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 ‘romanian revolution of december 1989’

THE 1989 ROMANIAN REVOLUTION AS GEOPOLITICAL PARLOR GAME: BRANDSTATTER’S “CHECKMATE” DOCUMENTARY AND THE LATEST WAVE IN A SEA OF REVISIONISM by Richard Andrew Hall

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on July 25, 2009

THE 1989 ROMANIAN REVOLUTION AS GEOPOLITICAL PARLOR GAME: BRANDSTATTER’S “CHECKMATE” DOCUMENTARY AND THE LATEST WAVE IN A SEA OF REVISIONISM

By Richard Andrew Hall

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

Richard Andrew Hall holds a BA from the University of Virginia (1988) and a PhD from Indiana University (1997). He joined the CIA in September 2000 and served as a Romanian Political Analyst from October 2000 to April 2001. Since October 2001, he has worked as an analyst on issues unrelated to eastern Europe. He published extensively on the Romanian Revolution and its historiography prior to joining the Agency, including the Romanian journals “22” and “Sfera Politicii” in 1996, “East European Politics and Societies,” in 1999, and “Europe-Asia Studies” in 2000. He can be reached for comment on this series at hallria@msn.com.

This article is not to be cited, reproduced, translated, or used in any form without the acknowledgement and permission of the author.

***Dedicated to the memory of Ilinca Zarifopol Johnston, a radiant spirit, who called me mormoloc (tadpole) and surdulica (little deaf one), and withstood my earnestness as a first-year Romanian and graduate student to help me translate my first articles from the Romanian press about the Revolution.***


Part 1: Opening Moves

–Any history is in fact two histories: the history being told and the history of the period in which it is being told. The recording of the past is always to some extent prisoner to the present in which it is recorded.

Take revisionist histories of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. Such accounts generally insinuate that, at the very least, senior US officials had foreknowledge of the attacks and cynically did nothing to prevent them, or, even more diabolically, elements of the US government and political and economic elites launched the attacks against their own people in order to pursue an insatiable thirst for power and riches. True, such revisionist suspicions exist across the globe—including in the United States—but they have gained greater mass media exposure and notably sizable (if still minority) popular interest and acceptance in some countries more than others.

Revisionist theories of the September 2001 attacks appear to have found their most vocal proponents in France and Germany. The most prominent and influential of these revisionist accounts are probably those of the French author Thierry Meyssan (“The Horrifying Fraud”) and former (West) German Cabinet minister Andreas von Bulow (“The CIA and the 11th of September, International Terror and the Role of the Secret Services”) (for summary and analysis of these accounts see, for example, “Wall Street Journal,” 29 September 2003, “New York Times,” 22 June 2002, and “The Washington Post,” 21 July 2002).* It must be pointed out that, according to public opinion surveys, the extreme contentions and accusations lobbed by Meyssan and von Bulow are rejected by overwhelming majorities of the populations in both these countries, and co-nationals from across the political spectrum have heavily criticized their revisionist theories (Reuters, 11 September 2003; “New York Times,” 22 June 2002). These theories are neither inevitable nor even representative of political, media, intellectual, or public opinion in these countries. Nevertheless, we are left with the questions of why these two European countries and why now?

The history of these countries and of their relations with the US and the historical political culture of their intellectual and media elites surely play a role. However, it is also clear that the contemporary global geopolitical condition and intellectual and political climate in France and Germany are at work. The books of Meyssan and von Bulow reflect the “zeitgeist” in which they are written: the perception and reality of the disparity of power between the United States and the rest of the world, fear and resentment of American hegemony, and suspicion of the motives driving American foreign policy. Just as the 11 September 2001 attacks are somewhat difficult to imagine happening 15 years earlier—when the bipolarity of the Cold War still prevailed—so it is difficult to imagine the depth of suspicion of US leaders and the broad toleration and acceptance of these revisionist theories in the Western Europe of 15 years ago.

A NEW WAVE OF FRANCO-GERMAN REVISIONISM GREETS THE 1989 ROMANIAN REVOLUTION

Such recent Franco-German revisionism has not been confined to the events of the 21st century, however. It is also being projected back into the events of the late 20th century. A new school of Franco-German conspiracy theory about the Romanian Revolution of December 1989 has developed in the last few years. Film director Susanne Brandstatter’s “Checkmate” documentary about the overthrow of Nicolae Ceausescu—broadcast for the first time on the Franco-German channel “TV Arte” in late February 2004—is probably the best exposition of this new school. Appearing as it did, during the year that marked the 15th anniversary of the Revolution, the film prompted much publicity and discussion in Romania.

Reflecting on the biggest events of 2004 in the daily that “broke the story,” “Jurnalul National,” journalist Marina Constantinoiu recalled:

“[It all began when] I merely reprinted an article/commentary about this interesting film that had been published in the online TV supplement of the French weekly ‘Le Nouvel Observateur.’ The next day ‘the madness’ started. There followed a torrent of reactions, the telephones at the newspaper were ringing off the hook, with all kinds of people expressing their agreement or disagreement with the documentary’s claim, some even bringing proof to support one or the other versions. ‘Jurnalul National’ prompted a true national debate, starting from a simple television documentary.” (“Jurnalul National,” 30 December 2004).

Although undoubtedly engaging in the same kind of self-interested media hype as Constantinoiu, it is telling of the impact of the documentary that the night after the TV Arte broadcast, Hungarian Television devoted a show to discussing a film that the host described as “having even before its screening already provoked a wave of reactions across the globe” (Magyar Televizio 1, 2004). During the program, a Hungarian reporter in Bucharest relayed Romanian reaction as the film was broadcast for the first time on Romanian television.

Brandstatter’s film, the coverage it provoked in the French, Romanian, and Hungarian media, the debates it sparked, and its comparison with previous investigations of the Revolution are the subject of this paper. Although the conclusions of Brandstatter’s film reflect contemporary geopolitical relations, her methodology of investigation continues a long tradition in both foreign and Romanian studies of the December 1989 events, and the content of the film is heavily reliant upon claims and allegations that have circulated for years—many back to 1990—in Romania.

The conclusions of Brandstatter’s film are consistent with and probably reflect the broader contemporary trend of ascribing a seemingly limitless propensity and capacity for manipulation and skullduggery to the United States. At the same time, however, the content of the film is a product of enduring and perhaps intensifying trends that are characteristic of so many explorations of the Romanian Revolution and that are specific to the case itself. In other words, the film is a reflection of a longtime, deeply-embedded historical debate on the Revolution within Romania—and, to a lesser extent, abroad—as interpreted through the prism of contemporary geopolitical relations.

CONJUGATING CONSPIRACY: HE CONSPIRES, THEY CONSPIRE, YOU CONSPIRE…

Susanne Brandstatter’s “Checkmate” documentary is a reformulation of the longstanding KGB-CIA “Yalta-Malta” theory of Ceausescu’s overthrow. That Brandstatter’s is not a solitary perspective is demonstrated by the claims of the French researcher, Catherine Durandin, during 2002-2003. Brandstatter’s film caused a flurry of commentaries and analyses in the French, Hungarian, and Romanian media—somewhat funny, as journalists and intellectuals in and from Romania routinely maintain that common citizens are exhausted by and disinterested in investigations of the December 1989 events, and that “The Revolution doesn’t sell.” The Brandstatter-Durandin school argues that Ceausescu’s overthrow was primarily the work of the CIA, with various Western security services and the Hungarians—although still communist at the time, nevertheless working in concert with the West—fulfilling a secondary role. The KGB is said to have participated, but had only a bit part. Even in Romania, some commentators who did not seriously entertain this thesis until now, appear to have been swayed by the film—a testament to its seductive presentation and power.

This is all just a little ironic—given that in late 2003 a large swath of the Romanian media and intelligentsia hastened to declare that “new revelations” by Soviet-era Russian dissident Vladimir Bukovsky had once and for all put to rest the controversy over “what really happened in December 1989.” While on a visit to Romania in November 2003, Bukovsky stated in passing that, on the basis of his access to KGB documents in the early 1990s, he could maintain unequivocally that the KGB masterminded and stage-managed the Romanian Revolution—as it did, he claimed, the collapse of communism throughout Eastern Europe in 1989. Despite the fact that Bukovsky began making these allegations as far back as 1990—thus, before his access to the archives—for those in Romania who have long-advocated this thesis, Bukovsky’s words were received as gospel and as definitively closing the book on the investigation and understanding of the December 1989 events. The so-called “Bukovsky Scandal”—for much of 2004 it had its own separate link on the webpage of “Ziua [The Day],” the daily that launched it—erupted again in the spring, summer, and fall of 2004 with a new flood of articles and exchanges, but virtually no new details to back up Bukovsky’s claims.

But the Brandstatter-Durandin CIA-engineered coup theory is even more ironic when you consider the previous wave of Franco-German conspiracy theories—which cornered the market in 1990 and has had a profound and enduring imprint upon how the events of Ceausescu’s overthrow have been studied and understood since. Those theories maintained the exact opposite of the Brandstatter-Durandin argument in terms of the weighting awarded to foreigners in the December 1989 coup: that Ceausescu’s overthrow was primarily the work of the KGB and other East European security services—the Hungarians acting at the behest of Moscow—with the CIA and Western security services playing at best a limited, purely (dis)informational role. The first wave of Franco-German conspiracy theories might not have had such a lasting—and I would argue, destructive—impact had it not been awarded credibility and promoted by prominent Romanian intellectual and academic emigres in the West. I personally can attest to this impact, for it was the prism provided by the latter in the English language that heavily shaped my views of the December 1989 events until conducting dissertation research in Romania in 1993-1994.

In essence, what I argue here is that one cannot understand the latest wave of Franco-German revisionism sufficiently without placing it in the context of prior historiography of the Revolution, especially revisionist historiography. Likewise, one cannot understand the Romanian historiography of the Revolution accurately without understanding the revisionist historiography of Romania’s communist security service, the Securitate, and how it has infected and weaved its way into the broader Romanian historiography. Finally, one cannot understand the deleterious effects of the first wave of Franco-German conspiracy theory on scholarly understandings in English without understanding the role émigré Romanian intellectuals played in relaying and legitimizing it.

“REVISIONISM” OR…WHEN EVERYTHING TURNS OUT TO HAVE BEEN AN ILLUSION

Revisionism has been a central and prominent feature of the historiography of the December 1989 Revolution. I should clarify what I mean by “revisionism” here. My definition of “revisionism” is necessarily broad because it is outcome-based rather than process-based. Although important, the causes of revisionism are not and should not be what defines it. Revisionism is certainly not bad, illegitimate, or incorrect by definition. Some revisionism turns out to have been well-grounded and proved right, some not. But to attribute or define revisionism in terms of some intentional agenda to obfuscate the truth or disinform is not only to vastly oversimplify human behavior, it is self-serving and self-deceiving at the same time, and does not help in understanding the phenomenon. Whereas “others” start from a premise or conclusion and then decide to produce an account that advocates it, “we” research and arrive at conclusions. It is true that the former exists—and plenty of those examples will be highlighted in this series—but the sources of revisionism are a lot more complex. Many “revisionists” merely interpret events through their prism of preexisting beliefs and understandings and do not intentionally arrive at the conclusions they do. What is important, however, is that their conclusions are still “revisionist” in that they substantially “revise” the initial understanding(s) of an event.

Not all events lend themselves equally well to “revisionism.” The overthrow of Ceausescu does so precisely because of the striking uniformity of interpretations at the time of the events, a situation highlighted well by Verdery and Kligman in an article authored in November 1990 (Verdery and Kligman, 1992, pp. 118-119). To me, indicative of this were the chaotic events of 12 January 1990—three weeks after Ceausescu’s overthrow on 22 December—when demonstrators with no doubt as to the existence of “terrorists,” the name given to presumed Ceausescu loyalists during the December bloodshed, chanted “Death to the terrorists!” The besieged party-state bureaucrats who succeeded Ceausescu hastened to restore the death penalty for presumed “terrorists” (no longer under the immediate pressure of the crowds, they would renege on this promise the following day). In other words, those on either side of the fundamental post-Ceausescu political barricade agreed on the question of the existence of the “terrorists” (more on this critical issue later in this series).

Perhaps the best example of the existence and influence of revisionism upon understandings of Ceausescu’s overthrow comes from a comparison made by Vladimir Tismaneanu of the comments by the famous contemporary historian of Central and Eastern Europe, Timothy Garton Ash, immediately after the December 1989 events and ten years later.

“Reflecting on the December 1989 events in Romania, Timothy Garton Ash wrote: ‘Nobody hesitated to call what happened in Romania a revolution. After all, it really looked like one: angry crowds on the streets, tanks, government builldings in flames, the dictator put up against a wall and shot [Ash 1990, p. 20].’…However, ten years afterward, Ash would write: ‘Curiously enough the moment when people in the West finally thought there was a revolution was when they saw television pictures of Romania: crowds, tanks, shooting, blood in the streets. They said: That—we know THAT is a revolution, and of course the joke is that it was the only one that wasn’t.’ (Ash, “Conclusions,” in ed. Antohi and Tismaneanu, 1999, p. 395).” (Tismaneanu 2003, p. 230, p. 323 n. 115)

That the idea of a “coup d’etat” or a “stolen revolution” came only later—i.e. was revisionist—is also demonstrated by Veronica Szabo’s intriguing study of a Romanian collection of graffiti on the walls of the center of Bucharest where demonstrations took place: “There is however, one scenario of the revolution which is not consistent with the data examined here, and that is the ‘hijacked revolution scenario’” (Szabo, “Handwriting on the Wall,” p. 6). As Szabo notes, the significance of the data set is its thoroughness (141 graffiti entries), its unobtrusive collection process, and the fact that it “was simultaneous rather than retrospective (the collection took place during the revolution)” (p. 4).

RUMORS OF A REVOLUTIONARY DOCUMENTARY

Long before its broadcast on the Franco-German TV Arte channel on Wednesday, 25 February 2004, the “Checkmate” documentary by Austrian filmmaker Susanne Brandstatter was creating a buzz. Meeting the filmmaker by chance in Berlin in late November 2003, Gabriela Adamesteanu, the editor of Romania’s well-known cultural and political weekly, “22,” conducted an interview of Brandstatter with bated breath and eager anticipation of the upcoming premier of the film (Adamesteanu, 2004). Coming in the pages of “22,” which has frequently hosted interviews and articles through the years alleging that the December 1989 events were a Soviet-led coup d’état, Brandstatter’s thesis that the events were primarily a CIA-led coup appeared somewhat out-of-place. Nevertheless, a coup is a coup is a coup to some extent, and although Adamesteanu asked Brandstatter leading questions on the Soviet role, and Brandstatter did not deny a KGB role, the interviewer was clearly seized with excitement about the film.

Five days before the broadcast of the film, Vincent Jauvert summarized the documentary’s main thesis on the Internet site of the French daily “Le Nouvel Obervateur:” “Nicolae Ceausescu was not overthrown by his own people, but by the CIA” (“Le Nouvel Observateur,” 20 February 2004). In his article, Jauvert gave a sneak preview of what was to come in the film: admissions by Miklos Nemeth (the communist Hungarian Prime Minister at the time of the events in 1989), former CIA officials, and French intelligence officials, and an allegation that one of the key players in the December events, Romanian Army General Victor Athanasie Stanculescu, had been a Hungarian spy. The Romanian daily “Jurnalul National” relayed Jauvert’s descriptions three days later and, on the day before the film’s premier, presented a lengthy interview with Brandstatter under the headline: “The CIA and KGB shook hands in Bucharest” (“Jurnalul National,” 24 February 2004). Anticipation was so great that the chief editor of “Jurnalul National,” Marius Tuca, devoted his one-hour television show on the Antenae 1 Television Station on 23 February to the still-unseen documentary, with Stanculescu in the studio and Brandstatter participating by phone (Bucharest Antena 1 Television).

BACKGROUND TO BRANDSTATTER: “OLD EUROPE,” “NEW EUROPE,” AND HISTORY AS CONTEMPORARY GEOPOLITICAL WISHBONE

Brandstatter’s thesis of the Romanian Revolution as a CIA-led coup in conjunction with other interested intelligence services did not appear out-of-the-blue. Catherine Durandin, a French academic with a more substantial background in Romanian studies, argued the thesis on French television and in “Le Monde Diplomatique” in 2002 (Verluise, 2003). Durandin gives the KGB a larger role in the guiding of the December events than Brandstatter, but remains convinced that it was for the most part a CIA operation. In her statements in 2002 and 2003, she claimed that the CIA “currently controls Romania.” How does Durandin know about the CIA’s alleged guiding role in the December events? According to her: because she has had access to secret CIA documents that confirm it—documents that she appears to claim she saw in the preparation of her 2002 book entitled “The CIA at War,” which is an exposition of CIA misdeeds and skullduggery through the years (Durandin, 2003).

In early 2003, Durandin took to the French airwaves, presenting her revelations on France-3 Television under the title, “Incontrovertible Proof.” Durandin stated:

“the events of December [1989] in Bucharest were the consequence of a secret accord between Moscow and Washington….The CIA penetrated the highest echelons of the Romanian power structure at the very time ‘the frustrated Gorbachevites [of the Communist Party]’ were converted by the CIA.” (The Sunday Herald, 2003)

In an intriguing article by Gabriel Ronay in the “The Sunday Herald (Glasgow)” on 30 March 2003, in the second week of the American invasion of Iraq—“French Accuse US of Masterminding Fall of the East Bloc”—Ronay noted the presence on the program of former DGSE (French external intelligence service) “secret agent” Dominique Fonveille, and Christian Harbulot, Director of France’s School of Economic Warfare. Ronay speculated that this was designed to “give weight” to Durandin’s allegations, especially in light of the fact that one of Durandin’s principal sources was General Francois Mermet, the influential Director-General of DGSE. Ronay offered that, in the wake of nasty exchanges between President Jacques Chirac and Romanian President Ion Iliescu and Prime Minister Adrian Nastase over Romania’s letter of support for US policy toward Saddam Hussein—which by this time had translated into the US-led military attack to remove Hussein from power—“the timing of it [Durandin’s documentary] and the political intent appear to be rather obvious.”

Ronay also reported on the brief furor that broke out among among some journalists and intellectuals in Romania in response to Durandin’s televised contentions. The biggest outcry was predictably from sharply pro-Western journalists and intellectuals, especially those who have long argued that the December 1989 events were a KGB coup—with the corresponding role of the Western security services minimal to non-existent—and that Romania continues to be controlled not by CIA agents, but by former or even present Russian agents. In other words, views that are 180 degrees at variance with those propounded by Durandin.

Despite Durandin’s acknowledgement that there was also KGB “intervention” in the December 1989 events, her emphasis on the CIA role was naturally what caused a stir in Romania. In his dispatch, Ronay referenced an article in the daily “Ziua” entitled “The CIA is running Romania!” (“Ziua,” 24 March 2003). The author of the article, Dan Pavel, noted appropriately that Durandin’s claims were worthy of Albiciade—the pseudonym used by the former Ceausescu court bard, until recently leader of an ultranationalist political party, and surprise runner-up in the 2000 presidential elections, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, in his weekly “Romania Mare [Greater Romania].” Pavel’s reasoning for refuting Durandin’s thesis that the CIA engineered Ceausescu’s overthrow and was still running the show was hardly complimentary: “the CIA does not have analysts or influence agents capable enough to understand the chameleon-like Romanian political class,” so how, he asks, could it possibly have manipulated Romanian events as Durandin alleges?

Those steeped enough in the literature on the Revolution (see Hall 1997, Hall 1999, and Hall 2002) know, however, that the allegations of a CIA role are only one half of the “Yalta-Malta” scenario Albiciade routinely advocates. [That the KGB plays a central and defining role in the “national communist” version of Ceausescu’s overthrow, propagated by the likes of “Albiciade,” is not solely a personal view —see Siani-Davies’ description of it in Siani-Davies, 2001]. What Pavel fails to admit is that the writings of Albiciade also contain the overwhelming majority of the cherished claims he and like-minded journalists and intellectuals marshal to demonstrate that the December 1989 events were a Soviet-engineered coup. The cold, hard reality of it all is that it is simply far easier to ridicule the clunky and simplistic anti-American cant of Albiciade, than to acknowledge and attempt to explain the embarrasing similarity of their views on the role of the KGB in December 1989 with those of former Ceausescu regime elements, especially the former Securitate. The latter has two possible outcomes: either the former Securitate is telling the truth on these issues—a possibility that cannot be dismissed out of hand—or it is lying and Pavel and his colleagues have swallowed some of the Securitate’s biggest tall-tales.

The circumstances surrounding the unveiling of Brandstatter’s documentary in February 2004 thus mirror those of Durandin’s television appearance roughly a year earlier. Echoing Ronay, Gheorghe Bratescu wrote in an article entitled “Budapestian Enigmas” on the on-line journal “Clipa”:

“The question is a classic one, that is ‘Cui prodest?’ all this, more specifically in Romanian, who does the French-German documentary benefit? It is clear that this is the subtle propaganda of the French and German policy of sanctioning Romania for Romania’s steadfast support of the United States [with regard to the Iraq war]. Therefore the documentary tries to ‘demonize’ the Romanian people, by presenting them to French and German spectators as marionettes of the American administration, who in 1989 [supposedly] were already concentrating their entire diplomatic and intelligence/espionage arsenal on making Romania the pawn of their long-term influence in Central and Eastern Europe…The appearance of the ‘Checkmate’ documentary, now in 2004, is not accidental. It unambiguously serves the electoral campaign for the European Parliament [June 2004], with dozens of candidates campaigning on an anti-American platform and on slowing the admission of some countries from the East of the continent into the European Union, espcially Romania, considered an American ‘Trojan Horse,’ a theme advanced often in the French press.” (“Clipa,” 11 March 2004).

*It is doubtful that Usama Bin Ladin’s most direct claim of credit to date for the 11 September 2001 attacks in his 29 October 2004 video will cause revisionists to reassess their views—although it further undermines the credibility of their allegations.

