Mark Granovetter, “Threshold Models of Collective Behavior,” American Journal of Sociology, no. 83 (1978):1420-1443.For an excellent discussion of Granovetter’s hypothesis, see James B. Rule, Theories of Civil Violence (Berkeley:University of California Press, 1988), 43-49.

[58].. See the question of U. Valureanu to Silviu Brucan in Silviu Brucan, interview by U. Valureanu, “Domnul Silviu Brucan se distanteaza de conducerea F.S.N. si critica guvernul,” Romania Libera, 17 July 1990, 2.

[59].. General Iulian Vlad, “Ce mai aveti de spus?” Adevarul, 22 January 1991, 2.

[60].. Linz and Stepan, “The Effects of Totalitarianism-cum-Sultanism,” 346.

[61].. Based on the author’s own experiences.

[62].. Octavian Paler gave this puzzle international exposure in an interview in Le Monde (Paris), 1 April 1990.For a discussion, see Matei Calinescu and Vladimir Tismaneanu, “The 1989 Revolution and Romania’s Future,” Problems of Communism 40, nos. 1-2 (January-April 1991), 45 (fn. 12).

[63].. Ratesh, Romania:The Entangled Revolution, 59.

[64].. Silviu Brucan, The Wasted Generation:Memoirs of the Romanian Journey from Capitalism to Socialism and Back (Boulder, CO:Westview Press, 1993), 173.

[65].. Dumitru Mazilu, interview by Emanoil Catan, “Mari mistificari ale istoriei revolutiei romane [The Great mystifications of the history of the Romanian revolution],” Expres Magazin, no. 60 (August 1991), 12.

[66].. Revolutia Romana in Direct, 331.Moreover, as Teodor Brates has argued:while eyewitnesses may remember episodes from these days differently, no one who was at the television station denies that these attacks took place.In fact, only one conclusion is clear from their comments:the “terrorists” shot at the television station as “during wartime.”See Brates, Explozia Unei Clipe, 113.

[67].. Statement of the events at Romanian Television by the Defense Ministry, Revolutia Romana in Direct, 306.

[68].. Colonel Dragomir, interview, “Sub tirul incrucisat (II).”

[69].. Nicolae Militaru, interview by Corneliu Antim, “Ordinul 2600 in Revolutia din decembrie,” Romania Libera, 17 December 1992, 2.

[70].. Dumitru Mazilu, interview by Emanoil Catan, “Mari mistificari ale istoriei revolutiei romane,” Expres Magazin, no. 64 (September 1991), 12.

[71].. Linz and Stepan, “The Effects of Totalitarianism-cum-Sultanism,” 359.

[72].. Quoted in Ratesh, Romania:The Entangled Revolution, 77.

[73].. Vladimir Tismaneanu, “New Masks, Old Faces,” The New Republic, 5 February 1990, 17.

[74].. Ibid.

[75].. For instance, see ibid., 17; Matei Calinescu and Vladimir Tismaneanu, “The 1989 Revolution and Romania’s Future,” Problems of Communism 40, nos. 1-2 (January-April 1991):45; Ratesh, Romania:The Entangled Revolution, 75-77.

[76].. Reprinted from Ziua in Valentin Gabrielescu, interview by Sorin Rosca Stanescu, “Seful Comisiei Decembrie ‘89 Face Dezvaluiri,” Lumea Libera, no. 377 (23 December 1995), 9.

[77].. Ion Iliescu, interview, Die Welt, 8 January 1990 in FBIS, 9 January 1990; Petre Roman, interview, FBIS, 9 January 1990, 63; Silviu Brucan, interview, Adevarul, 18 January 1990 in FBIS-EEU-90-012, 18 January 1990, 71; Silviu Brucan, The Wasted Generation, 181; Ion Iliescu, Revolutia si Reforma, 79-82.

[78].. Brucan, interview, 16 January 1990 in FBIS.

[79].. See interviews in Ion D. Goia and Petre Barbu, “Ceausestii la Tirgoviste,” Flacara, no. 51 (19-25 December 1990), 8.

[80].. Ibid., 10.

[81].. Ibid., 8.

[82].. Ibid., 9.

[83].. See the comments of Lt. Col. Mares in ibid., 9.

[84].. Ibid.

[85].. Based on interviews in Edward Behr, Kiss the Hand You Cannot Bite.The Rise and Fall of the Ceausescus (New York:Villard Books, 1991), 20.

[86].. Major Ion Tecu in Goia and Barbu, “Ceausestii la Tirgoviste,” 10.

[87].. See the comments of one of the Boteni parachutists in Ioan Itu, “Marturisirile plutonului care a executat cuplul Ceausescu,” Tinerama, no. 108 (18-24 December 1992), 7.

[88].. Ibid.

[89].. From an interview by Stanculescu and Voiculescu to the pro-Front daily Dimineata summarized by Rompress, 26 March 1990.See “Stanculescu, Voican View Ceausescu Trial,” FBIS-EEU-90-059, 27 March 1990, 57.

[90].. Goia and Barbu, “Ceausestii la Tirgoviste,” 10.

[91].. Iliescu, Revolutia si Reforma, 80-81.

[92].. Brucan, The Wasted Generation, 182.

[93].. Behr, Kiss the Hand You Cannot Bite, 21-22.

[94].. Ibid., 21.

[95].. Martyn Rady, Romania in Turmoil (New York:IB Tauris & Co Ltd, 1992), 116-117.

[96].. Ibid., 116.

[97].. Although it seems legitimate to question the motives of leading Front officials (including Iliescu, Roman, and Brucan) for continuing to speak of a death toll in the tens of thousands more than two weeks after the fighting had ended–long after evidence had come forward showing that the actual toll was substantially lower–given the confusion of the moment, the difficulty of obtaining accurate information on a nationwide basis, and the widespread character of the “terrorist” actions, Front leaders may have genuinely believed these numbers when they drew up the charges against the Ceausescus.It should be remembered that reports of such huge death tolls were commonplace during these days and highly reputable foreign news services repeated them frequently believing them plausible given what had happened earlier in the week in Timisoara (where it was now being said 10,000 people had been killed) and given the apparent scope of the fighting that was then taking place.After the fighting had ended and it became clear that the actual death was substantially lower than what the Ceausescus had been accused of, Silviu Brucan attempted to suggest that the original number of 60,000 had included those killed or condemned to death during the Ceausescu era.Even this was an exaggeration:Ceausescu’s Romania was not Stalin’s Soviet Union when it came to killing its citizens.

[98].. Tismaneanu, “New Masks, Old Faces,” 17.

[99].. Iliescu, Revolutia si Reforma, 82.

[100].. For a discussion, see FBIS-EEU-90-079, 24 April 1990, 48 and FBIS-EEU-90-080, 25 April 1990, 60.

[101].. Michel Tatu, Le Monde (Paris), 24 April 1990, 1.

[102].. Calinescu and Tismaneanu, “The 1989 Revolution and Romania’s Future,” 46, and Rates, The Entangled Revolution, 76.

[103].. Calinescu and Tismaneanu, “The 1989 Revolution and Romania’s Future,” 45.

[104].. Behr, Kiss the Hand You Cannot Bite, 21, and Brucan, The Wasted Generation, 182.

[105].. See Goia and Barbu, “Ceausestii la Tirgoviste,” 10.

[106].. Ibid., 9.

[107].. “Deputy Premier:Ceausescus’ Execution ‘Botched’,” Paris AFP 0942 24 April 1990, in FBIS-EEU-90-079, 48.

[108].. See the comments of Major Secu (this is in fact Major Tecu) in Behr, Kiss the Hand You Cannot Bite, 27.Tecu repeats this story in Goia and Barbu, “Ceausestii la Tirgoviste,” 10.

[109].. See, for example, Tismaneanu, “New Masks, Old Faces,” 17.

[110].. Brucan, The Wasted Generation, 182; Iliescu, Revolutia si Reforma, 82; “Stanculescu, Voican View Ceausescu Trial,” 26 March 1990, 58; “Voican on Parts of Ceausescu Trial Shown on TV,” FBIS-EEU-90-080, 25 April 1990, 60.

[111].. Brucan, The Wasted Generation, 182; Behr, Kiss the Hand You Cannot Bite, 22.

[112].. Calinescu and Tismaneanu, “The 1989 Revolution and Romania’s Future,” 46 (fn. 14).

[113].. Ibid.

[114].. Vladimir Tismaneanu, “Between Revolutions,” The New Republic, 23 April 1990, 24-25.

[115].. Ion Costin Grigore, Cucuveaua cu Pene Rosii (Bucuresti:Editura Miracol, 1994), 115-121.What appears to be the transcript of a conversation between Popa and other members of the prosecutor’s office (shortly before Popa’s death) suggests that Popa had asked Iliescu for permission to leave for Switzerland (120) and that it was on this very day that Popa had gone to the passport ministry to secure official approval (117).

[116].. Ibid., 117.Indeed, in part because he was frequently seen carrying a semi-automatic weapon in early 1990, Deputy Prime Minister Voiculescu became known as the “Castro of the Revolution.”

[117].. See Goia and Barbu, “Ceausestii la Tirgoviste,” 9.

[118].. Ibid.

[119].. Ibid., 10.

[120].. Brucan, The Wasted Generation, 182.See also Iliescu, Revolutia si Reforma, 82.

[121].. Liviu Valenas, “Dosarele secrete ale neocomunismului din Romania,” Romanul Liber XI, no. 8-9 (August-September 1995), 32.

One Response to “Rewriting the Revolution (1997): Chapter 8 , “Unsolving” December”

  1. romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 said

    January 23, 2009 at 12:24 am eGAURA: trebuie spus,fara indoiala, Andrei Codrescu este plin de umor…

    Andrei Codrescu a revizuit si completat “Gaura din steag”, o carte despre efectele reale si ipotetice ale Revolutiei din 1989
    “Daca traia, Ceausescu ar fi devenit un mafiot de talie mijlocie”
    Cultura – “Daca traia, Ceausescu ar fi devenit un mafiot de talie mijlocie”
    Manuela Golea
    Marti, 20 Ianuarie 2009

    » La sfarsitul anului trecut s-a lansat a doua editie, revizuita, a volumului “Gaura din steag”, scrisa de Andrei Codrescu. Prima editie, aparuta in 1993, s-a epuizat rapid, autorul suspectand ca “baietii de la Securitate care mai misunau prin tara au volatilizat-o”.

    » Editia in engleza a fost numita de New York Times “notable book of the year” si a fost discutata pe larg in presa americana. Volumul a generat diferite simpozioane organizate de universitatile americane, sustinute pe teme
    sugerate de carte.

    » Scriitorul crede ca, in acest moment, “intelectualii sunt paralizati de cliseele politice necesare pentru a face politica”, iar daca totusi s-ar apuca de aceasta intreprindere, “un intelectual cu ceva integritate s-ar plictisi de moarte in politica actuala”.

    Lansata in 1993, cartea “Gaura din steag” de Andrei Codrescu a fost prezentata la Gaudeamus 2008 intr-o noua editie, revizuita, in traducerea Ioanei Avadani. Cu titlul original “The Hole in the Flag – A Romanian Exile’s Story of Return and Revolution”, cartea este o cronica a evenimentelor desfasurate in primele zile ale Romaniei postrevolutionare vazute si traite de autor, scrisa dintr-o perspectiva extrem de personala. In fapt, noua Romanie il provoaca pe scriitor sa se intoarca la vechile trairi, facand parca involuntar introspectii asupra propriului trecut. Numitorul comun intre cele doua aspecte ale cartii este dat de prospetime, vioiciune, plus o abordare extrem de directa specifica culturii americane, care acum, dupa aproape 20 de ani, il pune pe cititor fata in fata cu propriile amintiri. Emotia nu este starnita numai de rememorare, cat si de franchetea, delicatetea si gustul dulce-amar indus de Andrei Codrescu.

    De altfel, scriitorul se confrunta cu sentimentele contradictorii, trasandu-si singur paralele intre ce a fost si ce gaseste. socurile emotionale sunt provocate tangential, aproape in fiecare moment al reintoarcerii, de oamenii exaltati si traumatizati, de informatiile catastrofice (otravirea apei, teroristi arabi, comploturi etc.), de amintiri si doruri, regasiri dezamagitoare si de propriul entuziasm. Interesant este propriul parcurs al autorului, care este cand cerebral ca un ziarist occidental, cand napadit de emotii, miscat de un ton smecheresc, de un licar in ochi, de o revedere (intalnirea cu Ana Blandiana si Mircea Dinescu la sediul Uniunii Scriitorilor, unde se planuia… totul si orice).

    Ii este greu sa se obisnuiasca cu libertatea enuntata pe toate gardurile si in toate ziarele nou-aparute, pentru ca el isi aminteste de teroare, de vocile joase care transmiteau informatii (mama il trimitea la coada, la paine, si-i cerea sa fie atent la ce spune lumea ca sa afle noutatile), orele se dilatau in dimensiunea unei zile, iar realitatea se confunda cu ceva de neintuit, un adevar ciuntit, ghicit, cu multiple intelesuri.

    Dupa atatia ani, evenimentele descrise in “Gaura din steag” sunt la fel de vii, dar lectura provoaca angoasa, constati lipsa unor raspunsuri la intrebari formulate in anii ‘90 si, poate cel mai ciudat, se releva cat de departe sunt toate. si intamplarile, si intrebarile. Poate nu degeaba Andrei Codrescu isi califica romanul drept unul politist, pentru ca enigmele de atunci sunt enigme si astazi.

    » De ce ati simtit nevoia sa faceti o reeditare, revizuita, la volumul initial “Gaura din steag”?
    Prima editie (1993) a fost tradusa ciudat si cartea a disparut din librarii imediat dupa aparitie. Am suspectat ca baietii de la Securitate care mai misunau prin tara au volatilizat-o. Tovarasii lor, care misunau prin Chicago si New York cu geamantane doldora de dolari cumparand imobile cu bani gheata, m-au sacait imediat dupa aparitia cartii in engleza. Acum s-au linistit ca-s capitalisti si literatura nu le face rau. Dimpotriva. “All publicity is good publicity.” Acum, aproape 20 de ani dupa “rivolutie”, o generatie intreaga a crescut fara o viziune clara asupra sfarsitului lumii in care traiau parintii lor. Cred ca povestea mea despre “rivolutie”, scrisa fierbinte pe loc, a devenit mai valabila acum.

    Concluziile mai sunt inca valabile si ele, iar problemele aparente in zilele halucinante din decembrie 1989-iunie 1990 revin cu nelinistitoare periodicitate in Romania contemporana. Traducatoarea mea, Ioana Avadani, m-a ajutat enorm, punandu-mi la dispozitie resursele d-sale (e directoarea Centrului pentru Jurnalism Independent), sa verific faptele, sa corectez pe ici, pe colo lucruri care n-au fost cunoscute in 1991. Am adaugat note de subsol. In sfarsit, am scris un roman politist verité si-mi place sa cred ca se citeste asa, fiindca e o poveste extraordinar de misterioasa care schimba radical povestitorul in cateva luni.

    » Cum a fost primit volumul, la vremea lui, in SUA?
    Editia engleza a fost numita de New York Times “notable book of the year” si a fost discutata pe larg in presa americana; cronica mea favorita a fost scrisa in New York Times Book Review de judecatorul Alex Kozinski, un om extrem de bine informat si un analist subtil. Simpozioane pe teme diverse sugerate de carte au fost sustinute in cateva universitati. Imi place sa cred ca mediatizarea intensa a ajutat nitel progresul tarii fiindca a luminat tendintele sobolanesti ale ultranationalistilor conectati cu Securitatea.

    » Succesul acestei carti s-a ridicat la nivelul asteptarilor autorului?
    In SUA, da. In Romania, nu, din cauza celor explicate mai sus. Daca cititorul roman ar fi avut sansa sa citeasca povestea, ar fi fost emotionat mai mult decat cititorul american preocupat de mii de alte lucruri. Sper ca aceasta reeditare recupereaza ceva din timpul pierdut, dar imi pare rau ca nu a circulat pana azi.

    Romania de astazi nu prea exista pe radar in SUA
    » Care este perceptia americanului de rand (daca aceasta exista) fata de Revolutia din Romania anului 1989? Dar fata de Romania de astazi?
    De “rivolutia” Romana (scuzati-ma, dar nu ma pot inca lepada de ghilimilizare) s-au indragostit americanii ca si europenii. Mai precis, ei s-au indragostit de anumite imagini ale acestui eveniment televizat: steagul cu gaura, soldati cu flori oferite de fete frumoase, morti pe treptele catedralei din Timisoara s.a.m.d. Aceste imagini, jucate pana la tocire totala, au devenit niste simboluri fara continut. Adevarul din spatele simbolurilor a fost prea complicat pentru un public obisnuit cu fast-
    food-ul media. Au fost, desigur, si oameni bine informati, ca David Binder de la New York Times, care nu au impartasit superficialitatea publica, inclusiv cea a cabinetului de Externe al lui Ronald Reagan si al lui Bill Clinton. Romania de astazi nu prea exista pe radar in SUA; atentia autohtonilor e captivata de Orientul Mijlociu. Romania a trecut, cu toata Europa de Est, intr-o imagine nebuloasa de tara europeana, un fel de Belgie recenta.

    » Ar fi trebuit sa se implice mai mult intelectualii in schimbarile din Romania? Daca da, de ce credeti ca nu au facut-o?
    Intelectualii s-au implicat imediat in schimbarile din Romania cu energie si entuziasm. Nicolae Manolescu, critic literar, a sarit in circ cu tot ce avea. Mircea Dinescu si-a savurat momentul politic de disident eliberat. Ana Blandiana a deschis capitolul dureros al gulagului comunist. Nicolae Prelipceanu si altii au reinventat presa libera. Andrei Plesu a fost ministrul Culturii. Vladimir Tismaneanu a ajuns in fruntea unei comisii de demascare a crimelor comunismului. Poeti au devenit senatori. Intelectualii cu atitudini, sa zicem, “democratice” sau “progresive”, ca cei numiti aici, au fost inlaturati rapid de pe scena de profesionisti care aveau interese economice, fiind mai degraba interesati de lacheii intelectuali ai lui Ceausescu, ca Adrian Paunescu si Corneliu Vadim Tudor. Pe acestia din urma se puteau baza, fiindca aveau un bun dosar de pupincuratori. In acest moment, intelectualii sunt paralizati de cliseele politice necesare pentru a face politica, nu numai in Romania. Un intelectual cu ceva integritate s-ar plictisi de moarte in politica actuala.

    » De ce credeti ca a fost omorat cuplul Ceausescu?
    Clar, din cauza ca cei care i-au asasinat au facut parte din cercul lor intim. Au fost ucisi fiindca un proces public i-ar fi demascat. Dupa ce si-au decapitat sefii, s-au lafait peste tot si se mai lafaiesc.

    » Daca ar fi trait familia Ceausescu, ce s-ar fi putut intampla cu ei in acesti aproape 20 de ani?
    Dupa doi ani de inchisoare, tov. Ceausescu ar fi devenit un mafiot de talie mijlocie cu numarul privat al lui Ion Iliescu in celular. Elena l-ar fi batjocorit in fiecare zi pentru lipsa lui de ambitie pana cand ar fi facut infarct. Ramasa vaduva, ar fi continuat sa-si sperie si sa-si ameninte vecinii din satul unde au fost refugiati pana cand populatia exasperata i-ar fi inconjurat casa noaptea cu furci si torte si i-ar fi dat foc.

    Poet, romancier si eseist, Andrei Codrescu s-a nascut in 1946, la Sibiu, iar la varsta de 20 de ani a emigrat in Statele Unite. A revenit in tara in ultima zi din 1989, pentru a face reportaje din timpul Revolutiei, pentru canalul de televiziune american ABC si pentru postul National Public Radio. In prezent traieste in New Orleans, impreuna cu sotia si cei doi copii. Este Distinguished Professor of English la Facultatea de stat din Louisiana, din Baton Rouge. Comentariile sale, difuzate periodic de National Public Radio, l-au transformat intr-una dintre cele mai apreciate “voci” ale radioului american. In ultimii ani, editura Polirom a lansat o serie de volume semnate de Codrescu, cum ar fi romanele “Casanova in Boemia”, “Mesi@”, “Wakefield” si volumul de publicistica “Scrisori din New Orleans”. De acelasi autor au aparut la editura Curtea Veche volumele “Prof pe drum” si “Gaura din steag – Povestea unei reveniri si a unei revolutii”.

    » “In fata Academiei de stiinte Politice fluturau doua steaguri peticite. Erau primele pe care le vedeam. Mi s-a strans inima. Dumitru mi le arata cu degetul:
    — Asta nu e bine. Ar fi trebuit sa pastram gaura aia din steag pana cand o fi inghetat iadul si s-ar fi facut pod de gheata… ca drumul asta…”; pg. 147

    » “Adeseori ma uitam la imensa statuie din bronz a lui Lenin din fata Casei Scanteii si imi simteam dureros lipsa de importanta”; pg. 149

    from Richard Andrew Hall, “The Romanian Revolution as Geopolitical Parlor Game” 2005:

    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).

    In an otherwise excellent account by political scientists Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan that is commonly cited in the social sciences, the authors juxtapose Michel Castex’s book—described as marketing the “myth” of the “revolution as a KGB plot”—with Andrei Codrescu’s apparently far more credible book in their opinion (Linz and Stepan, 1996, p.345 n. 3). They note that to Codrescu “the whole revolution had been a fake, a film scripted by the Romanian Communists, with a ‘beautifully orchestrated piece of Kremlin music conducted by Maestro Gorbachev.’” Indeed, it is worth looking at the passage from which this quote is taken:

    “Many people now believe—in the face of mounting evidence—that the mastermind of the Romanian operation was the KGB, that the Romanian revolution was a beautifully orchestrated piece of Kremlin music conducted by Maestro Gorbachev. What’s more, the operation had the full cooperation of the CIA. I recently bought a T-shirt in Washington, D.C., that says: ‘TOGETHER AT LAST! THE KGB & THE CIA. NOW WE ARE EVERYWHERE.’ Even one T-shirt can sometimes be smarter than all the news media.” (Codrescu, 1991, p. 206).

    Codrescu in fact invokes Castex—especially his discussion of the Western media’s supposedly intentional inflation of casualties during the days of the revolution—in support of his thesis (pp. 197-198). There is thus little that differentiates Codrescu from Castex, and the distinction drawn by Linz and Stepan is simply incorrect.

    Far better than the accounts of either Calinescu and Tismaneanu or Codrescu is that of Nestor Ratesh, former head of the Romanian broadcasting division of Radio Free Europe. His The Entangled Revolution (1991) is alternatively described as “sensible,” “sober,” and “authoritative,” by Romanianists and scholars who do not cover the country. For example, both Stokes, and Linz and Stepan, invoke his work. Sensible and sober Ratesh’s account is; authoritative, only from the standpoint of what was available in English at the time. Inevitably, Ratesh’s account is head and shoulders above those of fellow emigres Calinescu and Tismaneanu and Codrescu because he had performed more research into the Romanian media. Unfortunately, I would argue, not far enough. He stumbles upon the bothersome parallel nature of accounts of the Securitate’s actions during the Revolution by “Romania Libera’s” Petre Mihai Bacanu, and “other journalists (of less credibility, however)”—most likely a reference to the aforementioned, Angela Bacescu—but he does not research further to see if this is coincidence or pattern, and thereby considers it anomalous (see my discussion in Hall 1999). Thankfully, he takes a critical eye to the Castex, Portocala and Weber, and Gabanyi accounts, and expresses skepticism when a “highly placed Romanian official” whispered to him in late June 1990 “a variation of the staged war theory,”—cautioning that the regime was at the time attempting to discredit the army (unfortunately, it was hardly so time-bound) (Ratesh, 1991, p.62). However, whether it is Bacescu or others, he only comes to notice them when they enter the openly Ceausescu nostalgic press, and thereby misses identifying their presence and impact in the opposition press, as Popovici, Floca, and Stoica did.

    To my knowledge, Ratesh has not really weighed in on the Revolution since his 1991 book. Codrescu continues to present the December events as a stage(d) production that fooled the whole world, occasionally in his NPR commentaries and certainly in his talks across the US (Codrescu, 2002). Tismaneanu and Romania’s liberal intelligentsia at home and abroad have yet to address the presence and consequences of Securitate disinformation in the anti-Front media of the early 1990s. This is not surprising: they missed it…and to acknowledge it now would require them to edit their ironclad, definitively-stated characterizations of that era, and perhaps, even to pause and reconsider their understanding of December 1989. As for the Revolution itself, Tismaneanu’s most recent intervention on its 15th anniversary invoked the comments of former French Ambassador to Romania, Jean-Marie LeBreton, who concludes, unremarkably, that the December 1989 events were neither a spontaneous uprising/revolution nor a coup d’etat, but a combination of both (“Jurnalul National,” 29 January 2005). Some habits die hard.

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Rewriting the Revolution (1997): Chapter 6 18-22 December 1989

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on April 5, 2009

pentru o traducere  unui amplu fragment al capitolului acesta, va rog sa cititi la ***

Chapter Six

18-22 December 1989: The Ceausescu Regime Falls

As during the period between 15 and 17 December, between 18 and 22 December 1989 the Securitate obediently and ruthlessly obeyed the orders of Nicolae Ceausescu to repress demonstrators. One difference during the latter period was the emerging effort of the Army to minimize its role in the repression, eventually culminating in its defection from the regime on 22 December. Given their lesser involvement in the activities of the Ceausescu regime and their long-standing humiliation at the hands of the Securitate, this is in accordance with our assumptions about the likelihood with which state institutions will attempt to save the authoritarian regime.

The historiography of the events between 18 and 22 December 1989 once again shows strong evidence of the tendency of opposition accounts to mirror the most critical elements of the Securitate’s institutional view. Like Securitate accounts, opposition accounts posit the “red herring” of foreign involvement, especially the role attributed to the Soviet Union, and avoid disclosing or deny the Securitate’s full involvement, especially the role of the USLA in the bloodshed. Available countervailing evidence to this consensual account indicates both that these understandings are false and that they are inherently revisionist, since some of the key countervailing evidence comes from immediately after the December events. The content of the historiography of this period thus erases (to differing degrees) the Securitate’s responsibility for the bloodshed and reflects the institution’s long-developed animosity towards the Soviet Union.

Ceausescu Departs for Iran

On Monday morning 18 December 1989, President Nicolae Ceausescu departed on a previously-scheduled state visit to Iran. He was the first head of state to pay an official visit to Tehran since the death of the Ayatollah Khomeini in June 1989.[1] By the time the presidential jet took off for Iran, Timisoara was under virtual military occupation by units of the Army, Securitate, and Militia. Ceausescu was apparently sufficiently satisfied by the news he was receiving on the status of the crackdown, that he judged it safe to leave the country. In his absence, the “Permanent Bureau of the Political Executive Committee (CPEx)” was left in charge. In effect, this meant that power resided with the First Deputy Prime Minister, his wife Elena–hardly a stranger to such power–and the Vice President of the country, Manea Manescu, who was married to Nicolae’s sister Maria.[2]

On the one hand, the fact that Ceausescu would leave the country in the midst of the most serious challenge ever to communist rule in Romania–fully aware of what had happened to his fellow communist leaders in the region earlier that fall–was a testament to how supremely overconfident and detached from reality he had become. On the other hand, Ceausescu’s absence from the country between 18 and 20 December for a period in excess of forty-eight hours provided regime elites with the perfect opportunity to oust him from power had they wanted to. Ceausescu would likely have been granted asylum by the Iranian regime. In theory it seems, had Ceausescu’s ouster been premeditated, this was the ideal moment to strike.

Most regime elites had a vivid memory of how Ceausescu’s absence from the country during the devastating earthquake of March 1977 had paralyzed the regime apparatus.[3] Moreover, having been threatened by Ceausescu at the emergency CPEx meeting of 17 December with removal from their posts and possible execution–and Ceausescu had been persuaded merely to defer, rather than to cancel this decision–Ceausescu’s commanders had a strong incentive to act fast. Instead, Ceausescu’s henchmen faithfully executed his orders and patiently awaited his return. This is a powerful argument against any suggestion that Ceausescu’s subordinates were scheming to replace him and had intentionally allowed the Timisoara unrest to elude their control.

Theories which maintain that Ceausescu was overthrown by a foreign-engineered coup d’etat also have trouble explaining why the plotters did not attempt to seize power during the period while Ceausescu was out of the country and then prevent him from returning to Romania. The Timisoara events had already assured that Ceausescu’s ouster would contain the popular dimension which was reputedly so central to this coup d’etat scenario. Furthermore, if the Timisoara protests had been instigated by foreign agents, why were these agents unable to “spread the revolution” to Bucharest (which remained surprisingly quiet) during these days?

In support of his contention that the December events were a Soviet-backed coup d’etat, Cornel Ivanciuc has cited the March 1994 comments of Igor Toporovski (director of the Moscow-based Institute for Russian and International Political Studies) which allege that the Soviet Politburo “…chose the moment when Ceausescu was in Teheran [to oust him] because otherwise the action would have been difficult to initiate.”[4] Yet the facts tell another story. Ceausescu was not driven from power at the most opportune moment–while he was in Iran–and the uprising in Timisoara did not spread outside of Timisoara until after Ceausescu’s return. These points cast doubt upon Toporovski’s claims.

18-19 December 1989: The Timisoara Crackdown in Ceausescu’s Absence

Considering the centrality of the “foreign tourist” scenario to Securitate-inspired accounts of the December events, it is interesting to note the actions taken by the Ceausescu regime on 18 December 1989. At the close of the emergency CPEx meeting on Sunday afternoon, Nicolae Ceausescu had announced:

I have ordered that all tourist activity be interrupted at once. Not one more foreign tourist will be allowed in, because they have all turned into agents of espionage….Not even those from the socialist countries will be allowed in, outside of [North] Korea, China, and Cuba. Because all the neighboring socialist countries are untrustworthy. Those sent from the neighboring socialist countries are sent as agents.[5]

On Monday, 18 December 1989, in typical Ceausist-style it was therefore announced that Romania would not accept any more tourists because of a “shortage of hotel rooms” and because “weather conditions” were “not suitable for tourism.”[6] Ironically, the only ones exempted from this ban were: “Soviet travellers coming home from shopping trips to Yugoslavia”(!)[7]

Thus, it is intriguing to see how former Securitate Colonel Filip Teodorescu tailors his characterization of Timisoara on 18 December to account for this change:

There were few foreigners in the hotels, the majority of them having fled the town after lunch [on 17 December] when the clashes began to break out. The interested parties remained. Our attention is drawn to the unjustifiably large number of Soviet tourists, be they by bus or car. Not all of them stayed in hotels. They either had left their buses, or stayed in their cars overnight. Border records indicate their points of entry as being through northern Transylvania. They all claimed they were in transit to Yugoslavia. The explanation was plausible, the Soviets being well-known for their shopping trips. Unfortunately, we did not have enough forces and the conditions did not allow us to monitor the activities of at least some of these “tourists.”[8]

This raises the question of why, if the Soviet tourists were the ones suspected from the first of being behind the unrest, it should have been exactly they who were given continued access into Romania? One of the most effective rejections of the “tourist” scenario came in 1991 from “a group of [Army] officers from the Timisoara garrison.” In an open letter, they proclaimed:

If they [the tourists] appeared suspect to the special forces of the Securitate and counter-military intelligence, why did they not attempt to keep them under surveillance? During this period, did the Securitate and the counter-intelligence officers not know how to do their jobs? Did they somehow forget why they were paid such weighty sums from the state budget?[9]

As we mentioned earlier, in an interesting psychological twist the former Securitate sometimes appear to attribute their own actions to others, especially the convenient phantom-like “foreign tourists.” Some of the Securitate’s arguments also appear to be based on the manipulation and perversion of real information which has been ripped from its context and placed in another one which suits the Securitate’s institutional interests better. For example, the comments of the Yugoslav News Agency (TANJUG) correspondent at the Vatin border post on 20 December 1989 may give us a hint as to where the idea of “foreign tourists travelling in convoys of cars” originated from:

People who spent a long time at this crossing point today say that the Romanian government is even accompanying private cars of tourists returning home via Romania. They usually wait until five or six of them assemble and then let them continue in convoys led by official Romanian cars.[10]

Finally, we will recall that the French journalists, Portocala and Weber, support their claims of “foreign intervention” by referencing the court statement of the Securitate’s “master spycatcher” (Colonel Filip Teodorescu) that during the events he arrested “foreign agents” in Timisoara. As it turns out, Teodorescu does indeed appear to have arrested “intelligence agents” at a major Timisoara factory. However, they were members of DIA, the Army’s intelligence unit, and not agents of foreign security services.[11]

Throughout Monday, house-to-house searches and arrests continued in Timisoara. Protesters attempted to gather again and began chanting the most tragic slogan of these days: “We want our dead!” Regime forces responded by opening fire again. At least seven people were killed and more than one hundred injured on 18 and 19 December alone. Securitate men are alleged to have shot some of the injured demonstrators in their hospital beds. This rumor seems to be confirmed by the observation of an Army soldier who witnessed the exhumation of twenty-seven bodies from the Timisoara “Paupers’ cemetery” in January 1990: some of the corpses bore clear signs of treated wounds.[12] Upon the orders of Elena Ceausescu, during the night of 18/19 December the Securitate and Militia removed the cadavers of forty dead protesters from the morgue of the county hospital and transported them to Bucharest where they were incinerated.[13] Just as on the night of 16/17 December when the regime had gone to absurd lengths to make it appear as if nothing unusual had happened the previous evening at the county party headquarters building–by repairing all the physical damage in the area–this incident reflected the belief that “where there are no identity papers and no bodies, there can be no dead.” The Orwellian reflexes of the regime never left it even in its greatest moment of crisis.

20 December 1989: The Protesters Conquer Timisoara

Nicolae Ceausescu returned from Iran on the afternoon of Wednesday, 20 December. Several hours later, he took to the airwaves to denounce the “terrorist actions” in Timisoara “organized and unleashed in close connection with reactionary, imperialist, irredentist, chauvinist circles, and foreign espionage services in various foreign countries.”[14] Yet at the very moment Ceausescu was announcing to a national television audience that a “state of emergency” had been declared in Timis county, control of Timisoara was rapidly slipping away from the regime. On the morning of 20 December, Army units had begun a withdrawal from Timisoara. As soldiers disappeared from the streets, reports suggest that the remaining Securitate and Militia men either followed their lead or were overwhelmed by the crowds.[15] By evening, as many as 100,000 people–almost a third of Timisoara’s population–had reportedly taken to the center of town in triumph. What had motivated such a sudden reversal of fortunes? Had Timisoara been abandoned to the protesters?

Prevented from taking to the streets on 18 December, resistance had moved to the factories. Ad hoc strike committees were formed at some of Timisoara’s most important plants on the Monday and Tuesday. Ironically, the regime’s totalitarian reflexes appear to have contributed to the development of these strikes. In a sense “unwilling to leave well enough alone,” on Monday morning party officials had been dispatched to various factories in order to clarify what had not happened in the town the night before. Adelina Elena of the Electrobanat factory (ELBA for short) suggests that prior to the arrival of the party official at her factory, many workers indeed did not fully realize the scope of the violence on the previous night.[16] According to Elena, the presentation of the party official was so absurd that it provoked a reaction entirely opposite to what the regime wished. The party official had argued that

…hooligans, fascists, and corrupt and retrograde elements had devastated Timisoara. We also learned about Laszlo Tokes, a religious fanatic who incited vagabonds to attack, steal, and set things on fire. They also attracted children into these actions. All were drunk, including the children and the women; they had gotten drunk with the liquor which had been stolen from the supermarkets which had been broken into. They attacked the county [party] building, but not to be worried: all of them had been captured. All of them.[17]

This was the reason, they were told, for why a “state of emergency” was now in effect (unofficially declared at this point) and all gatherings of more than three people had been banned. The workers were warned about “rumor-mongering.” Upon returning to their workplaces, Elena claims that workers were left with a lingering question: “Where had so many ‘fascists,’ ‘hooligans,’ and ‘drunks’ of all ages in Timisoara come from so suddenly?”

The following morning of Tuesday, 19 December, the mostly female workforce of the ELBA plant walked off the job. The regime’s response was to send 200 soldiers to the plant to “persuade” the women to return to work. Once again, the effect was the opposite of what was intended. The women began by chanting “We will not work under arms!” and ended up chanting “Down with Ceausescu!” A panicked mayor, Petre Mot, and county party secretary, Radu Balan, rushed to the scene. Unable to disperse the angry crowd, Balan began frantically scribbling in a notebook the requests of some of the women: “We want heat…We want chocolate for our children…socks, underwear, cocoa, and cotton.”[18] Army General Stefan Guse was summoned to rescue Mot and Balan and himself ended up being cornered by the women. Only when clashes ensued outside the plant–claiming several lives in what appears to have been an intentional diversion–were the officials able to take advantage of the chaos and escape.

Back at party headquarters, General Guse was reportedly chided and ridiculed for “having been frightened by a bunch of women,” but the ELBA episode apparently left a lasting impression upon the Army recruits and perhaps even some of their commanders. After the incident, regime forces evacuated the area around the ELBA plant and the employees took to the streets. As of the afternoon of 19 December, gunfire tapered off and later ceased completely. Army recruits had confronted not vandals or foreign terrorists in the dead of night, but a determined workforce of women who were expressing basic frustration at the absurd humiliations of everyday life in the late Ceausescu era–complaints which were hardly foreign to the army recruits themselves.

By the morning of Wednesday, 20 December, a general strike prevailed throughout Timisoara and only the bread factories were in operation.[19] A demonstration in solidarity with those who had lost relatives in the violence of the preceding days–and were now demanding the return of their dead–drew columns of workers to the city center. Army units allowed citizens to proceed unhindered. This was the first clear indication of support by the Army rank and file for the demonstrators’ cause. Soldiers reportedly refused to carry out their orders and some even joined in the demonstration.[20] The slogan “The Army is with us” resounded throughout the center of Timisoara. Soon after, the Army began to withdraw to barracks.

At the time, observers were tempted to interpret this decision as evidence that the military chain of command was disintegrating and mid-level officers were taking matters into their own hands. Moreover, the withdrawal was viewed as an unequivocal sign of support for the demonstrators’ cause. Army Major Viorel Oancea, who on 22 December was to become the first Army officer in Timisoara to declare publicly his allegiance to the Revolution, nevertheless denies the idea of a spontaneous retreat: “Evidently, it was an order, the army was not in a position to be taking independent decisions…Probably General Guse or Ion Coman [took this decision]…”[21] The Army’s high command was undoubtedly concerned about its ability to maintain its institutional coherence under these circumstances and the only way to prevent a further breakdown in control was to take the soldiers off the streets.[22] Regardless of how it was intended, however, the townspeople of Timisoara nevertheless interpreted the action of retiring troops to barracks as support for their cause.

Reports suggest that while the Army’s retreat was in progress, uniformed Securitate and Militia personnel also disappeared from the streets. Whether this was part of a coordinated retreat by regime forces or was precipitated by the Army’s withdrawal is unknown. During the afternoon of 20 December, negotiations began between the “Action Committee of the Romanian Democratic Front (FDR)” (which was an outgrowth of the various strike committees set up over the previous two days) and two representatives of the regime, Prime Minister Constantin Dascalescu and fellow CPEx member Emil Bobu. At the time, such actions by senior government representatives seemed to suggest that a rift was developing in the upper reaches of the regime’s hierarchy and that some politicians might be abandoning ship. Army General Victor Stanculescu, maintains, however, that Dascalescu and Bobu had been dispatched to Timisoara on Ceausescu’s direct orders.[23] Likewise, Rady argues that they were “acting on the president’s instructions and…only playing for time.”[24]

The talks dragged on for hours and Dascalescu and Bobu made only vague promises, claiming that the demonstrators’ major demands had to await Ceausescu’s return to the country. According to Rady, such stalling tactics had been employed during the Brasov events of November 1987: negotiations had been conducted with representatives of the protesters, but once the regime had reestablished control their recent negotiating partners were promptly arrested.[25] Ceausescu’s announcement of a “state of emergency” clearly indicated that he had not ceded control of Timisoara to the demonstrators.[26] It thus seems that the disappearance of uniformed Securitate and Militia men had been designed to defuse the tense climate and to lend credibility to the effort of the regime’s negotiating team. Once the demonstrators had left the streets for good, these officers were likely to reappear.

The suggestion that the regime was merely attempting to reestablish control by other means is strengthened by the case of Ioan (Dorel) Curutiu. Puspoki has argued that the Securitate infiltrated several officers (at least one man and one woman) into the leadership of the demonstrators with the aim of compromising and manipulating the other leaders.[27] Curutiu was one of the FDR representatives who negotiated with Dascalescu and Bobu.[28] Curutiu’s comments since the events have been highly questionable.[29] But it is where Curutiu landed after the events which truly raises suspicions: in 1990 he turned up in the Interior Ministry’s “department of service and armament” with the rank of major.[30]

Ceausescu’s Fatal Mistake: The Pro-Regime Rally of 21 December

By the morning of Thursday, 21 December 1989, the regime was no longer master of the situation in Timisoara. Moreover, it was rapidly losing control in several nearby cities: Lugoj and Cugir. Nevertheless, the regime might have withstood these challenges had it not been for Nicolae Ceausescu’s insistence on convoking a mass rally and addressing his “adoring” subjects in person. It was Nicolae Ceausescu’s delusion of his own invincibility which ensured that the regime would be unable to reestablish control. Ceausescu’s inflammatory, rambling tirade on national television on Wednesday evening had signalled panic to those who watched it. If Ceausescu was so worked up, they concluded, something serious must have occurred in Timisoara. Following his televised address, Ceausescu decided to hold an open-air, pro-regime rally the following day in the sprawling square in front of the Central Committee building in the center of Bucharest. The event was to be carried live over Romanian radio and television.