SOURCES

Adamesteanu, G., 2004, interview with Susanne Brandstatter, “Sah-mat. Strategia unei revolutii [Checkmate. Strategy of a Revolution], in “22,” (Bucharest), no. 721, 30 December 2003-5 January 2004, web edition, http://www.revista22.ro.

Ash, T. G., 1990, The Magic Lantern (New York: Random House).

Ash, T. G., 2000, “Conclusions,” in Antohi, S. and Tismaneanu, V. (eds.), Between Past and Future: The Revolutions of 1989 and Their Aftermath (New York: Central European University Press).

Bucharest Antena 1 Television, 2030 GMT 23 February 2004 in FBIS, 24 February 2004.

“Clipa On-line,” 2004, web edition, http://www.clipa.com.

Durandin, C., 2003, “Le CIA en Guerre [The CIA at War]” (Paris: Grancher) .

Hall, R. A. 1997, “Rewriting the Revolution: Authoritarian Regime-State Relations and the Triumph of Securitate Revisionism in Post-Ceausescu Romania,” (Ph.D. Dissertation, Indiana University).

Hall, R. A., 1999, “The Uses of Absurdity: The Staged War Theory and the Romanian Revolution of December 1989,” in “East European Politics and Societies,” Vol. 13, no.3, pp. 501-542.

Hall, R. A., 2002, “The Securitate Roots of a Modern Romanian Fairy Tale: The Press, the Former Securitate, and the Historiography of December 1989,” Radio Free Europe “East European Perspectives,” Vol. 4, nos. 7-9.

“Jurnalul National,” (Bucharest), 2004, web edition, http://www.jurnalul.ro.

“Le Monde,” 2004, web edition, http://www.lemonde.fr.

“Le Nouvel Observateur,” 2004, found at http://www.confidentiel.firestream.net.

MTV 1 (Magyar Televizio 1), 2004. “Csutortok este [Thursday Evening],” 26 February at http://www.icenter.hu.

“New York Times,” 2002.

Reuters, 2003.

Siani-Davies, P., 2001, “The Revolution after the Revolution,” in Phinnemore, D. Light, D. (eds.), Post-Communist Romania: Coming to Terms with Transition (London: Palgrave), pp. 1-34.

Szabo, V. 2002, “Handwriting on the Wall,” at http://users.ox.ac.uk/~oaces/conference/papers/Veronica_Szabo.pdf

“The Sunday Herald,” (Glasgow), 2004, found at http://lists.econ.utah.edu.

Tismaneanu, V., 2003, Stalinism for All Seasons (Berkeley: University of California Press).

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

Verluise, P., 2003, interview with Catherine Durandin, “La ‘revolution’ de 1989 [The “revolution” of 1989],” at http://www.diploweb.com.

“Wall Street Journal,” 2003.

“The Washington Post,” 2002.

“Ziua” (Bucharest), 2003, web edition, http://www.ziua.ro.


THE 1989 ROMANIAN REVOLUTION AS GEOPOLITICAL PARLOR GAME: BRANDSTATTER’S “CHECKMATE” DOCUMENTARY AND THE LATEST WAVE IN A SEA OF REVISIONISM

By Richard Andrew Hall

Part 2: CHECKMATE: “A thrilling documentary that may destroy your confidence in the mass media…”*

With much fanfare “Checkmate” finally debuted on the Franco-German TV Arte channel on Wednesday, 25 February 2004. Brandstatter’s film is more formidable than many accounts alleging a primary foreign role in the December 1989 events. Indeed, it is impressive in some ways: Brandstatter obviously did a lot of leg-work and preparation for her documentary. She filmed and conducted research in Romania, Hungary, Germany, Austria, France, and the United States, and spoke to other relevant figures in Great Britain, Bulgaria, and Norway. Among those whose interviews appear in the film are: former President Ion Iliescu, analyst Stelian Tanase, dissident Laszlo Tokes, Army General Victor Stanculescu, dissident Doina Cornea, Securitate Colonel Gheorghe Ratiu, Army General Dan Voinea, NSC official Robert Hutchings, Congressman Christopher Smith, and former CIA officers Milton Bearden, Charles Cogan, and Robert Baer (“Jurnalul National,” 24 February 2004).

Brandstatter’s thesis in the film is that Nicolae Ceausescu was overthrown in December 1989 by the CIA, in conjunction with the intelligence services of some of its NATO allies, and of the Hungarians in the East bloc. To be sure, she says, the Soviets had their fingers in the pie, thanks to the presence of the ubiquitous Russian “tourists” (i.e. intelligence agents, more about this below), but theirs was not the decisive role. Thankfully, Brandstatter does at least acknowledge the independent role played by the courage of the long-suffering average Romanian citizen—although not sufficiently in the view of critics—and does not suggest that all was merely smoke and mirrors in December 1989 (“Jurnalul National,” 24 February 2004).

What evidence does Brandstatter marshal in support of her theory? A key sequence in the film begins with Miklos Nemeth, Hungarian Prime Minister in December 1989, who admits that Hungary supplied the Romanians with “a lot of important aid, including guns and ammunition,” and that Hungary attempted to recruit officials in key institutions of the Ceausescu regime who were “in a position to help the regime’s victims.” Brandstatter believes that General Victor Stanculescu was one of those high-ranking Romanian officials who the Hungarians allegedly recruited—although Stanculescu denies this in the film and claims that although he sympathized with regime opponents, he had no ties to them (Magyar Televizio,“Titkos Forradalom?” 29 February 2004).

Next, a Securitate colonel in 1989, Gheorghe Ratiu—in fact, head of the First Directorate, the one most identified by Romanian citizens as the “political police”—declares the Securitate was in possession of information that in (West) Germany (Zehndorf), Austria (Traiskirchen), and Hungary (Bicske), there were training camps where guerilla warfare was being instructed by “American trainers.” The trainees were taught how to “foment unrest and a national uprising.” Then, in one of what is perhaps the film’s most unexpected moments, Nemeth appears to confirm the allegations from Ratiu’s interview: “In the south of Germany and in Austria and in other countries, the Germans and Americans were training the required people” (Magyar Televizio, “Titkos Forradalom?” 29 February 2004).

Brandstatter asks, “Was this possible in Romania at that time?” Dominique Fonveille, the former French intelligence officer who appeared in the February 2003 Durandin televison expose discussed in Part 1 of this series, reveals in the Brandstatter film: “Yes, one could enter from neighboring countries, and there were also training camps in Hungary and Germany. It is certain that these people had to be infiltrated in at the given moment. You have to understand, however, that it was not possible to infiltrate hundreds of people, nor even for that matter dozens.” Charles Cogan, described as “head of the CIA’s Paris Station in 1989” is seen stating: “Either the CIA was active in these camps or was training the trainers.” In his interview, Robert Baer, a former CIA officer, elaborates, “It is likely that they [the trainers] would have told these people, here is an M-16, here is how to load it, here is how to secure it, here is how you shoot with it and here is how you kill someone with it. Here is how you activate a plastic explosive, etc.” (Magyar Televizio, “Titkos Forradalom?” 29 February 2004).

Finally, Brandstatter interviews Milton Bearden, presented as “Director of CIA’s East European [operations].” Bearden declares:

“It is said that these were CIA camps. We have to make a distinction here. Almost everything is attributed to the CIA. I don’t know what these people told you, [and] I don’t deny it in its entirety, but I would advise you to be careful…” (Magyar Televizio, “Titkos Forradalom?” 29 February 2004).

Of course, because Brandstatter’s thesis is that the Revolution was essentially “made in the USA,” sparked and manipulated by American-trained agents, it is not surprising that she promotes the ideas of her interlocutors that the bloodshed and victims of December were intentional—part of a plan to stoke popular outrage against the Ceausescu regime and then to legitimate the leadership that replaced him. Once again she invokes the words of former Securitate Colonel Gheorghe Ratiu of the First Directorate. According to Ratiu, the lesson learned by the “producers” of the December 1989 Revolution from the Brasov workers’ riots of November 1987 was that “if there aren’t any corpses, the people won’t revolt sufficiently [in order to overthrow the regime]” (Jurnalul National, 27 February 2004). Therefore, he suggests that the bloodshed, in the week that preceded the Ceausescus’ flight from power on 22 December 1989, was intended to accomplish just this end.

The French security official, Dominique Fonveille, apparently speaking mostly in reference to the post-22 December bloodshed, argues that the gunfire and chaos that dominated the next few days was deliberate, designed to create a state of insecurity that would in turn create support for the new leaders. Victims were thus necessary for the credibility of the Revolution, in his view. Finally, Brandstatter presents an interview with the former Romanian Military Prosecutor, General Dan Voinea, who, on the 10th anniversary of the Revolution, had declared the findings of the investigation into the question of the so-called “terrorists”—the term used to describe those held responsible for 942 deaths (nearly 90% of the overall number of 1,104 people who died in the course of the Revolution) in the immediate hours and days following the flight of the Ceausescus. According to Voinea—who, it is important to point out, was himself one of the people involved in the trial of the Ceausescus that was justified officially as having been necessary to put an end to the “terrorist” violence:

“After 22 December 1989, there existed a huge diversion, in the sense that the notion of terrorists who were attacking the population were invented. After investigating the question, it was determined that these terrorists did not in reality exist.” (“Jurnalul National,” 27 February 2004).

DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN REACTIONS TO THE “CHECKMATE” DOCUMENTARY

Reviews of Brandstatter’s film were positive and it certainly fascinated its viewers. A rare note of skepticism, but also acceptance of the film’s thesis on foreign involvement, was Dominique Dhombres’ review in “Le Monde” on 26 February 2004. Yes, he wrote, the CIA, the KGB, and perhaps even the French secret services were involved, but Brandstatter still underplayed the role of Romania’s citizens “who were not [just] marionettes.” He concluded, “Brandstatter’s display is sedcutive, but like the execution of the Ceausescus…[her conclusions are] a little hasty.”

Somewhat surprisingly perhaps, some Romanian commentators not known for their support of the Western-engineered variant of the conspiracy theory of December 1989 have argued that Brandstatter’s arguments deserve serious consideration. Using the research strategy of “qui bono”—a strategy which Brandstatter admits also drove her analysis of the December 1989 events—Cornel Nistorescu, editor of the mass daily “Evenimentul Zilei [Event of the Day],” concludes: Hungary was also interested in Ceausescu’s fall (it’s European integration would have been an unsolvable problem if Ceausescu had continued to exist across its Eastern border); also interested were France, Germany, and the United States” (“Evenimentul Zilei,” 28 February 2004).

Some of the other commentary on Brandstatter’s film is equally interesting. In a statement published by “Jurnalul National [The National Journal]” on 25 February 2004, Radu Tinu declared: “It is regrettable that the facts I presented, five years ago, have become interesting only now, when the West releases them…We Romanians did not make the Revolution, but rather danced to the music of other intelligence services. Tap-dancing for the CIA and ‘kalinka’ for the KGB.” Tinu differs with Brandstatter, however, over for whom Stanculescu was spying; according to Tinu, he was working for the English, not the Hungarians as Brandstatter insinuates. The name Radu Tinu may be familiar to Romania watchers: he was the Deputy Chief of the Timis County Securitate that was involved in the bloody repression of demonstrators in Timisoara in December 1989.**

In a 3 March 2004 editorial entitled “The Romanian Revolution at the Intersection of CIA and KGB Streets,” the senior editor of “Jurnalul National,” Marius Tuca, accepted the rejection of some of Brandstatter’s claims—relayed by journalists at his own paper—and then summarizing the contradiction and timeless conspiratorial view at the center of many Romanian responses wrote: “…there exists one certainty in all this debate: the Revolution was founded by the Romanian people. What remains to be learned is if someone put it in train and especially WHO! (emphasis in original].”

One of the more interesting reactions to the film came from Sergiu Nicolaescu, a film director who found himself at the center of the December events and who chaired a parliamentary commission investigating those events in the early and mid-1990s. Nicolaescu alleged that the film was “a dirty trick financed by the Hungarians, because they are the only ones interested in making people believe that the Romanian Revolution was made by someone other than Romanians…[and, furthermore] the interviews were conducted in Hungarian not Romanian” (“Jurnalul National,” 28 February 2004).

HUNGARIAN INTERVENTION…IN THE [HISTORIOGRAPHY OF THE] ROMANIAN REVOLUTION

Had it not been for the surprising claims of former Hungarian Prime Minister Miklos Nemeth in “Checkmate,” it is doubtful the Hungarians would have paid much attention to the film. But Nemeth’s comments suddenly converted what otherwise would have been a “foreign story” into one that “hit home,” so-to-speak. Those who think that such narcissism is the province of individuals—or as a good number of American academics seem to think, a quintessentially American condition—have probably never witnessed media coverage in other countries of an overseas catastrophe or sporting event, in which co-nationals are the be-all and end-all of coverage.

Until investigations by Hungarian Television to substantiate Nemeth’s claims in “Checkmate,” the Hungarian population had been informed primarily by translated dispatches of “Jurnalul National,” related by Hungarian correspondents in Bucharest, that were not subject to further scrutiny. The daily “Magyar Hirlap” presented on 26 February the revelations of Securitate officers Ratiu and Tinu as confirming the thesis that Ceausescu had been overthrown by foreign intelligence services—who had set up training centers, including in Hungary as Nemeth maintained. That the statements by former Securitate officials—even if in support of the argument of a former top Hungarian official—could be taken at face-value is perhaps evidence of how far we have come even in Hungary from December 1989—such statements would have been subject to far more, almost knee-jerk scrutiny in the early 1990s. The idea that the Hungarian media was just dying to deny Brandstatter’s allegations thus does not really wash.

Hungarian Television began scrutinizing the film in its “Thursday Evening” program, but the more important examination of the film was on Sunday, 29 February 2004, when MTV (Magyar Televizio) broadcast a program entitled “Secret Revolution (Titkos Forradalom)?” According to the host, Sandor Friderikusz, “days later [after the first showing of the documentary] the film was still enthralling Hungarians and foreigners.” But it was clearly Nemeth’s claim that was driving everything—and ended up serving as the gateway to a more wideranging deconstruction of the film.

Brandstatter had been scheduled to appear on the progam, Friderikusz stated, but after having promised for a week to participate, at the last minute pulled out without giving a reason. Friderikusz decided to contact those interviewed in the film to verify their statements on camera. A pattern soon began to emerge: Brandstatter had conducted long, in some cases hours-long, interviews, but had only placed short, frequently out-of-context clips in the final product. Moreover, according to her interlocutors, she had come to the interviews with her mind firmly made up about what had happened in December 1989.

The first interviewee who was sought out, was Milton Bearden, who participated by phone from his home in New Hampshire. Bearden, the former Chief of Operations for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, was not amused by Brandstatter’s documentary. His admonition to Brandstatter, that she should be careful in her pursuit of the idea that the Romanian Revolution was the work of foreign security services, was the only excerpt of what he maintained was a two and a half hour interview. [Romanian Army General Victor Stanculescu maintains that although in the film he only has a few words, the interview with Brandstatter lasted four hours (“Clipa,” 11 March 2004).]

Bearden was emphatic in declaring that “the CIA in no way directed or precipitated the revolution” and rejected Brandstatter’s contention that the Revolution was the work of foreign security services as “completely untrue.” Asked if he thought Brandstatter had forced her case, Bearden responded: “I don’t want to cause Brandstatter difficulty, but she [came] already convinced of the truth of her theory.” His admonition for her to “be careful,” appears to have been a reference to how she was approaching the topic analytically—not that this pursuit was endangering her life or well-being.

Bearden considered the allegations of a central Hungarian role ridiculous. He noted that in 1989, the Hungarian political scene was dominated by two principal issues: the reburial of Imre Nagy and the opening of its western frontier with Austria. To his credit as a journalist, Friderikusz challenged Bearden on two points: 1) perhaps other personnel within the CIA might have been involved in an operation against Romania of the variety alleged in the film of which Bearden was unaware, and 2) if there had been a CIA role, would it not be natural that Bearden should deny a CIA role? Bearden claimed it was out of the question that an operation of this type could have taken place without his knowledge, and he acknowledged the suspicion with which his denials might be received but reiterated emphatically that Brandstatter’s claims were groundless.

Next, Friderikusz interviewed Ferenc Karpati, Hungarian Defense Minister at the time of the Revolution, and Laszlo Borsics, Hungarian Chief of Staff at the time. Karpati and Borsics denied any preparation for, or provision of, arms during the Revolution, and stated that they did not believe something such as the alleged CIA training of agents provocateurs to overthrow Ceausescu could have been launched from Hungary. Although there was some discussion in political circles of sending in Hungary’s anti-terrorist brigades and armed volunteers, Karpati opined, “luckily we rejected it.” In fact, the officials claimed they only made offers of arms and munitions after Ceausescu’s overthrow and that these had been rejected by the Romanian military, who only accepted medical supplies. Friderikusz pushed Karpati on the question of “which party or political faction” was advocating intervention, but Karpati declined to say, stating that he had already made it public years before in an article in the “Historia” magazine. [In the throes of the 1994 Hungarian parliamentary election campaign, however, the leader of the former communist party (MSzP), Gyula Horn, accused the deceased former Prime Minister Jozsef Antall and then current foreign minister Geza Jeszensky of the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) as having asked in the days of the Revolution to be permitted to create volunteer detachments to intervene in Romania, but that the request was rejected. Jeszensky denied Horn’s claim, saying that the MDF had asked Horn, who was foreign minister in December 1989, to request NATO intervention and had never proposed the idea of volunteer detachments. (see Dorin Suciu, “Si totusi in ’89 Ungaria pregatea o interventie armata in Romania,” Adevarul, 26 April 1994).]

In what was emerging as a clear pattern, Karpati claimed that a year earlier Brandstatter had conducted a two hour (unfilmed) “pre”-interview with him—none of which ever saw the light of day. Thus, when she asked to send a film crew, he declined when she did not respond to his questions of the content of the film. Challenged about Nemeth’s claim of Hungarian and CIA direct involvement in the Revolution, Borsics opined that Nemeth’s words “may have been taken out of context…and I certainly have no knowledge of such things.” Borsics also highlighted some basic factual inaccuracies in the account purported in the Brandstatter film—such as the Bicske “training camp” being 40 km from the Austrian border, when in fact it is 40 km from Budapest and at least 150 km from the Austrian border.

Friderikusz followed up once again with Karpati, inquiring how it was possible that Nemeth’s account, at least as it appeared in the film, could be so different from his and Borsics’? “Was it possible,” he asked, “that only he [Nemeth] was privy” to these secrets? Karpati responded emphatically:

“All I can say, is that during those days, every hour we were updating the Prime Minister, frequently we sat a his desk, marking on a map every move that was taking place in Romania, we spoke about troop movements, we talked about everything, and I believe that he would have heard everything from us first.”

Finally, Friderikusz spoke to Sandor Aradi, the Hungarian military attache in Bucharest during the Revolution, who denied Brandstatter’s thesis, claimed the film was full of doubletalk, and affirmed that the Romanian Revolution was first and foremost the work of the Romanian people, especially the Romanian youth. “Without a doubt,” Aradi claimed, it was unthinkable that he could have held such a position and not had some information on the secret operations Nemeth had alleged.

Even at the political level, Nemeth’s claims were rejected by other senior politicians from the time. A separate MTV 1 program conducted an interview with Imre Pozsgay, who claimed no knowledge of Nemeth’s allegations and that Nemeth had discussed nothing of the sort (Magyar Televizio b, 2004). “If I didn’t know about [the secret operations], then that means very, very few could have known,” he stated,

“…sure the West and Moscow tried to apply pressure to Ceausescu, but a revolution, a societal uprising, a rebellion, that the security services could pull off such a thing…such a thing has never happened in the history of the world [!].”

Thus, besides Romanian figures who disputed their characterization and/or presentation in the film and the manner in which Brandstatter produced it, we have here at least five other key officials from the time, not only rejecting Brandstatter’s thesis, but expressing dismay and disgust at how Brandstatter put the Revolution in “Checkmate”—Bearden, Karpati, Borsics, Aradi, and Pozsgay.

WAIT A MINUTE! HADN’T IT JUST BEEN AGREED THAT THE KGB DID IT?

Among those asked by “Jurnalul National” to comment on the Brandstatter documentary was former Soviet-era Russian dissident Vladimir Bukovski. Bukovski did not challenge Brandstatter’s account, maintaining that he had not had access to the sources available to Brandstatter—thereby leaving open the possibility of a CIA role in Ceausescu’s overthrow. At first glance, this was somewhat surprising, as Bukovski has long argued that the December 1989 events in Romania were the work of the US and CIA’s principal adversary, the KGB. However, it is not so surprising when one realizes the primary role Bukovski gives to foreign forces in bringing about Ceausescu’s overthrow, and his corresponding neglect of the internal dynamics of the Revolution inside Romania.

Bukovski’s comments while visiting Romania in November 2003—that the KGB orchestrated the events of Ceausescu’s overthrow—meant that the Romanian press had a field day on the 14th anniversary of the Revolution. As usual when it comes to the KGB thesis, it was Editor-in-Chief Sorin Rosca Stanescu’s daily “Ziua” that gave Bukovski’s comments publicity, although dailies such as “Evenimentul Zilei,” “Romania Libera,” and others soon chimed in. “Case closed,” many editorialists, intellectuals, and politicians hastened to pronounce. Bukovski’s comments were interpreted as gospel precisely by those who have for years accepted and promoted this theory and who recognize its utility in contemporary Romanian political debates. Bukovski’s credibility is enhanced by his stature and integrity as a former Soviet dissident, and by his post-1991 access to Soviet archives and publication of the documents he was able to surreptitiously photocopy. But two critical points have to be made with regard to Bukovski’s claim about Romania’s December 1989 events. First, he alleges that the collapse of communist rule throughout Eastern Europe—including the fall of the Berlin Wall—were part of an elaborate KGB plot, hatched beginning from 1988. Second, he first made such allegations well-before he got access to those Soviet archives.