Precisely because this mass rally turned out to be the deathknell for the Ceausescu regime speculation has surrounded who “goaded” Ceausescu into making such a colossally-misguided decision. In January 1993, the opposition daily Romania Libera suggested that “the meeting was organized at the suggestion of [CPEx member] Gogu Radulescu.”[31] The same article maintained that Radulescu had been followed during these days and was “observed transmitting something abroad,” thereby once again insinuating the role of foreign powers in the Romanian events.[32]

Yet it is doubtful that Nicolae Ceausescu required Radulescu’s encouragement to convoke such a rally. It seems highly likely that the idea was Ceausescu’s own brainchild and that as usual the docile members of the CPEx did not dare contradict him. It was a typically instinctive, rash, and overconfident reaction to crisis on Ceausescu’s part. Moreover, as we have seen, for Nicolae Ceausescu the events confronting him in December 1989 were a replay of August 1968: not only was socialism at stake, but Romania’s national sovereignty and independence. Thus, in this crucial moment, he would appeal not primarily to the party’s political interests, but to what were the core institutional interests of the Securitate. And he would rely on a trusted totalitarian, mobilizational technique: the “spontaneous” mass rally of support for the regime.

The pro-regime rally began at midday on Thursday, 21 December 1989 as such events always had. Almost 100,000 workers, hand-picked from Bucharest’s major factories, had been herded into the center of Bucharest to await Ceausescu’s address from the balcony of the Central Committee building. There were the customary “spontaneous” chants in support of the dictator and his policies, and obsequious introductions by party underlings. Ceausescu had been speaking for only a few minutes when an unidentifiable disruption in the crowd forced him to pause in mid-sentence. It was now that the folly of his insistence that his address be broadcast live by television and radio was realized. Before the television and radio relays could be interrupted, a national audience was able to hear high-pitched screams and shouts of “Down with Ceausescu!” “Murderer!” and “Timisoara, Timisoara!” Even worse, television cameras had captured Ceausescu’s stunned and confused facial expression. About three minutes later, after some semblance of order had been restored in the square, the live broadcast resumed. Ceausescu announced that just that morning the CPEx had approved an increase in the minimum salary and pensions![33] Ceausescu was able to finish his speech, although shouting and commotion could still be heard sporadically in the background.

It is impossible to know how much the image of a frightened Ceausescu, futilely motioning to the crowd to quiet down, influenced those who saw it. However, the scope and boldness of protest against the regime clearly intensified after the broadcast of the dictator’s previously-unimaginable moment of weakness. Anti-regime demonstrations spread throughout the major cities of Transylvania–Brasov, Sibiu, Cluj, and Tirgu Mures–on the afternoon of 21 December. It did not matter that a sufficient degree of order had been reestablished such that Ceausescu was indeed able to finish his speech or that Romanian television would rebroadcast the same speech later that evening with pro-Ceausescu chants dubbed-in over the commotion. Irreparable damage had been done.

Observers have argued that those brief, but seemingly interminable seconds during which the television camera broadcast Nicolae Ceausescu’s disbelief and helplessness live to an entire nation, constituted a sort of “singular psychological moment,” something akin to a rock shattering a mirror. What had prompted Ceausescu’s reaction? Initially, most accounts stressed how several people in the crowd had begun shouting anti-Ceausescu slogans.[34] Fearing they would be caught, they then rushed through the crowd. The other members of the crowd were frightened by this unexpected act of courage and themselves attempted to flee. The great commotion which viewers had heard before the transmission had been cut, was the sound of these people trying to force their way out of the square. Many later explanations have maintained, however, that these events were merely a response to the initial act of defiance: the setting-off of firecrackers (”petarde” in Romanian) by someone in the crowd. Only then did demonstrators take advantage of the confusion and anonymity of the moment to shout down Ceausescu. In both cases, the spontaneity of the catalytic event has been drawn into question.

Nica Leon: The Strange Tale of the “Hero” of the 21 December Rally

Because the interruption of Ceausescu’s speech proved such a turning point in the December events, it was natural that in early 1990 the newly-liberated media should try to find the person or persons responsible for “unleashing the Bucharest revolution.” In a series of interviews during March and April 1990, Petre Mihai Bacanu, senior editor of Romania Libera, introduced the nation to a group of factory workers whom he presented as the “heroes” of the 21 December rally.[35] Bacanu was widely-viewed both at home and abroad as the “conscience” of the journalistic profession (a journalist for Romania Libera before the events, he had been imprisoned between January and December 1989 for his involvement with two other people in an attempt to print an illegal underground newspaper) and his newspaper was the hub of the growing political and social opposition to the National Salvation Front regime.

Thanks in large part to Bacanu, one of these workers in particular, Nica Leon, was to become identified as the man who had dared to shout down Ceausescu.[36] Leon was presented as having yelled out “Long live Timisoara, down with the butcher, down with Ceausescu!” and “Timisoara, Timisoara” at the crucial moment during Ceausescu’s speech. Highly-respectable foreign sources such as Ratesh credit Leon by name with having disrupted the 21 December rally.[37]

In the months immediately following December 1989, Nica Leon certainly appeared every bit the hero. It turned out that on 20 December 1989, the day before his historic shout, the Toronto daily The Globe and Mail had printed an open letter by Nica Leon criticizing Ceausescu’s rule.[38] This fact seemed confirmation of the courage of his action on 21 December. During 1990, Leon was the president of a small political party, a founding member of the Romanian branch of Amnesty International, and a prominent critic of the Iliescu regime.[39] During the chaotic and violent events of 13-15 June 1990 which brought an end to the two-month occupation of University Square by demonstrators, he was arrested and over the following month and a half was the object of an eventually-successful campaign spearheaded by Romania Libera to gain his release. The opposition embraced him with open arms and he regularly appeared in interviews with the opposition press.

Yet in the ensuing years, the opposition clearly soured on Nica Leon and he broke with them in as definitive a manner as imaginable. By 1992, one opposition publication was describing Nica Leon as “at war with the whole world” and it was clear from the questions and comments of opposition journalists that they no longer held him in the high esteem they once had.[40] Ilie Stoian’s 1993 description of Leon’s role at the 21 December rally reflects this changed perception of Leon: “Just then Nica Leon took advantage of the protection offered by the uproar and yelled ‘Timisoara’…after which he ran away out of fear.”[41] Leon’s heroism had apparently become contingent upon his relationship with the opposition.

On the surface, Leon himself appeared to have undergone a striking metamorphosis: from being a fixture of the opposition to granting interviews to the press of the Ceausescu nostalgics. In early 1994, the very same Nica Leon could be found in the pages of Europa praising the Securitate and virtually lamenting the overthrow of Ceausescu which his actions had hastened.[42] He strenuously defended the actions of the Securitate Director, General Iulian Vlad, in December 1989 as honest and patriotic. How had a person the opposition had presented as a dissident for a decade prior to the December events, an unrelenting foe of the Securitate, and the hero of the 21 December rally come to this?

What is interesting about Leon is that his views on certain key issues about the December 1989 have remained remarkably consistent in spite of his flip-flop from one end of the political spectrum to the other. Leon’s defense of–and sympathy for–General Vlad was not something which had suddenly appeared after he crossed over to the Ceausist camp. It appears in the interviews he gave the opposition press in 1990.[43] Moreover, Leon strenuously denied the existence of any “terrorists” during the December events. In April 1990, he told Expres that “the terrorists were invented.”[44] In September 1990, Leon told Liviu Valenas and Daniela Rainov at Baricada that “Everything [in December 1989] was a grand diversion! THERE WEREN’T ANY TERRORISTS!” and that Vlad had been arrested because he possessed damaging information against the Front.[45]

In his interviews with Petre Mihai Bacanu at Romania Libera in April 1990, Nica Leon also mentioned several episodes which placed the Securitate and Militia in a surprisingly positive light. He maintained that during the showdown between protesters and regime forces in University Square on the afternoon of 21 December, he had spoken with a Militia sergeant major who had “wished us [the protesters] success.”[46] He also claimed that he had helped an injured Militia man to safety on this evening.[47] Leon chatted with the USLA troops at University Square and characterized their actions as follows:

…the USLA were blocking the street leading to the American Embassy and the Israeli airline company El Al. The USLA did not attack the crowd, but rather stood chatting with the demonstrators and explaining to them that they could not join them because they had an order to stay between the French Bank and the Intercontinental Hotel.[48]

As we shall see, other eyewitness accounts of these events challenge Leon’s portrayal of the USLA.

But clearly the most damaging fact about Nica Leon was the one Petre Mihai Bacanu neglected to inform his audience of: the hero of the Bucharest Revolution had been arrested as a “terrorist” on 24 December 1989. Leon had been discovered in the basement of the Central Committee building, attempting to transmit something through a radio-transmitting device belonging to the Securitate’s Fifth Directorate.[49] One might be inclined to believe that Leon had been the victim of a tragic misunderstanding were it not for a series of articles written by a former officer of the Fifth Directorate in the Ceausist publication Timpul during early 1991.[50] The former Securitate officer presented the saga of a group of those arrested as “terrorists” during the December events: among them, other officers of the Fifth Directorate, USLA members, a Jordanian student, and Nica Leon. Leon is credited with having sustained the morale of the other prisoners. According to the Fifth Directorate officer: “Nica Leon encouraged us and frequently repeated that if he escaped, he would testify for us all the way to the UN.”[51] Moreover, Leon is praised for having contacted the wives of the Fifth Directorate officers–to tell them that their husbands were still alive–after he was released on 30 December 1989. Other Securitate officers confirm Nica Leon’s presence among the arrestees.[52]

Even prior to Bacanu’s interview with Leon, there were indications that Leon was a less than completely credible source. In February 1990, Leon had given an interview to Democratia, the publication of one of Ceausescu’s most notorious former speechwriters, Eugen Florescu.[53] Surprisingly, since this was one of Leon’s first interviews since the events, there was no mention of his famous shout at the 21 December rally. In its issue of 9 March 1990, the popular Expres had made a coy reference to Leon’s arrest (while using a radio-transmitting device) in the CC building.[54] Moreover, at a meeting of the ruling Provisional Council of National Unity in early 1990, Front official Dan Iosif is said to have referred to Leon’s arrest and called him either a “securist” or “terrorist.”[55]

Nica Leon remains an enigma. It is difficult to say exactly what he was really up to on 21 December 1989. People in the crowd did indeed shout “Timisoara, Timisoara,” for it could be heard on the television broadcast. If Leon did shout it, was he the first to do so? If not, what was his motivation for shouting it? Was his shout a genuine act of individual courage at the time? Was he perhaps acting as a Securitate provocateur–someone who wished to infiltrate the protesters’ ranks–on 21 December 1989? As with other aspects of the December events, the historiography of what happened is as important as–if not more important than–what actually happened. In the case of Nica Leon, the historiography at the very least suggests a highly-manipulative portrayal of his actions in December 1989.

Who Threw the “petarde”?

Many sources have suggested that it was the explosion of a “petarde” (or firecracker) and a simultaneous commotion in the square which startled Ceausescu and made it possible for the demonstrators to yell the anti-Ceausescu slogans. Once again the discrepancy between the reporting on this incident and the reality of what appears to have happened is informative. The report of the first Senatorial commission investigating the December events (published in 1992) maintains that “while [Ceausescu] was speaking, an explosion was heard and caused substantial commotion. Shortly after this, the meeting disbanded in disorder.”[56] Stoian describes the “petarde” incident as follows:

…[then] Ceausescu took the floor. At that moment the thing which appears to us the most important event of this period occurred. It is not true that the crowd began to boo spontaneously. While Ceausescu was stumbling through a phrase up on the balcony, somewhere in the center of the Square, where there were mostly women, someone exploded a Christmas ‘petarde’ [o petarda de genul celor de Craciun]. The first reaction of these frightened women was to begin to scream. Then, all those around them began to boo.[57]

Romanians have occasionally referred to this as “the petarde of our happiness.”[58]

Part of the problem with the “petarde” scenario stems from the fact that there is no agreement upon who exploded it and no one has come forward to claim responsibility for this historic action. Nevertheless, many names have been put forward in connection with it.[59] Securitate sources clearly wish to suggest that the setting-off of this “petarde” and the causes of the commotion which ensued were part of a premeditated plan to disrupt the rally. Once again, they attempt to negate the spontaneity of the anti-Ceausescu uprising. A journalist for the Ceausist journal Democratia wrote in December 1990:

…It must be stressed that during this rally long-studied methods for the psychological manipulation of compact crowds–acoustic sounds with subliminal messages transmitted through the loudspeaker system (imitating the rumble of an earthquake, the noise of troops and tanks and gunfire); the movement of some groups through the square with the intention of dislocating the crowd; petardes–were applied.[60]

According to “a group of former Securitate officers,” the “tourists” and their domestic collaborators made their way from Timisoara to Bucharest and infiltrated the meeting. The “tourists” attempted to scare those in the crowd into believing that “they were under fire” by jabbing them in the back with “reinforced steel prongs…against the background of the noise of fire-crackers and the short-circuiting of the public address loudspeakers.”[61] Interestingly, this is how a former USLA officer has portrayed the event:

On 21 December 1989 I was taking part in the antiterrorist measures for the “goodbye” meeting. In the crowd, I identified and observed eight strange men: all were dressed approximately the same (knee-length woolen coats, hats), all were smoking at the same time, standing in a group. Some looked slavic, others asiatic. At a given moment, they took out from their pockets globe-shaped objects, lit them with their cigarettes, and threw them into the crowd; in the globes there were firecrackers which put the crowd to flight.[62]

The SRI’s 1994 report on the events suggests that the “powerful thunder claps” which were heard could have come from the detonation of a “petarde” and that the “sonic boom”-like sound which occurred came not from the crowd, but from the loudspeakers.[63] The panic among the crowd was caused by the transmission of high-pitched soundwaves (outside the range of human hearing) and by the fact that unidentified demonstrators were prodding the others with steel poles while shouting “Run away, they will kill us!” and “The tanks are coming!”[64]

Opposition accounts incorporate familiar elements. The influential journalist Cornel Nistorescu places the “petarde” incident in the context of a coup d’etat supported by a faction within the Securitate:

Simultaneously, at the meeting of 21 December, according to incontrovertible information, a Securitate officer launched the two petardes which provoked panic and unleashed the redemption of Bucharest’s citizens. Meanwhile, through the loudspeaker system controlled by the Securitate, boos and whistles were disseminated.[65]

Ecaterina Radoi of Zig-Zag suggests that the unbelievable panic which ensued was the result of the emission of sounds resembling the rumble of tanks and machine gun fire.[66]

But the “petarde” incident and the simultaneous commotion may have a simpler explanation. It is informative to look back upon how the disruption of the rally was reported by foreign correspondents in Bucharest just after it had taken place. Shortly after the rally disbanded, a Bulgarian correspondent related that the cause of the commotion had been the use of “tear gas grenades” by regime forces attempting to prevent demonstrators from entering the square and the ensuing panic this had unleashed among those who were already in the square.[67] The correspondent suggested that the demonstrators had originally gathered near the Roman Square on Magheru boulevard and numbered in the thousands by the time they reached Palace Square where the speech was taking place.

Similar reports come from the Yugoslav TANJUG correspondent who transmitted that demonstrators had gathered in the northwest corner of Palace Square near the Athenee Palace Hotel and that when they “tried to approach the official meeting, tear gas was thrown at them.”[68] According to the same correspondent, young men had begun to shout anti-Ceausescu slogans, were chased away by the Militia, and then proceeded through the side streets in order to get around to the other side of the meeting.[69] The Militia then used tear gas to prevent these demonstrators from joining the official meeting and it was after the “tear-gas bombs exploded that the live relay of radio and television was disrupted for several minutes.”[70]

Significantly, eyewitness accounts of the confrontations between regime forces and demonstrators on the afternoon and evening of 21 December refer to regime forces firing “petardes” at the demonstrators.[71] One eyewitness to the events in University Square on the afternoon of 21 December recounts that “the Securitate ran after them [the demonstrators] in groups and used ‘petardes’ and clubs against them.”[72] Moreover, Rady has observed that on the night of 21/22 December, the Securitate “[i]n a few places…detonated bombs in the hope of spreading panic.”[73]

Which forces would have used the “petardes” and tear-gas against the demonstrators? During his trial in early 1990, the Interior Minister at the time of the events, Tudor Postelnicu, stated that “the USLA were in charge of tear-gas” at the rally.[74] Stoian has noted the difference between the 21 December rally and past rallies in his typically colorful tone:

In the first place, how striking it was that if in the past at the meetings to which Bucharest’s citizens were all too well-accustomed, people were indifferent–indeed, some were even happy since they would get three or four hours of work off–now nobody was smiling. Almost everybody entered [the square] in an ill-omened silence. A completely new element was the verification of identity papers of most people on the streets on this occasion; those who did not belong to the groups of workers [chosen to participate] were politely made to exit the columns…After the Palace Square was full, something unexpected happened. If in the past, the ring of civilians (Securitate men, party activists) and Militia men [around the crowd at such an event] would not permit those bored of listening to Ceausescu’s idiocies to leave, this time things were completely the other way around….Anyone who wanted to leave could, but no one from outside the ring could enter the protected zone.[75]

Eyewitnesses have specifically identified the forces preventing their entrance into the square as “USLA troops.”[76]

The partial transcripts of communications among USLA and Militia units on 21 and 22 December in Bucharest were published in late January-early February 1990 in the daily Libertatea.[77] These transcripts suggest that even before the rally had begun, large groups of demonstrators had gathered at a number of the intersections leading onto Palace Square, were shouting anti-regime slogans, and were taxing the capacity of the regime forces to prevent them from entering the square.[78] The demonstrators apparently realized well the tremendous opportunity offered them by the live national broadcast of this rally. Thus, the impression left by most accounts–that it was a few, isolated, brave men, within a crowd of tens of thousands of automatons, who had dared to challenge Ceausescu–is simply romanticized. The actions of those prevented from entering the meeting probably emboldened those in the crowd to shout down Ceausescu.

The transcripts also show that on the order of Securitate Director General Vlad, the USLA used “gela” (the Securitate reference for “petardes”) against the demonstrators.[79] Ilie Stoian alleges that General Grigore Ghita, the commander of the Securitate’s uniformed troops, “violated his brief” when he incorporated units of the USLA, including a “geniu-chimic” unit (which would have been in charge of tear-gas), among the regime forces assigned to work the rally.[80] Yet such an action does seem in accordance with Interior Ministry Order No. 2600. Moreover, even the Senatorial commission’s report illustrates that the security for the rally of 21 December was left almost entirely in the hands of the Securitate, and that General Vlad’s deputy, General Gianu Bucurescu, was given personal charge of the rally.[81]

It appears then that a key factor contributing to the disruption of Ceausescu’s speech was the attempt by regime forces to hold off anti-Ceausescu demonstrators from entering Palace Square. This commotion and confusion so changed the complexion of the rally that those among the crowd handpicked to attend took advantage of the opportunity and suddenly switched from chanting pro-Ceausescu slogans to jeering and booing the dictator. It is possible that the “petarde” at the rally was launched by the Securitate, but it is unlikely it did so as an act of defiance against the dictator. The “petarde” may have been used to prevent protesters from entering the square or to disorient the crowd and mask the sound of the anti-Ceausescu slogans. The disruption of the rally may therefore have been far less “organized” than has commonly been presumed.