In a study dating from the late 1990s, the Romanian author Vladimir Alexe, who endorses a similar viewpoint on Romania’s December 1989 events, quoted Bukovski’s comments in 1990 on the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, as follows:

“Never has the role of the KGB inside the country [the USSR] or abroad been so important. The Soviet secret services are the ones that watched the overthrow of Ceausescu in Romania, launched the ‘velvet revolution’ in Czechoslovakia, [and] that took measures to overthrow Erich Honecker in East Germany, producing especially favorable circumstances for the destruction of the Berlin Wall (“L’Empire du moindre mal,” Libre Journal, Paris, nr. 1, sept-oct, 1990, p. 30).” (see Vladimir Alexe, “KGB si revolutiile din Europa de Est” in Ziua, 19 November 1999 and 20 December 1999)

In the wake of Bukovski’s “bombshell” in November 2003, at least one Romanian commentator attempted to legitimize the credibility of Bukovski’s claims by appealing to the fact that the documents substantiating Bukovski’s claims are “on the Internet, anybody can access them.” It is true that Bukovski has published Soviet archival documents on the Internet, including from the period 1988 to 1991—however, none of them are about the December 1989 events in Romania (http://psi.ece.jhu.edu/~kaplan/IRUSS/BUK/GBARC/pdfs/sovter75/sovter75-e.html). Indeed, given the amazing antennae of the Romanian press for anything that substantiates their beliefs on this matter—and their deafness to anything that challenges those beliefs—one would expect that did such documents exist they would have been reproduced in the Romanian press by now.

Following Brandstatter’s film, Bukovski returned again to the Romanian press scene in the summer of 2004 in a series of interviews in “Ziua.” Although the daily typically hyped Bukovski’s comments—one could click on a file on their internet site devoted exclusively to “The Bukovski Scandal”—to make it appear that Bukovski had made stunning, new, and unassailable revelations, and Bukovski offered to provide documentary evidence for his views, he provided neither documentary evidence nor any new details—already, virtually non-existent—to his account.

As mentioned above, in commenting on what he referred to as the “Checkmate documentary,” Bukovski stated that he did not challenge Brandstatter’s account, since he had not had access to the sources available to her. However, he did seek to strengthen support for his own argument of the events as predominantly a KGB coup by invoking the writings of the BBC reporter, John Simpson (“Jurnalul National,” 2 March 2004?). Simpson’s writings have been invoked by others who have sought to evaluate accounts of the Revolution. For example, Krishna Kumar writes in his 2001 book reexamining 1989 in the region, that John Simpson had brought new, sensational revelations to the table in a 1994 “Independent (London)” article (Kumar, 2001). But the basis of Simpson’s 1994 article is the report released by the Romanian Information Service (SRI) that alleges Russian and other East bloc “tourists” played a seminal role in sparking the Revolution. (Despite questioning other aspects of the SRI’s contentions, Deletant unfortunately appears to accept this claim at face value—without recognizing how it contradicts and ultimately negates his other arguments on the events (see Deletant ,1999, pp. 171-172).) That the SRI is the Securitate’s formal institutional successor, and incorporated many of the personnel, structures, and culture of the Securitate, hardly lends the argument credibility. Moreover, one has to ask if Bukovski supposedly knows so much about the KGB role in the Romanian Revolution from his access to Soviet archival sources, how is it that he does not know about what would appear to be a key detail—the role of Russian and East bloc “tourists” in sparking Ceausescu’s overthrow?

*From the television guide description of Newsletter MARS 2004/1 on the Internet.

**My research colleague in Timisoara, Marius Mioc, was sufficiently incensed with “revelations” that suggest that the events of Timisoara were stage-managed by foreign forces and that defended or denied the role of regime forces in repressing demonstrators that he published a newspaper devoted to the subject (Mioc 2004).

SOURCES

“Clipa On-line,” 2004, web edition, http://www.clipa.com.

Deletant, D., 1999, Romania Under Communist Rule (Portland, OR: Center for Romanian Studies).

“Evenimentul Zilei,” (Bucharest), 2004, web edition, http://www.evenimentulzilei.ro.

“The Independent,” (London), 1994.

“Jurnalul National,” (Bucharest), 2004, web edition, http://www.jurnalul.ro.

Kumar, K., 2001, 1989: Revolutionary Ideas and Ideals (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press).

“Le Monde,” 2004, web edition, http://www.lemonde.fr.

“Magyar Hirlap,” 2004, web edition, http://www.magyarhirlap.hu.

Mioc, M., 2004. “Revolutia din Timisoara si minciunile de Marius Tuca [The Timisoara Revolution and the Lies of Marius Tuca (editor of Jurnalul National),” (Timisoara), March.

MTV 1 (Magyar Televizio 1), 2004. “Csutortok este [Thursday Evening],” 26 February at http://www.icenter.hu.

MTV 1 (Magyar Televizio 1), 2004. “Titkos Forradalom? [Secret Revolution?],” 29 February at http://www.asolasszabadsaga.hu.

“Ziua” (Bucharest), 1999, 2003, 2004, web edition, http://www.ziua.ro.


THE 1989 ROMANIAN REVOLUTION AS GEOPOLITICAL PARLOR GAME: BRANDSTATTER’S “CHECKMATE” DOCUMENTARY AND THE LATEST WAVE IN A SEA OF REVISIONISM

By Richard Andrew Hall

Part 3: Ruse

A SECURITATE RIDDLE: SOVIET “TOURISTS” AND THE OVERTHROW OF THE CEAUSESCU REGIME

Although I have written a good deal on the “tourist” conundrum in the past (see, for example, Hall 2002), I have not formally addressed the role of foreign histories of Ceausescu’s overthrow in the historiography of December 1989, particularly in regard to this topic. In the wake of the broadcast of Brandstatter’s “Checkmate” documentary in February 2004, Vladimir Bukovski’s invocation of journalist John Simpson’s 1994 article on the topic (discussed in Part 2 of this series) suggests, however, that it needs to be broached in greater detail. Moreover, as the year-long look-back at the December 1989 events in “Jurnalul National” shows, the “tourist” question—somewhat surprisingly to me—has become more and more central to arguments about the Revolution, thereby amplifying what is already tremendous confusion over the events in the Romanian press and public. Of course, as has traditionally been the case, the Soviet/Russian tourists figure prominently, and, to a lesser extent, the Hungarian tourists. However, the stock of other tourist groups has also gone up. For example, the role of Yugoslav (specifically Serb) tourists has found a greater emphasis, and, seemingly out of nowhere, so have East German/STASI tourists! The principal sources for all of these allegations are, as usual, former Securitate and Militia officers, with some military (intelligence) personnel thrown in for good measure.

FOREIGN FORUM, ROMANIAN CONTEXT

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact first mention of “the tourists” and their alleged role in the Revolution, but it appears that although the source of the claim was Romanian, the publication was foreign. James F. Burke, whose name is unfortunately left off the well-researched and widely-consulted web document “The December 1989 Revolt and the Romanian Coup d‘etat,” alludes to the “Romanian filmmaker” who first made these allegations (Burke, 1994). The claims are contained in an article by Richard Bassett in the 2 March 1990 edition of “The Times (London).” According to Bassett,

“Mr. [Grigore] Corpacescu has no doubt that the revolution here was carefully stage-managed—as was the case in Prague and East Berlin—by the Russians…According to Mr. Corpacescu a party of Soviet ‘tourists,’ all usually on individual visas, arrived in Timisoara two days before the first demonstration outside Mr. [i.e. Pastor] Tokes’ house. Police records trace them reaching Bucharest on December 20. By the 24th, two days after Ceausescu fled by helicopter, the Russians had disappeared. No police records exist to indicate how they left the country. (“The Times (London),” 2 March 1990)

But Bassett’s interlocutor, Mr. Corpacescu, says some strange things. Bassett is not clear but it appears that Corpacescu suggests that the post-Revolution Interior Minister Mihai Chitac, who was involved in the Timisoara events as head of the army’s chemical troops, somehow purposely coaxed the demonstrations against the regime because the tear-gas cannisters his unit fired failed to explode—the failure somehow an intended outcome. But beyond this, Corpacescu, who is at the time of the article filming the recreation of Ceausescu’s flight on the 22nd—using the same helicopter and pilot involved in the actual event—makes the following curious statement:

“The pilot of this helicopter is an old friend. I have many friends in the police, Timisoara was not started by the Hungarian pastor, the Reverend Laszlo Tokes [i.e. it was carefully stage-managed…by the Russians].” (“The Times (London),” 2 March 1990)

The pilot of the helicopter was in fact Vasile Malutan, an officer of the Securitate’s V-a Directorate. What kind of a person would it have been at that time—and how credible could that person have been–who has the pilot as an old friend and “many friends in the police?” And it would have been one thing perhaps two months after the revolution to talk about the presence of foreign agents “observing” events in Timisoara, but to deny the spontaneity of the demonstrations and denigrate Tokes’ role at this juncture is highly suspicious. I have been unable to unearth additional information on Mr. Corpacescu, but his revelations just happen to serve his friends extremely well—particularly at at time when the prospect of trials and jail time, for participation in the repression in Timisoara and elsewhere during the Revolution, still faced many former Securitate and Militia [i.e. police] members.

THE FORMER SECURITATE AND MILITIA REMINISCE ABOUT THE SOVIET “TOURISTS”

A week after “The Times” article, the chief of the Securitate’s Counter-espionage Directorate, Colonel Filip Teodorescu, mentioned at his trial for his role in the Ceausescu regime’s crackdown in Timisoara that he had in fact detained “foreign agents” during the events there (“Romania Libera,” 9 March 1990). In his 1992 book, he developed further on this theme, specifically focusing on the role of “Soviet tourists:”

“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'” (Teodorescu, 1992, p. 92).

Reporting in July 1991 on the trial involving many of those involved in the Timisoara repression, Radu Ciobotea noted with what was probably an apt amount of skepticism and cynicism, what was telling in the confessions of those on trial:

Is the End of Amnesia Approaching?…

Without question, something is happening with this trial. The Securitate doesn’t say, but it suggests. It let’s small details ‘slip out.’…Increasingly worthy of interest are the reactions of those on trial….Traian Sima (the former head of the county’s Securitate) testifies happily that, finally, the Securitate has been accepted at the trial, after having been rejected by Justice. Filip Teodorescu utters the magic word ‘diplomats’ and, suddenly, the witness discovers the key to the drawer with surpise and declares, after five hours of amnesia, that in Timisoara, there appeared in the days in question, foreign spies under the cover of being journalists and diplomats, that in a conversation intercepted by a mobile Securitate surveillance unit Tokes was reported as ‘well,’ and that all these (and other) counterespionage actions that can’t be made public to the mass media can be revealed behind closed doors to the judge….[Timis County party boss] Radu Balan ‘remembers’ that on 18 December at midnight when he was heading toward IAEM, he passed a group of ten soviet cars stopped 100 meters from the county hospital. (It turns out that in this night, in the sight of the Soviets, the corpses were loaded!).” [emphasis in the original] (Flacara, no. 27, 1991, p. 9).

The reference to the corpses being loaded is to an operation by the Militia and Securitate on the night of 18-19 December 1989, in which the cadavers of 40 people killed during the repression of anti-regime protesters were secretly transported from Timisoara’s main hospital to Bucharest for cremation (reputedly on Elena Ceausescu’s personal order).

Finally, as yet another of many possible examples, we have the recollections of Bucharest Militia Captain Ionel Bejan, which apparently appeared in print for the first time only in 2004, in a book by Alex Mihai Stoenescu (excerpted in “Jurnalul National,” 7 December 2004). According to Bejan, around 2 AM on the night of 21-22 December, not far from University Plaza, where at that moment regime forces were firing their way through a barricade set up by protesters (48 were killed that night, 604 wounded, and 684 arrested), he spotted two LADA automobiles with Soviet plates and two men and a woman studying a map and pointing to different locations among the surrounding buildings. Bejan recalled:

“One thing’s for sure, and that is that although they looked like tourists, they didn’t behave like tourists who had just arrived in town or were lost, especially as close by there were compact groups of demonstrators, while from armored personnel carriers there was intense warning fire and a helicopter hovered overhead with lights ablaze. I don’t know what kind of tourist tours somewhere in such conditions. They left the impression that they were sure of themselves, they didn’t need any directions, proof which was that they didn’t ask us anything even though we were nearby and, being uniformed Militia, were in the position to give them any directions they needed. One thing’s for sure when I returned to that location in January 1990…the buildings displayed visible signs of bullet holes…[emphasis added]” (“Jurnalul National,” 7 December 2004)

STRANGE “TOURISTS”…STRANGER STILL, THE REACTIONS OF THE AUTHORITIES

We can agree with Ionel Bejan in one respect. One thing is for sure: these were some very strange tourists. (They give a whole new meaning to the term, “adventure tourism.”) As curious as the “Soviet tourists” themselves is how little the Romanian authorities who claim to have seen them did to stop them—or even try to collect more information about them. Why is it that no official questioned the enigmatic “Soviet tourists” or asked them to leave the area when, as Radu Balan claims, he saw ten LADAs outside the Timis county hospital at 1 AM in the morning the night the cadavers of protesters were being loaded onto a truck for cremation? Or, as Ionel Bejan claims, he spotted several of them in the center of Bucharest at 2 AM, when the area was essentially a warzone of regime repression? The regime had closed the borders to virtually all other foreigners, tourists or otherwise, it was trying to prevent any word of the repression from reaching the outside world, and yet Romanian authorities were not concerned about these “tourists” taking pictures or relaying what they were seeing?!

As I have written before, if it was obvious before 18 December, as these Ceausescu regime officials claim, that “Soviet tourists” were involved in the events in Timisoara, then why was it precisely “Soviet travelers coming home from shopping trips to Yugoslavia” who were the only group declared exempt from the ban on “tourism” announced on that day (see AFP, 19 December 1989 as cited in Hall 2002b)? In fact, an Agent France-Presse correspondent reported that two Romanian border guards on the Yugoslav frontier curtly told him: “Go back home, only Russians can get through”!!! The few official documents from the December events that have made their way into the public domain show the Romanian Ambassador to Moscow, Ion Bucur, appealing to the Soviets to honor the Romanian news blackout on events in Timisoara, but never once mentioning—let alone objecting to—the presence or behavior of “Soviet tourists” in Romania during these chaotic days of crisis for the Ceausescu regime (CWHIP, “New Evidence on the 1989 Crisis in Romania,” 2001). It truly strains the imagination to believe that the Romanian authorities were so “frightened” of committing a diplomatic incident with the Soviets that they would allow Soviet agents to roam the country virtually unhindered, allowing them to go anywhere and do anything they wanted.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE…A “SOVIET TOURIST” ENCORE IN 1990

Add to all of this (!), the allegations that the “Soviet tourists” were seen again on the streets during major crises in 1990, such as the ethnic clashes between Romanians and Hungarians in Tirgu Mures in March 1990 (for evidence of the reach of the allegation of KGB manipulation via the “tourist” mechanism both in December 1989 AND in March 1990, see Emil Hurezeanu, “Cotidianul,” 23 December 1999; according to Hurezeanu, “It appears they didn’t leave the country until 1991, following a visit by [SRI Director] Virgil Magureanu to Moscow”!). Then there is the famous April 1991 interview of an alleged KGB officer—who spoke flawless Romania and was in Romania during the December 1989 events—who the interviewer, the vigorous anti-Iliescu foe, Sorin Rosca Stanescu, claimed to have just stumbled into in Paris. Of all the reporters who could have stumbled into a KGB officer present in Romania during the Revolution—the only such case I know of—it was Rosca Stanescu, who, it turned out later, had been an informer for the Securitate until the mid-1980s—but not just for anybody, but for the USLA. Intererstingly, although the article appeared on the non-descript page 8 of the primary opposition daily at the time (“Romania Libera”), the aforementioned Filip Teodorescu and Radu Balan invoked it in support of their contentions regarding the the “tourists” (for a discussion of this, see Hall 2002). Even more suprising, or not, depending on your point of view, in his April 1991 article, Stanescu attempted to tie together December 1989 with December 1990 (!):

“As you will recall, persistent rumors have circulated about the existence on Romanian soil [in December 1989] of over 2,000 Lada automobiles with Soviet tags and two men in each car. Similar massive infiltrations were witnessed in December 1990, too, with the outbreak of a wave of strikes and demonstrations. What were the KGB doing in Romania?” (emphasis added) (“Romania Libera,” 18 April 1991)

Indeed, what were they doing in Romania? But, more aptly:

WHO COULD THEY HAVE BEEN?

Some other recollections and comments may offer clues to the answer to this vexing question. For example, the Caransebes Militia Chief claims he helped a group of “Soviet tourists” coming from Timisoara on the night of 20-21 December when one of their cars—as usual, “it was part of a convoy of 20 cars, all of the same make and with 3-4 passengers per car”—went off the road (from “Europa,” no. 20, 1991, see the discussion in Hall 2002b). According to Teodorescu, the “tourists” greeted the militia chief with the phrase “What the hell? We are colleagues; you have to help us” (Teodorescu, 1992, p. 93). The militia chief opines that despite their Soviet passports, “to this day, I don’t really know where they were from.”

Nicu Ceausescu, Nicolae’s son and most likely heir and party secretary in Sibiu at the time of the Revolution, claimed that he also had to deal with enigmatic “tourists” during these historic days (the following several paragraphs borrow heavily from Hall 2002b). From his prison cell in 1990, Nicu recounted how on the night of 20 December 1989, a top party official came to inform him that the State Tourist Agency was requesting that he — the party secretary for Sibiu! — “find lodgings for a group of tourists who did not have accommodation” He kindly obliged and made the appropriate arrangements (interview with Nicu Ceausescu in “Zig-Zag,”, no. 20, 21-27 August 1990).

Interestingly, in the same interview Nicu discusses the “tourists” for which he was asked to find accommodations in the context of a group of mysterious passengers who had arrived by plane from Bucharest on the evening of 20 December 1989. We know that in the period immediately following these events, the then-military prosecutor, Anton Socaciu, had alleged that these passengers from Bucharest were members of the Securitate’s elite USLA unit (Special Unit for Antiterrorist Warfare) and were responsible for much of the bloodshed that occurred in Sibiu during the December events. Nicu Silvestru, chief of the Sibiu County Militia, admitted in passing in a letter from prison that on the afternoon of 19 December in a crisis meeting, Ceausescu’s son announced that he was going to “call [his] specialists from Bucharest” to take care of any protests (“Baricada,” no. 45, 1990). Ceausescu’s Interior Minister, Tudor Postelnicu, admitted at his trial in January 1990 that Nicu had called him requesting “some troops” and he had informed Securitate Director General Iulian Vlad of the request (“Romania Libera,” 30 January 1990.)

The rewriting of the story of the Revolution, the “tourists,” and the “terrorists” was already in full swing, when in August 1990, Nicu wryly observed:

“…[T]he Military Prosecutor gave me two variants. In the first part of the inquest, they [the flight’s passengers] were from the Interior Ministry. Later, however, in the second half of the investigation, when the USLA and those from the Interior Ministry began, so-to-speak, to pass ‘into the shadows,’ — after which one no longer heard anything of them — they [the passengers] turned out to be simple citizens…” (interview with Nicu Ceausescu in “Zig-Zag,” no. 20, 21-27 August 1990).

The impact of this “reconsideration” by the authorities could be seen in the comments of Socaciu’s successor as military prosecutor in charge of the Sibiu case, Marian Valer (see Hall 1997, pp. 314-315). Valer commented in September 1990 that investigations yielded the fact that there were 37 unidentified passengers on board the 20 December flight from Bucharest and that many of the other passengers maintained that “on the right side of the plane there had been a group of tall, athletic men, dressed in sporting attire, many of them blond, who had raised their suspicions.” The USLA, which were responsible for airport security and had “air marshals” on all flights (three in this case), refused to discuss the identity of these passengers with Valer. While investigations revealed that during this time there “were many Soviet tourists staying in Sibiu’s hotels,” they also established that “military units were fired upon from Securitate safehouses located around these units as of the afternoon of 22 December, after the overthrow of the Ceausescu regime.” He thus carefully concludes:

“As far as the unidentified passengers are concerned, there are two possible variants: Either they were USLA fighters sent to defend Nicu Ceausescu, or they were Soviet agents sent to act with the intent of overthrowing the Ceausescu regime” (“Expres,” no. 33, September 1990).

Clearly, one of these hypotheses is a lot more plauisble than the other…As I wrote in December 1996, partly based on the statements of the Military Prosecutor Marian Valer who stepped down from investigating the Sibiu events in fall 1990, citing duress: “thus as the USLA began to disappear from the historiography and therefore history of the Revolution, so the Soviet tourists began to enter it.” (Hall, 1996).

RED HERRINGS: THE CHRONICLES OF A FORMER COMMUNIST SPY CHIEF’S VIEWS ON DECEMBER 1989

Inevitably, too, in the wake of the Brandstatter film the Romanian media dragged out its old warhorse for such occassions, the former Director of communist Romania’s Foreign Intelligence Service, General Ion Mihai Pacepa, the man whose defection in 1978 led to his being sentenced to death in abstentia and whose sensational revelations about Ceausescu’s repressive and profligate rule helped erode the myth of Ceausescu in the West. Pacepa’s break from Ceausescu and the communist regime, and his stinging criticism of the administrations of President Ion Iliescu for their incorporation of and reliance upon former Securitate personnel, have led Pacepa to be lionized in the West and to be highly-respected and thoroughly-trusted among Romania’s intellectual and media elites.

In the wake of Brandstatter’s film, and, indirectly, in support of Bukovski’s allegations, Pacepa’s claims about December 1989 were once again invoked. Thus, for example, excerpts of an August 2000 interview on the Hungarian Duna TV channel (rebroadcast on Duna TV two nights before the debut of the Brandstatter film) were published (“Jurnalul National,” 26 February 2004). In the interview, Pacepa maintained that there were no so-called “terrorists” during the Revolution—that the “terrorist” phenomenon was all a pretext used by the party-state officials who ousted Ceausescu to legitimate a Soviet intervention:

“Interviewer: What exactly was the essence of the the ‘Dnestr’ Plan?

Pacepa: It was necessary to find a motive [to justify] the Soviet intervention, if the coup was to succeed by itself. Therefore it is very easy to understand. On 22 [sic. 23] December 1989, at 2 pm in the afternoon, Romanian Television announced: “The National Salvation Front has requested Soviet help because unidentified foreign terrorists are attacking Romania.” Already on this day, Iliescu declared that the Ceausescu couple had been arrested and a trial would be held, only for Television to announce [later] that their trial and execution had taken place.” (“Confessions of a Spy Chief” in “Jurnalul National,” 26 February 2004)

Since the early 1990s, Pacepa has maintained that the events of December 1989 were part of a well-scripted Soviet plan—the so-called “Dnestr Plan”—to remove Ceausescu (for a summary, see Deletant, 1995, pp. 89-90). According to Pacepa, the Soviet plan was a response to the 1969 visit of US President Richard Nixon to Bucharest. Pacepa claims that Iliescu had been designated Ceausescu’s replacement in accordance with this plan as early as 1971! Dennis Deletant cautions with regard to Pacepa’s account:

“Pacepa’s use of the term ‘Front for National Salvation’ smacks too much of an attempt to compromise the more recent Front for National Salvation, set up after the 1989 revolution, by suggesting that the seeds of it had been sown some twenty years earlier by Moscow. It is difficult to believe that such a name could have been chosen so many years earlier.” (Deletant, 1995, p. 90)

Pacepa’s claims are even more questionable than Deletant’s moderate skepticism suggests. As I wrote in 1997:

“Moreover, it is intriguing to note that Pacepa revealed these details [i.e. those of the ‘Dnestr’ plan] only after the December 1989 events (in his 1993 book ‘The Inheritance of the Kremlin’). Although in ‘Red Horizons’ (his 1988 detail-filled, “tell-all” book on the Ceausescus and the Securitate) he mentioned cases in which alleged Soviet agents (including Army General Nicolae Militaru…) were caught, he did not mention anything about the so-called ‘Operation Dnestr’.” (Hall, 1997, p. 117).

Pacepa had no problem in “Red Horizons” revealing alleged Soviet agents in Romania and alleged secret plans by which Ceausescu’s fabled “independence from Moscow” was all a Moscow-created ruse, yet he somehow did not feel the need or desire to outline Moscow’s plan for further increasing their control over Romania through “Operation Dnestr?” This is hard to believe.

Furthermore, there is his amazing about face on the question of the “terrorists”/Ceausescu loyalists during the Revolution. At the time, Pacepa spoke of “Plan M” as the source of the “terrorists” (see AP, Bryan Brumley, “Ceausescu Had Planned to Flee to China, Former Security Chief Says,” 5 January 1990). According to Pacepa, “Plan M” called for Securitate forces to “retreat to hidden bunkers and wage guerilla war.” He spoke about the use of safe houses and of a maze of secret tunnels, descriptions that were similar to what was being heard from Romanian during and immediately after the Revolution. Significantly, Pacepa’s details mirror many of the points in the so-called “Plan Z” for the event of an attempt to remove Ceausescu, the reputed 1987 copy of which was published in the daily “Evenimentul Zilei” in July 1993 and which apparently was still in effect in December 1989 (for a good discussion of the plan, see Deletant, 1995, pp. 84-88). Pacepa’s claim that Securitate forces were at the center of the Ceausescu resistance following his flight on 22 December echoed the claims of Liviu Turcu, a Securitate foreign intelligence officer who had defected earlier in 1989, who told David Binder of “New York Times” on 24 December 1989 that the “terrorists” were likely from the Securitate’s Fifth Directorate (he estimated at 1,000-1,500 members) and the USLA (which he estimated at 1,000 members) (“New York Times,” 25 December 1989, p. A12.)

Of course, that was then. By 1993—and as we have seen from the quote from the 2000 interview, continuing long after that, to the present day—Pacepa was claiming that there had been no “terrorists,” that it was all just a pretext by the KGB agents who seized power from Ceausescu (Iliescu, Militaru, Brucan, etc.) for justifying Soviet military intervention (see, for example, his comments in “Evenimentul Zilei,” 10 April 1993; 29 April 1993). The Ceausescus had been shot KGB-style to prevent them from revealing to the Romanian people and the world that the coup-plotters were KGB agents, according to Pacepa. One must ask: if Pacepa possessed this knowledge prior to December 1989—and he claims that the plan originated in 1969—and therefore had suspicions that the “terrorist” phase was merely a diversion designed to serve as a pretext for Soviet intervention, then why did he say what he said, and why did he not reveal his knowledge and voice his concerns before, during, or immediately after December 1989?

Finally, there is the problem of the similarity of Pacepa’s arguments on the Revolution with those of other former Securitate officers. True, they hate Pacepa and Pacepa hates them equally. But take, for example, the following quote:

“The coup d’état which ‘recovered the Revolution’…brought to power the FSN [the National Salvation Front] crew…[which] initiated the criminal scenario with Securitate-terrorists in order to spill blood and justify the assumption of power by people who had no business proclaiming themselves to be revolutionaries…[I]t was a diversion of the FSN in order to escalate the terror, suspicion, blood-letting, [and] chaos necessary to resolve the problem of taking state power and calling the Soviets.”

The source of this quote is not Pacepa, but the well-known “protochronist,” “national communist” former Securitate officer Pavel Corut (Corut, 1994, “Cantecul Nemuririi [Song of the Undying]” (Bucharest: Editura Miracol, 1994), pp. 170, 172, quoted in Hall, 1997, p. 257). The point is, as the accusations of Pacepa discussed at the beginning of this section demonstrate, Pacepa’s claims are identical to what Corut’s alleges. By forcing an analytical, but also partisan ideological distinction by dividing protoWesterners from protochronists, as if the two were night-and-day and so easily identifiable, critical similarities such as this one—which demands attention and analysis precisely because it is unexpected—are ignored.

One of the precious few non-partisan deconstructions of the whole Pacepa circus is Peter Banyai’s penetrating article “Pacepa: a tortenelem bizalmasa [Pacepa: History’s Confidant]” (Banyai 2004a; 2004b makes pretty clear that he is no shill for Pacepa’s adversaries within Romania). Banyai notes how Dan Pavel has compared Iliescu and Pacepa and suggested that “our political culture has determined” that the criterion for where one stands on the political spectrum—and no less than democracy itself!—is where one stands on Pacepa. As Banyai summarizes: “[According to Pavel,] [h]e who loves Pacepa, he is a democrat, he who doesn’t is a post-communist!…Thus has taken shape the Pacepa myth in Romania. The latest among countless other self-deceiving revisionisms.” Banyai hits the nail on the head in this conclusion:

“How is it that Pacepa has managed to pull the wool over the eyes of the greater part of Romanian public opinion with such primitive claims? Clearly, because it draws on what resonates best in the Romanian public. The conspiratorial mindsets, the Russophobia, the KGB-mania that make up the collective Romanian political psyche.” (Banyai 2004a)

SOURCES

Banyai, P., 2000a, “Pacepa: a tortenelem bizalmasa [Pacepa: History’s Confidant], “Beszelo [Speaker],” Vol. 9, September, at http://beszelo.c3.hu/04/09/06banyai.htm.

Banyai, P., 2004b, “Tortenelmihamitisok es penzmosok baratai tarsasaga: Talpes, Treptow, Watts— es Tender. [Revisionist and Money-laundering Friendship Society],” “Beszelo [Speaker],” Vol. 6, June, on the internet at http://beszelo.c3.hu/04/06/06banyai.htm.

“Baricada (Bucharest),” 1990.

Burke, J. F., 1994, “The December 1989 Revolt and the Romanian Coup d‘etat,” at http://www.timisoara.com/timisoara/coup.html.

Ciobotea, R., 1991, “Politia Politica in Instanta [The Political Police on Trial],” “Flacara,” 3 July.

“Cotidianul” (Bucharest), 1999, web edition, http://www.cotidianul.ro.

CWIHP (Cold War International History Project), 2001, “New Evidence on the 1989 Crisis in Romania,” (ed. Mircea Munteanu), at http://wwics.si.edu/topics/pubs/e-dossier5.

Corut, P., 1994, Cantecul Nemuririi [Song of the Undying] (Bucharest: Editura Miracol).

Deletant, D., 1995, Ceausescu and the Securitate: Coercion and Dissent, 1965-1989 (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe).

“Evenimentul zilei” (Bucharest), 1999, web edition, http://www.evenimentulzilei.ro.

“Europa (Bucharest),” 1990, 1991.

Hall, R.A., 1996, “Ce demonstreaza probele balistice dupa sapte ani? [Seven Years After: What Does the Ballistics’ Evidence Tell Us]” trans. Bobeica, A., in “22 (Bucharest),” 17-23 December.

Hall, R. A. 1997, “Rewriting the Revolution: Authoritarian Regime-State Relations and the Triumph of Securitate Revisionism in Post-Ceausescu Romania,” (Ph.D. Dissertation, Indiana University).

Hall, R. A., 1999, “The Uses of Absurdity: The Staged War Theory and the Romanian Revolution of December 1989,” in “East European Politics and Societies,” Vol. 13, no.3, pp. 501-542.

Hall, R. A., 2002, “Part 2: Tourists are Terrorists and Terrorists are Tourists with Guns,” “The Securitate Roots of a Modern Romanian Fairy Tale: The Press, the Former Securitate, and the Historiography of December 1989,” Radio Free Europe “East European Perspectives,” Vol. 4, no 8.

“Jurnalul National,” (Bucharest), 2004, web edition, http://www.jurnalul.ro.

“New York Times,” 1989.

Pacepa, I.M., 1987, Red Horizons: Chronicles of a Communist Spy Chief (Washington, DC: Regnery Gateway).

Pacepa, I.M., 1993, Mostenirea Kremlinului [Inheritance of the Kremlin], (Bucharest: Editura Venus).

“Romania Libera,” 1990.

Teodorescu, F., 1992, Un Risc Asumat: Timisoara, decembrie 1989, [An Assumed Risk: Timisoara, December 1989] (Bucharest: Editura Viitorul Romanesc).

“The Times (London),” 1990.

“Zig-Zag” (Bucharest), 1990.


THE 1989 ROMANIAN REVOLUTION AS GEOPOLITICAL PARLOR GAME: BRANDSTATTER’S “CHECKMATE” DOCUMENTARY AND THE LATEST WAVE IN A SEA OF REVISIONISM

By Richard Andrew Hall

Part 4: The First Wave of Franco-German Revisionism, 1990

The great irony of the new wave of Franco-German revisionism—which argues that the December 1989 revolution in Romania was a CIA-engineered coup d‘état—is that it was journalists and academics in precisely France and [West] Germany who in 1990 led the charge that that the revolution was largely a KGB-inspired and guided coup d’état. Just as the KGB gets a cameo in the new revisionism, so the first Franco-German revisionist wave assigned a part to the CIA and Western security services, but it was a bit and largely (dis)informational/passive role. Books and articles by Michel Castex, a French journalist, Olivier Weber and Radu Portocala, both French journalists with the latter an ethnic Romanian, and Anneli Ute Gabanyi, a Romanian German-based academic and former analyst at Radio Free Europe, spearheaded the promotion of the KGB coup theory throughout 1990 (for summaries of the arguments contained in these works, see, for example, Ratesh, 1991, pp. 81-85 and Shafir, 1990, pp. 30-31). The enduring influence of these theories on shaping the debate about the Revolution—and, ironically, highlighting just how new the Brandstatter-Durandin second Franco-German wave is—can be seen in a 1999 article by Andreas Oplatka in a German-language daily marking the 10th anniversary of the December 1989 events (Neue Zurcher Zeitung, 22 December 1999, also invoked by J.F. Brown, 2001, p. 77, n. 7 as an excellent contemporary synopsis of the debate).

The relationship of the Franco-German revisionism to Romania was dynamic and flowed in both directions. Streams of thought intersected and converged. To some extent, it ended up becoming circular as time passed. Franco-German revisionism was based in part on interviews with and revelations from Romanian participants in the December 1989 events. The details and arguments of these writings would flow back into Romania—they were translated or reviewed—where they appeared to provide answers to the confusing aspects and unresolved questions of Ceausescu’s overthrow. The theories were welcomed and trumpeted by the small, electorally weak, and continuously harrassed opposition to Ion Iliescu’s National Salvation Front regime, who were primed to believe them based on what had happened since Ceausescu’s overthrow and who desperately needed anything that could help them in a sharply unequal political contest. This bestowed foreign authors domestic confirmation of their revisionist accounts.

The Evolution of the Initial French Accounts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gaining a Foothold: Survival of the First…

Given the skepticism and outright rebuttals found in the Romanian press in 1990, how is it that the first wave of Franco-German theories was able to “corner the market” of historical understandings—let alone achieve legitimacy—in the West, especially, as we shall see, in the United States? I believe it is doubtful that the theories would ever have gained such exposure, traction, and staying power had it not been for their assimilation and dissemination by prominent Romanian intellectual émigrés in the United States, made worse by the fact that the pool of these critics was remarkably small and uniform in its political orientation. Given credibility by these emigres, the theories were then taken up by noted historians of Eastern Europe and social scientists, thereby reinforcing the validity of the theories to their audiences. One can no more understand the influence of the first Franco-German revisionist wave on English-language accounts of the Revolution without studying the role played by these émigré scholars in relaying them, than one can understand the content and context of Romanian accounts of the December 1989 events without knowing what the former Securitate argues about them.

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

The Walls Come Tumbling Down…

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

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

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

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

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.

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

SOURCES

“Armata Poporului,” 1990.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Flacara,” 1990, 1991.

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

Hall, R. A. 1997, “Rewriting the Revolution: Authoritarian Regime-State Relations and the Triumph of Securitate Revisionism in Post-Ceausescu Romania,” (Ph.D. Dissertation, Indiana University).

Hall, R. A., 1999, “The Uses of Absurdity: The Staged War Theory and the Romanian Revolution of December 1989,” in “East European Politics and Societies,” Vol. 13, no.3, pp. 501-542.

Hall, R. A., 2002, “Part 1: The Many Zig-Zags of Gheorghe Ionescu Olbojan,” “The Securitate Roots of a Modern Romanian Fairy Tale: The Press, the Former Securitate, and the Historiography of December 1989,” Radio Free Europe “East European Perspectives,” Vol. 4, no 7.

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

“Le Point (Paris),” 1990.

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

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

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

“New York Times,” 1989.

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

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

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

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

“Zig-Zag,” 1990.


THE 1989 ROMANIAN REVOLUTION AS GEOPOLITICAL PARLOR GAME: BRANDSTATTER’S “CHECKMATE” DOCUMENTARY AND THE LATEST WAVE IN A SEA OF REVISIONISM

By Richard Andrew Hall

Part 5: Opportunity Lost

–“Now, three months after the revolution, everyone is with the people and the Army…So then who was shooting?…The idea that only the Army fired in December is being advanced with great skill…” (Major Mihai Floca, “Armata Poporului,” 14 March 1990).

Many Romanians and foreign observers will tell you the great “secret,” the most prized and protected issue in post-Ceausescu Romania, is who among the appartchiks who assumed power under the banner of the “National Salvation Front” knew one another before the December 1989 events, what were the dimensions and plans of this conspiracy, when was the “Front” formed, and what were their relations with the Soviet Union, etc. Nonsense. By comparison to the issue of the identity of the “terrorists,” the former are lightly guarded. The question of the “terrorists” is the issue of the Revolution precisely because it has far more weighty criminal and moral repercussions and implications associated with it.

OPPORTUNITY LOST

There are, perhaps, few sadder stories of historical revisionism in modern times than that of the Romanian Revolution of December 1989. This is, of course, not because of the magnitude of the event or the number of lives lost (1,104)—unspeakably painful for their loved ones and for the citizens of the country, but a minor total in the scheme of the world’s great historical tragedies. Instead, it is because rarely have the victims and prisoners of a former political system played such an unwitting, zealous, and unfortunate role in serving, assimilating, and perpetuating a revisionist falsehood. In the case of the Romanian Revolution, this revisionist falsehood, it must be admitted, is undeniably seductive, popular, and deeply-embedded in the Romanian popular consciousness and the country’s observers abroad.

The beginning of the burial of the truth about the “terrorists” of December can be dated to 17 February 1990, when General Victor Atanasie Stanculescu replaced General Militaru as Defense Minister. Significantly, the same former Securitate and USLA personnel who are bitterly critical of Stanculescu’s actions during the days of the Revolution praise him for his actions later, particularly after assuming this post. For example, former USLA officer turned author, Teodor Filip (not to be confused with the aforementioned Filip Teodorescu), writes: “On the first day he was appointed, Stanculescu convened all USLA personnel (at least those engaged in ordinary missions) and addressed them with words of encouragment (Filip 1998, p. 109; for his criticism of Stanculescu during the Revolution, see, for example, p. 148).” Indeed, such a revelation—and likely the source of Filip’s claim—came from Gheorghe Ardeleanu, Commander of the USLA at the time of the December events, who told the former Securitate’s journalistic mouthpiece in “Europa,” Angela Bacescu:

“As is known, General Stanculescu came to the helm of the Defense Ministry, and upon this occasion, I addressed him, in the name of USLA personnel and their grieving families, thanks, recognition for all he had done to honor the memory of those who had fallen, by declaring them heroes post mortem and promoting them. In the first day after being named to the post, General Stanculescu came to our unit and before the entire group, addressed them with words of encouragement, and promised then, and he delivered on it, that the situation of those who had fallen on duty would quickly be resolved in the spirit of truth and human dignity.” (from a 1991 interview, in Bacescu 1994, p. 123).

It was Stanculescu’s public presentation of the former Securitate and in particular the USLA that was perhaps most appreciated. In the days after the appointment, while many domestic and foreign observers were scrutinizing Stanculescu’s revelations on the bureaucratic makeup and membership of the Securitate—the first hard numbers, however flawed, to be released by the Front up until that time—Stanculescu was making critical, if generally unnoticed, revisionist statements about the USLA’s role in the December events. (At the time, at least one foreign observer picked up on the suspicious nature of Stanculescu’s revisionism and interpreted it as an attempt to rehabilitate the Securitate (Strudza, pp. 33-34). The Securitate’s official institutional successor, the Romanian Information Service, SRI was unveiled in late March 1990.) In his comments to the press, Stanculescu not only denied that the USLA had been responsible for the “terrorist actions,” but that they had any role in the repression in Timisoara and Bucharest during the week preceding Ceausescu’s fall (ROMPRES 8 March 1990 in FBIS 15 March 1990).

We’ll leave the first of these allegations alone for the moment. As for the second, it can only be called Orwellian, a true whopper among lies, that could only stand if the newspapers of the previous two months were disposed of and memories of those papers and the events purged from minds. In the same daily, “Libertatea,” to which Stanculescu related this new understanding of the USLA’s actions in December (26 and 28 February 1990), between 27 January and 15 February, transcripts of regime communications, including USLA communications, from the afternoon of 21 December and then again from the morning of 22 December, had been published under the headline “Dintre sute de…catarge! [From hundreds of “masts!” (the radio identification for USLA officers conducting surveillance)].* Although rather conveniently missing from the transcripts is the key period in the early hours of 22 December when regime forces opened gunfire in University Square, killing 48 and wounding 604 (684 people were also arrested), these truncated transcripts nevertheless reveal USLA involvement in the repression in Bucharest. According to the transcript, upon the orders of Securitate Director General Vlad, the USLA launched tear gas grenades at demonstrators. They also show USLA “intervention units” claiming to have “restored order” and one USLA member communicating in reference to protesters, “These hooligans must be annihilated at once. They are not determined. They must be taken quickly. The rest are hesitating.”

The USLA had already been trying to “correct” the memories of citizens, prior to Stanculescu’s “clarification” of their role. When a participant in the demonstrations at Piata Romana in central Bucharest related on 12 January 1990 in “Libertatea” the role of the USLA in beating demonstrators there on the 21st and later the presence of the USLA among the gunmen who killed demonstrators in University Square in the early hours of 22 December, USLA chief Ardeleanu rushed to issue a public denial in the paper several days later. Particularly in Timisoara, the presence of the USLA among the forces of repression has been detailed by so many sources—including former USLA who participated—that there is not much point in seeking to prove Stanculescu’s contention false. Indeed, even elsewhere, beyond eyewitness/demonstrator contentions, the presence of USLA among repressive forces in the week of 16-22 December has occasionally been accidentally acknowledged by Securitate officials, essentially speaking to their sympathizers. The Securitate chief for Sibiu County, Theodor Petrisor, wrote in April 1991:

“On Monday, 18 December 1989, upon the order of the [Militia’s] Inspector General, I activated the antiterrorist intervention group. This group had been reorganized in September 1989 and was made up of Securitate officers who were involved in informational-operational services…Militia officers and officers from the joint units of the inspectorate. I’ll note that the existence of this group was to intervene in order to neutralize terrorist activities, not for other street actions. In the command chain, the coordination of the group’s activity was the responsibility of the special unit for antiterrorist warfare (U.S.L.A.) in Bucharest. [Emphasis added]” (Theodor Petrisor, “Revolutia din decembrie 1989 in Sibiu County (I),” “Europa” no. 22 (April 1991), p. 8).

None of this should come as a great surprise, since the USLA—employing their tell-tale A.B.I. armored vehicles, which they alone among regime forces possessed—participated in the repression of protesting workers in Brasov on 15 November 1987 (see “Jurnalul National,” 14 November 2004; the former USLA officer Marian Romanescu in Dan Badea, “USLA, Bula Moise, teroristii si ‘Fratii Musulmani’,” “Expres” (2-8 July 1991), p. 8), and since there was a juridical basis to their key role in combatting civil unrest, as confirmed by Interior Ministry Order 02600 (July 1988). Indeed, as recently as January 1990, in the first—and soon to be, almost last—trial to sentence those accused of participating in the repression before 22 December, one of the defendants was an USLA officer (Burian), charged with having opened fire on demonstrators on 21 December in the western city of Cugir.