The Role of the USLA in the Bucharest Repression of 21/22 December

Nicolae Ceausescu ended up shortening his speech and scurrying off the balcony of the CC building while regime forces attempted to clear Palace Square. Demonstrators merely took to other parts of the city center. Two major points of confrontation between demonstrators and regime forces developed along the wide Magheru boulevard: the Roman Square and the University Square (site of the hulking concrete monstrosity known as the Intercontinental Hotel). The latter would be the scene of major bloodshed on the night of 21/22 December. At least 50 demonstrators were killed, almost 500 were injured, and as many as 1,200 were jailed on this night in Bucharest alone.[82]

Petre Mihai Bacanu’s seminal month-long series (”Intercontinental 21/22″) exploring the events of University Square is as puzzling as it is enlightening. Bacanu began his series on 14 March 1990, shortly after the new Defense Minister, General Victor Stanculescu, had reversed the official version of the USLA’s actions during the December events.[83] On 15 March 1990, Bacanu began interviewing three employees of the Intercontinental Hotel. They described how, after the ill-fated rally broke up, “USLA troops dressed in civilian clothes” chased after the demonstrators, fired “petarde” at them, and beat them.[84] In the following day’s episode of the interview, the issue of the USLA was not raised except in an unusual postscript in which Bacanu added: “We must clarify that the USLA detachments did not fire a single shot, nor arrest a single person among the columns of demonstrators.”[85]

On 17 March 1990, Bacanu felt compelled to preface the third part of the interview with the following statement:

In the course of this episode, esteemed readers, there are again references to the USLA. We have incontrovertible proof that the USLA soldiers had only one mission, to defend the American embassy and the El Al Israeli airlines offices [both located next to the Intercontinental Hotel].[86]

The same three interviewees who had only two days earlier described the USLA in a repressive posture now came forth with highly incongruent descriptions of the rapport between the crowd and the USLA later on the afternoon of 21 December. According to one of the interviewees:

I saw the incident when a student climbed behind one of them [the USLA soldiers] and kissed him and then offered flowers to those from the USLA. I also witnessed the scene in which the USLA officers received the flowers and held them in their hands.[87]

By 24 March 1990, Bacanu was asking his interlocutors questions such as this: “I have heard that the USLA were served tea. It was something civilized: they were also cold. Are you convinced that they did nothing wrong against you?”[88] On 18 April 1990 a new interviewee recounted how one of the USLA men had begun crying at the sight of the aforementioned girl (who, according to the source, was from Timisoara) distributing flowers to the USLA.[89]

Such a portrayal of the USLA’s behavior and the crowd’s view of the USLA lies in stark contrast with Emilian David’s description (published on 12 January 1990) of events taking place simultaneously less than a mile away at the other end of Magheru boulevard at Roman Square:

3:45 p.m. We are attacked with brutality by the USLA troops. Women and young girls scream, men and boys try to put up whatever resistance they can. They beat us mercilessly…

5:30 p.m. We are attacked again with even greater fury by the USLA troops. The “paddywagons” are filled with people.[90]

Later, after being forced to flee from the Roman Square, David eventually made his to the other end of the boulevard at University Square. David describes the presence of a cordon of USLA troops equipped with shields and clubs at this location. When gunfire erupted towards midnight, David suggests that these USLA “beasts” were among the gunmen. “The dead and wounded littered the streets,” according to David. Paul Vinicius also recalls the arrival of these “special troops” just after midnight: “Who are these beasts who shoot? They are young, and judging by the way they talk amongst themselves, they appear drugged. They shoot in anything that moves.”[91]

The charges drawn up by the Military Prosecutor in the trial of the former CPEx members (dated 4 June 1990) reiterate such allegations. According to this document, between 9 and 10 p.m. on the evening of 21 December at University Square, “the forces of repression composed of USLA, Militia, and Securitate [i.e. uniformed] troops began to encircle the crowd of demonstrators, forcibly detaining some of them whom they beat brutally, many being killed.”[92] The same document cites a witness, Spiru Radet, according to whom, at midnight “USLA troops equipped with helmets, shields, and clubs” followed a tank through the barricade erected by the protesters.[93] The witness continues: “…one of the USLA soldiers, who had a machine gun in his hand, fired a volley of warning shots and then began to shoot into the demonstrators.”[94]

Additionally, the transcripts of communications among USLA and Militia units reveal that USLA “intervention units” were dispatched to a number of locations in the city center on this afternoon of 21 December.[95] USLA operatives refer to having “restored order” in Palace Square after the end of the rally, and to their mission to “block” access to the American Embassy and El Al Israel offices (rather than to “defend” them as Bacanu had suggested).[96] Their attitude towards the demonstrators attempting to force their way into the official meeting was hardly supportive: “These hooligans must be annihilated at once. They are not determined. They must be taken quickly. The rest are hesitating.”[97] The question is less whether the “flower” episodes happened at all, or happened as they have been described, but why it was these particular incidents, rather than the incidents revealing the USLA’s brutality actions, which garnered publicity in 1990.

Interestingly, almost four years later, in December 1993, Bacanu appeared to reconsider his earlier unquestioning claims about the role of the USLA on the basis of “new” information brought forth by Army soldiers who had been in University Square on the night of 21/22 December. According to Bacanu:

Very many officers talk about these “civilians” in long raincoats or sheepskin coats [cojoace], who arrested demonstrators from within the crowd and then beat them brutally….No one has been interested until now in these tens of “civilians” with hats who shot through the pockets of their clothes….For a time we gave credence to the claims of the USLA troops that they were not present in University Square. We have now entered into the possession of information which shows that 20 USLA officers, under the command of Colonel Florin Bejan, were located…among the demonstrators. [Emphasis added][98]

One of the Army officers told Bacanu that during the evening

…a Militia vehicle arrived from which tens of men–who appeared almost as if they were brothers, in that they were all solidly-built, dressed in leather jackets, with hats on their heads–disembarked….These individuals had “short barrel” weapons and were from the Interior Ministry….They positioned themselves behind the cordon of shieldbearers and then shot from the pockets of their clothes into the demonstrators and dragged demonstrators out of the crowd…[99]

But what Bacanu termed “new revelations” were hardly new. In mid-January 1990, several Army recruits and officers referred to the actions of these “civilians” in interviews with reporters of the Army daily.[100] According to soldier Rudolf Suster:

About fifteen to twenty (dressed in civilian clothes, but one could tell that they were well-trained) disembarked from a single truck and passed in front of the soldiers with shields and when the tanks broke through the barricade which was on fire, they fired. I saw the flashes in front of their raincoats.[101]

Soldier Tiberiu Florea described a similar scene:

I also saw them. They had long raincoats or overcoats and they had guns hidden under them and they opened fire. They were in front of us, they couldn’t hide themselves from us. They didn’t all fire at the same time…One fired, then the other would.[102]

Furthermore, at the trial of Nicolae’s brother, Nicolae Andruta Ceausescu (director of the Securitate’s Baneasa Academy) in April 1990, military witnesses testified that “after the salvo of warning shots were fired, in the uproar produced, from behind us we saw civilians who were firing–I observed the movement of their clothes–hidden weapons through the pockets of their clothes.”[103] Significantly, former USLA commander, Colonel Gheorghe Ardeleanu, confirmed in a court statement that on 21 December the USLA had “performed their duties in civilian dress.”[104]

As in Timisoara in the preceding days, it appears that the USLA were acting in Bucharest in accordance with Order 2600. In early 1990, opposition journalist Vasile Neagoe argued just this point in his discussion of the events of 21/22 December 1989. According to Neagoe, “because in the meetings convened by Ceausescu it had been established that terrorists were involved in the street [events],” the provisions regarding “anti-terrorist warfare” in Order 2600 had been put into operation.[105] Indeed, we will recall that during his televised address on the evening of 20 December, Ceausescu had specifically denounced what was going on in the country as “terrorist actions.” Order 2600–and not the whimsical decisions of various commanders, as Stoian suggests–explains the presence of the USLA at the rally on 21 December and in Roman and University Squares on the night of 21/22 December.

22 December 1989: What Forced the Ceausescus to Flee?

At midday on Friday, 22 December 1989, a large, overloaded helicopter lifted off from the roof of the Central Committee (CC) building and struggled to clear the grey Bucharest skyline. Moments later, demonstrators reached the roof of the CC building and began destroying the landing pad so as to ensure that no more helicopters could land. Below in Palace Square almost 100,000 people had gathered and were now singing deliriously to the tune of a widely-known English soccer hymn: “Ole! Ole! Ole! Ceausescu nu mai e!” (”Ole! Ole! Ole! Ceausescu is no more!”). The helicopter carried Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu on their final, convoluted journey out of Bucharest and brought to an abrupt and ignominious end Nicolae Ceausescu’s twenty-four year reign. After the violence of the previous night, the peaceful denouement to the confrontation between population and the Ceausescu regime came unexpectedly. Most observers figured that Ceausescu would rather have held out in the Central Committee building–”surrounded by mountains of cadavers,” as one person put it–than flee from power.[106] Thus, these observers have come to assume that the Securitate must have abandoned Ceausescu en masse.[107] Ilie Stoian summarizes the prevailing view when he states that “we are convinced that if the Securitate had not wished it so, no one would have penetrated the CC [building] and Ceausescu would not have fallen on this day.”[108]

Moreover, there has been widespread speculation that the leadership of the former Securitate must already by this time have come to some sort of understanding with the coup plotters who were to lead the National Salvation Front to power.[109] Such speculation is important for if the Securitate as institution abandoned Ceausescu and already had an agreement with the country’s new political leaders, then the “terrorists” who appeared after the evening of 22 December must either have been working on behalf of the National Salvation Front or have been an invention designed to legitimate the Front’s seizure of power.

Opposition sources have provided fodder for both conclusions. According to Liviu Valenas: “In Bucharest, it is certain that the Securitate had crossed over practically in corpore to the side of the plotters already from the night of 21/22 December 1989, probably around midnight.”[110] He speculates that General Vlad had already been engaging in dissident activity over the preceding days: “it appears that he [Securitate Director General Iulian Vlad] is the person who transmitted to Timisoara the orders…’that in Timisoara there will not be calm,’ ‘for the workers to go out into the street,’ and ‘for the Army to be withdrawn to barracks.’”[111] Ilie Stoian attempts to imply that during the evening of 21/22 December 1989, General Vlad was already attempting to distance himself from the other regime commanders. Stoian contrasts the actions of Defense Minister Milea–who remained among the group of party, Army, Securitate, and Militia officials who were coordinating the repression–and those of General Iulian Vlad who “stood alone on the sidewalk across from these [officials], a place from which he did not leave until the morning of 22 December and in which he remained quiet and did not attempt to make contact with anyone.”[112]

This allegation seems doubtful, however. In March 1990, a demonstrator alluded to Vlad’s role at University Square on the night of 21/22 December: “we were several hundred people then, when the sinister person who hid behind the codename ‘M-88′ gave the order for us to be massacred.”[113] In the transcript of communications among USLA and Militia personnel on 21 and 22 December, “88″ is indicated as General Vlad’s code.[114] Furthermore, as our discussion of the events in University Square revealed, Securitate forces were clearly involved–and in fact appear to have been the main component–in the brutal repression which took place on this night.

The sudden death of Defense Minister Vasile Milea just before 9:30 a.m. on 22 December 1989 was a critical moment in the evolution of events. The announcement on national television a little more than an hour later (10:50 a.m.) that “the traitor Milea has committed suicide” only seemed to hasten the fraternization already underway between Army recruits and the protesters heading for the city center. The official explanation of General Milea’s sudden death raised incredulity then and has continued to ever since. The title of an interview with one of Milea’s deputies sums up the details of Milea’s death which make the official “suicide” explanation questionable: “A curiosity: you shoot yourself in the heart, place the gun on the table, and then lie down on the sofa.”[115]

In 1995, Liviu Valenas publicized the claims of a former officer of the Securitate’s foreign intelligence branch (DIE)–now sharply critical of the Iliescu regime and SRI–regarding Milea’s death. According to this Securitate source, the Securitate was already serving the interests of the National Salvation Front by the morning of 22 December. He alleged that Milea was shot by the Securitate “on the orders of Ion Iliescu” and that this “smoothed the way for the success of a coup d’etat of KGB inspiration.”[116]

This allegation is highly suspect. Questioned at his summary trial on 25 December 1989 just prior to his execution, Nicolae Ceausescu maintained that Milea was a traitor because “he did not urge his unit to do their patriotic duty.”[117] Ceausescu had expanded in greater detail at the emergency CPEx meeting immediately following Milea’s death:

General Milea left from my office and two minutes later I was informed that he had shot himself. Taking into account his behavior during this entire period, it is clearly evident that he sabotaged the application of measures and worked in close coordination with foreigners…In the Capital, they did not apply a measure, they did not assign the specified units to the Capital, but used them elsewhere….The traitor Milea left from here and committed suicide. I told him to go issue the order to call military units and he committed suicide….[118]

According to Rady, Milea’s alleged insubordination was not merely in Ceausescu’s imagination:

When daybreak came, the extent of Milea’s disobedience became clear. The Central Committee Building was only lightly guarded and the streets leading up to it were inadequately protected. At the same time, the earliest reports began to come in from local party secretaries and securitate offices that the army was no longer taking any action to put down demonstrations in the provinces. Thus whereas the previous day, the army had shot down six demonstrators in Tirgu Mures, it had now assumed a passive position, simply guarding the party headquarters and leaving the streets to the crowds.[119]

Rady proposes that for this is the reason, Milea was summoned to Ceausescu’s office and instructed “to order the army to recommence active operations immediately and to open fire on such units as proved recalcitrant.”

Army sources suggest that after exiting the first emergency CPEx meeting of the morning (at approximately 8:30 a.m.), Milea gave the order that the Army units on the streets of Bucharest should mass around their equipment, ignore “provocations,” and refrain from opening fire.[120] To some extent, Milea was merely responding to the realities in the field, for already after 7 a.m. huge columns of workers from the IMGB and other major factories were on the march towards the city center. Overwhelmed commanders in the field were constantly inquiring of their superiors as to how they should proceed in light of the rapidly-changing situation. In some cases, they apparently received the order from mid-level commanders to mass around their equipment; in others, they apparently followed their own conscience. According to Army sources, the effect of the soldiers grouping around their equipment was de facto to break up the cordons of regime forces designed to prevent the forward progress of the demonstrators.[121] Milea’s order solidified the unhindered passage of the demonstrators all the way into Palace Square.

It remains unclear whether Milea was assassinated by the Securitate for this insubordination or did indeed commit suicide.[122] For example, one Army officer has admitted that (apparently after his showdown with Ceausescu) a very emotional Milea ordered him to give him his gun and then Milea slammed the door to his office and shot himself.[123] What is clear is that immediately following news of Milea’s death, the CPEx met in emergency session again. The transcript of the emergency CPEx meeting sometime after 9:30 a.m. offers some surprises.[124] While most CPEx members obediently answered Ceausescu’s appeal for them to fight to the bitter end, several members appeared to equivocate in the face of the now massive numbers of protesters. Gogu Radulescu argued: “Based on the information we have, columns of workers have headed towards the center and it is necessary to take measures in order to avoid a bloodbath.” Even Prime Minister Constantin Dascalescu admitted: “I have been and will be by your side until the end, but I believe that it is necessary to consider what will happen if we shoot into honest workers.”

The views of the CPEx members seem also to have been influenced by news that some Army soldiers had been “disarmed” by protesters. Ion Radu stated that “Minister Vlad says that there are still isolated, small groups of disarmed soldiers.” Significantly, in the absence of a representative from the Army at the meeting, it was Securitate Director Vlad (officially not even a CPEx member) who assured those gathered that “the Army will not allow itself to be disarmed.” In the end, it was decided that only if the demonstrators were armed or attacked would regime forces open fire. While the post-Ceausescu media has occasionally recorded Vlad as having responded to Ceausescu’s appeal to “fight to the end” with the phrase “like hell we will,” the stenogram quotes him as replying obediently “we will proceed as you have instructed.”[125]

In the wake of Milea’s death, Nicolae Ceausescu personally appointed General Victor Stanculescu–freshly-arrived from Timisoara and a notorious favorite of Elena’s–as Defense Minister. From a bureaucratic standpoint, the Army Chief of Staff, General Stefan Guse, should have legally succeeded Milea. But Guse was still in transit from Timisoara and in such cases Ceausescu’s word was always the final arbiter. According to Stanculescu, Milea had phoned him the previous night and told him that “problems” had developed and that he should return to Bucharest immediately.[126] In one of the most famous pieces of folklore concerning the December events, upon returning to Bucharest in the early morning hours of 22 December, Stanculescu–according to his own account–was so determined to avoid being further implicated in a repression similar to what he had been involved in in Timisoara that he arranged for a doctor to put his left leg in a cast.[127] Nevertheless, this did not prevent him from being appointed Defense Minister.

Between 9:30 a.m. (when Milea was found dead) and 10:45 a.m. (when Stanculescu arrived at the CC building), the Army was essentially without a commander-in-chief and officers continued to transmit Milea’s last order prior to his death, calling on the troops not to open fire.[128] After Stanculescu arrived at the CC building, at 10:45 a.m. he expanded Milea’s “Rondoul” order to include the return of all Army units to barracks.[129] At the same time, however–according to Air Force Commander, General Gheorghe Rus, immediately after the events–Stanculescu instructed him to dispatch three hundred parachutists, with helicopters and airplanes, ready to descend and engage in battle in Palace Square.[130] While on trial in 1990, CPEx member Manea Manescu confirmed that the initial plan had been to evacuate the entire CPEx from the CC building.[131]

Sauca is probably correct that Stanculescu realized that if he did not quickly find a way to get rid of the Ceausescus, he too might suffer Milea’s fate.[132] The choice for Stanculescu was simple: “either him [Nicolae] or us!” Stanculescu maintains that because the hallways of the CC building were teeming with well-armed guards and “windows could already be heard shattering at the entrance to the CC,” he took the decision to evacuate the Ceausescus by helicopter in order to avoid a bloodbath or the lynching of the first couple.[133] According to Lieutenant Colonel Ion Pomojnicu, one of the few Army officers in the building at the time, the Securitate inside were indeed “armed to the teeth” with machine guns and piles of ammunition and “determined to face anything.”[134]

Although the former Securitate contest the popular and “revolutionary” dimension of the December events, they routinely take credit for the fact that they did not open fire on demonstrators on the morning of 22 December 1989. For example, “a group of former Securitate officers” ask “a final question of all those ‘revolutionaries’ and ‘dissidents’ who attack the personnel of the former Securitate“: why if the officers of the Fifth Directorate located inside the CC building had 200,000 cartridges at their disposal did they not open fire?[135] General Vlad has gone to great lengths to detail the orders he gave to his subordinates on the morning of 22 December, instructing them not to open fire and to allow the peaceful entrance of demonstrators into the CC building and television station.[136]

Vlad’s statements are drawn into question, however, by the fact that they accompany claims that as early as 17 December 1989 he was disobeying Ceausescu’s orders and instructing his men in Timisoara not to open fire and to stay off the streets, and that on 18 December he issued such an order for the whole country.[137] The transcript of communications among USLA and Militia units does reveal that after 9:40 a.m. frequent references were made to a decision from “central headquarters” that regime forces were to open fire only if demonstrators attempted to penetrate regime buildings, in which case only warning shots were to be fired.[138] Yet the timing of this decision suggests that it was a reaction to the action–or rather, lack of action–of the Army which had allowed demonstrators to overwhelm the city center, and that it was in accordance with the decision taken at the second emergency CPEx meeting.

According to Army Lieutenant Colonel Ion Pomojnicu, the Securitate were fully-prepared to repress, but they were caught off-guard by the rapid development of events precipitated by the defection of the Army from the regime:

Generally-speaking, you know the withdrawal of the Army created great surprise. The moment the Army withdrew, the other forces fragmented and those forces belonging to the Interior Ministry fled. If this momentary disorganization of theirs had not intervened between 11 and 12 a.m. when it happened, it is possible that these Interior Ministry forces would have intervened. This moment of panic and disorientation favored the future evolution of events.[139]

Moreover, the evacuation of the Ceausescus from the CC building left them flat-footed:

…[The Securitate] fled as soon as their mission was finished; their mission was to defend this person, Ceausescu. If he had remained, they would have [opened fire]. I believe that for these people the flight of Ceausescu from the CC building eliminated the object they were supposed to defend in the building and would have defended indefinitely had he stayed….Don’t forget that there were similar forces not only inside the CC building. There were also troops barricaded in the headquarters of the Fifth Directorate and in the [National] Library. They did not come down from the top of the building until the helicopter had taken off….I am convinced that neither at the television station would anybody have penetrated inside if it had not been known that Ceausescu had fled. The flight of Ceausescu was vital to the unfolding of the Romanian Revolution.[140]

Further evidence that the Securitate were left in disarray by Ceausescu’s flight comes from Dr. Sergiu Tanasescu, one of the first people to enter the CC building:

…I must tell you those there were taken completely by surprise. We found half-finished coffees, abandoned cigarettes in the ashtrays….They were ripping off their epaulets, they had on shirts of one color and pants of another, trying to confuse us….At Entrance A there were many Securitate….who took advantage of the fact that they were dressed in civilian clothes and attempted to mix into the crowds….five in civilian clothes opened fire without any warning, even if it is true that they shot over the heads of the crowd…[141]

The Ceausescus on the Run

The situation in Palace Square evolved so quickly that in the end only one helicopter was able to land. Air Force Commander General Rus was forced to cancel the order for the parachutists and called the other helicopters back to base. Here was indeed a case where a slight change in timing might have had huge consequences. Had the demonstrators not made it to the roof of the CC building and set about destroying the landing pad–thus making it inoperable–Stanculescu would probably have boarded one of the other helicopters en route. The Army would have been far less likely to threaten to shoot down any of the helicopters knowing that the acting Defense Minister was aboard one of them.[142] The helicopter carrying the Ceausescus might then have made it to the heavily-fortified Boteni air force base. Had the commanders there obeyed the orders issued in person by the Supreme Commander (Ceausescu) “the situation would have become enormously complex.”[143]

But as things turned out, the protesters reached the roof of the CC building just as the Ceausescus were boarding the first helicopter–indeed, Ceausescu’s bodyguards from the Fifth Directorate had to hold back the demonstrators at gunpoint. Moreover, there were a host of eyewitnesses who distinctly heard Elena shout back to Stanculescu: “Victoras [a diminutive], take care of the children!” According to Brucan, Stanculescu was highly-aware of this fact, and realizing that Ceausescu was clearly finished, “with his characteristic elegance [he] made a sharp U-turn: ‘La stinga imprejur [About-Face]!’.”[144] Brucan suggests that he had complete confidence that from this moment, Stanculescu broke definitively with the Ceausescus and allied with the revolution.[145] Sauca states things more colorfully: “It is clear that from the moment when the helicopter lifted off from the roof of the CC, Victor Stanculescu no longer gave a damn for the lives of the Ceausescus and their clan.”[146]

Initially, it was assumed that the Ceausescus were headed for “an Arab country, presumably Libya, where they could count on their dollar deposit at Swiss banks.”[147] But, as Silviu Brucan writes: “our assumptions were wrong. No, Ceausescu was not a man to accept defeat so readily.”[148] After a short stopover at their Snagov villa–where Nicolae phoned frantically to find a safe haven within the country and where Elena packed four more bags of jewels, bathrobes, and towels to put aboard the already over-laden helicopter–they took off again headed for Tirgoviste (from which Nicolae had received the most encouraging reports). When the pilot of the helicopter, Lieutenant Colonel Vasile Malutan, informed Nicolae and Elena that the helicopter had been spotted on radar and could be shot down at any moment, the Ceausescus decided it was better to land.[149] Ceausescu’s Fifth Directorate bodyguards then flagged down a passing car at gunpoint and the first couple attempted to “hitch” their way to Tirgoviste. Their first lucky driver, doctor Nicolae Deca, has maintained that the Ceausescus “never thought for a moment of fleeing the country.”[150]

After nightfall, the Ceausescus ended up at the Inspectorate of the Militia and Securitate in Tirgoviste. According to Army Major Ion Tecu, in the preceding hours Militia men had held the couple in a nearby forest, apparently trying to decide what to do with them.[151] When they turned up unexpectedly at the Inspectorate, the head of the local Securitate, Colonel Gheorghe Dinu, agreed to turn the couple over to the Army detachment which had arrived to take control of the building. Brucan describes Dinu’s actions in the following quotation:

As was typical of the situation that fateful afternoon, the local Securitate commander could not make up his mind how to proceed. In the meantime, radio and television were signaling to the whole nation that the balance was tilting in favor of the revolution. The security officers started leaving the building, and very soon everybody was gone.[152]

Shortly after 6 p.m., the couple was transported to the Army garrison. Major Tecu states: “From 22 December at 6:20 p.m. until 25 December at 2:45 p.m., when the execution took place, [the Ceausescus] did not leave the perimeter of the barracks.”[153] Meanwhile, speaking from the balcony of the CC building in Bucharest, Ion Iliescu announced to a huge crowd that “the armed forces have been ordered to arrest Ceausescu. We have news that he has been captured near Tirgoviste and when this news is confirmed we will make it public…he will be arrested, and submitted to public justice!”[154] Not long after, the sporadic gunfire which had broken out after nightfall would become more sustained and erupt not only in Bucharest, but throughout the country. Phase two of the Revolution–the “terrorist” phase–had begun.