Stanculescu’s “revelations” essentially opened up the floodgates of revisionism, some of it accidental and the result of the confusion Stanculescu’s comments had sewn, some of it very clearly motivated. Horia Alexandrescu, former editor of the primary Romanian sports’ daily during the Ceausescu era, and later editor of “Curierul National” and “Cronica Romana” among other dailies, wrote in March 1990 as editor of “Tineretul Liber” a multi-part series extolling the work of the USLA before December 1989, and arguing not only that they had not been the post-22 December “terrorists,” but that they had not played a role in the repression of demonstrators between 16 and 22 December. Clearly, the most unexpected journalist to run to the defense of the USLA was Petre Mihai Bacanu of the daily “Romania Libera,” who had been imprisoned earlier in 1989 for attempting to publish an underground newspaper and who arrived emaciated and haggard at television in the hours following Ceausescu’s flight, direct from Securitate custody.

In his March-April 1990 series on the events of 21-22 December in Bucharest, Bacanu vigorously sought to make clear for his audience, on two occasions during a multi-part series, that the USLA had not been responsible for the repression of demonstrators at Bucharest’s University Square on the night of 21-22 December. In fact, he clarified that “we have incontrovertible proof that the USLA officers had only one mission, to defend the American Embassy and the El Al Israel Airlines ticket office” (17 March 1990). To say that this was confusing to the researcher is an understatement, particularly as the “Libertatea” transcripts had clearly shown USLA officers discussing that their mission was to “block” the access of demonstrators to these locations (i.e. fearing that they would seek refuge there.) Moreover, despite claims to the contrary of civilian and military eyewitnesses in the Army daily, “Armata Poporului” in January and later in the Military Prosecutor’s report released on 4 June 1990 (discussed Hall, 1997, pp. 219-224), Bacanu declared, “We must clarify that the USLA detachments did not fire a single shot, nor arrest a single person among the columns of demonstrators” (16 March 1990).

Significantly, almost four years later, based on what he claimed was “new” information from Army soldiers who had been in the square that bloody “longest night of the year,” in an example of professional integrity, Bacanu admitted that he had been duped:

“Very many officers talk about these ‘civilians’ in long raincoats and sheepskin coats, who arrested demonstrators from within the crowd and then beat them brutally…No one has been interested until now in these dozens 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” (28 December 1993, p. 10)

USLA Commander Gheorghe Ardeleanu admitted in passing in court testimony that USLA personnel operated in civilian clothes on this evening (Stefanescu 1994, p. 288). At the very least, it is clear that uniformed USLA personnel participated in the repression. An official at the National Theater—located next to the Hotel Intercontinental in University Square—claims USLA troops beat demonstrators and policed the building to see if any were hiding there (Vasile Neagoe, “Expres” 30 March-5 April 1990, p. 6). According to the Military Prosecutor’s 4 June 1990 charges: “The witness [Spiru Radet] specified that one of the soldiers from the USLA troops, who had a machine gun in his hand, fired warning shots and then shot at the demonstrators. At that point, the witness was wounded in the hand by bullets and transported to Coltea Hospital” (in Bunea 1994, p. 88).

In April 1990, two important articles would appear in the opposition weekly, “Zig-Zag.” One was by Gheorghe Ionescu Olbojan, who sought to accredit the idea that 40 corpses transported from Timisoara to Bucharest for cremation were not civilian demonstrators, but members of those Army “special forces,” the DIA unit. As Marius Mioc has noted, this was a clear effort to muddy the understanding of the Timisoara uprising (Mioc 2000). The other article was by Angela Bacescu, who wrote that the USLA anti-terrorist troops had no responsibility for repression and bloodshed before or after 22 December; instead, they were victims of those events, cynically targeted to leave Romania defenseless. Bacescu would transfer to the Ceausescu nostalgic weekly “Romania Mare” in the fall of 1990, and then the former Securitate’s favored mouthpiece, “Europa,” where she has stayed ever since. Ion Cristoiu, editor of “Zig-Zag” at the time was later asked if Bacescu had infiltrated his opposition weekly. Cristoiu responded that Bacescu came with a lot of documents and no need for money, but that it was important that the former Securitate’s side of the story be told.** Olbojan would admit openly and in detail from 1993 onward that he had been a Securitate officer (for a discussion of all this, see Hall 1999; 2002a).

It was these articles, as I suggested in the last segment of this series, that set off writers in the Army press, with the intentions and ties of both Bacescu and Olbojan being questioned. Elsewhere, Octavian Andronic of “Libertatea” finally published on 10 May, a letter he had received from unnamed Army officers who had written in response to Andronic’s seemingly anomalous article in early January devoted to the bravery of the USLA in defusing bombs in the 1980s. The authors expressed dismay over Andronic’s article and wondered about his motivations in trying to burnish the image of the unit that was still considered at that time the source of the “terrorists.” It was only four months later, when Andronic’s views had been “vindicated” by the change in the official history of the USLA’s actions in December that he published that letter.

Nor was the damage wrought by Bacescu and Olbojan in the pages of “Zig-Zag” over yet. In June, in an article that would be republished almost verbatim in “Romania Mare” two months later, Bacescu wrote “The Truth about Sibiu” suggesting that there were only “imaginary terrorists” in Nicu Ceausescu’s town and declaring that all those Secruitate and Militia people arrested were innocent and unjust victims (no. 15, 19-26 June 1990, p. 8). Meanwhile, in July (no. 19, 17-23 July 1990, p. 13), Olbojan would continue his push to turn the DIA into the villians of December, describing the unit as: “‘The special forces’ of the Defense Ministry troops [who] were used in diversion operations last December to create the impression that Interior Ministry forces were putting up resistance to the revolutionary wave sweeping Timisoara, Bucharest, [and] Sibiu.” In other words, the notion of a “fictitious war with fictitious terrorists,” whose victims were the Securitate and Militia.

AND NOW, WITH YOUR PERMISSION DEAR FRIENDS…BACK TO THE “TERRORISTS”

Let us ask: if this was a “fictitious war with fictitious terrorists,” “a staged war,” what would be evidence of it, and what information would falsify it? The “staged war” theory suggests that in reality there existed no “terrorists,” but just unfounded (if perhaps understandable) suspicion and fear, confusion, and insufficient, poor, or inappropriate military training. This resulted in Army units, other forces, and civilians firing haphazardly at “phantoms,” at each other and at civilians in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or it suggests that there were “terrorists” but they were acting upon the orders of those who had seized power—Iliescu and his friends—or whose actions were known or understood by those officials, but allowed to continue because they were seen as legitimating their seizure of power. As we have seen, in the latter scenario, very frequently these “friendly terrorists” are identified as Soviet or other foreign “tourists”/agents, and or the Army’s DIA unit.

In either scenario, one must explain why, either intentionally or accidentally, during the events, the Securitate—primarily from the USLA anti-terrorist unit—was suspected and publicly accused of being the “terrorists” and responsible directly and indirectly for the death of 942 people and wounding of 2245. It is difficult to “prove” the first scenario, because it is essentially the process of proving a negative. It is possible to infirm it, however. If people who would have been in the position to know, to have access to such information, claim that there were no actual terrorists, then we have to take such an allegation seriously—although we also have to examine their credibility and if they might have some institutional or personal agenda. It should be pointed out, however, that if this or that Army officer or soldier speculates post-facto that because they found no terrorists, that therefore there were none and that they had intentionally been sent on a wild-goose chase designed to create military confrontations and victims to legitimate the seizure of power, this cannot be interpreted as confirmation of the thesis: since it is speculation, conflates personal experience with collective experience, and runs into the problem of proving a negative.

In the scenario alleging that there were terrorists but that they were intentionally serving those who seized power, we must have people from the institution, group, or unit, and/or would have been in a position to have knowledge of that information, make the allegations. To have someone from a different institution or political perspective make this allegation, does not necessarily invalidate it, but it is clear that the credibility of the allegation is substantially enhanced if it comes from one’s associates. Thus, the Army officer who suspects the Securitate of having been the “terrorists” is not as convincing as the Securitate officer who alleges the same thing—and therefore is at the very least taking an implicit risk by breaking ranks with his colleagues. Similarly, in the scenario where the DIA are thought to be the “terrorists,” one needs admissions from current or former members of the unit, or at least from senior Army officials who would have been in the position to know, in order for the scenario to be credible.

It is important to emphasize—particularly in the case of the historiography of the Romanian Revolution—that all “revelations” are not equal. This point has simply been lost on many analysts of the December 1989 events. “Revelations” in which an individual blames an institution of which he was not a member are less credible because 1) it is less likely that the individual would have access to knowledge about the actions of those he accuses, 2) the risk he incurs by such revelations is far less than if he were a member of that institution—in which case he violates a written or unwritten code of loyalty to the organization, and perhaps more important, to his colleagues. “Revelations” that damage one’s institution or impugn one’s colleagues are, as we know, far more dangerous to the individual who makes them, if that institution is based on secrecy. In the Romanian context, it is clear that the institution most strongly based on secrecy—and with the capability and record of enforcing its maintenance—was the Securitate. To suggest that such laws of silence were—and, in particular, still are—stronger among those in the Communist Party, the military, or the nomenklatura as a whole is an extraordinary proposition.

What is significant in the case of the Romanian Revolution is that we have not just one, but several “whistleblowers” who worked in the former Securitate, and in two cases served in the USLA, who have admitted that components of the USLA were the hub of the December 1989 “terrorist” actions. The effort these individuals have gone to in order to mask their identities, the fear of retribution from the former Securitate they have expressed in their revelations, the lengths to which other former Securitate officials have gone to in order to publicly identify these “whistleblowers,” and the vitriol with which these former Securitate officials have attempted to discredit these whistleblowers and their claims, sharply differentiate these revelations from the ocean of accusations by other former regime members who have spoken or written on the topic. These circumstances also attest to their credibility: why do they fear to speak? Why do their former colleagues make such efforts to find out who they are and publicly identify them? Why the obsession of their former colleagues with silencing these “whistleblowers?”

It is precisely the admissions that exist and the gaping gaps in opposing accounts that lead me to conclude that the 1) terrorists existed, 2) they were primarily from the Securitate, and that 3) the core source within the Securitate was the USLA/USLAC.

Those who deny that there were terrorists or that their key component was members of the Securitate’s “Special Unit for Antiterrorist Warfare (USLA)” fighting to prevent the collapse of the Ceausescu regime have yet to confront or respond to the following four critical questions:

1) If there were no terrorists, why do there exist people who have come forward to declare their existence?

2) Why are the only people to declare that the terrorists came from their institution or unit those from the Securitate/Militia, and specifically the USLA?”

3) Why have former Securitate members made such efforts to discover the sources of these allegations, write with such vitriol against them, and threaten them?

4) Why has nobody from the Army come forward to state that the terrorists were from their particular unit? (Particularly significant considering that the “law of silence” in the Securitate/Militia was inevitably far more deeply-embedded and enforced that in the Army.)

* USLA’s chief of operations Alexandru Cristescu admitted elsewhere that those posted at observation points had sniper rifles (pusca cu luneta) and live ammunition (see “Lumea Libera,” 18 March 1995, p. 21). It is also very important to specify, given the events of the next several days in the area of the Central Committee (CC) building and the allegations since, that both Securitate Director Vlad (“Dimineata,” 25 November 1996) and senior communist party official Silviu Curticeanu (“Jurnalul National,” November 2004) have admitted that on 21 December, the Securitate installed gunfire simulators in the area. Demonstrators who investigated the Romarta bloc in the following days, found several of them (“Expres,” 7-13 January 1992, p. 10).

**Although Cristoiu’s motives remain unclear, like so many in the post-Ceausescu media, he has displayed a “laissez-faire” attitude toward the former Securitate: publishing anything that comes his way, whether it be blatant revisionist falsehoods such as those of Bacescu or Olbojan, or documents incriminating the Securitate, such as the text of Order 2600 in “Expres” 1991, or a host of documents on the December events in 1993 in “Evenimentul Zilei.” The former Securitate have been somewhat serendipitous beneficiaries of the—perhaps inevitable given the situation at the time—mercenary and sensationalist temptations confronting those working in the post-Ceausescu media.

SOURCES

“Armata Poporului,” 1990.

Bacescu, A. 1994. Din Nou in Calea Navalirilor Barbare [In the Path of Barbaric Invasions Again] (Cluj-Napoca: Zalmoxis).

Bunea, M. 1994. Praf in Ochi. Procesul celor 24-1-2 [Dust in the Eyes. The Trial of the 24+1+2] (Bucharest: Editura Scripta).

“Dimineata (online),” 1996.

“Europa,” 1991.

“Expres,” 1991

Filip, T. 1999. Secretele USLA [Secrets of the USLA] (Craiova: Editura Obiectiv).

Hall, R. A., 1999, “The Uses of Absurdity: The Staged War Theory and the Romanian Revolution of December 1989,” in “East European Politics and Societies,” Vol. 13, no.3, pp. 501-542.

Hall, R. A., 2002, “Part 1: The Many Zig-Zags of Gheorghe Ionescu Olbojan,” “The Securitate Roots of a Modern Romanian Fairy Tale: The Press, the Former Securitate, and the Historiography of December 1989,” Radio Free Europe “East European Perspectives,” Vol. 4, no 7.

“Jurnalul National (online),” 2004.

“Libertatea,” 1990.

“Lumea Libera,” (New York), 1995.

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

“Romania Libera,” 1990, 1993.

Stefanescu, P. 1994, Istoria Serviciilor Secrete Romanesti [The History of the Romanian Secret Services], (Bucharest: Editura Divers Press).

Sturdza, M. 1990, “How Dead is Ceausescu’s Secret Police Force?” in Radio Free Europe’s “Report on Eastern Europe,” Vol. 1, No. 15, (13 April).

“Tineretul Liber,” 1990.

“Zig-Zag,” 1990.


THE 1989 ROMANIAN REVOLUTION AS GEOPOLITICAL PARLOR GAME: BRANDSTATTER’S “CHECKMATE” DOCUMENTARY AND THE LATEST WAVE IN A SEA OF REVISIONISM

By Richard Andrew Hall

Part 6: When Suspicion Meets Admission

The USLA: “Who, we all remember, don’t we?, just how much with the people they were in the days of the Revolution… (emphasis in the original)” (Paul Vinicius, “Flacara,” 29 May 1991).

I. Suspecting/Blaming the USLA: Cloaking a Coup, Creating a Revolutionary Halo for a Bloodstained Army, or Accidental?

a) Where could the idea that the USLA was hostile to the Revolution have possibly come from?

To believe the revisionists, the idea that during the December events there existed “terrorists” and that the Securitate’s anti-terrorist special unit was behind the “terrorism” originated in the minds and announcements of Romanian Television reporters Teodor Brates and Alexandru Stark, General Nicolae Tudor and other military officials at the Television station, and/or General Nicolae Militaru, Silviu Brucan, Ion Iliescu and other members of the National Salvation Front. A popular belief among revisionists is that they were all in on this deception, the new political officials and televsion personalities. At their most charitable, revisionists will argue that the suspicion regarding the existence of “terrorists” and of the USLA specifically was based in an understandable and rational fear regarding the Ceausescu regime—but that ultimately these fears were misplaced, and that the suspicion of the USLA actually played a large role in contributing to needless bloodshed after Ceausescu fled. As in so many controversies surrounding the Revolution, little effort has been made in “process tracing,” working backwards to find the roots of claims and ideas.

It is significant that in 1990, the infamous Securitate cheerleader, Angela Bacescu, blamed all of the above personalities for creating “imaginary terrorists,” but also added another culprit.

“Among those [who showed up at Television on the afternoon of 22 December after Ceausescu fled] was this Cirjan, an ordinary thief, who entered with a false ID. He had been thrown out of the USLA, several years earlier, because he was stealing from passengers’ baggage, was dealing on the black market, and other such things, and [here] he is from the first moment shouting ‘Death to the Securitate’ and ‘The USLA are coming to shoot us’.” (Bacescu, “Romania Mare” 7 September 1990, p. 5a; see also her allegations against Cirjan in the 21 August 1990 edition)

A “Constantin Cirjan” appears on the list of the 38 “founding” members of the National Salvation Front read out on Television by Ion Iliescu. And, although I cannot verify that they are one and the same, it is possible that this Constantin Cirjan is the same as a Captain Constantin Cirjan of Romania’s special “mountain hunter” forces, whose recent training exercises are discussed on a web page (see geocities.com/romanianspecialforces/vanatoridemunte). It would certainly make sense, given that the “mountain hunter” forces were affiliated with the Securitate before the Revolution, and USLA training would likely have had many similarities with the current training of these “mountain hunter” forces.

This is signficant. In other words, the point that so many revisionists highlight—how was it that even before the “terrorists” appeared, Television was warning about their appearance?—appears to have an explanation. We must ask: what would lead Cirjan to suspect this? From where would he have such information? Even if we assume for a minute that Bacescu has made up this episode, the question is why? Afterall, she already targets Brates, Stark, etc. for this allegedly false, intentional “rumor” about the existence of “terrorists” and the USLA’s contribution to them. True, Bacescu could be wrong, misinformed, or determined to find a scapegoat or settle scores with this individual. But the point is that she identifies the source of the USLA rumor as a former member of the USLA—in other words, someone with access to such knowledge. In other words, the “USLA rumor” appears to have originated not with Brates, Stark, or others, but from a former USLA member.

b) But what evidence exists to believe that Front officials at the time suspected the USLA? Were the public statements that the USLA were involved merely for public consumption, and did not reflect their actual beliefs—particularly in the event that they were lying to begin with and knew the USLA was innocent?

Despite expressions of suspicion of the USLA on TV and elsewhere, regime forces followed the so-called “Special Action Plan” that called for the combined participation of Army units alongside USLA and other Securitate units. In Bucharest and elsewhere, the USLA were sent out on patrol in pursuit of the “terrorists” (for example, Buzau and Arad, see Armata Romana in Revolutia din Decembrie 1989, p. 192, 209). With USLA Commander Ardeleanu having “joined” the Revolution from early on, and with the appearance of USLA cooperation, Front officials found it hard to believe that the USLA were the “terrorists.”

Yet they kept on getting reports that something was not right.* At the very least, Securitate Director General Vlad and USLA Commander Ardeleanu were not putting all their cards on the table, unwilling or “unable” to fulfill requests for maps of Securitate safehouses and architectural plans of key buildings that might have clarified from where the shooting was coming and what exactly was going on (Ardeleanu himself seems to have admitted this obliquely in a document drafted on 8 January 1990, see its reproduction in Dan Badea, “Cine au fost teroristii?,” “Expres,” 15-21 October 1991, p. 15). In theory, the USLA had either surrendered their registered arms on the 22nd, and/or were performing joint missions with the Army to root out the “terrorists.” The straw that appeared to break the camel’s back was the arrest of an armed USLA sergeant, Ion Popa Stefan, in the neighborhood of the Defense Ministry—he claimed he was on his way to the Defense Ministry to “surrender”. Commander Ardeleanu is said to have played dumb upon being confronted with the news: “I think it’s the hand of my chief of staff Trosca, he’s done this to me” (Lt. Col. Mihai Floca and a group of Army officers, “Eroi, victime sau teroristi?” “Adevarul,” 29 August 1990). Senior Army officers and Front leaders had had enough. They would try to call Ardeleanu’s bluff and give them a “loyalty test” of sorts.

One important admission from Commander Ardeleanu—one that has little alternative explanation given his accusations toward Army General Nicolae Militaru who instructed Ardeleanu to order USLA units to the building—severely undermines much that underlies revisionist accounts that Trosca and his men were intentionally lured into a diabolical ambush:

“…When I reported at the Defense Ministry [during the late evening of 23 December], I was asked to give details regarding the organization of the unit, its subdivisions, responsibilities, and attributes. After this, I was told that the Defense Ministry was being attacked from all around…Then, General Militaru announced that in the “Orizont” building terrorists had barricaded themselves and were firing on the Defense Ministry, ordering me to transmit to my unit an order that 3 intervention groups come to annihilate the terrorists. He warned me that the order I would transmit would be recorded and that I should proceed with this in mind. I transmitted the order to Colonel B.I. [Ion Bleort] who reported to me that by his side was Colonel Gheorghe Trosca, the unit’s chief of staff, who would take measures to execute the order. Keeping in mind the importance of the mission I gave the order. I know that I pronounced the name of Colonel Trosca, and therefore those present knew that he would lead the group. [interview from 1991, in Bacescu 1994, p. 116]

This passage is critical for two reasons in terms of the revisionist accounts: a) it was Ardeleanu, not Militaru or anyone else, who chose Col. Trosca, and b) it was known that the USLA transmissions would be recorded. Furthermore, the passage testifies to the suspicion of Front leaders: why all the questions to Ardeleanu about the composition and activities of his unit?

The understanding of what followed, the famous so-called “Defense Ministry incident,” in which seven USLA members lost their lives after Army units out front of the building opened fire upon them, became even more confused after exchanges from the tape of USLA transmissions appeared in the press in early 1993 (Ioan Itu, “Armata Trage in Propriul Minister,” “Tinerama” 8-14 January 1993, p. 7—pretty much the entire article and discussion of this important incident shows up in Deletant, pp. 360-362). Those exchanges show Trosca communicating to an uncomprehending Bleort back at USLA headquarters—Trosca repeated himself several times—that “a column of six-seven TABs, two trucks with soldiers and two ARO, fired for ten minutes on the Ministry and then stopped.” In other words, Army units were firing on their own ministry. A few minutes after Trosca’s announcement to headquarters, Trosca reported that Army tanks guarding the ministry had opened up fire on his USLA team’s armored personnel carriers (ABI). The impression one gets after that is that the USLA personnel became tank fodder and that they never event fired a shot in response. The journalist Ioan Itu concluded from this, and Deletant appears to accept, that the USLA detachment had been attacked “because they had to disappear, having accidentally witnessed one part of the Army at war with another part of the Army.”