In two of the Eastern European countries with the most hardline regimes in the fall of 1989–East Germany and Czechoslovakia–the outbreak of unprecedented anti-regime demonstrations instigated and enabled officials within the party hierarchy to remove the hardline party leader (Erich Honnecker and Milos Jakes respectively). Moreover, after poorly-planned attempts by the security services to crush these demonstrations backfired and in fact catalyzed anti-regime sentiment, these institutions largely withdrew to the sidelines. The withdrawal of the state institutions of law and order from the aggressive defense of the party leadership and the communist regime allowed first for the removal of the hardline leadership and then for the collapse of the communist regime.

Anti-regime protest in Romania highlighted the basic differences in the institutional character of the Romanian regime even when compared to two such hardline regimes. Anti-regime protest in Romania could not precipitate Ceausescu’s removal from the position of general secretary by other party officials because the Romanian communist party had long since lost its corporate character. Instead, as we have seen, CPEx members obediently supported Ceausescu’s decision to suppress the Timisoara demonstrations. Moreover, the state security apparatus and the military participated in the aggressive and bloody defense of the regime in Timisoara. Significantly, even when given the perfect opportunity provided by Ceausescu’s two-day absence during his trip to Iran, senior party officials did not act to remove him as general secretary and neither the Securitate nor the Army launched a coup d’etat to end his rule.

The Romanian case supplies confirmation for the arguments of Theda Skocpol and Charles Tilly that it is the action or inaction of the state which plays a critical, catalytic, and often unintended role in making revolution possible.[155] The heavy-handed, absurd speeches of party activists dispatched to the Timisoara factories, the tactical withdrawal of Army troops to barracks in Timisoara, Ceausescu’s rambling televised tirade on the evening of 20 December, and his tremendously misguided idea of convoking a pro-regime rally on 21 December and then assuring live transmission of this event to the entire nation, all emboldened the population and made fundamental contributions to the eventual collapse of the regime.

Finally, contrary to most accounts, the Ceausescu regime appears to have fallen on 22 December 1989 not as the result of some conspiracy or Securitate magnanimity, but as the result of a sudden expansion of protest and the reasonably spontaneous decisions of mid-level field commanders who took the initiative when confronted with events which were fast out-pacing them. This forced the Army high command to first allow the protesters to pass unhindered to the city center and then for the Army to retreat to barracks. The Army’s slippery-slope towards defection put the Securitate in an unenviable and somewhat unanticipated (if not wholly unprepared for) position. The evidence seems to suggest that the Securitate was simply overtaken by events, by the protesters and by the Army’s behavior. The Romanian events thus confirm the importance accorded by D.E.H. Russell to the centrality of the Army’s defection in making revolution possible.[156]


[1].. Jack Anderson and Dale Van Atta, “Iran Embarrassed by Ceausescu Visit,” The Washington Post, 17 January 1990, E17.

[2].. Martyn Rady, Romania in Turmoil: A Contemporary History (New York: IB Tauris & Co Ltd., 1992), 94. For Manescu’s link to the Ceausescu family, see ibid., 52-53.

[3].. Indeed, the abortive military coup d’etat attempt planned for October 1984 while the Ceausescus were on a state visit to West Germany had been inspired by memories of the March 1977 experience. See Silviu Brucan, The Wasted Generation: Memories of the Romanian Journey from Capitalism to Socialism and Back (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993), 131-134.

[4].. Cornel Ivanciuc, “Raporturile dintre Frontul Salvarii Nationale si KGB,” 22, no. 21 (24-30 May 1995), 11.

[5].. See Mircea Bunea, Praf in Ochi. Procesul Celor 24-1-2. (Bucharest: Editura Scripta, 1994), 34.

[6].. Belgrade Domestic Service, 1400 GMT 20 December 1989, in FBIS-EEU-89-243, 20 December 1989.

[7].. Agence France Presse, 19 December 1989, in FBIS-EEU-89-242, 19 December 1989.

[8].. Filip Teodorescu, Un Risc Asumat: Timisoara decembrie 1989 (Bucharest: Editura Viitorul Romanesc, 1992), 92.

[9].. Un grup de ofiteri din garnizoana Timisoara, “FRICA DE PROPRIUL POPOR… [Fear of your own people]” Romania Libera, 15 October 1991, 2a.

[10].. Belgrade TANJUG, 2137 GMT 20 December 1989, in FBIS-EEU-89-244, 21 December 1989, 80. Disinformation is frequently thought of as synonymous with the “big lie,” but indeed the most effective disinformation always contains a kernel of truth. Frequently, real facts are merely presented out of context. It is also intriguing to note the almost Freudian mirror-imaging quality of this disinformation–a characteristic common to totalitarian regimes. This is especially the case when it comes to the accusations of foreign powers being engaged in “terrorist actions”–an eerily accurate description of the Ceausescu regime’s own actions.

[11].. On this bizarre and slightly comical incident see “FRICA DE PROPRIUL POPOR” and Ilie Stoian, Decembrie ‘89: Arta Diversiunii. (Bucharest: Editura Colaj, 1993), 17-18. In spite of Teodorescu’s steadfast allegations regarding the role played by foreign agents, he admits that those he arrested were DIA officers (Teodorescu, Un Risc Asumat, 96). The circumstances surrounding this incident remain unclear; however, it may be an indication of the inter-institutional rivalry which permeated much of the December events.

[12].. Liviu Stefanut, interview by Dan Preisz, “Teroristii Timisoarei,” Romania Libera, 21 April 1994, 6. Although Securitate Colonel Teodorescu vehemently denies this allegation, his description of what went on during these days at the county hospital only serves to heighten such suspicion (Teodorescu, Un Risc Asumat, 87-89). Hospital staff maintain that the Securitate conducted brutal interrogations and that no medical staff were present, see the comments of Curpas Florica in Titus Suciu, Reportaj cu Sufletul la Gura [Reporting with Your Soul in Your Throat] (Timisoara: Editura Facla, 1990), 145.

[13].. The incident is detailed in the military prosecutor’s charges against the Securitate and Militia officers arrested for their involvement in the Timisoara repression, see Teodorescu, Un Risc Asumat, 279-300.

[14].. Quoted in Rady, Romania in Turmoil, 97.

[15].. Budapest Domestic Service, 2115 GMT 20 December 1989, in FBIS-EEU-89-244, 21 December 1989.

[16].. Adelina Elena, “Martor ocular. Fata in Fata,” Orizont, 6 January 1990, 5.

[17].. Ibid.

[18].. Ibid.

[19].. Rady, Romania in Turmoil, 96.

[20].. Ibid.; Nestor Rates, Romania: The Entangled Revolution (New York: Praeger, 1991), 33-34.

[21].. Major Viorel Oancea, interview by Tudorel Urian, “Frica, din nou pe strazi [Fear on the streets once again],” Cuvintul, no. 4 (14 February 1990), 5, 11.

[22].. Other factors have also been suggested as having hastened the withdrawal: such as the threat of the strike committee at the “Solvent” petrochemical works to blow up the plant if the Army did not withdraw immediately. See Rady, Romania in Turmoil, 96-97.

[23].. General Victor Atanasie Stanculescu, interview by Ioan Buduca, Cuvintul, no. 8-9 (29 March 1990), 9.

[24].. Rady, Romania in Turmoil, 97.

[25].. Ibid.

[26].. Ibid., 97-98.

[27].. F. Puspoki, “Piramida Umbrelor (III),” Orizont, no. 11 (16 March 1990), 4.

[28].. Radu Ciobotea, “Incredibil. La Timisoara–Militia inarma revolutionarii [Incredible. In Timisoara–the Militia was arming the revolutionaries],” Flacara, no. 33 (14 August 1991), 4-5.

[29].. He claims that on the afternoon of 20 December he was appointed “commander of the FDR’s revolutionary guards;” that the Militia sent a letter of recognition to the FDR; and that on 22 December the Militia supplied the revolutionaries with machine-guns and walkie-talkies.

[30].. Ibid.

[31].. R.M., “Dezvaluiri [Revelations],” Romania Libera, 19 January 1993, 1. Radulescu died in 1994.

[32].. Ibid. Presumably that foreign power would have been the Soviet Union.

[33].. Nicolae was probably improvising. A tape of the rally broadcast on a Bucharest FM radio station in December 1993 recorded Elena yelling at her husband: “Promise them something! Promise them anything!”

[34].. Rates, Romania: The Entangled Revolution, 39; Rady, Romania in Turmoil, 100.

[35].. See the series “Intercontinental 21/22″ in Romania Libera, especially for 31 March 1990, 1 April 1990, 2 April 1990, 5 April 1990, and 6 April 1990. There is no reason to believe that those Bacanu presented did not actually shout down Ceausescu at the rally. The issue is the context in which Bacanu chose to present their actions.

[36].. Leon’s notoriety also apparently stemmed from his exposure in a well-known documentary series entitled “Noaptea Generalilor” [The Night of the Generals] which appeared on Romanian television during 1990. This television series was also produced by Petre Mihai Bacanu.

[37].. Ratesh, Romania: The Entangled Revolution, 39.

[38].. Nicola Leon, “You took away our rights and gave us lice and fear,” The Globe and Mail, 20 December 1989, A7. In spite of the slight difference in name, Nica Leon has claimed that this is his letter and there seems little reason to doubt that this is the case. Nicola Leon is described as a “34-year old mechanical engineer living in Bucharest,” details which generally fit with Nica Leon’s background. It is unclear when this open letter arrived at the newspaper.

[39].. See, for example, his comments in Sorin Rosca Stanescu, “Mai putine flori, mai multi participanti,” Romania Libera, 24 April 1990, 3.

[40].. Nica Leon, interview by editorial board, “Nica Leon in razboi cu toata lumea,” Flacara, no. 34 (26 August 1992), 4-5.

[41].. Stoian, Decembrie ‘89, 23.

[42].. Nica Leon, interview by Angela Bacescu, Europa, March-April 1994, 2, 3. Bacescu introduced Leon as president of the Liberal Democratic Party and member of Amnesty International (!). Among the many dubious claims in this interview is the allegation that Elena Ceausescu had been plotting a coup d’etat against her husband set for 30 December 1989.

[43].. See, for example, Nica Leon, interview by Liviu Valenas and Daniela Rainov, “Lovitura de palat din Romania [The Palace Coup in Romania],” Baricada, no. 36 (18 September 1990), 3.

[44].. Rasvan Popescu, “Moda lui Jos,” Expres, no. 13 (27 April-3 May 1990), 2. For the significance of his denial of the existence of the “terrorists” see chapters seven and eight.

[45].. Leon, interview, “Lovitura de Palat.”

[46].. Bacanu, “Intercontinental 21/22,” 5 April 1990, 3.

[47].. Bacanu, “Intercontinental 21/22,” 6 April 1990.

[48].. Ibid.

[49].. Leon proudly admits to this in Leon, interview, “Lovitura de palat.”

[50].. See the six-part series by Maiorul A.D. (apparently Major Aurel David, who was one of four Fifth Directorate officers tried and acquitted in March 1990) entitled “Scenariile si Realitatea. Marturie la dosarul ‘Teroristi’,” which appeared between January and March 1991 in Timpul. It is significant to note that when this series appeared Nica Leon was still a welcome member of the opposition.

[51].. Maiorul A.D., “Scenariile si Realitatea (VI),” Timpul, 1 March 1991, 11.

[52].. Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea, 161. USLA officer Romulus Garz refers to “officer David (one of four officers from Ceausescu’s guard)” and to the presence of Nica Leon among the prisoners he was held together with. Garz was arrested after the famous incident in front of the Defense Ministry on the night of 23/24 December–discussed in chapter seven.

[53].. See the interview with Nica Leon in Democratia, no. 4 (12 February 1990).

[54].. See Expres, 9 March 1990, 8.

[55].. Valenas and Rainov did raise this issue with Leon in Leon, “Lovitura de palat.” However, they refused to challenge his answers and almost appeared to embrace them. While Leon was still aligned with the opposition, the regime-supportive press alleged that he had been a Securitate informer code-name “Nelutu.” The allegation appeared in the Ceausist Romania Mare, and the daily Azi, closely-linked to then Prime Minister Petre Roman, see Expres Magazin, no. 32 (13-20 August 1991), 2. Nica Leon himself–almost proudly–lists all the allegations launched against him (including that he was related to the Ceausescus) in Leon, “Nica Leon in razboi cu toata lumea,” Flacara, no. 34 (26 August 1992), 4. He avoids commenting on their validity, however.

[56].. Raportul Comisei Senatoriale pentru cercetarea evenimentelor din decembrie 1989, “Cine a tras in noi, in 16-22?” Romania Libera, 27 May 1992, 5.

[57].. Stoian, Decembrie ‘89: Arta Diversiunii, 23. It was only after this, Stoian maintains, that Nica Leon delivered his famous shout.

[58].. Tudorel Urian, “Cabala Teroristilor,” Cuvintul, no. 20 (13 June 1990), 4.

[59].. The suspects are legion: The dubious Nica Leon claims that a 60-year old man named Andrei Ilie, “who kissed Iliescu when he arrived at the CC [building on 22 December],” threw the petarde (Leon, interview, “Nica Leon in razboi.”). Opposition journalist A. Corneliu Giagim writes that the “author” of the petarde was Matei Ilie who had assembled it out of an aerosol can (A. Corneliu Giagim, “16-22, Cine-a tras in noi?!” Baricada, no. 49-50 (18 December 1990), 6.). In early 1990, Petre Mihai Bacanu confidentially stated that a young man named Adrian Constantin had thrown the petarde (Bacanu, “Intercontinental 21/22,” 31 March 1990, 1.). Whereas Bacanu had been able to interview Nica Leon and the young aviation mechanics who had started the chants against Ceausescu, he had been unable to track down Constantin to speak with him. Dan Iosif, the Front official who accused Leon of being a “terrorist,” has also been proposed as the source of the petarde (Expres Magazin, no. 30 (20-26 February 1991), 8.). There are likely others who have been credited with this act.

[60].. C. Maltese Martine Ui (possibly a pseudonym), “De la ‘Jos Ceausescu!’ am ajuns la ‘Jos Romania!’ Dubla Lovitura impotriva Romaniei” Democratia, no. 48 (December 1990), 3.

[61].. A Group of Former Securitate Officers, “Asa va place revolutia! Asa a fost!” Democratia, no. 36 (24-30 September 1990), 4. Also, see a translation of this article in FBIS-EEU-90-207, 25 October 1990, 50-53.

[62].. “S.V., reserve USLA officer” (perhaps Strat Vintila, based on other accounts), in Pavel Corut, Floarea de Argint (Bucharest: Editura Miracol, 1994), 171. In fact, the description of these men as wearing knee-length woolen coats and hats makes them sound suspiciously like the Securitate and the USLA themselves, as we shall see later.

[63].. “Fapte care trimit la o actiune premeditata a unor ‘actori’ din afara (II),” Curierul National, 10 July 1994, 2.

[64].. Ibid. Former deputy prime minister and senator, Gelu Voican Voiculescu, makes similar allegations. He claims that the explosion was caused by a “handcrafted petarde” (”o petarda artizanala”) made from an aerosol can. He too suggests that the panic was intensified by the “perhaps purposeful” malfunction of the loudspeaker system and the emission of a terrifying sound which resembled the “rumbling of tanks.” Voiculescu adds that “it is also possible…that there was a type of ‘acoustic bomb.’” Gelu Voican Voiculescu, interview by Neti Luchian and Val. Voiculescu, “‘Haosul nostru i-a paralizat (I),” Libertatea, 16 July 1991.

[65].. Cornel Nistorescu, “Complot sau conspiratie cu pretentii la putere? [Plot or conspiracy with pretensions to power]” Cuvintul, no. 20 (13 June 1990), 5.

[66].. Ecaterin Radoi, “Remember 15 decembrie 1989 – 20 mai 1990,” Zig-Zag, no. 190 (23-31 December 1993), 4-7.

[67].. Sofia Domestic Service, 1400 GMT 21 December 1989, in FBIS-EEU-89-244, 21 December 1989, 71.

[68].. Belgrade TANJUG Domestic Service, 1359 GMT 21 December 1989, in FBIS-EEU-89-245, 22 December 1989, 77.

[69].. Belgrade Domestic Service, 1410 GMT 21 December 1989, in FBIS-EEU-89-244, 21 December 1989, 70-71.

[70].. Ibid.

[71].. See accounts in Bacanu, “Intercontinental 21/22,” 15 March 1990; 5 April 1990; 19 April 1990.

[72].. See the comments of Marcel Constantinescu in Bacanu, “Intercontinental 21/22,” 15 March 1990, 3.

[73].. Rady, Romania in Turmoil, 104.

[74].. Emil Munteanu, “Postelnicu a vorbit neintrebat [Postelnicu spoke without being asked to],” Romania Libera, 30 January 1990, 3.

[75].. Stoian, Decembrie ‘89: Arta Diversiunii, 22. Stoian’s “spin” on this event, however, is that people were not allowed to enter the square because “something was being awaited,” thus insinuating that the disruption of the rally was organized in advance.

[76].. See the comments of Nistor Ruxandoiu in Gheorghe Ionita, “Culcati-i la pamint!” Adevarul de Duminica, 14 January 1990, 2.

[77].. Published in Libertatea between 27 January and 15 February 1990 under the heading “Dintre sute de…catarge! Revolutia ascultata prin statie [From…hundreds of “masts” (radio identification for USLA officers conducting surveillance) Scanning the Revolution].” Such recordings could have come from only one source: the former Securitate. Interestingly, with the exception of one episode (3 February 1990), all of these communications come from the afternoon of 21 December or morning of 22 December. There are no communications for the USLA from 3:30 p.m. 21 December until 8 a.m. 22 December–the period during which regime forces opened fire on the demonstrators.

[78].. “Dintre sute de catarge,” 27 January 1990; 29 January 1990.