Of course, there is more to this story. It was not just a few minutes between the arrival of the USLA detachment at the scene, their report of what was going on, and their coming under attack. Instead, they had stationed themselves in between tanks—as they had been instructed—for almost a half hour, without making contact with anyone among the Army personnel out front of the Ministry, a fact which caused obvious suspicion for those personnel. Moreover, according to officers interviewed in spring 1990, they witnessed gunfire from the guns on the USLA vehicles, three of the machine guns recovered from the USLA vehicles showed signs of having been fired, the gunbarrell of one the tanks had been blocked, and on the top of another tank a machine gun and signal lantern were found (Major Mihai Floca, “Crima?” “Armata Poporului” 6 June 1990, p. 3).

What is amazing, of course, if we take Trosca’s transmission about the Army forces firing on their own ministry at face value, is that somehow this occurred “for ten minutes” and yet there is no report that the USLA detachment or the Army units defending the Ministry were hit or returned fire. And when the USLA detachment is attacked it is from the units guarding the Ministry…because they are embarrassed ?, afraid ? that the USLA personnel witnessed something they should not have seen? And why or how did these rebel Army units stop attacking the Ministry and what became of them? Furthermore, as Army General Tiberiu Udrareanu relates:

“Personally, I have serious doubts regarding the use of ‘7-8 TAB-uri, two trucks of soldiers (two platoons) and two AROs’ in a mission of this type, to be able to operate in the center of the Capital and to not be seen by a single person. And the survivors, because we are talking about hundreds of people, have kept this secret so tightly for over seven years?” (Udrareanu 1996, p. 143).

Indeed, the latter point is significant, as one could imagine how once the content of the tapes were made public, that some lips might have loosened. And I ask the reader: which is more plausible, that Trosca—knowing his words were being listened to—was lying or trying to communicate something in code to his headquarters, or that hundreds of soldiers—including draftees and students at the military academy—could or would keep quiet about Army units intentionally attacking their own Ministry?

What happened after the firefight is even more intriguing as evidence of the genuine suspicion of the USLA on the part of Front leaders. USLA Lieutenant Stefan Soldea who survived the firefight outside the Defense Ministry relates what happened when he was taken to the building. Remember, here is an USLA officer, who participated in this key incident and his clearly defending his own actions and those of his unit, talking about his experiences in the pages of the Securitate mouthpiece “Europa,” so hardly in a position to, as is soften alleged, be somehow serving the Front leadership:

“A civilian, Gelu Voican Voiculescu, was in the office surrounded by the other generals [Army General Nicolae Militaru, Militia General Cimpeanu, Securitate General Iulian Vlad, and Securitate Fifth Directorate General Neagoe]…he began to interrogate me, ordering that my USLA commander, Colonel Ardeleanu go outside. He demanded information about the organization, make-up, and functioning of the unit, its address, what the unit’s members were doing at that moment, my personal information, after which he confronted me with Colonel Ardeleanu and asked me to identify who he was…”(“Crime care nu se prescriu,” interview with Angela Bacescu, “Europa” 28 July-5 August 1992).

Among the many interesting details that come out of Soldea’s interview is his complaint that the next day of his detention he “was forced to take a urinalysis test to see if I was drugged.” What does all this tell us? At the very least, it tells us that Voiculescu and other Front officials suspected that the USLA were the terrorists and suspected that—as the rumor circulated at the time (it turned out to be correct, but that is an issue for a different discussion)—they were drugged.**

This was an incredible and inexplicable charade to go through at the time if Voiculescu, who is always portrayed as one of those at the center of the alleged Front “staged war,” was attempting to stage such a confrontation. If the Front “controlled” the “terrorists,” why do this? Who exactly were Front leaders trying to impress/convince with this incident? Moreover, if this truly was a charade—such as is alleged of the Ceausescus’ trial and execution—why is there no record/tape of it? Would not this have been a great bit of counter-propaganda to the revisionists that could have been given to the media to protect their reputations and credibility?

c) What else would have made Front officials suspect the USLA?

We now have enough evidence to confirm that after the Ceausescus were executed on Christmas Day 1989, a meeting took place at the headquarters of the USLA that included senior Front leaders, with a tight military guard outside the building. USLA Commander Ardeleanu (Bacescu 1994, p. 142), former USLA Captain Marian Romanescu (more on him below), and Army General Tiberiu Urdareanu have all related this in their spoken and written comments on the Revolution. According to Urdareanu, who claims to have been present at the meeting, the new Defense Minister General Militaru took the floor in a speech that focused principally on the secretive nature of and confusion surrounding the USLA. Militaru stressed that now was the time for reconciliation between the Defense Ministry and the Interior Ministry (i.e. Securitate)—it had just been announced that the Interior Ministry was being dissolved in the Defense Ministry—and appealed at the end “for those involved in the genocide: put an end to it!” As Udrareanu concluded:

“From his [Militaru’s] discussion it was clear that, among other forces, the USLA were definitely taking part [in the terrorist actions], that they had prepared for this for many years, and it was not known how much money their preparation had cost” (Udrareanu 1996, p. 137).

Urdareanu asserts that USLA Commander Ardeleanu also talked at the session:

“Colonel Ardeleanu, the USLA Commander, palely observed that it wasn’t they [the USLA] who were fighting, but that they [the “terrorists”] were acting in the name of the USLA, but his intervention went unnoticed.” (Urdareanu 1996, p. 137).

Five years before Urdareanu, former USLA Captain Marian Romanescu described Adreleanu’s comments to his troops as follows:

On 25 December at around 8 pm, after the execution of the dictators, Colonel Ardeleanu gathered the unit’s members into an improvised room and said to them:

‘The Dictatorship has fallen! The Unit’s members are in the service of the people. The Romanian Communist Party [PCR] is not disbanding! It is necessary for us to regroup in the democratic circles of the PCR—the inheritor of the noble ideas of the people of which we are a part!…Corpses were found, individuals with USLAC (Special Unit for Antiterrorist and Comando Warfare) identitity cards and indentifications with the 0620 stamp of the USLA, identity cards that they had no right to be in possession of when they were found…’ He instructed that the identity cards [of members of the unit] had to be turned in within 24 hours, at which time all of them would receive new ones with Defense Ministry markings.” (emphasis in the original) (with Dan Badea, “USLA, Bula Moise, teroristii si ‘Fratii Musulmani’,” “Expres (2-8 July 1991), p. 8)

Ardeleanu’s statement begs the question: if these were non-USLA personnel, why exactly were they trying to pass themselves off as USLA personnel…to the point of losing their lives? At the very least, his statement infirms the idea that the individuals with these identity cards were innocent victims—because otherwise he would likely not have stated that they had “no right” to possess these identity documents, but instead would have presented them as heroes who had died in the name of the Revolution. Ardeleanu’s comments can be interpreted as the beginnings of a cover-up, designed to reverse the popular understanding of the USLA’s responsibility for the December bloodshed.

It is odd that, at the time, even those who contested the seizure of power by the second-tier of the communist regime—and spoke in terms of a coup d’etat designed to staunch the revolution or that had been pushed ahead of schedule in order to take advantage of the popular uprising—did not question the existence of the “terrorists.” Would there not have been some first-hand accounts that contradicted the official and initial understanding if it had indeed been a “staged war?” Personal retrospective judgements based on the fact that the “terrorists” never came to trial or that someone never saw or captured a “real terrorist,” are not the same as doubts expressed at the time—suggesting that someone else other than the Securitate/USLA was behind the “terrorist” gunfire.

II. Revelations/Confessions/Admissions

Suspicion, of course, does not equal guilt. Even if circumstantially understandable, it can still prove unfounded. In the case of the Romanian Revolution, in order to prove the idea of a “staged war,” one has to have admissions from those in the DIA [the Army’s Defense Intelligence unit charged with search and diversion missions, accused by many of having been the “terrorists”] or Army personnel who would have been in a position to know such plans that this is what took place. What is significant is that there are none. Conversely, in order to substantiate the USLA’s role in the “terrorist” violence, one needs admissions from those who served in the USLA or Securitate personnel who would have been in a position to know such plans. These exist. The very existence of such revelations is extremely damaging for the theory of a “staged war” or accidental free-for-all between units all on the same side of the battle.

There is a great difference, of course, between alleging somebody else—foreigners, another institution, a rival—did something, and saying that your own institution, unit, commanders, etc. did something. The latter clearly appropriates more risk and opprobrium—especially if one is wrong. This issue in weighing declarations is rarely addressed in works on the Revolution, but is of critical importance.

To begin with there are the admissions, speculation, and alleged confessions of high-ranking Securitate personnel…regarding their own institution. Army General Dan Ioan, former head of the Military Prosecutor’s office maintained just this January (2005) that Securitate Director Vlad admitted that the “terrorists” were special forces of the Interior Ministry and Securitate (“Gardianul,” 29 January 2005). Although Vlad provided many possible formations and individuals within these categories—and it is possible they also participated—the focus of his comments was that “the terrorists could have been from the Special Units for Antiterrorist Warfare (USLA), Directorate V-a, more precisely elite sharpshooters.” Ten years earlier, Army General Nicolae Militaru maintained that during the days of the Revolution, Lt. Col. Dumitru Pavelescu, commander of the Securitate’s regular troops, had told him pretty much the same thing and that Order 2600 was the basis for the operation (“Cotidianul,” 25 May 1995). Aristotel Stamatoiu, head of foreign intelligence at the time of the Revolution, is quoted as having said “Who fired? Ask at the units specially-equipped and trained—USLA, Dicrectorate V-a, Militia, and Securitate Troops etc.” (“Revolutia—vazuta de securisti,” 20 December 2003, at http://www.hanuancutei.com).

Then there is Interior Minister Tudor Postelnicu. He is quoted as having said after his arrest on 22 December 1989 and after the gunfire had begun: “Who’s firing?! The USLA!” (“Tineretul Liber,” 13 March 1990, p. 4). On 23 December, the following statement allegedly by him was read on Romanian Television and Radio:

“Appeal: To the Soldiers of the Securitate troops who are engaging in special missions that were ordered by the leadership of the T.S. [Trupele speciale]! I come as Interior Minister, specifically to ask you in writing, in the most categoric terms, to cease your actions of warfare because they have transformed into a crime against humanity! Think of your children and families, because only this way can you receive legal clemency! Stop your actions of a terrorist nature and establish means of surrendering your forces to your commanders, to Colonel Pavelescu! Whoever permits you to continue these terrorist actions will be punished severely! This is the last warning I will give you to save your lives for a crime that is futile and irresponsible. Signed Tudor Postelnicu, former Interior Minister.” (Societatea Romana de Radiodifiziune 1998, pp. 244-245).

What is never explained of course by those who maintain he was forced to do this, or that he did it to gain clemency for himself from Front officials, is why either he or the Front would blame the Interior Ministry and Securitate. Iliescu and others were straightforward in declaring from the beginning in televised announcements that the Securitate had joined the Revolution (see the quotes in Hall 1999, pp. 516-517). If your goal is supposedly to incriminate someone so that you can seize power, but you admit publicly that the Securitate has sided with the Revolution, and you plan on maintaining the bulk of the Securitate in the new regime, why not blame unknown civilian loyalists, outside any formal structure of the Ceausescu regime’s institutions, as those villains? Why on earth would you plant any idea that the “terrorists” were associated with the Interior Ministry or Securitate? It simply does not make sense—unless of course you genuinely suspect them, as we have seen they did and good reason to do so.

All of these claims can of course be dismissed as “second-hand,” related by Army personnel at the center of the December events with an interest perhaps in protecting their own hides, or as the temporary kowtowing and doubletalk of people (Securitate and Interior Ministry) under arrest. These explanations, however, do not wash for the revelations of those discussed in the next installment.

* In place after place, over the course of the next few days, USLA personnel either tried to penetrate/infiltrate key buildings or were found furtively exiting zones from which there had been extensive gunfire, leading local Army commanders and others to suspect and move against them. See, for example, “Expres,” no. 27 and 34 (1991) on Caras-Severin county; “Flacara,” no. 21 (22 May 1991), p. 7, on Galati; “Gazeta de Sud,” 23 December 2002 (citing “Cartel (Craiova),” 8 April 1992) on Craiova; and Armata Romana in Revolutia din Decembrie, p. 210, on Arad.

**Many—I’d venture to guess most—Romanians and East Europeanists today chuckle knowingly—“how naïve!”—at the notion that, to the extent “terrorists” actually existed, they were drugged. Those who captured or treated them are less amused. See for example, the comments of Sergiu Tanasescu (“Cuvintul,” 28 March 1990) regarding the capture of an USLAC officer, and Doctor Zorel Filipescu (“22,” no. 48 December 1990 in Hall 1997, p. 269). The journalist Ondine Gherghut, who was a nurse at the time of the December events, also has no doubt that those who arrived at her hospital as “terrorists” were drugged (author interview, Bucharest, 25 June 1997). And the passage of time and domestic and foreign cynicism have not erased the memories of Professor Andrei Firica, director of the Floreasca Emergency Hospital in 1989 (interview, “Jurnalul National,” 9 March 2004). Finally, the former Securitate and USLA personnel who have admitted the USLA and USLAC role in the “terrorism” all tell of them being drugged (see next installment).

SOURCES

“Armata Poporului,” 1990.

Armata Romana in Revolutia din Decembrie 1989, 1998, (Bucharest: Editura Militara).

Bacescu, A. 1994. Din Nou in Calea Navalirilor Barbare [In the Path of Barbaric Invasions Again] (Cluj-Napoca: Zalmoxis).

“Cotidianul,” 1995.

“Cuvintul,” 1990.

Deletant, D. 1995. Ceausescu and the Securitate: Coercion and Dissent in Romania, 1965-1989 (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe).

“Expres,” 1991.

“Europa,” 1990, 1992.

“Gardianul (online),” 2005.

Gherghut, O. Interview, Bucharest, 25 June 1997.

Hall, R. A. 1997, “Rewriting the Revolution: Authoritarian Regime-State Relations and the Triumph of Securitate Revisionism in Post-Ceausescu Romania,” (Ph.D. Dissertation, Indiana University).

Hall, R. A., 1999, “The Uses of Absurdity: The Staged War Theory and the Romanian Revolution of December 1989,” in “East European Politics and Societies,” Vol. 13, no.3, pp. 501-542.

“Jurnalul National (online),” 2004.

Revista “22,” 1990.

“Romania Mare,” 1990.

Societatea Romana de Radiodifiziune, 1998. E un inceput in tot sfarsitul [There’s a beginning to every ending] (Bucharest).

“Tinerama,” 1993.

“Tineretul Liber,” 1990.

Udrareanu, T. 1996. 1989—Martor si Participant [1989—Witness and Participant] (Bucharest: Editura Militara).


THE 1989 ROMANIAN REVOLUTION AS GEOPOLITICAL PARLOR GAME: BRANDSTATTER’S “CHECKMATE” DOCUMENTARY AND THE LATEST WAVE IN A SEA OF REVISIONISM

By Richard Andrew Hall

Part 7: Why the “End of Amnesia” May Not Come Anytime Soon*

II. Revelations/Confessions/Admissions

1) The Revelations of former Timisoara Securitate officer Roland Vasilevici

Two months after the violence that marked Ceausescu’s overthrow, when in Bucharest the official and media rehabilitation of the USLA was already underway (see Part 5), a three-part series entitled “Piramida Umbrelor [Pyramid of Shadows]” appeared in the cultural/political Timisoara weekly, “Orizont,” on 2, 9, and 16 March 1990. The articles appeared under the name “Puspoki F.,” but it was clear from the text of the articles that the author must have some connection to the former Securitate or Militia because he described the inner workings of these organs in their dealings with Pastor Tokes and their actions once protests began outside his residence on 15-16 December 1989. Significantly, the author related the responsibilities and actions of the USLA, including their weaponry, munitions, clothing, and physical disposition—details which were later to be substantiated elsewhere. It was pretty clear in his discussion of the USLA and the “Comando” unit (a likely reference to the USLAC) that he believed them to have been the “terrorists” who had claimed so many lives.

In 1996, I asked Mircea Mihaies, the editor of “Orizont” at the time the “Pyramid of Shadows” series appeared, what recollection he had about the circumstances of the article’s publication (Mihaies, interview, Bloomington, IN 1996). He could not recall the situation, and I have no reason to question his lack of recollection. It is important to point out that at the time of the interview with Mihaies, I had no knowledge of Vasilevici’s book “Pyramid of Shadows”—I first learned of it in summer 1997—and therefore could not draw the comparison between the series in “Orizont” and the book. As a result, throughout my Ph.D. Dissertation, I cite only “Puspoki F.” and the “Orizont” series—believing them to have been the revelations of someone with access to the former Securitate’s methods and actions, but without realizing them to be Vasilevici’s (see Hall, February 1997).

Nevertheless, there is no denying that the text of the “Orizont” series is identical to the passages found in Vasilevici’s book (Editura Vest, 1991) of the same title as the series. This does not leave many explanations: 1) “Puspoki F.” is the source of both the “Orizont” series and of the work under Vasilevici’s name; 2) someone other than “Puspoki F.” or Vasilevici is the author of all the texts involved; or 3) Vasilevici was the source of the article published under the name “Puspoki F.” Clearly—and especially given Vasilevici’s later comments with William Totok and others—Vasilevici was the author of the series in “Orizont” (see, the 1995 interview in Totok, 2001, pp. 186-203; Vasilevici had worked the surveillance of “Culte (churches),” specifically Roman Catholic, in Timisoara, under Radu Tinu).

2) The comments of former USLA Captain Marian Romanescu

In mid-1991, the revelations of former USLA Captain Marian Romanescu surfaced, first under his initials and later under his real name. Romanescu admitted the unit’s involvement in the repression of workers in Brasov in November 1987 and the juridical basis upon which the unit’s involvement lay (Order No. 2600). Furthermore, as we saw in the last installment of this series, he reported USLA Commander Ardeleanu’s comments at the unit’s headquarters after the execution of the Ceausescus. On the USLA’s actions during the week of 16-22 December, and particularly on his own actions during 22-25 December he was somewhat more reticent. However, he did supply information on the enigmatic USLAC (special unit for antiterrorist and commando warfare), referenced by Ardeleanu in his speech:

The USLAC Commandos: Those who had and have knowledge about the existence and activities of the shock troops subordinated directly to Ceausescu remained quiet and continue to do so out of fear or out of calculation. Much has been said about individuals in black jumpsuits, with tatoos on their left hand and chest, mercenary fanatics who acted at night killing with precision and withdrawing when they were encircled to the underground tunnels of Bucharest. Much was said, then nobody said anything, as if nothing had ever happened. Superimposed above the Fifth Directorate and the USLA, the USLAC commandos were made up of individuals who ‘worked’ undercover in different places. Many were foreign students, doctors and thugs commited with heart and soul to the dictator. Many were Arabs who knew with precision the nooks and crannies of Bucharest, Brasov and other towns in Romania. (emphasis in original).” ((with Dan Badea, “USLA, Bula Moise, teroristii si ‘Fratii Musulmani’,” “Expres (2-8 July 1991), p. 8)).

3) The comments of an anonymous former USLA recruit

As in the case of the “Puspoki” series, so it was in the case of the comments of a former USLA recruit. Asked about the significance of this short A.M. Press news agency dispatch on page 3 of the daily “Romania Libera” on 28 December 1994 (“Dezvaluiri despre implicarea USLA in evenimentele din decembrie ’89 [Revelations on USLA involvement in the events of December ‘89]”), Romanian journalists and intellectuals have no knowledge of it—not surprising—and dismiss it as unimportant. Strangely, a former USLA officer read it and was so incensed he immediately published responses condemning it and identifying and denigrating the similarly anonymous correspondent of the dispatch. Why such a zealous reaction?

Here are the comments of the recruit that precipitated the reaction:

“A youth who did his military service with the USLA troops declared to A.M. Press’ Dolj correspondent: ‘I was in Timisoara and Bucharest in December ’89. In addition to us [USLA] draftees, recalled professionals, who wore black camouflage outfits, were dispatched. Antiterrorist troop units and these professionals received live ammunition. In Timisoara demonstrators were shot at short distances. I saw how the skulls of those who were shot would explode. I believe the masked ones, using their own special weapons, shot with exploding bullets. In January 1990, all the draftees from the USLA troops were put in detox. We had been drugged. We were discharged five months before our service was due to expire in order to lose any trace of us. Don’t publish my name. I fear for me and my parents. When we trained and practiced we were separated into ‘friends’ and ‘enemies.’ The masked ones were the ‘enemies’ who we had to find and neutralize. I believe the masked ones were the terrorists.’” [“Romania Libera,” 28 December 1994]**

Teodor Filip, a former USLA officer, was apparently intrigued enough by this article that he went to the trouble of tracking down the identity of the correspondent of the dispatch. According to Filip, the correspondent was Sterie Petrescu, who Filip claims was later expelled by both AM Press (Dolj) and “Romania Libera” for printing “scandalous disinformation,” and removed in 1996 from his position as head of Dolj County for the anti-Iliescu regime “Civic Alliance,” after which he had legal motions lodged against him (Filip 1998, pp. 109-111). Filip claims immediately after the above dispatch came out, he published rejoinders in the daily “Crisana Plus.” In those responses, he rejected the claims of the dispatch in their entirety. According to Filip: “during the December 1989 events, not a single member of USLA was dispatched into the field…[and] the USLA did not commit a single act [of repression] against demonstrators” (Filip 1998, p. 111).

Fear

It is significant that all of the aforementioned former Securitate (USLA) members who have revealed the USLA’s role in the December 1989 bloodshed have been “called out” and threatened. Marian Romanescu claimed harassment and “hostile surveillance,” and initially tried to hide his identity (see details of his ordeal as recounted to Dan Badea, “U.S.L.A. in Stare de Hipnoza,” “Expres,” 9-15 April 1991); the anonymous USLA recruit, more explicit too—as if his anonymity were not enough—claiming that he feared for himself and his family. Then there is Vasilevici’s case.

Despite the denial of any recollection or importance of the articles by “Puspoki F. (i.e. Vasilevici),” they did not escape the notice of the former Securitate. Thus, from jail, Radu Tinu, the Timis County Deputy Securitate chief, sought to counter the accusations “during March 1990, in the weekly “Orizont” in which a certain Puspok accused me of nationalism” (interview from 1991, in Bacescu 1994, p. 67). When Vasilevici was preparing to release his book, he maintained that he was “receiving many threatening and ‘dead line’ phone calls in the middle of the night” (interview with Mireca Iovan, “Cuvintul,” no. 119 (May 1992), p. 8). He said two to three cars were posted outside his residence, and that he was accosted by six individuals when was on his way to the police station to file a complaint. A former colleague informed him that he “had been contacted by the same Radu Tinu [by now out of jail] and was instructed to alert the network with the goal of by all means impeding the publication of the book.” According to the “Cuvintul” reporter, when he spoke to Vasilevici by phone, Vasilevici was “very scared…such a man generally does not panic so easily.”

Vasilevici’s story seems plausible for a number of reasons. First, at a time when he would have gained notoriety with his revelations in “Orizont”—March 1990—he chose anonymity. Clearly, his story was more important than notoriety to him—a notoriety he probably did not seek, for reasons of personal security. Second, former Securitate have also attacked him viciously in their literature. In March 1992, retired Securitate Colonel Ion Lemnaru wrote in “Spionaj-Contraspionaj” about the 1990 pamphlet of Romeo Vasiliu, “Piramida Umbrelor,” identifying the author as Roland Vasilevici, publishing Vasilevici’s address, and then citing an extended section of the text of the pamphlet (identical to what is in the March 1990 “Orizont” article). The section that is cited precisely concerns allegations about the USLA’s role in the Timisoara repression and terrorism—this is clearly the focus of Colonel Lemnaru’s ire (“Piramida de minciuni a lui Roland Vasilevici,” “Spionaj-Contraspionaj,” no. 24 (March 1992), p. 7a). In late 1994, while giving an interview on a local independent TV station in Timisoara, Radu Tinu came to the station while Vasilevici was on air and tried to interrupt the broadcast! (“Romania Libera,” 28 December 1994, p. 3)

It was also not good to have been a former military prosecutor who resigned the post because he saw where things were going with the “terrorist” investigation. Marian Valer, who alleged SRI non-cooperation in the attempt to reconstitute what happened in December 1989, as well as the disappearance of maps captured at the time in Sibiu, said wryly in September 1990 that “Shortly after the publication of my resignation I sensed that I was benefiting from the services of Mr. Magureanu’s organization [i.e. the SRI…he was being surveilled]” (interview by Monica Marginean, “Expres,” no. 33 (September 1990), p. 2). When questioned by a military judge at the proceedings of a trial linked to the Timisoara repression—as to why his fellow SRI colleagues called to testify were not showing up—a SRI junior officer who had been a member of the Timisoara Securitate’s antiterrorist intervention group in December 1989 responded: “they don’t come, because they are afraid” (“Romania Libera,” 18 June 1991, p. 2a).

If this is how former Securitate whistleblowers and military prosecutors feel, what must be the situation for civilians and people of lower-rank in the Army? In summer 1990, “Expres” reported on two young men recovering in an Italian hospital from wounds inflicted during the December events (Victor Radulescu, “Excursii prin Contul Libertatea,” “Expres” no. 11 (August 1990), p. 5). They recalled how, at the Intercontinental on 21-22 December, “those in kaki [i.e. Securitate, likely USLA] shot us. The first two rows of troops [Army] shot tracers, while those behind them opened live fire.” The two, one injured on the 21st, the other on the 23rd, claimed that after they arrived in Italy, a certain 40 year old Iordan Cristian, who admitted to them he had been USLA, visited the hospital—he had been shot in the hand at an earlier time and recovered (!)—snatched any reading material showing photos of the 13-15 June rampage against the opposition in Bucharest, and kept them in a general state of fear. In addition, he asked them to surrender their passports, something which “made even the Italians realize something was not quite right in all of this.” Similarly, in an article that captures in a microcosm the complexity and fluidity of the first years of the post-Ceausescu era, one-time leader of the small “Liberal Democratic Party,” Elena Serban, maintains she was blackmailed in 1990 by Radu Grigore (a name that was to crop up again in some of the more underhanded political affairs of 1991-1992) who threatened her that “…if I betrayed him, he would kill me, and that I only needed to remember he had been an USLA officer…who had been in charge of the USLA machine-gun detachments on the night of 21 December in University Sqaure” (Dan Badea, “Securitatea—un joc in numele trandafirului,” “Expres,” 8-14 September 1992, p. 9).

Army soldiers who had been posted out front of the Defense Ministry on the night of 23/24 December, and who vigorously contested the revisionist account of the event by detailing the suspicious behavior of the USLA detachment in question, reported after expressing their recollections, having “been warned to think long and hard since they have families and to stay on their own turf if they do not want to have problems” (see Major Mihai Floca, “Crima?” “Armata Poporului” (6 June 1990), 3, and idem., “Eroi, victime, sau teroristi?” “Adevarul” 29August 1990, pp. 1-2). Residents of the apartment blocs surrounding the Defense Ministry told Army journalists that there had indeed existed “terrorists” and that they had fired on the Ministry building from these surrounding buildings. One family maintained that they had been visited in May 1990 by two individuals flashing “Militia” identity cards, inquiring what had happened in December 1989 in that location, and insisting that different parts of the Army had merely fired at one another—there had been no “terrorists.” Some residents maintained that a neighbor suspected of being a Securitate collaborator had been going around suggesting “how to ‘correctly’ interpret the incident with the two armored personnel vehicles [i.e. the USLA unit] on the night of 23/24 December.” The Army journalists concluded based on these interviews that “therefore, ‘the boys’ [a common euphemism for the Securitate] are [still] at work” (Mihai Floca and Victor Stoica, “Unde sint teroristii? PE STRADA, PRINTRE NOI,” “Armata Poporului” 13 June 1990, 27 June 1990).

Whereever the USLA showed up, even when supposedly fulfilling the “Special Action Plan” of coordination under such circumstances, they ended up in gunfights. Was it the suspicion so “illfounded” or tendentious launched by Television? A tragic error or misunderstanding?

Not even those who rose to influential posts in the early Iliescu administration were immune. According to the well-known Romanian actor, Ernest Maftei, who was in the one of the focal points of the December events, the CC (the Central Committee building), even members of the Front were being careful about what they said. Speaking in mid-September 1991, the 71 year-old Maftei was clearly disenchanted with Iliescu and the post-December evolution of politics. He had written for the daily “Dreptatea” of the opposition National Peasants Party (PNTCD) in 1990 and spoken against the Front at the famous 28 January 1990 siege of opposition party officials. He noted bitterly, how on 14 June 1990, he had been beaten by the miners who came to Bucharest to ‘defend’ the Front: “I’ll end on this note: so I was in the revolution so that I could be almost beaten to death on 14 June and my son end up unemployed…?” Nevertheless, it is significant what he said recalling the events in the CC on the night of 22 December after 11pm:

Dan Badea (the reporter, DB): Who was it Dan Iosif [a civilian who was to become a key member and defender of Iliescu’s circle from the December events onward] shot?

EM (Ernest Maftei: USLA! Sir, they ostensibly came to help us and instead they ended up shooting us!…In the sub-basement there were some men of ours, because there were some armored doors there and we didn’t know what the deal was with them. And someone opened a door and saw lights on. So we got scared about what was there. Then the USLA came to help us. Yes! And when they went down, they shot all our people. Two of ours were killed there, they were revolutionaries, simple people who went there to die [as it turned out]. And then we realized that these guys would kill us. Then they ascended. They too had three dead. And so we surrounded them: “Undress we told them!” My god, it was awful.

DB: Dan Iosif claims that he didn’t shoot the 15 USLASI…

EM: He’s having you on, don’t listen to him! It was necessary to kill them there. But he doesn’t want to say it because he doesn’t want it to be known because today the Securitate still rules. Precisely some of those who shot at us are now in power. Listen to me. The USLA, the Fifth Column, were with Ceausescu [emphasis added]. You don’t think they would have killed us? My god!

DB: Who else besides Dan Iosif shot?

EM: Many, about 5, I don’t know their names. Hell, if we hadn’t shot them, we would have been dead! It was revolution, sir. It was civil war…(see interview with Dan Badea, “Iliescu putea sa fie eroul neamului, dar a pierdut ocazia! [Iliescu could have been a national hero, but he squandered the opportunity!],” “Expres,” no. 36 (85) 10-16 September 1991)

Nor does such reticence on this subject appear to have disappeared after all these years. With the advent of the Internet, unverifiable bulletin board postings also pop up. On 23 December 2003, under the name of “kodiak,” the following appeared: “In ’89 I was a major in the USLA…and I know enough things that it would be better I didn’t know…15, 16, 20, 30 years will pass and nothing will be known beyond what you need and have permission to know…” (http://www.cafeneaua.com)

Conclusions

This article began with an extended discussion of Suzanne Brandstatter’s much-publicized and debated “Checkmate” documentary on the Romanian Revolution of December 1989, first broadcast in late February 2004 on the Franco-German television station TV Arte. Many who commented upon the film presented its thesis that 1989 events were a CIA-engineered coup as original. This is only partially true, as the French scholar Catherine Durandin had already been pushing the thesis in recent years. But the arguments of the Brandstatter-Durandin Franco-German school are indeed new—not to mention, surprising—given that it was precisely journalists and academics in France and Germany who in 1990 zealously marketed the idea of the December 1989 events as a KGB-engineered coup.

On the surface, what has changed over the past decade and a half is the broader geopolitical context, from Romania’s membership in the Warsaw Pact to Romania as NATO member and a key US ally in the Afghanistan and Iraqi military campaigns. This, the break-up of the Soviet Union, the decline of Russia as a major power, and perceived and real US hegemony on the world stage, have all contributed to the prism through which a historical event fifteen years ago is now interpreted.

Aside from the apparent numerous instances of selective editing and a director who had reached her conclusion before she had started interviewing—as related time and again by the now frustrated and, in some cases, angry interviewees—the Brandstatter film is beset by a major problem, in which she is hardly alone. Not being steeped enough in the history of December 1989, but particularly, not being steeped enough in the post-1989 historiography of those events, she is oblivious to the context and agendas of those whose whose “revelations” upon which she bases her argument. Thus, when Gheorghe Ratiu, former head of the Securitate directorate most identified by Romanians as the “political police” talks about secret CIA training camps in West Germany, Austria, and Hungary and of the trainees as having sparked the anti-Ceausescu uprising, she appears to accept it at face value. But this is not some “new revelation”; it was born in 1990-1991 when the former Securitate was intent on exonerating the institution and those directly involved in repression, including Ratiu himself.

Brandstatter, of course, as in the case of the French journalists of the first wave, can easily be forgiven for not knowing better the historiography of the Revolution or questioning the agendas of those who made these sensational revelations or the context in which such details and arguments were born. The same does not stand true, however, for those inside and outside Romania who have written on the December 1989 events. One simply cannot understand what happened in December 1989, if one is not familiar with exactly what the former Securitate have argued about those events since December 1989, in particular during the key period of 1990 and 1991. The etymology of details and arguments about December 1989, where—when, and how these were born—is imperative for understanding the Revolution.

The time for reifying Ceausescu’s overthrow, for arcane and simply by now uncontroversial and unenlightening debates about whether it was a revolution or a coup—while making little or no effort to examine the specifics of what happened—for failing to address the Securitate’s historiography of the events, for declarative statements about “the trick with the terrorists” or “the well-controlled chaos” without providing any proof, has passed. It has been a hallmark of my research on the Revolution from the start to deconstruct and test the arguments and claims of others who have studied this event. I ask that future investigations of the December 1989 events will address the many details presented in this article, particularly in the last two installments.

*Title inspired by phrase used by Radu Ciobotea in “Flacara” July 1991.

**Space does not permit me to discuss the tactics, ballistics’ evidence, and equipment of the “terrorists.” As I wrote in 1999, a major problem with research on the Revolution is the failure to “get out of Bucharest” and compare what happened in other locations. Such a comparison shows a clear pattern. In addition to prior sources discussed in Hall 1997 and 1999, see the following: “Orizont (Timisoara),” no. 5 1990; “Flacara” no. 8 1990 (on Caransebes), no. 51 1990 p. 11, no. 6 1991 p. 9 (Coltea Hospital, Bucharest), no. 39 1991, p. 4 (Dumitru Mazilu revelations), no. 29 1992, p. 7; “22,” no. 5 1990, p. 10; “Tineretul Liber,” 5 January 1990, p. 4a; “NU (Cluj),” no. 22 1990 (Gen. Rizea, Braila), “Cuvintul,” nos. 1-4 January 1991 (Brasov), no. 7 February 1991 (Gen. Spiroiu and staff of “Opinia” exhumation on 14 June 1990 of those killed in Brasov); “Tinerama,” no. 123 1993 (26 December 1989 description of “terrorists” at Bucharest morgue); “Expres,” nos. 13-14 1991 (Resita and Hateg).

SOURCES

“Adevarul,” 1990.

“Armata Poporului,” 1990.

Bacescu, A. 1994. Din Nou in Calea Navalirilor Barbare [In the Path of Barbaric Invasions Again] (Cluj-Napoca: Zalmoxis).

“Cuvintul,” 1991, 1992.

“Expres,” 1990, 1991, 1992.

Filip, T. 1998. Secretele USLA [Secrets of the USLA] (Craiova: Editura Obiectiv).

“Flacara,” 1990, 1991, 1992.

Hall, R. A. 1997, “Rewriting the Revolution: Authoritarian Regime-State Relations and the Triumph of Securitate Revisionism in Post-Ceausescu Romania,” (Ph.D. Dissertation, Indiana University).

Hall, R. A., 1999, “The Uses of Absurdity: The Staged War Theory and the Romanian Revolution of December 1989,” in “East European Politics and Societies,” Vol. 13, no.3, pp. 501-542.

Mihaies, M. Interview (Bloomington, Indiana), March 1996.

“NU (Cluj), 1990.

“Orizont (Timisoara),” 1990.

Revista “22,” 1990.

“Romania Libera,” 1991, 1994.

“Spionaj-Contraspionaj,” 1992.

“Tinerama,” 1993.

Totok, W. 2001. Constrangerea memoriei. Insemnari, documente, amintiri [The Compulsion to Remember. Notes, documents, memories] (Bucharest: Polirom).

Vasilevici, R., 1991, Piramida Umbrelor [Pyramid of Shadows] (Timisoara: Editura de Vest).

Richard Andrew Hall holds a BA from the University of Virginia (1988) and a PhD from Indiana University (1997). He joined the CIA in September 2000 and served as a Romanian Political Analyst from October 2000 to April 2001. Since October 2001, he has worked as an analyst on issues unrelated to eastern Europe. He published extensively on the Romanian Revolution and its historiography prior to joining the Agency, including the Romanian journals “22” and “Sfera Politicii” in 1996, “East European Politics and Societies,” in 1999, and “Europe-Asia Studies” in 2000. He can be reached for comment on this series at hallria@msn.com.

Particularly in the latter stages of this project, the collections of Babes-Bolyai University (Cluj) and Indiana University (Bloomington) proved indispensable.

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

Posted in raport final, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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.”

Conclusions

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.


Endnotes


[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…

    http://www.romanialibera.ro/a144046/daca-traia-ceausescu-ar-fi-devenit-un-mafiot-de-talie-mijlocie.html

    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.

    BIOGRAFIE
    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”.

    FRAGMENTE
    » “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.

    https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.wordpress.com/2008/10/25/the-1989-romanian-revolution-as-geopolitical-parlor-game-brandstatter%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Ccheckmate%E2%80%9D-documentary-and-the-latest-wave-in-a-sea-of-revisionism/

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

THE ROMANIAN REVOLUTION FOR DUM-DUMS: (like me…and perhaps even you) by Richard Andrew Hall, Ph.D.

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on December 16, 2008

THE ROMANIAN REVOLUTION FOR DUM-DUMS:

(like me…and perhaps even you)

by Richard Andrew Hall, Ph.D.

Standard Disclaimer: All statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official positions or views of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or any other U.S. Government agency. Nothing in the contents should be construed as asserting or implying U.S. Government authentication of information or CIA endorsement of the author’s views. This material has been reviewed by CIA to prevent the disclosure of classified information.

I am an intelligence analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency. I have been a CIA analyst since 2000. Prior to that time, I had no association with CIA outside of the application process.

I have been researching the Revolution for the better part of the past 18 years. I first visited Romania in 1987 while backpacking through Europe, and I spent a total of about 20 months in the country during the years 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993-1994, and 1997, when I conducted pre-dissertation, dissertation, and post-dissertation research on the Revolution.

I have written on the topic of the Revolution, voluminously some might say, publishing in 1996, 1999, and 2000 before joining the Agency, and since I entered the Agency in 2002, 2004, 2005, and 2006.

It will and should be hard to believe for the outsider to this problem, but my work has been essentially the only systematic, ongoing investigation of the ballistics evidence—such are the shortcomings of small “communities of interest” investigating a peripheral historical topic and the perils of “group think.”

This article is, for lack of a better description, about “connecting the dots.”


–The story of the Romanian Revolution of December 1989 since December 1989 has been the struggle of disparate voices who share their memories, often with great frustration and a sense of resignation. They are hardly a unified chorus.

The accounts of ideologues seek to suggest to us that “the truth” miraculously is the province of people of this or that particular political persuasion in post-communist Romania. That is morality play and fairy tale; it is not the work of the serious historian. Would that history were so neat and tidy! It is not.

Instead, what one finds is that the people with the details that matter most are spread across the ideological and political spectrum—including people with what many of us might term distasteful, illiberal, ultranationalist, and nostalgic views.

There are those who relate these details in a narrative consistent with where those details lead.

There are those who relate these details even though it contradicts their narrative and ultimate conclusions about December 1989.

Finally, there are those—and there are many of them—who just know they experienced what they experienced. They aren’t sure exactly how it fits in with a larger narrative: they merely want to tell their story.

Together, they relate these details in the face of cynicism, indifference, and an often stunning intellectual conceit and deaf ear.

Theirs, however, and not the ideologues’, is the story of December 1989.


There was a lot of talk during the crimes of December ’89 about the special bullets with which the young and old alike were killed, bullets which—it is said were not in the arsenal of our military units. There was so much talk that there was no more to say and after there was no more to say for a sufficient amount of time the discussion was reopened with the line “such things don’t exist!” The special bullets didn’t exist!—our highest authorities hurried to tell us…In order to search for proof a little work is necessary by our legal organs that they are not terribly inclined to take….

[Dan Badea, “Gloante speciale sau ce s-a mai gasit in cladirea Directiei a V-a,” Expres, 16-22 April 1991]

The Internet allows the researcher to piece together history as never before. That’s a pretty bland statement, but the reality of it never ceases to amaze me. Take the case of those killed in the Romanian Revolution of December 1989 (officially 1,104 people perished in those events). Scroll through the list of those killed on the procesulcomunismului (“the trial of communism”) and portalulrevolutiei (“the portal to the revolution”) websites. For most, there is only limited information about the circumstances in which they died. For others, however, there is greater detail. As one scrolls through the names and photos, one of the similarities that begins to become apparent is that in cases where there is more information about the circumstances of the death, dum-dum bullets are mentioned. Thus, for example, we find the following five cases:

BUTIRI Florin, born in Joia Mare, 11 April 1969, he was living in Bucharest and was employed by the Bucharest Metro. He played rugby. On 22 December he participated in the demonstration at Sala Dalles [next to University Square]. On 23 December he went to defend the Radio Broadcast center on str. Nuferilor, and while he was saving some old people from a burning building he was shot. Brought to the Military Hospital because of a wound to his hip, caused by a dum-dum cartridge, they tried to ampute a leg. His stomach was also ravaged by a bullet. On 26 December 1989 he died. (http://www.procesulcomunismului.com/marturii/fonduri/ioanitoiu/aeroi/docs/album_2.htm)

FILOTI Claudiu
Profession: Lieutenant major UM 01171 Buzau, post-mortem Captain
Born: 30 July 1964
Birthplace: Vaslui
Date of death: 22 December 1989
Place of death: Bucharest, in the area of the Defense Ministry
Cause of death: Shot in the chest with dum-dum bullets (http://www.portalulrevolutiei.ro/index.php?menu=1&jud=53)

LUPEA Ion- Gabriel from Hunedoara, born in 1970…In 1989 he was sent from Bucharest to Anina [Resita], then to UM 01929. On 9 December 1989, he went on leave, but he was recalled. On the evening of 23 December he was on duty defending the unit [Anina-Resita], at the checkpoint, when around 11 pm they were attacked from the front and from the left flank. While crawling on hands and knees to bring more ammunition he was hit by a dum-dum bullet that entered above his left leg and exited through his left hand. Brought to the hospital he died Christmas Eve, making him the unit’s first hero; he was posthumously awarded the rank of sub-lieutenant. (http://www.procesulcomunismului.com/marturii/fonduri/ioanitoiu/aeroi/docs/album_5.htm)

MANESCU Dan, born 25 March 1964, a student in the Transportation Department, he joined with the other young people on 21 December and participated in the demonstrations in the center of the town [Bucharest]. Friday morning he went with his brother to the demonstrations and he returned after the flight of the dictator. He changed his clothes and returned for good, when on the night of 22/23 December a dum-dum bullet punctured his stomach in Palace Square. Brought to the Emergency hospital, he could not be saved. (http://www.procesulcomunismului.com/marturii/fonduri/ioanitoiu/aeroi/docs/album_5.htm)

POPTEAN Petre, born 27 December 1965, in Margau near Huedin, living in Bucharest…he worked as a driver for the Bucharest Transportation Department. On 21 December he went into town to protect his sister on her way home from work. The two of them left on Calea Victoriei and arrived at [Sala] Dalles, where in horror they watched…Petre called to his sister to aid the wounded. While on the ground, he was hit in the abdomen and left hip by dum-dum cartridges that caused him major wounds. His sister, Monica, was able to stop an ambulance with a Targoviste license number, but he didn’t make it to Hospital 9. At around 6 pm Petre passed away. (http://www.procesulcomunismului.com/marturii/fonduri/ioanitoiu/aeroi/docs/album_7.htm)

Let me draw the attention of the reader to two important details here. First, the use of dum-dum munitions was not confined to Bucharest (multiple locations), but includes the southwestern city of Resita (the case of Ion Lupea). Second, the use of dum-dum munitions occurred not just after communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu fled at midday on 22 December 1989, but also before, on the evening of 21 December (the case of Petre Poptean).