[79].. “Dintre sute de catarge,” 30 January 1990, 2. An anonymous editor defines the meaning of “gela” as “petarde” at the close of this episode. Stefanescu confirms the use of “petardes” in his statement that the USLA commander, Colonel Gheorghe Ardeleanu, was seen at the Central Committee building shouting to a subordinate “Give me ‘Gela’…Give me ‘Gela’.” According to Stefanescu, ‘Gela’ was the name of a “petarde” used by the USLA in the repression of demonstrators. Paul Stefanescu, Istoria Serviciilor Secrete Romanesti (Bucharest: Editura Divers Press, 1994), 287.

[80].. Stoian, Decembrie ‘89: Arta Diversiunii, 21.

[81].. Raportul Comisiei Senatoriale, “Cine a tras in noi, in 16-22?”

[82].. There were substantial numbers of dead and wounded in many other cities between the afternoon of 21 December and the morning of 22 December: especially in Cluj, Sibiu, Tirgu-Mures, and Cugir. For example, most of the 26 people killed and 105 injured in Cluj during the events were shot during this period.

[83].. It also followed on the heels of series by the editors of Tineretul Liber (Horia Alexandrescu) and Libertatea (Octavian Andronic) which had exonerated the USLA of wrongdoing in December.

[84].. Bacanu, “Intercontinental 21/22,” 15 March 1990, 1, 3.

[85].. Idem, 16 March 1990, 3.

[86].. Idem, 17 March 1990, 1.

[87].. Ibid., 2.

[88].. Idem, 24 March 1990, 1. Bacanu’s interviewees responded by describing the “flower” episode yet again.

[89].. Idem, 24 April 1990, 1, 3. For an equally dubious revision of the USLA’s role in the December events see Horia Alexandrescu, “Adevarul despre USLA [The truth about the USLA],” Tineretul Liber, 4-15 March 1990. In episode three (7 March 1990, “Flori pentru ‘uslasi’ [Flowers for the USLA troops”) demonstrators shout at the USLA troops “and you also are dying of hunger!” and place flowers in the epaulets and helmets of the USLA troops. The USLA unit merely attempted to prevent “elements who had escaped the control of the revolutionaries” from approaching the American embassy and had allowed demonstrators to paint anti-Ceausescu slogans on nearby walls. According to Alexandrescu, the USLA had been withdrawn in their entirety from the zone at 9:30 p.m., thus before gunfire was opened.

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[90].. Emilian David, “Dreptate si adevar pentru ziua intii [Justice and truth on the first day],” Libertatea, 12 January 1990, 1, 2. At least eight people were killed at Roman Square. As if to almost confirm Emilian David’s allegations, three days later, the USLA commander during the events, Colonel Gheorghe Ardeleanu, responded in Libertatea with a public denial of David’s description. See Colonel Gheorghe Ardeleanu, “Precizari,” Libertatea, 15 January 1990, 3.

[91].. Paul Vinicius, “Remember 21-23 decembrie ‘89: Revolutia minut cu minut,” Flacara, no. 51 (19 December 1990), 7.

[92].. See Bunea, Praf in Ochi, 87.

[93].. Ibid., 88.

[94].. Ibid. The witness himself was injured as a result of this gunfire and later transported to the hospital.

[95].. See “Dintre sute de catarge,” Libertatea, 27/29/30/31 January 1990.

[96].. “Dintre sute de catarge,” 31 January 1990, 2.

[97].. “Dintre sute de catarge,” 29 January 1990, 2.

[98].. Petre Mihai Bacanu, “Au evacuat ‘materialele.’ Stropite cu sange [The got rid of “the materials” Covered with blood],” Romania Libera, 28 December 1993, 10. The reference to these civilian gunmen dressed in “sheepskin coats” (cojoace) brings back into discussion one of the articles from Horia Alexandrescu’s March 1990 series (”Adevarul despre USLA” [The truth about the USLA]) in Tineretul Liber exonerating the USLA of any wrongdoing for their actions in December. The title of the 6 March 1990 article–”‘Ace’ pentru ‘cojoacele’ teroristilor,” [‘Pins’ for the ‘sheepskin coats’ of the terrorists]–appears to bear no connection whatsoever to the article, which has no mention of “sheepskin coats” and does not even refer to the role of the USLA in University Square (events discussed in a later episode). Yet this clue and a number of others–including Alexandrescu’s introduction of this article as a “calmant,” an apparent reference to the treatment given to the drugged USLA after the events–suggest that in spite of the fact that the text of the article clears the USLA, Alexandrescu is fully conscious of the USLA’s guilt.

[99].. “Seful represiunii: maiorul Amariucai” in Bacanu, “Au evacuat ‘materialele’.”

[100].. Colonel Gh. Vaduva et. al., “Nici o pata sa nu planeze pe onoarea Armatei! [Not a stain can be placed on the Army’s honor]” Armata Poporului, no. 3 (17 January 1990), 1-2.

[101].. Ibid.

[102].. Ibid.

[103].. Captain Mihai Margineanu, “Un ‘inger’ cu aripile murdare [An ‘angel’ with dirty wings],” Armata Poporului, no. 15 (11 April 1990), 5. The witness, Lieutenant Colonel Teodor Amariucai, appears to bear his own share of the guilt for the bloodshed on the night of 21/22 December.

[104].. Stefanescu, Istoria Serviciilor Secrete, 288. The former Securitate once again appear to transfer their actions onto others in their discussion of the events in University Square. According to “a group of former Securitate officers,” the “tourists” took advantage “of the sound of shots fired in the air and resorted as in Timisoara to shooting the demonstrators in the back to produce victims to ‘mobilize’ Bucharest’s citizens.” See A Group of Former Securitate Officers, “Asa va place revolutia!”

[105].. Vasile Neagoe, “Noaptea cea mai lunga [The longest night],” Expres, no. 14-15 (May 1990), 15.

[106].. Alexandru Sauca, K.G.B.-ul si Revolutia Romana (Bucharest: Editura Miracol, 1994), 80.

[107].. See, for example, Vladimir Tismaneanu, “The Quasi-Revolution and Its Discontents: Emerging Political Pluralism in Post-Ceausescu Romania,” East European Politics and Societies 7, no. 2 (Spring 1993): 328 (fn. 31 especially). According to Tismaneanu: “So far, however, the only certain elements are that the Securitate and the army switched allegiances and abandoned Ceausescu during the early hours of December 22, 1989…”

[108].. Stoian, Decembrie ‘89: Arta Diversiunii, 28.

[109].. See, for example, Tismaneanu, “The Quasi-Revolution”: 328 (fn. 31): “…generals Stanculescu, Guse, and Vlad acted like traditional praetorian guard chieftains in that they abandoned the losing tyrant and played a crucial role in the selection of his successor (the palace coup).”

[110].. Liviu Valenas, “Lovitura de palat din Romania,” Baricada, no. 26 (10 July 1990), 3.

[111].. Ibid.

[112].. Stoian, Decembrie ‘89: Arta Diversiunii, 24. Indeed, according to Stoian, Defense Minister Milea was the supreme commander of the repressive forces on this night. In December 1993, on the fourth anniversary of these events, the opposition daily edited by Horia Alexandrescu, Cronica Romana, reiterated the claim that Vlad distanced himself from the team supervising the repression (Cronica Romana, 21 December 1993, 3.).

[113].. Vasile Neagoe, “Noaptea cea mai lunga,” Expres, no. 8 (23-29 March 1990), 6.

[114].. See “Dintre sute de catarge,” Libertatea, 1 February 1990; 9 February 1990; 12 February 1990.

[115].. Captain Alexandru Barbu, interview by Horia Alexandrescu, “O curiozitate: te impusti in inima, asezi pistolul pe masa, apoi te intinzi pe canapea!” Tineretul Liber, 2 June 1990, 1-2.

[116].. Liviu Valenas, “Dosarele secrete ale neocomunismului din Romania [The secret files of Romanian neo-communism],” Romanul Liber XI, no. 8-9 (August-September 1995), 32. This appears to have originally been published in the opposition daily Evenimentul Zilei.

[117].. See FBIS-EEU-89-248, 28 December 1989, 63.

[118].. Bunea, Praf in Ochi, 53, 56.

[119].. Rady, Romania in Turmoil, 103. Indeed, information elsewhere suggests that before 10 a.m. demonstrators had taken control of local government in Alba Iulia, Arad, and other important towns in Transylvania.

[120].. See the comments of Lieutenant Colonel Rafaelescu Alexandru in Ion D. Goia, “Chiar daca fugea, Ceausescu nu scapa! [Even if he was fleeing, Ceausescu was not escaping!],” Flacara, no. 5 (6-12 February 1991), 8-9.

[121].. Lieutenant Colonel Ion Cotirlea and Lieutenant Colonel Rafaelescu Alexandru in ibid.

[122].. Even Brucan is unsure. See Brucan, The Wasted Generation, 2.

[123].. See the comments of Army Major Engineer Tufan as recounted by Lieutenant Colonel Alexandru Andrei in Goia, “Chiar daca fugea,” 9.

[124].. See Bunea, Praf in Ochi, 53-56.

[125].. Ibid.

[126].. Stanculescu, interview by Ioan Buduca, 9.

[127].. Ibid. Hence, his satirical nickname in the Romanian media: “Ghipsulescu,” from the Romanian word “ghips” which means “cast.”

[128].. See the comments of Lieutenant Colonel Alexandru Andrei in Goia, “Chiar daca fugea,” 9.

[129].. Ibid. See also Stanculescu, interview by Ioan Buduca, 9. According to the First Senatorial Commission report on the events, at 10:45 a.m. he instructed all units in Bucharest and on the road to Bucharest to return to barracks, and at 12:15 a.m. the order was transmitted for all units throughout the country to return to barracks (see “Cine a tras in noi, in 16-22?” Romania Libera, 27 May 1992, 5).

[130].. Brucan, The Wasted Generation, 2-3. Interestingly, Brucan comments: “[Rus’] statement was recorded in early January 1990 when his memory of events was still fresh and before political conditions began to engender the inhibitions that later would prevent generals from making such forthright statements….”

[131].. Ibid., 3.

[132].. Sauca, KGB-ul si Revolutia, 80-82.

[133].. Stanculescu, interview by Ioan Buduca, 9.

[134].. See Goia, “Chiar daca fugea,” 9.

[135].. A Group of Former Securitate Officers, “Asa va place revolutia?”

[136].. Iulian Vlad, “Ce mai aveti de spus?,” Adevarul, 19 January 1991, 5a.

[137].. Ibid.

[138].. “Dintre sute de catarge,” Libertatea, 3-14 February 1990.

[139].. Ion D. Goia, “Chiar daca fugea,” 9.

[140].. Ibid.

[141].. Dr. Sergiu Tanasescu, interview by Ion K. Ion, “Dinca si Postelnicu au fost prinsi de pantera roz! [Dinca and Postelnicu were caught red-handed!],” Cuvintul, no. 7 (14 March 1990), 15.

[142].. Sauca suggests this idea in Sauca, KGB-ul si Revolutia, 82.

[143].. Ibid.

[144].. Silviu Brucan, Generatia Irosita (Bucharest: Editura Univers & Calistrat Hogas, 1992), 16. This discussion does not appear in the English version of his memoirs, The Wasted Generation.

[145].. Ibid., 16, 220-221.

[146].. Sauca, KGB-ul si Revolutia, 82.

[147].. Silviu Brucan, The Wasted Generation, 2.

[148].. Ibid.

[149].. Ibid., 4.

[150].. Nicolae Deca, interview by Petre Mihai Bacanu, “Ceausescu nu s-a gindit sa fuga din tara,” Romania Libera, 23 December 1993, 15.

[151].. See Tecu’s comments in Ion D. Goia and Petre Barbu, “Ceausestii la Tirgoviste,” Flacara, no. 51 (19 December 1990), 9-10.

[152].. Brucan, The Wasted Generation, 5. Tecu confirms that between 2 and 5 p.m., the Securitate and Militia personnel began evacuating the Inspectorate building in Goia and Barbu, “Ceausestii la Tirgoviste,” 10.

[153].. Goia and Barbu, “Ceausestii la Tirgoviste,” 10.

[154].. Revolutia Romana in Direct (Bucharest, 1990), 85.

[155].. Theda Skocpol, States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979); Charles Tilly, From Mobilization to Revolution (New York: Random House, 1978).

[156].. D.E.H. Russell, Rebellion, Revolution, and Armed Force (New York: Academic, 1974).

5 Responses to “Rewriting the Revolution (1997): Chapter 6 18-22 December 1989”

  1. mariusmioc said

    December 30, 2008 at 10:13 pm eAt the Revolution forum I’ve opened a discussion regarding this article:

  2. romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 said

    January 2, 2009 at 11:15 pm eIn legatura cu “Dintre sute de catarge! Revolutia ascultata prin statie,” Libertatea, 27 ianuarie 1990 – 15 februarie 1990, citeva extrase au fost publicate de catre Romulus Cristea in Romania Libera pe data de 28 martie 2006, deci o confirmare in plus.

    [77].. Published in Libertatea between 27 January and 15 February 1990 under the heading “Dintre sute de…catarge! Revolutia ascultata prin statie [From…hundreds of “masts” (radio identification for USLA officers conducting surveillance) Scanning the Revolution].” Such recordings could have come from only one source: the former Securitate. Interestingly, with the exception of one episode (3 February 1990), all of these communications come from the afternoon of 21 December or morning of 22 December. There are no communications for the USLA from 3:30 p.m. 21 December until 8 a.m. 22 December–the period during which regime forces opened fire on the demonstrators.

    Arhiva: Dovada crimelor din decembrie ‘89
    “Huliganii astia trebuie anihilati”
    Dezvaluiri – “Huliganii astia trebuie anihilati”
    Romulus Cristea
    Marti, 28 Martie 2006
    Toate convorbirile din perioada 21-22 decembrie 1989 purtate de sefii Securitatii, Militiei, Armatei si conducerii de partid prin intermediul statiilor de transmisiuni radio au fost inregistrate pe banda audio si transcrise pe foile de interceptare-goniometrare. Ziarul “Romania libera” a intrat in posesia acestor documente, fragmentele cele mai relevante urmand sa fie publicate incepand cu acest numar. De asemenea, suntem si in posesia unor liste de coduri folosite in cadrul acestor transmisiuni radio.

    Interceptarile si transcrierile
    pe foile de goniometrare au fost efectuate de radiotelegrafisti si alti angajati de la Centrul de Control al Radiocomunicatiilor din Strada Oltenitei nr. 103, Bucuresti. Inregistrarile au fost facute din propria initiativa a unor salariati, care si-au asumat riscurile de rigoare, in acea perioada fiind interzisa ascultarea frecventelor alocate organelor de Militie si Securitate.
    Comunicarea pe unde radio se realiza utilizand anumite coduri si indicative. Toate inregistrarile contin dovezi clare privind ordinele date de cei care conduceau Militia, Securitatea, Ministerul Apararii si PCR prin care se solicita reprimarea manifestatiei anticomuniste si anticeausiste. Inca din primele momente ale revoltei, cei care conduceau tara, serviciile de informatii si fortele de ordine au dat ordine de reprimare a manifestantilor. Cu toate ca periodic erau raportate catre sefi numeroase victime, morti, raniti, arestati ilegal, s-a considerat ca trebuie continuata represiunea pentru asigurarea ordinii, in spiritul cuvantarii lui Ceausescu, care ceruse “o riposta hotarata” impotriva celor care contestau “maretele realizari pentru faurirea societatii socialiste multilateral dezvoltate”.

    Militienii imbracati in civil faceau agitatie

    In ziua de 21 decembrie 1989, incepand cu ora 11, in piata din fata CC-PCR (actuala cladire a Ministerului Administratiei si Internelor din Piata Revolutiei) se desfasura un miting organizat de Comitetul Municipal de Partid, cu participarea cuplului Elena si Nicolae Ceausescu. Totul a luat o intorsatura neasteptata. Manifestatia de condamnare a “huliganilor” de la Timisoara s-a transformat intr-o revolta impotriva lui Ceausescu si a regimului comunist.
    Va prezentam in cele ce urmeaza fragmente din interceptarile realizate in acea zi, incepand cu ora 11.
    Intre orele 11-11.50 – Inspectoratul Militiei Bucuresti.
    – Tovarasul Brinzei, va rog luati dvs. masuri, ca sa fie asa, organizatorice, si tot efectivul care nu este bagat in misiune si se gaseste in Universitate sa fie imbracati civil si in frunte cu dvs. Va deplasati urgent in separatiune 1 (dispozitiv – n.n.), dar in 5 momente imi comunicati prin acest sistem cati sunt nominal. Tabel nominal cu dansii.
    – 2056 (Am inteles! – n.n.)
    – Indiferent de la ce formatiune este, circa, cercetari, penale, judiciar etc.
    – Multi sunt imbracati in uniforma. Se schimba in civil?
    – Pai, care au sa se schimbe in civil, care nu, intr-o jumatate de ora sa se schimbe si deplasarea urgent la separatiune 1 si raman acolo pana primiti ordin de la mine.
    – 2056.
    Ora 11.55 – Consiliul Popular al Municipiului Bucuresti
    – Bucur 9 sunt Bucur 1 (secretar al Comitetului Municipal de Partid – n.n.). Am primit ordin sa incepeti agitatia in piata.

    “O forta mai dura un pic” impotriva demonstrantilor

    Trebuie sa mentionam ca militienii imbracati in civil si care trebuiau “sa faca agitatie” erau trimisi pentru tinerea sub supraveghere a masei de oameni din fata CC-PCR, contribuind in acelasi timp la bunul mers al evenimentelor, prin aplauze sustinute si lozinci in favoarea lui Ceausescu. La mitingul lui Ceausescu erau adunati 105 mii de muncitori de la principalele uzine bucurestene. Insa in fata Hotelului Bucuresti, pe Calea Victoriei a aparut, chiar in timp ce vorbea Ceausescu, un grup de protestatari care scandau lozinci anticeausiste. In zona CC-ului s-a auzit apoi un vuiet peste care s-au suprapus alte zgomote, ca de explozii, venite dinspre Ateneu si – se pare – Biserica Kretzulescu. S-a produs panica, lumea a devenit agitata.
    La acel moment, au fost interceptate urmatoarele convorbiri:
    Ora 12.10
    – 146, 475. Introdu civilii Oprea, fa agitatie. Mai, terminati cu joaca la statie, ca va ia dracu’. (Se aude o voce care scandeaza “Ceausescu PCR”).
    – Mai, nu mai strigati in statie.
    Ora 12.30 – USLA
    – Tridentul, si pe Calea Victoriei, la Gioconda (un magazin de confectii – n.n.), iarasi este un grup care scandeaza lozinci.
    – Tridentul, Catargul, sunt Catargul 5, la “Muzica”, aici in fata a izbucnit scandal. Pe Victoriei, spre posta. Scandeaza lozinci, dar nu intervine nimeni. Militia se uita doar la ei.
    – Sunt Catargul 5. Au fost imprastiati pe Victoriei, spre Casa Centrala a Armatei.
    De la Inspectoratul Militiei Bucuresti intervine cineva care comunica:
    – Vezi ce poti. Pe care poti sa-i temporizezi, ca nu sunt multi. Trebuie o forta mai dura un pic.
    – Toate fortele sa intervina sa-i imprastie!
    Interesant este ca in zona Hotelului Bucuresti, chiar inainte de spargerea mitingului de la CC-PCR, persoane imbracate in costume de culoare kaki, cu cizme si fara insemne militare, au coborat dintr-un autocar si au luat la bataie, cu batele din dotare, persoanele aflate in zona, dupa care au aruncat cateva petarde si grenade lacrimogene. S-au facut primele retineri. Se banuieste ca exploziile auzite dinspre Ateneu si Biserica Kretzulescu ar fi fost ecoul acestor actiuni de la Hotelul Bucuresti.

    USLA, deranjata de “huligani”

    Orele 12.30-14; USLA:
    – In zona Catargului 2 este liniste.
    – La fel in zona Catargului 1 (dispozitiv USLA – n.n.)
    – Sunt Catargul 3. Au mai ramas la “Gioconda” in fata. Vad ca s-au potolit.
    Intervine un ofiter de la Inspectoratul Securitatii Municipiului Bucuresti:
    – Mai, transmite la mine. Doua unitati de la Popa sa mearga la Calea Victoriei si doua sa vina la Onesti (actuala str. Dem I. Dobrescu). Imediat!
    – Am trimis forte.
    – Aici s-au concentrat, la Sala Dalles, colt cu Batistei.
    – 2056.
    In acelasi interval de timp (12-14), discutie intre “Tridentul” si “Catargul” de la USLA:
    – Da, receptionez, sunt Catargul. Tridentul, confirma, te rog.
    – Te retragi? Sunt forte de ordine care trebuie sa actioneze.
    – Te retragi si supraveghezi.
    – Supraveghezi si ma tineti la curent.
    – Huliganii astia trebuie anihilati in primul rand. Nu sunt hotarati astia. Ar trebui sa-i ia repede. Restul sunt sovaitori.
    – La Catargul 3, in fata Hotelului Bucuresti se scandeaza.
    – Da, s-au luat masuri.
    Zona Hotelului Bucuresti, pe Calea Victoriei, a fost locul unde a existat un prim grup de demonstranti care au inceput sa strige impotriva regimului ceausisto-comunist chiar cand se desfasura mitingul din fata CC-PCR.
    Aici au fost primele persoane retinute si batute de fortele de ordine. Conform cercetarilor efectuate de procurorii militari, in zona respectiva a activat si un grup de persoane venite de la Timisoara. La un moment dat acestia, sustinuti de cativa bucuresteni, au reusit sa treaca prin barajul format de fortele de ordine si sa se indrepte apoi spre Piata Palatului. Incidentul a fost consemnat si in Raportul Comisiei Parlamentare de ancheta privind evenimentele din decembrie 1989.

  3. romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 said

    January 3, 2009 at 4:30 pm eLe-am gasit…

    “Dintre…sute de catarge! Revolutia ascultata prin statie,” Libertatea, 27 ianuarie 1990, p.2″


    Intre 11,00-12,00 I.M.B.
    –Tovarasul BRINZEI, va rog luati dv. acolo masuri, ca sa zic asa, organizatorice si tot efectivul care nu este bagat in misiune se se gaseste in unitate sa fie imediat imbracat “civil” si in frunte cu dv. va deplasati ugrent la Separatiune 1, dar in 5 momente imi comunicati prin acest sistem citi sint, normal. Tabel nominal cu dinsii.
    –Am inteles !
    –Indiferent de la formatiune este, circa cercetari penale, judiciar s.a.m.d.
    –Multi sint imbracati in uniforma. Se schimba in civil?
    –Pai, care au sa se schimbe in civil, care au intr-o jumatate de ora sa se schimbe si deplasarea urgent la Separatiune 1 si sa ramineti acolo pina primiti ordin de la mine.
    –Am inteles !
    11,55 C.P.M.B.–Bucur 9 sint Bucur 1 am primit telefon sa incepeti agitatia in piata (! –N.R.)
    12,10–146475 Intr. civil.–Oprea fa agitatie. Mai, terminati cu joaca la statie ca va ia dracu!
    (Se aude o voce care scandeaza “Ceausescu P.C.R.”).
    –Mai, nu mai strigati in statie!
    12,30 U.S.L.A.
    –Ati receptionat Catargul, Tridentul?
    –Tridentul, se pe Calea Victoriei, la Giocanda, iarasi este un grup care scandeaza lozinci.
    –Tridentul, Catargul, sint Catargul 5, la Muzica, aici in fata, a izbucnit scandal. Pe Victoriei, spre Posta scandeaza lozinci dar nu intervine nimeni. Militia se uita doar la ei.
    –Sint Catargul 5. Au fost indepartati pe Victoriei, spre C.C.A. incolo.
    –Catargul, Catargul 2. Sus, aproape de Comitetul Central, se afla un cetatean. E de-al nostru sau nu este? Sus pe bloc,pe blocul de vizavi. Pe Boteanu, se afla sus de tot un cetatean.
    –Tridentul si Catargul, sint Catargul 5. Continua sa fie la intersectia 13 Decembrie cu Victoriei, la Continental acolo, un grup mare care scandeaza.
    –Catargul, sint Catargul 2. Deasupra magazinul Muzica, vizavi de C.I.D., se pare ca este o persoana acolo.
    –Da este. E de-al nostru.
    I.M.B.–Vezi ce poti. Pe care poti sa-i temperezi, ca nu sint multi. Trebuie o forta mai dura un pic.
    –Toate fortele sa intervina sa-i imprastie.
    12,00-14 U.S.L.A.–
    In zona Catargul 2 este liniste.
    –La fel in zona Catargului 1.
    –Tridentul, sint Catargul 5. S-au indepartat pe Victoriei. Nu mai sint in aproprierea mea.
    –Sint Catargul 3. Au ramas la Gioconda in fata. Vad ca s-au potolit.
    I.S.M.B.–Mai, transmite la mine. Doua unitati de-ale lui Popa sa mearga la Calea Victoriei la…si doua sa vina la Onesti imediat.
    –Am inteles!
    U.S.L.A.–Tridentul, sint Catargul. Ai receptionat mesajul de la Catargul 3?
    –Da, a fost receptionat.
    –Catargul, sint Catargul 4. Va rog, repetati.
    -D-ta ai probleme deosebite?
    –Nu, deocamdata.
    –Nici sa nu ai.
    12,00-14 U.S.L.A.–Manifestantii de la Gioconda incearca sa sparga zidul de la militie.
    –Sint Catargul 1.
    –Liniste aici la Catargul 1. Defluire in ordine.
    –Sint Catargul 5.
    –Da, bine, multumesc.
    –La intersectia 13 Dec., Calea Victoriei este blocata de ai nostri. Nu mai e nici o problema acolo.
    –Catargul 3, Tridentul.
    –La Catargul 3 situatia este inca incordata. Se scandeaza si militienii nu pot sa-i imprastie.
    –La Catargul 2, liniste. Defluire in liniste.
    –Catargul, sint Catargul 4.
    –Publicul se retrage in liniste.
    I.S.M.B.–Sala Dalles, (lociitor sef securitate municipului Bucuresti). In fata la Sala Dalles sa vina aici forte.
    –Da, s-au trimis, draga, s-au trimis.
    –Sa-i scoata de aici pe astia care instiga.
    12,00-14 I.S.M.B.–Am trimis, am trimis forte.
    (Continuare in numarul viitor)

  4. romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 said

    January 3, 2009 at 5:03 pm e“Dintre…sute de catarge! Revolutia ascultata prin statie,” Libertatea, 29 ianuarie 1990, p.2

    –Aici s-au concentrat, la Sala Dalles, colt cu Batistei.
    –Am inteles !
    12-14 U.S.L.A.–Ma receptionezi, sint Catargul. Tridentul confirma, te rog.
    –Te retragi si supraveghezi.
    –Supraveghezi si ma tineti la curent.
    —Huliganii astia trebuie anihilati in primul rind. Nu sint hotariti astia. Ar trebui sa-i ia repede. Restul sint sovaitori.
    –Tridentul, sint Catargul 5.
    –La Catargul 3, in fata hotelului Bucuresti, se scandeaza.
    –Da, s-au luat masuri.
    –Catargul ? Tridentul. (nu raspunde).
    –Catargul 1.
    –La Catargul 1, liniste.
    12,30-14 U.S.L.A.–Catargul 3. Tridentul. Situatia.
    –Aceeasi. Se scandeaza si se string foarte multi.
    –Circa 200. Daca impresureaza anexa si ii scoate din zona ii termina repede.
    –Nu sint fortele de ordine acolo, d-le?
    –Sint doar in fata, un aliniament si in spate nimic.
    –Las’ ca vin acolo…
    12,30-14 I.S.M.B.–(sefi servicii, birouri, securitatea municipului Bucuresti), (loctiitor seful Securitatii). Arunca cu niste portret. Probabil Doina Cornea. Invoca personalitati!
    –Da, da…
    –Sint vreo 5, care sint mai ai dracu’ si tipa.
    –Fara incidente, pentru ca ii provocam mai mult.
    –Am inteles. Imi pare rau ca de la hotel intercontinental ii filmeaza si de la noi nu vine nimeni sa-i filmeze.
    –Sa-i identificam pe huliganii astia.
    12,30-14 U.S.L.A.–Catargul 1, liniste, Atheneu.
    –Catargul 2, liniste.
    –La 3 s-a format o hora si cinta Hora Unirii.
    I.M.B.–Aici la Steaua este retinut unul care, sustin tovarasii, ca a incitat sa dea foc.
    –Catargul, au venit fortele speciale de interventie.
    –Striga acum ca armata e cu ei.
    –Hai ma, lasa-i in pace nu mai…
    –Ar trebui sa vina mai repede sa-i ia odata de aici.
    –Vine, stai linistit acolo.
    U.S.L.A.–Tridentul, sint Catargul.
    –Comunica, Catargul.
    –Parte din demonstranti au luat-o in stinga, spre Luterana, marea majoritate, ceilalti au luat-o spre Cosmonautilor. In fata hotelului Bucuresti nu sint probleme deosebite. S-au imprastiat. In schimb, in spate, in dreptul Giocondei au inceput sa se adune pina la nivelului C.S.P.-ului.
    –Cam citi sint?
    –Aproximativ 100. Cei mai multi sint pasnici.
    –Catargul, sint Catargul 4.
    –Se pare ca spre Cismigiu se aud scandari. Populatie multa.
    –Deci Tridentul, ait receptionat ca la Cismigiu se pare ca s-a format din nou o grupare.
    –La Catargul 2 e liniste.
    –Catargul 4, raportez ca nu se mai aude nimic dinspre Cismigiu acum.
    –La Catargul 3 e liniste.
    –La Catargul 1 nimic deosebit, 2 nimic deosebit, la 3 se formeaza un dispozitiv cu virf inainte, care se lanseaza catre Luterana si se formeaza acum al doilea dispozitiv, probabil ca in spate. Nu am posibilitati de vedere.
    I.S.M.B.–Pentru /2 sa vina la baza sau ce face?
    –Da, sa vina urgent.
    –Da, da, vine imediat.
    –Putem trece cu escorta a doua si cu intiia?
    –Nu se poate. Sint deplasati tocmai la Comonauti, restaurantul Gradinita.
    –Pai, si-i indepartam.
    –(Da, sau am inteles).
    –Sint forte acuma?
    –Da, sint.
    –Sa-i indeparteze spre Romana incolo, dar cu grija sa n-o ia pe Dorobanti.
    –Am inteles !
    –Tridentul, sint Catargul.
    –La intersectia Luterana cu Stirbei Voda (intreruperi repetati).
    –Vad explozii la Union. Sint Catargul 2.
    –Tridentul, sint Catargul 5. S-au auzit 4-5 explozii puternice!
    –De la Union, de acolo s-au auzit. Le-am vazut si noi explozile, de aici la Catargul 2, de la Athenee Palace.
    –Catargul 5, ai sa-mi comunici ceva?
    –Catargul sint Catargul 5. Undeva spre Continental, nu am vizibilitate, se mai aude strigind asa, ca un ecou (…)
    (Continuare in numarul viitor)

  5. romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 said

    January 8, 2009 at 2:45 am eRegarding the following sentence from Chapter 6 (written in 1996), “This rumor seems to be confirmed by the observation of an Army soldier who witnessed the exhumation of twenty-seven bodies from the Timisoara “Paupers’ cemetery” in January 1990: some of the corpses bore clear signs of treated wounds.[12]

    [12].. Liviu Stefanut, interview by Dan Preisz, “Teroristii Timisoarei,” Romania Libera, 21 April 1994, 6. Although Securitate Colonel Teodorescu vehemently denies this allegation, his description of what went on during these days at the county hospital only serves to heighten such suspicion (Teodorescu, Un Risc Asumat, 87-89). Hospital staff maintain that the Securitate conducted brutal interrogations and that no medical staff were present, see the comments of Curpas Florica in Titus Suciu, Reportaj cu Sufletul la Gura [Reporting with Your Soul in Your Throat] (Timisoara: Editura Facla, 1990), 145.

    Marius Mioc claims that I confused the Paupers’ cemetery (cimitirul saracilor) and the Heroes’ cemetery (cimitirul eroilor) in this passage and that there were 10 not 27 corpses (see My words, however, are based on those of the soldier (Liviu Stefanut) who was interviewed. Here is what Stefanut said:

    “In fata unitatii [UM 01864/I au fost 3 sau 4. Cei mai multi au fost impuscati la baricada, dupa ce s-a iesit din unitate. Nu s-a mai spus, pana acum, ca acesti 18 morti–intre care si o fetita de 10 ani–au fost ingropati, ca inca vreo cativa, cu excavatorul, in Cimitirul Saracilor, chiar pe Calea Lipovei, la o statie de troleibuze de unitate…Stiu ca au fost descoperiti pe 20 ianuarie, de noi, pentru ca s-a aflat ca au fost ingropati cu excavatorul. Si eu am asistat la dezgropare, la primii 17…Dupa aceea, nu am mai rezistat…Deja era o luna si patru zile de cand fusesera impuscati. 18 dintre ei au fost omorati la baricada din Calea Lipovei. Au fost mai multi ingropati, vreo 27, am impresia. Deci, au fost impuscati, dusi la doctor, operati, scoase gloantele, cusuti. S-ar putea ca unii dintre ei sa fi fost vii cand au fost scosi din spital, dusi acolo, ingropati, daca nu cumva ingropate de vii.”

    It is unclear here whether Stefanut is conflating the two cemeteries, mixing elements of the two different events toegether or basing his knowledge of the events on more hearsay than he is willing to admit. Nevertheless, what he describes here, based on the date, is as Marius Mioc points out NOT the Paupers cemetery (cimitirul saracilor), but the Heroes cemetery (cimitirul eroilor).

    Marius Mioc thus does us an important service in clarifying this confusion…because as is well-known the case of the Paupers’ cemetery with unearthed corpses that turned out to not have been from those who died as a result of the bloodshed became a cause celebre, particularly among those of a post-modernist bent. The terrible, tragic irony is that while publications such as Le Figaro and other French press were reporting in late January about the supposed “false massacre” in Timisoara–based on the Paupers’ cemetery incident–they were overlooking the real elements of the Timisoara massacre–the 15 January 1990 discovery of 10 bodies in the Heroes’ cemetery, including the tragic better-known cases of Luminita Botoc (age 14, shot on 17 December) and Sorin Leia (age 23, shot on 18 December).

    A look at some of the most influential, or at least sensationalist literature (for example, Michel Castex), on the December 1989 events in Romania, reveals much discussion of the alleged “staged massacre that never happened” of the Paupers cemetery–referred to as “The Timisoara Syndrome” by some–is coupled with NO mention of the 15 January 1990 discovery of real victims of the December bloodshed in the Heroes cemetery.
    Witness two classic cases:

    Jean Baudrillard (trans. Chris Turner), The Illusion of the End (Cambridge, Polity Press, 1994), pp. 54-61 “The Timisoara massacre.”

    p. 55 “It was not the dead that were the scandal, but the corpses being pressed into appearing before the television cameras, as in the past dead souls were pressed into appearance in the register of deaths.”

    p. 60 “And yet there will, nonetheless, have been a kind of verdict in this Romanian affair, and the artificial heaps of corpses will have been of some use, all the same one might ask whether the Romanians, by the very excessiveness of this staged event and the simulacrum of their revolution, have not served as demistifyers of news and its guiding principle…Who can say what responsibility attaches to the televisual production of a false massacre (Timisoara), as compared with the perpetrating of a true massacre?”

    Andrei Codrescu (well-known poet and National Public Radio commentator), The Hole in the Flag. A Romanian Exile’s Story of Return and Revolution (New York, William Morrow and Company, 1991), pp. 203-204 (in February 2005 in Jurnalul National, Vladimir Tismaneanu described Codrescu’s account unreservedly and memorably as “impeccably accurate”):

    “The Romanian ‘Revolution’ was entirely televised, all those of us who believed for years with Gil Scott-Heron that ‘the revolution will not be televised’ were shaken by it. In truth, there were two revolutions: a real revolution that was not televised and that continues, particularly in Timisoara, and a studio revolution that fooled the entire world. Who could forget the piles of corpses stacked like cordwood in front of the Timisoara cathedral?…Or the image of the mother and child shot with a single bullet, lying in the arms of death? Watching these images in New Orleans via CNN, I was moved and enraged, along with millions of others in the world. We now know. The mass graves discovered in Timisoara and presented to the world as proof of the Hitlerite insanity of Securitate were in fact bodies dug out of a pauper’s cemetery with autopsy scars visible. Many of them were in an advanced state of decay…And the extraordinary picture of the mother and her baby killed with the same bullet, seen thousands of times on all the world’s TV screens, was a gross collage. A woman who had died of alcoholism had had an unrelated dead baby placed on her chest for video purposes. Someone made a neat bullet hole in both bodies.”

    Marius Mioc brings us back to reality, however, explaining how desperation to find loved ones, and not some grand “staged” event, led to the frantic digging up of the graves on 22 December 1989 in the Paupers cemetery…and how some of those being sought were only discovered in the common grave dug up in the Heroes cemetery on 15 January 1990…

    “Despre sute de cadavre filmate eu n-am auzit, am auzit de 2 filmări, una din 22 decembrie 1989 şi una din ianuarie 1990, fiecare cu vreo 10 cadavre. Că de la o filmare cu 10 cadavre unii ajung să-şi închipuie că au văzut sute sau mii de cadavre e problema lor şi a psihologilor.

    Filmarea din 22 decembrie a fost cu cadavre dezgropate din cimitirul săracilor. Aceia nu erau morţi din revoluţie ci sărăntoci fără familie îngropaţi pe cheltuiala Primăriei. Familiile celor morţi în revoluţie, care nu găseau cadavrele celor dragi (fuseseră incinerate, dar nu se ştia asta pe atunci), în disperare au căutat pe unde le-a trecut prin minte, şi au dezgropat şi morţii de la cimitirul săracilor. S-a crezut atunci sincer că aceia sînt morţi din revoluţie.

    În ianuarie 1990 s-a descoperit o altă groapă comună, la cimitirul eroilor, iar aceasta era într-adevăr cu morţi din revoluţie, îngropaţi cam prin 27 decembrie fiindcă nimeni nu-i revendica şi mirosea urît la morgă, nu mai puteau să-i ţină. Cazuri concrete sînt Sorin Leia sau Luminiţa Boţoc

    Here is the case of Luminita Botoc and her father: his fruitless search first on 22 December 1989 at the Paupers cemetery, and then tragically finding his dead daughter on 15 January 1990 at the Heroes cemetery:

    Gasita in groapa comuna

    Botoc Luminita Florina

    nascuta in 16 aprilie 1976 la Timisoara, eleva, gasita in ianuarie 1990 in groapa comuna din cimitirul eroilor

    Botoc Virgil (tata):

    nascut in 1952 in comuna Focuri, sat Fintinele (jud. Iasi), cioplitor in marmura

    In 17 decembrie pe la ora 19-19,30 am auzit o coloana de manifestanti care treceau prin fata blocului (str. Pomiculturii – n.n.) strigind “Jos Ceausescu!”, “Romani veniti cu noi!”, “Si voi sinteti romani!”.

    Fetele Luminita, Cristina si Lacramioara au coborit. Luminita s-a dus cu manifestantii.

    Dupa un timp am iesit pe balcon si am vazut ca s-au tras trei rachete rosii. I-am zis nevestei: “Ceva nu-i in regula! O sa se deschida focul!”. Peste 5-10 minute am auzit focuri de arma.

    Am vazut ca Luminita nu se intoarce. M-am gindit ca a vazut ca se trage si a ramas la o prietena peste noapte.

    Dimineata m-am dus in Calea Lipovei si m-am intilnit cu colegul Avadanei Stefan care mi-a povestit ca au fost morti. I-am zis ca si fata mea a fost printre manifestanti iar el mi-a spus ca printre morti se afla si o fata cu fis rosu, asa cum era imbracata Luminita. Avadanei mi-a spus ca toti ranitii si mortii au fost dusi la Clinicile Noi. Am plecat la Clinicile Noi. Acolo, autopsierul mi-a spus ca fata mea a fost moarta si a trimis-o la morga, la spitalul judetean.

    A 2-a zi (19) am fost la spitalul judetean. Am mers la doctorul Dressler care s-a uitat in registre si a spus ca nu este nici un mort in morga. Am intrebat cum nu este nici un mort ca de la Clinicile Noi fata mea a fost adusa aicea. Un soldat in uniforma M.Ap.N., de vreo 18-19 ani, a venit cu arma asupra mea si a spus de ce fac galagie si sa plec imediat ca ma impusca.

    In 20 sotia s-a dus cu o vecina la spital s-o caute pe Luminita. A vorbit cu un militian, i-a spus de fata. Militianul a dus-o in spital. Acolo erau trei domni imbracati in halate albe si cu arme la ei. Nevasta le-a dat datele fetei si o fotografie, iar domnii aceia i-au spus sa mearga acasa linistita, ca o sa ne anunte ei daca Luminita e ranita sau moarta.

    In 22 dimineata la cimitirul saracilor s-au dezgropat niste morti. Am fost si eu acolo sa vad daca n-o gasesc pe Luminita. Aici era o groapa comuna, o alta groapa cu un singur mort si inca un mort in capela. Mortii fusesera ingropati dezbracati. Unii erau cusuti cu sirma, cel din capela avea si picioarele legate cu sirma. Am scos mortii, i-am pus pe niste cearsafuri.

    O masina a trecut pe Calea Lipovei si anunta de la o statie de amplificare ca Ceausescu a fost prins.

    La spitalul judetean n-am mai fost fiindca mi se spusese ca acolo nu mai sint morti si auzisem ca mortii de acolo au fost dusi la Bucuresti.

    In 24 decembrie am fost la procuratura, am dat declaratii si fotografia fetei. Procurorul Balan mi-a spus ca are 60 de teroristi arestati si va cerceta daca recunoaste vreunul fotografia.

    In 15 ianuarie iar am fost la tribunal si procurorul Balan mi-a spus ca pina acum nimeni n-a recunoscut-o pe fiica mea. Dupa ce am iesit de la tribunal, am aflat ca in cimitirul Eroilor s-a descoperit o noua groapa comuna. Am mers acolo. In groapa erau 11 morti, printre care si Luminita.

    18 martie 1995

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Rewriting the Revolution (1997): Chapter 5 Timisoara 15-17 December 1989

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on April 4, 2009

A chapter from 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). This is the original chapter as it appeared then and thus has not been revised in any form.

Chapter Five

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.[1]

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

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

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.[4] 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.[5] 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…[6]

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.[7] 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…[8]

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.”[9]

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.[10]

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.[11]

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.”[12]

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].”[13] 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.[14] 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…”[15] 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.[16] Pavel Corut also invokes Rosca Stanescu’s interview in support his arguments.[17] 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.[18]

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.[19] 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.[20]

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.[21] 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.[22] 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….[23]

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.[24]

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.[25]

“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.[26] 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.[27]

“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?[28]

Ecaterina Radoi alleges that Tokes had informed his congregation of his imminent arrest on Sunday, 10 December 1989.[29] 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.[30] 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.[31]

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.[32]

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.[33] 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.[34] This reflected both the regime’s increasing fear of Tokes’ dissidence and Sima’s well-known zealotry.[35]

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.[36]

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.[37]

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.[38] 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.[39]

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.[40] 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.[41] 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.[42]

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.[43] 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.[44]

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.[45] 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.”[46] 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.”[47]

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.”[48] 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.[49]

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.[50]

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![51] 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.”[52] 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.”[53] 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!”[54] 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.[55]

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.[56] 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.[57]

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.”[58] Tokes and his wife were taken by car out of Timisoara. Initially, they believed they would be killed.[59] 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![60] 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.[61]

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.[62]

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.”[63] 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.[64] 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.[65]

Former Securitate officers clearly wish to link this destruction to the “foreign tourists” who were supposedly so ubiquitous in Timisoara during these days.[66] 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.[67]

“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.”[68]

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.[69]

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![70]

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.[71] 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!”[72] 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.[73]

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.[74] 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![75]

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.[76]

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.[77]

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.[78]

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.[79]

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.[80]

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.[81] 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.”[82] 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.”[83] 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.[84]

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.[85] 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…[86]

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.”[87] 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.[88]

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.”[89] 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.[90] 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.[91] 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.[92]

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.[93] 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.[94] 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.[95] 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.[96]

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.[97]

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.”[98] 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.”[99] Moreover, according to Romanescu: “it is well-known that the Militia served as the cover for the majority of the USLA’s personnel.”[100]

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.[101] 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.[102] 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...[103]

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.[104] 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.[105] The USLA was also spotted making mass arrests in the center of town.[106] 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.[107]

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.[108]

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.[109]

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.[110]

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.[111] 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.”[112]

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…[113]

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…”[114]


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.


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

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

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

[4].. 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.

[5].. 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.

[6].. 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.

[7].. See Vlad’s testimony in Mircea Bunea, “Da sau Ba?” Adevarul, 16 February 1991, in Bunea, Praf in Ochi, 460-461.

[8].. Ibid.

[9].. Pavel Corut, Cantecul Nemuririi [The Song of Immortality] (Bucharest: Editura Miracol, 1994), 165.

[10].. 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.

[11].. Sergiu Nicolaescu, interview by Ion Cristoiu, “Moartea lui Milea, Momentul Crucial al Caderii,” Expres Magazin, no. 48 (8-15 December 1993), 31.

[12].. Ibid.

[13].. 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.

[14].. Sorin Rosca Stanescu, “Iliescu aparat de K.G.B.? [Iliescu defended by the KGB]” Romania Libera, 18 April 1991, 8.

[15].. 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.

[16].. 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.”

[17].. 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.

[18].. 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.

[19].. 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.

[20].. Ibid., 73.

[21].. 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.

[22].. Ibid., 11.

[23].. Ibid.

[24].. Ibid., 12.

[25].. Excerpts from Ultimul Decembrie in Radu Ciobotea, “Inceputul Sfirsitului [The Beginning of the End],” Flacara, no. 51 (19 December 1990), 6.

[26].. 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).

[27].. Ibid.

[28].. Stoian, Decembrie ‘89, 9.

[29].. Ecaterina Radoi, “Remember 15 decembrie 1989-20 mai 1990,” Zig-Zag, no. 190 (23-31 December 1993), 4-7.

[30].. 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.

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[31].. 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.

[32].. Martyn Rady, Romania in Turmoil (New York: IB Tauris & Co. Ltd., 1992), 83-86.

[33].. Ibid., 86; Tokes, With God, for the People, 105-109.

[34].. F. Puspoki, “Piramida Umbrelor (II) [The Pyramid of Shadows (II)],” Orizont, no. 10 (9 March 1990), 4.

[35].. 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.

[36].. 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).”

[37].. Ibid., 120.

[38].. 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).

[39].. Rady, Romania in Turmoil, 87; Puspoki, “Piramida Umbrelor (II)”; Tokes, With God, for the People, 139.

[40].. Puspoki, “Piramida Umbrelor (III),” Orizont, no. 11 (16 March 1990), 4.

[41].. Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea, 78.

[42].. Puspoki, “Piramida Umbrelor (III).”

[43].. Teodorescu, Un Risc Asumat, 45-46.

[44].. Ibid., 90.

[45].. Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea, 78.

[46].. Puspoki, “Piramida Umbrelor (II).”

[47].. Ibid.

[48].. Tokes, With God, for the People, 1-4.

[49].. For information on the evolution of events on the 15 December see ibid., 1-20.

[50].. Ibid.

[51].. Ibid., 145-151.

[52].. Ibid., 153.

[53].. Ibid., 155.

[54].. 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.

[55].. 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.

[56].. The fire department was a component of the Interior Ministry.

[57].. Milin, “Sapte zile…(II)”; idem, “Sapte zile (III).”

[58].. Tokes, With God, for the People, 165.

[59].. 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).

[60].. Mircea Balan, “Masacrul,” Cuvintul, no. 37 (9-15 October 1990), 7.

[61].. Ibid.; testimony of Florica Curpas, medical assistant, in Titus Suciu, Reportaj cu Sufletul la Gura (Timisoara: Editura Facla, 1990), 62-63.

[62].. Balan, “Masacrul.”

[63].. Nestor Ratesh, Romania: The Entangled Revolution (New York: Praeger, 1991), 29.

[64].. Suciu, Reportaj cu Sufletul, 75, 104.

[65].. 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.

[66].. See, for example, the comments of Radu Tinu, the deputy director of the Timis County Securitate, in Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea, 67-85.

[67].. 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.

[68].. 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.

[69].. Modorcea, “Spargerea Geamurilor,” 8.

[70].. Ibid.

[71].. Balan, “Masacrul.”

[72].. Tokes, With God, for the People, 153, 156.

[73].. Ibid., 156.

[74].. Balan, “Masacrul.”

[75].. Suciu, Reportaj cu Sufletul, 96.

[76].. 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.

[77].. Ibid., 71, 122. Some of the eyewitnesses cited in Modorcea, “Spargerea Geamurilor,” say similar things; Modorcea, however, gives them a very different interpretation.

[78].. Balan, “Masacrul.”

[79].. Puspoki, “Piramida Umbrelor (III).”

[80].. Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea, 80.

[81].. For the text of the transcript see Bunea, Praf in Ochi, 23-35.

[82].. Ibid., 31.

[83].. Ibid., 34.

[84].. Ibid., 29.

[85].. Florica Curpas, medical assistant, in Suciu, Reportaj cu Sufletul, 63.

[86].. A Group of Former Securitate Officers, “Asa va place revolutia.”

[87].. Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea, 42-44.

[88].. 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.

[89].. 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.

[90].. Bunea, Praf in Ochi, 27.

[91].. 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.

[92].. 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.

[93].. Gheorghe Ardeleanu in Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea, 115.

[94].. See the 8 March 1990 Rompres dispatch in FBIS-EEU-90-051, 15 March 1990, 57.

[95].. 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.

[96].. Idem, “Flori pentru ‘uslasi’ [Flowers for the USLA],” Tineretul Liber, 7 March 1990, 3.

[97].. 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.

[98].. Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea, 115.

[99].. Puspoki, “Piramida Umbrelor (III).”

[100].. Romanescu, “USLA, Bula Moise,” 8.

[101].. 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).

[102].. Suciu, Reportaj cu Sufletul, 36-37.

[103].. Ibid.

[104].. Vasile Popovici, Viorel Marineasa, and Marius Romulus Proks, “Cazul Tokes (VIII),” Orizont, no. 10 (9 March 1990), 5.

[105].. See Dr. Atanasie Barzeanu’s comments in Suciu, Reportaj cu Sufletul, 44.

[106].. Dan Mindrila, “Armata si uscaturile ei,” Gazeta de Vest, no. 3, 6; idem, “Din armata pentru zeita Cali,” Gazeta de Vest, no. 4, 6.

[107].. Alexandra Indries, “Ce am trait,” Orizont, no. 4 (16 January 1990), 5.

[108].. A.M. Press (Dolj County), “Dezvaluiri despre implicarea USLA in evenimentele din Decembrie ‘89,” Romania Libera, 28 December 1994, 3.

[109].. See the Military Prosecutor’s charges in Teodorescu, Un Risc Asumat, 285.

[110].. 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.

[111].. 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.

[112].. Brucan, The Wasted Generation, 183.

[113].. Marian Romanescu with Dan Badea, “USLA, Bula Moise,” 8.

[114].. Ibid.

4 Responses to “Rewriting the Revolution (1997): Chapter 5 Timisoara 15-17 December 1989”

  1. romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 said

    January 2, 2009 at 11:20 pm eIn legatura cu cine a tras la Timisoara…

    Nr. 1238 de luni, 20 iulie 1998
    Arhiva Pagina de start Redactia

    Detalii »

    deschide »
    ZIUA va prezinta un document exceptional privind represiunea din decembrie ‘89
    Lista securistilor si militienilor care au tras la Timisoara
    24 de arme apartinand cadrelor Securitatii, 64 -militienilor, iar 24 altor cadre din Ministerul de Interne au fost depuse la rastel innegrite de funingine * Printre cei care s-au intors din misiune cu armele afumate se afla si actualul sef al SRI Timis, col. Vasile Petrea

    ZIUA va prezinta tabelul cu securistii si militenii din Timis care, in decembrie ‘89, si-au depus la rastel armele innegrite de funingine. Acesta contrazice afirmatiile col. (rez.) Gheorghe Ratiu, fost sef al Directiei 1 din Departamentul Securitatii Statului, care a declarat intr-un interviu realizat in 1990 ca “trupele de securitate nu au tras nici un cartus in nimeni, nici sa se apere, nici sa atace”. Documentul prezentat de noi este copia unui proces-verbal intocmit de o comisie de control MApN/MI la 8 ianuarie 1990, la UM 01024 Timisoara, care are mentiunea “secret de serviciu”. Comisia mixta a procedat la verificarea armamentului de la organele de securitate, politie si persoane civile din Timisoara. Procesul-verbal contine un tabel cu armamentul gasit, in urma verificarii, “cu urme de funingine”. Pe langa seriile armelor respective, in tabel sunt trecute si numele cadrelor carora le-a apartinut armamentul cu pricina. Dintre acestea, 24 sunt din Securitate, 28 din Politia judeteana Timis, 36 din Politia municipiului Timisoara si 24 – alte cadre ale Ministerului de Interne.
    Un document fara drept de replica
    Procesul-verbal precizeaza ca din cele 531 de pistoale calibru 7,65 mm model 1974 verificate, 42 au fost gasite cu funingine, din 726 pistoale-mitraliera calibru 7,62 mm model 1963 cu pat rabatabil, 70 au avut aceleasi urme, iar din 60 de pistoale-mitraliera cu pat rabatabil de acelasi calibru, insa model 1980, 7 au suferit de aceeasi “meteahna”. S-au mai gasit cu urme de funingine (pe teava, bineinteles): 5 pusti-mitraliera cal. 7,62 mm model 1964 (din 77 verificate), 2 pusti semiautomate cu luneta (din 3), precum si 1 (una) mitraliera cal.7,62 PKMS de pe ABI, din 2 verificate. Au ramas nemanjite de funingine 5 mitraliere 7,62 mm model 1966, 3 pistoale 7,65 mm “Walter” PP cu amortizor, 11 aruncatoare de grenade AG-7 si 2 carabine 7,62 mm model 1974 cu luneta.
    Acestea nu sunt, insa, singurele dovezi ca numeroase cadre din Securitate si Militie au tras in demonstranti in decembrie 1989, laolalta cu militari din cadrul Armatei.
    In concluziile in fond puse de (atunci) cpt. de justitie Romeo Balan, procuror-sef adjunct al Parchetului Militar Timisoara in dosarul nr. 6/1990 al Curtii Supreme de Justitie (privind “Lotul Timisoara”), sunt invocate si alte probe care vin sa demonstreze vinovatia Securitatii in reprimarea sangeroasa a Revolutiei. Iata ce sustine Romeo Balan (astazi prim-procuror al Parchetului Militar Timisoara), in concluziile sale:
    “Inainte de constituirea comandamentelor, din ordinul generalului Macri si al conducerii inspectoratului judetean Timis al MI, in jurul orelor 14.00, cadrele de securitate si militie s-au inarmat cu pistoale si pistoale-mitraliera, cu munitie de razboi. De mentionat ca in 17.12.1989, fortele MI au fost primele care s-au inarmat si au fost dotate cu munitie reala.
    Martorul Constantin Gheorghe, fost subofiter in cadrul Serviciului USLA Timis, declara ca, in dupa-amiaza zilei de 17.12.1989, din ordinul lt. col. Atudoroaie Gheorghe (adjunct al Securitatii judetului Timis-n.r.), a distribuit 43 de pistoale-mitraliera si munitie, unor cadre USLA si altor cadre de securitate care s-au prezentat. Martorul precizeaza ca a distribuit armament si munitie fara nici o evidenta si ca atunci cand nu a mai avut arme in magazie, a trimis celelalte cadre la depozitul unde era gestionar M.M. Pantea Ambrozie.
    Martorul M.M. Pantea Ambrozie, gestionar la Depozitul de armament si munitie al inspectoratului, a distribuit in 17.12.1989, la ordin, 272 de pistoale-mitraliera cu munitia aferenta, unor cadre de securitate si militie. Martorul a distribuit armamentul pe baza de semnatura, intocmind in acest sens un tabel, ce a fost depus in copie la dosarul cauzei.
    Din examinarea tabelului intocmit de M.M. Pantea Ambrozie, rezulta ca primii care s-au inarmat au fost 114 ofiteri si subofiteri de securitate, din care 29 de la Serviciul USLA, 22 de la Serviciul I, 7 de la Serviciul II, 17 de la Serviciul III, 21 de la Serviciul tehnic si 18 de la alte servicii. De mentionat ca o parte din cadrele de securitate au ridicat in mod repetat munitie in 17.12.1989 si, dintre acestia, exemplificam pe cpt. Bratosin Tudor, Serviciul I, lt. Dragomir Florin, PCTF, lt. Iaru Florin si plt. Timbula-Cojocaru Gheorghe, ambii de la Serviciul USLA. Si nu intamplator, la verificarea efectuata de comisia mixta MApN/MI, s-a constatat ca armele acestor cadre au prezentat urme de funingine, denotand faptul ca s-a tras cu acestea (a se vedea procesul-verbal S.201/12.01.1990, depus in xerocopie la instanta). De altfel, s-au constatat urme de funingine la armele apartinand unui numar de 28 de cadre de securitate. Rezulta astfel ca in 17.12.1989, 157 cadre de securitate au ridicat armament si munitie de la magaziile unde erau gestionari Constantin Gheorghe si Pantea Ambrozie.
    Tot in 17.12.1989, 158 cadre de militie au ridicat de la depozitul de armament al inspectoratului, pistoale-mitraliera si munitie de razboi. Unii din acestia au ridicat in mod repetat munitie sau cantitati mari de armament si munitie. Exemplificam in acest sens: lt. maj. Peptan Eugen a ridicat peste 1.000 de cartuse de razboi. Pe teava armei avuta in dotare s-au constatat urme de funingine. Lt. Zlavog a ridicat 10 pistoale-mitraliera si 40 de incarcatoare cu 1.320 cartuse de razboi. Pe tevile a doua din aceste pistoale-mitraliera s-au gasit urme de funingine. Plt. Suru a ridicat 1.320 cartuse de razboi, iar serg. maj. Nica a ridicat, in afara armamentului individual, 17 incarcatoare a cate 30 de cartuse fiecare. Si exemplele ar putea continua (…). Urme de funingine s-au identificat si pe teava pistolului-mitraliera ce a fost in dotarea inc. mr. rez. Veverca Iosif, trimis in judecata pentru infractiunea de omor.”
    In realitate, numarul celor care au tras e cu mult mai mare
    O precizare se impune. Desi in tabelul publicat de noi sunt trecute doar numele a 24 cadre din Securitate, pe armele carora s-au gasit urme de funingine (deci care au tras), in realitate numarul acestora este mai mare. In originalul procesului-verbal S.201/12.01.1990, depus in xerocopie la instanta, se vorbeste de armele afumate a 28 cadre de Securitate (vezi sustinerea procurorului militar Romeo Balan). Copia acestui proces-verbal, pe care o detinem noi, are nr. S.336/19.01.1990 si contine varianta “revazuta” a tabelului, din care lipsesc numele a patru securisti. Cine sunt ei? O stiu, cu siguranta, fostul comandant al Garnizoanei Timisoara, general-maior Gheorghe Popescu, care a vizat respectiva copie si actualul comandant al aceleiasi garnizoane, generalul Florin Mancu, pe atunci sef de stat major al UM 01024, care a semnat “pentru conformitate”.
    Nu este lipsit de importanta nici faptul ca, printre securistii care au inapoiat armamentul din dotare avand indicii clare ca s-a executat foc cu acesta, se afla, la pozitia 6 din tabel, si cpt.Vasile Petrea (pistol cal.7,65 mm, seria AC-4164). Astazi, respectivul ofiter a fost avansat, fiind colonel si sef al SRI Timis.
    Laurian IEREMEIOV

  2. romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 said

    January 10, 2009 at 12:40 pm eRegarding Cornel Ivanciuc. Back in 1995, several all-knowing Romanianists directed me rather pedantically to read Ivanciuc’s series in “22.” I had already read it and I had my suspicions because of the similarity of arguments I was familiar with from reading the Securitate apologist press and literature. This is also why I mentioned Ivanciuc in my short article “Doublespeak: The All-Too-Familiar Tales of Nicolae Ceausescu’s Double”:

    Burlan’ s argument that the revolution was “staged,” some group other than the Securitate was responsible for the post-22 bloodshed, and that the Securitate did not open fire is a familiar tale by now. What has changed through the years is that certain variants—including the DIA variant Burlan markets—have become more common in the literature and interviews of the former Securitate and Ceausescu nostalgists. One doesn’t have to look far to see former high-ranking Securitate officers accrediting the idea that DIA, and most assuredly not the Securitate, bears responsibility for the December bloodshed. Just in the past three years, former Securitate officials such as Nicolae Plesita, Teodor Filip, and Ion Hotnog have argued this thesis. Nor is it the least bit surprising that these same officials marry the thesis with another perennial Securitate favorite: the suggestion that Russian and Hungarian agents posing as tourists—for those who with a distaste for detail, “occult forces”—played a seminal role in provoking the downfall of the Ceausescu regime and in the bloodshed that followed the Ceausescus’ flight from power. (For additional discussion of these ” tourists” see l.)

    The DIA variant, so dear to the hearts of Ceausescu’s double and his Securitate counterparts, has a long and fabled history. In the early and mid-1990s, it became a favorite of the opposition to the communist successor regime of President Ion Iliescu—an opposition that included many of those who had suffered most under the old regime. (After being voted out in 1996, Iliescu returned to the presidency in the 2000 elections.) In the opposition press, noted journalists such as Ioan Itu and Ilie Stoian at “Tinerama,” Cornel Ivanciuc at “22″ and later at “Academia Catavencu, ” and Petre Mihai Bacanu at “Romania Libera” promoted the DIA thesis at one time or another.

    My suspicions were not for nothing in Ivanciuc’s case as it turns out, see:

  3. romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 said

    January 10, 2009 at 12:45 pm eRegarding suspicions surrounding Horia Alexandrescu, see:

  4. romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 said

    January 15, 2009 at 11:29 pm eAtunci in 1995-1996, n-am stiut. Acum stim. Materialul publicat sub numele lui “Puspoki F” in Orizont din martie 1990, serialul “Piramida Umbrelor,” au venit din partea lui Roland Vasilevici, fost securist, Directia I (culte), judetul Timis. In 1990-1991, cartea lui, intitulat “Piramida Umbrelor” a aparut. Datele sint aceleasi.

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