Dum-dum bullets—which fragment and cause substantially more and more lethal damage to the organs of those who are hit—are outlawed by international convention (see more below). Moreover—or perhaps better-put, officially—no Romanian institution had them in their arsenal in December 1989. Yet, as we can see, almost two decades after the events, the obituaries of those gunned down in December 1989 include references to those munitions as having played a role not only in the wounding of people, but also in their deaths.

Despite the claims above attesting to not just the wounding, but the death of several people (civilians and soldiers) over several days in several locations from dum-dum bullets in December 1989, what did General Dan Voinea—removed from his post in December 2007 by Attorney General Laura Codruta Kovesi for violating basic judicial norms in another case[1]—who headed the investigations into December 1989 for well over a decade, have to say about them in late 2005? “Such things didn’t exist!”:

Romulus Cristea: “Did special ammunition, bullets with a vidia tip or dum-dum bullets, claim [any] victims? The press of the time was filled with such claims…”

Dan Voinea: There were no victims (people who were shot) from either vidia bullets or dum-dum bullets. During the entire period of the events war munitions were used, normal munitions that were found at the time in the arsenal of the Interior Ministry and the Defense Ministry. The confusion and false information were the product of the fact that different caliber weapons were used, and therefore, the resulting sound was perceived differently.[2] (Emphasis added)

So, there is no wiggle room here, no room for misinterpretation: according to Prosecutor Voinea , nobody was killed by dum-dum bullets in December 1989.

That’s a common claim among officials of the former communist regime—Voinea was a military prosecutor since 1982 and he was directly involved in the trial of the Ceausescus. Such conclusions were also repeated in late 2005 by Dr. Vladimir Belis, who was the head of the Medical Forensics Institute (IML) in Bucharest in December 1989: asked if other than the standard 7.62 mm caliber weapons belonging to the Army were used, he did not know and couldn’t say because he claimed no autopsies were ever performed.[3] The apparent official disinterest in munitions and autopsies is—ahem—shall we say “interesting” given the comments attributed to Belis’ subordinates and to doctors at Bucharest’s main hospitals—comments made in the early 1990s, but also made well over a decade later, in the mid 2000s.[4]

General Dan Voinea spoke in late 2005. Voinea’s argument that there were no dum-dum bullets, that there were no atypical munitions used, is directly linked to his contention that there were therefore “no terrorists” in December 1989. It has been routinely repeated in various forms by the media for well over a decade and by his supporters in intellectual circles at home and abroad. The encomia for General Voinea before and since that December 2005 interview by noted Romanian intellectuals and Romanianists are breathtaking. Tom Gallagher refers to him as the “indefatigable General Voinea”[5] and Western journalists have described him as “a one-man mission to uncover the truth about exactly what happened during those days.”[6] Sorin Iliesiu justifies his claims about the Revolution squarely on Voinea’s words:

General Dan Voinea has said clearly: The terrorists did not exist. Those who seized power lied to protect the real criminals….The diversion of the ‘terrorists’ has been demonstrated by [the] Justice [System], not a single terrorist being found among the dead[7], wounded[8] or arrested[9].”[10][11]

Highly problematic and damning for General Dan Voinea, Dr. Vladimir Belis, and fellow deniers are the following, detailed written testimonies of Gheorghe Balasa and Radu Minea presented by Dan Badea in April 1991, attesting to what they had found in December 1989 in the headquarters of the Securitate’s Fifth Directorate:

Balasa Gheorghe: From [Securitate] Directorate V-a, from the weapons depot, on 23-24 December 1989, DUM-DUM cartridges, special cartridges that did not fit any arm in the arsenal of the Defense Ministry were retrieved. Three or four boxes with these kinds of cartridges were found. The special bullets were 5-6 cm. in length and less thick than a pencil. Such a cartridge had a white stone tip that was transparent. All of these cartridges I personally presented to be filmed by Mr. Spiru Zeres. All the special cartridges, other than the DUM-DUM [ones] were of West German [FRG] make. From Directorate V-a we brought these to the former CC building, and on 23-24 December ’89 they were surrendered to U.M. 01305. Captain Dr. Panait, who told us that he had never seen such ammunition before, Major Puiu and Captain Visinescu know about [what was turned over].

In the former CC of the PCR, all of those shot on the night of 23-24 December ’89 were shot with special bullets. It is absurd to search for the bullet in a corpse that can penetrate a wall…

[of course, V-a worked hand-in-hand with the USLA, or the Securitate’s “special unit for anti-terrorist warfare,” and thus it was not suprising that in Directorate V-a’s headquarters…] Among things we also found were:…the training manual for the USLA. It was about 25 cm thick, and while there, I leafed through about half of it…[and I also came across] a file in which lots of different people under the surveillance of USLA officers were listed…

(Interviewed by Dan Badea, “Gloante speciale sau ce s-a mai gasit in cladirea Directiei a V-a,” Expres, 16-22 April 1991.)

Moreover, we know from the 2005 publication of the testimony of a detained V-th Directorate officer dated 2 February 1990, that he must have been asked to comment specifically on the existence of dum-dum ammunition—since he makes a point of emphasizing that “we didn’t have dum-dum ammunition or weapons with special properties, of foreign origin.”[12] So, in other words, we know from this interrogation document that six weeks after the Revolution, those who had taken power or at least the military prosecutors of the time were still interested in the existence of these munitions—thereby suggesting that they must have had some reason for believing in their existence, say for example the character of the injuries suffered by those shot during the events, as well as perhaps recovered bullet fragments, the testimonies of the doctors who operated on those wounded, etc…

Voinea’s ceaseless interviews and revelations during this period have been reprinted repeatedly since they took place and his conclusions been given wide circulation by journalists and people such as Sorin Iliesiu. Yet those who just relate what happened in December 1989 continue to mention the existence of dum-dum munitions. Thus, if one turns to the tourism site for the western border town of Curtici (near Arad) one can read the following about the history of the city, including the events of December 1989:

The following night [at the train station], the first team of five doctors from the Austrian “Lorenz Bohler” Hospital , who arrived in Curtici with a “hospital-wagon” took 18 people in critical condition to Austria for special treatment that lasted two to three months. That is, they needed organ transplants or special care, because of the monstrous results of dum-dum bullets.[13]

Or take the case of a poster on the 18th anniversary of the Revolution, who begins:

The Romarta (central Bucharest) file? What about the file on those who fired at me at the Astronomical Observatory on Ana Ipatescu Boulevard or those who at 1700 on 24 December fired near Casa Scanteii [press building] where I found a dum-dum cartridge in my bed—us having had to sleep in the bathroom.[14]

Finally, there are the cynical comments of those—no matter what they believe about December 1989—who cannot help but remember the dum-dum munitions and the horrible pain and trauma they caused their victims, many still living with the consequences of those wounds today…and how nobody wishes to remember them; for them, this is essentially a cruel, open secret.[15]

Unfortunately, no one in Romania has tied together such claims and the evidence I present above. I do not know how many of these people are still alive, but if the Romanian media were interested, the names are there for them to contact in order to confirm the claims above: Gheorghe Balasa, Radu Minea, Spiru Zeres, Major Puiu, and Captain Visinescu.

D’oh…Dum-Dum…(Tweedle) Dumb and (Tweedle) Dumber: Dum-Dum=Vidia

When I first viewed the youtube video “Romanian Revolution USLA attack Dec 23 1989 Revolutia” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlBRSxUVQ5E ), what struck me was: here, finally, after a decade and a half of almost unopposed revisionist denial, here was someone who claims to have been an eyewitness and has photos and details of the incident, and who maintains the now almost heretical idea that the Securitate’s “Special Unit for Anti-terrorist Warfare”(USLA for short) had indeed attempted to attack the heavily-guarded Defense Ministry Headquarters on Drumul Taberei in Bucharest on the night of 23-24 December 1989! But, in fact as we shall see, although important, that is actually not the most important thing about the one and only youtube video posted by “destituirea.”

For me the transcript of the USLA unit claiming to have witnessed army units attacking their own ministry and thus the supposed reason that the USLA men who witnessed it “had to be silenced by being killed”—a transcript leaked to the press in 1993 and which led scholars such as Denis Deletant and Peter Siani-Davies to consider this “case closed” essentially—was always highly problematic. It supplied what was said, but, if we are to believe the words of the USLA Commander Gheorghe Ardeleanu, speaking to the notorious Securitate cheerleader Angela Bacescu, it did not supply the much needed context: Ardeleanu claimed that he had been placed under arrest and that it was he who chose the names of the USLA officers who were to report to the Defense Ministry. The USLA units thus came in a situation in which those who had taken control of the country were in the Defense Ministry holding their commander under arrest.[16]

But more importantly, the transcript could not explain a) the lack of any corroboration since of these supposed Army units attacking the Defense Ministry on the night of 23-24 December 1989—truly hard to believe, given all the young recruits and given their comparative willingness to talk to the media after all these years, in comparison to the former Securitate, and b) the claims in summer 1990 by the Army cadre who had been involved in the firefight with the USLA and the interviews of civilians in the surrounding blocs of flats who had lived through the fighting in December 1989 and related what they had seen.[17] The interviewees had detailed the suspicious actions of the USLA convoy and made it clear that they came with less-than-friendly intentions.

Now, here, 17 years after those famous articles by Mihai Floca and Victor Stoica is a video supporting the claim that the USLA units attempted to force their way into the Defense Ministry. The photos of the inside of the USLA ABI vehicles and of the dead USLA men (wearing black jumpsuits underneath Army clothing) are perhaps the most extensive and detailed seen to date, and the anonymous poster plays coy as to where he got them from (he claims he does not want to reveal the source—something which, given the sensitivity of the issue, I am not surprised by).

But, as I mentioned previously, it is actually not the confirmation of this understanding of the Defense Ministry incident that is the most significant thing about this youtube video. It is at the 2:01-2:05 of 8:50 mark of this silent video that the poster makes the following interesting and critical insight/claim…

USLA’s bullets were called “vidia” or “dum-dum” were usually smaller than the regular army’s bullets…Most of the capital’s residents have found this type of bullets all around the military buildings near by. (at 2:01 of 8:50)[18]

And thus, it becomes clear that the discussion of “vidia” bullets and “dum-dum” bullets is interchangeable (or at least is treated as such)! (Hence, perhaps why Romulus Cristea asked his question of General Voinea as he did in December 2005: “Did special ammunition, bullets with a vidia tip or dum-dum bullets, claim [any] victims? The press of the time was filled with such claims…”) “Vidia” translates as “grooved,” and thus describes the modified feature of the bullets which makes them so lethal, thereby making the treatment of vidia and dumdum as de facto synonyms understandable.

This is critical because as I have previously written in detail, citing interviews and reminiscences in the Romanian press…vidia bullets showed up across the country in December 1989. In “Orwellian…Positively Orwellian: Prosecutor Voinea’s Campaign to Sanitize the Romanian Revolution of December 1989” (http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/Voineaswar091706.html) I detail examples of vidia bullets showing up across the country—Brasov, Sibiu, Bucharest (multiple locations), Braila, Caransebes, Craiova, and Hunedoara—as recounted by civilians and Army personnel, at various times since the events—not just during or right after. Such wide dispersion of the use of officially non-existent munitions is critical too because it infirms the notion that somehow demonstrators or the Army put their hands on such “free floating weapons” and used them during the December 1989 events—that it would have happened in one or two places could be explained, but that the same thing would happen in so many geographic centers is scarcely plausible.

Recall from our earlier extract from Prosecutor Dan Voinea’s December 2005 interview, his unambiguous denial of the use of vidia munitions. Nevertheless, significantly, since that interview we continue to find people who remember what they remember and they remember the use of vidia munitions. I have found yet more references. Alexandru Stepanian, who writes under the motto “Dreptate si Onoare! (Justice and Honor!),” not only claims to still have a vidia bullet from 22-23 December 1989 in the area around the TV Station in Bucharest, but he has placed a photo of it on the portalulrevolutiei website.[19] In fall 2006, the daughter of a priest recalled:

In December ’89, after he arrived from Timisoara, my father stayed with me on Stefan Cel Mare Boulevard. When we returned to our home, on the corner of Admiral Balescu and Rosenthal. I found the cupboard of the dresser pure and simple riddled with bullets, about 8 to 10 of them. Someone who knew about such things told me they were vidia bullets. They were brought to a commission, but I don’t know what happened to them.[20]

In 2007 a book entitled The Tales of the Terrorists was published in Galati. In one section, a Eugen Stoleriu recounts his dispatch to Bucharest as a military recruit during the events and how for the first time in his life he came across vidia bullets that were shot at him.[21]

Another apparent synonym for “vidia” is “crestata” or “notched.” I take it that the reference is to the same type of munitions because the damage caused to those wounded by them was equally catastrophic. In December 2007, Alexandru Tudor, a soccer official famous apparently for his stern, unsmiling demeanor, who was shot on 23 December 1989 around 10 am in the area of Piata Aviatorilor near the TV studio, recounted the episode that ended his career:

They brought me to Colentina Hospital and there I had the great fortune of two great doctors. If they had operated on me, they would have to amputate both my legs beneath the knee, but instead they left the bullets in there 12 days. Their explanation was that the bullets were too close to arteries, and since they were gloante crestate (notched bullets), it was very dangerous. After they were removed, I kept the bullets, I have them at home. I was on crutches for six months, I went through therapy, but I had to give up soccer.[22]

Also on the 18th anniversary of the Revolution, a frustrated poster to another site asked pointedly:

Who in Romania in 1989 had 5.5 mm caliber NATO-type munition, that in addition was “notched”—something outlawed by the Geneva Convention, while it is known that the Romanian Army had only the caliber used by Warsaw Pact nations for their weapons, that is to say 7,62 mm….At that time even the Olympic speed shooting champion, Sorin Babii, expressed his surprise….I had in my hand several samples of this cartridge: small, black, with a spiral on the top, or with 4 cuts (those who know a little bit about ballistics and medical forensics can attest to the devastating role caused by these modifications). I await a response to my questions…perhaps someone will be willing to break the silence. I thank you in advance. [emphases added][23]

In other words, the existence of crestate/vidia/dum-dum bullets is known, and not everyone has so blithely forgotten their existence.

A Dum-Dum by Any Other Name: Gloante explosive (exploding bullets), gloante speciale (special bullets)

Crestate, vidia, dum-dum…by now we know: these are very dangerous munitions…

In the field of firearms, an expanding bullet is a bullet designed to expand on impact. Such bullets are often known as Dum-dum or dumdum bullets. There are several types of dum-dum designs. Two popular designs are the hollow point (made during the manufacturing phase) and X-ing made usually by the user by making two notches perpendicular to each other on the tip of the bullet, commonly with a knife. The effect is that the bullet deforms and sometimes fragments upon impact due to the indentations. This creates a larger wound channel or channels with greater blood loss and trauma.

The hollow-point bullet, and the soft-nosed bullet, are sometimes also referred to as the dum-dum, so named after the British arsenal at Dum-Dum, near Calcutta, India, where it is said that jacketed, expanding bullets were first developed. This term is rare among shooters, but can still be found in use, usually in the news media and sensational popular fiction. Recreational shooters sometimes refer to hollow points as “JHPs”, from the common manufacturer’s abbreviation for “Jacketed Hollow Point”.

To be most correct, the term “Dum Dum Bullet” refers only to soft point bullets, not to hollow points, though it is very common for it to be mistakenly used this way.

The Hague Convention of 1899, Declaration III, prohibits the use in warfare of bullets which easily expand or flatten in the body, and was an expansion of the Declaration of St Petersburg in 1868, which banned exploding projectiles of less than 400 grams. These treaties limited the use of “explosive” bullets in military use, defining illegal rounds as a jacketed bullet with an exposed lead tip (and, by implication, a jacketed base).[24]

Thus, under the synonym for dumdum/vidia/crestate bullets of “exploding bullets,” we find the following on the Internet:

On the evening of 27 December 1989, Eugen Maresi, 20 years old, a military draftee, was sent to organize a checkpoint on soseaua Chitilei, at the entrance to Bucharest….A group of 25 soldiers came under fire from the belltower of a church. Eugen was the first shot…. “The doctors told me my only child was shot with (gloante explosive) exploding bullets. The fragments shattered all of his internal organs,” says Dumitru Maresi, the father of the [Drobeta Turnu] Severin hero. http://2003.informatia.ro/Article42788.phtml

and

Gheorghe Nicolosu, was shot in the leg…After he was operated on, it was established that the bullet with which he was shot did not figure in [the arsenal of] the Romanian Army. Nicolosu was operated on in Hunedoara, then arrived in Italy, where he underwent another surgery…In the same area, on Lipscani, Cristea Valeria, 36 years old, was shot in the stomach by ammunition that did not belong to the army. He died a few hours later, the doctors trying to save his life, but the glontul exploziv (exploding bullet) perforated his intestines. Another youngster, 18 year old Ion Gherasim was shot in the back at the entrance to UM 01933 by munition that did not belong to the army. (Emphases added) http://www.replicahd.ro/images/replica216/special2.htm

Once again, we are speaking here of far-flung locations across the country—Chitila (Bucharest) and Hunedoara—which makes the idea of accident and “free floating weapons” unlikely.

Ammunition…Consistent with the Confessions of Former Securitate Whistleblowers

And so, who was it, who has told us about “exploding bullets” and “special cartridges” like this, and who has it been said possessed them in December 1989?

For years I have been essentially the sole researcher inside or outside the country familiar with and promoting the claims of 1) former Timisoara Securitate Directorate I officer Roland Vasilevici—who published his claims about December 1989 under the byline of Puspoki F. in the Timisoara political-cultural weekly Orizont in March 1990 and under the pseudonym “Romeo Vasiliu”—and 2) an anonymous USLA recruit who told his story to AM Press Dolj (published on the five year anniversary of the events in Romania Libera 28 December 1994…ironically (?) next to a story about how a former Securitate official attempted to interrupt a private television broadcast in which Roland Vasilevici was being interviewed in Timisoara about Libyan involvement in December 1989).

Vasilevici claimed in those March 1990 articles and in a 140 page book that followed—both the series and the book titled Pyramid of Shadows—that the USLA and Arab commandos were the “terrorists” of December 1989. What is particularly noteworthy in light of the above discussion about “exploding bullets” was his claim that the USLA and the foreign students who supplemented them “used special cartridges which upon hitting their targets caused new explosions.”[25]

The anonymous USLA recruit stated separately, but similarly:

I was in Timisoara and Bucharest in December ’89. In addition to us [USLA] draftees, recalled professionals, who wore black camouflage outfits, were dispatched. Antiterrorist troop units and these professionals received live ammunition. In Timisoara demonstrators were shot at short distances. I saw how the skulls of those who were shot would explode. I believe the masked ones, using their own special weapons, shot with exploding bullets. In January 1990, all the draftees from the USLA troops were put in detox. We had been drugged. We were discharged five months before our service was due to expire in order to lose any trace of us. Don’t publish my name. I fear for me and my parents. When we trained and practiced we were separated into ‘friends’ and ‘enemies.’ The masked ones were the ‘enemies’ who we had to find and neutralize. I believe the masked ones were the ‘terrorists’. [emphases added]

As I have pointed out, despite the short shrift given these two revelations by Romanian media and Romanianists, one group has paid close attention: the former Securitate. That is not accidental. [26]

With the advent of the Internet, unverifiable bulletin board postings also pop up. On 23 December 2003, under the name of “kodiak,” the following appeared:

In ’89 I was a major in the USLA…and I know enough things that it would be better I didn’t know…15, 16, 20, 30 years will pass and nothing will be known beyond what you need and have permission to know…” (http://www.cafeneaua.com)[27]

Clearly, the legal constraints of security oaths and fear continue to cast a long shadow, long after the events of December 1989.

Si totusi…se stie [And nevertheless…it is known]

It took over three years into my research on the Revolution—and physically being in the Library of the Romanian Academy—before I came to the realization: oh yeah, that’s a good idea, yeah, I should systematically compare what the former Securitate have to say about December 1989 and compare it with what others are saying. It took a maddening additional half year before I came to the conclusion: oh yeah, and how about what the Army has to say? It may seem ridiculous—and it is in some ways indefensible from the perspective of performing historical research—but you have to understand how Romanian émigrés dominated early investigations of the Revolution, and how they divided the post-communist Romania media into the pro-regime (untrustworthy) press and the opposition (trustworthy) press, and the influence this “research frame” and methodology had at the time upon younger researchers such as myself.[28]

A more systematic mind probably would have come to these revelations long before I did. Instead, it took the accidental, simultaneous ordering of issues from 1990 and 1991 of the vigorous anti-Iliescu regime university publication NU (Cluj), the similarly oppositional Zig-Zag (Bucharest), and the former Securitate mouthpiece Europa to discover this. There I found Radu Nicolae making his way among diametrically opposed publications, saying the same things about December 1989. And it mattered: the source for example of Radu Portocala’s claim that there were “no terrorists” in December 1989 was Radu Nicolae. But more important still, was the discovery of Angela Bacescu revising the Defense Ministry incident, exonerating the USLA, and claiming there were no Securitate terrorists in Sibiu (only victims) in Zig-Zag…only to show up months later in Romania Mare and Europa months later writing the same stuff, and in the case of the Sibiu article republishing it verbatim. Nor was Bacescu alone among the former Securitate at Zig-Zag: she was for example joined by Gheorghe Ionescu Olbojan, the first to pen revisionist articles about the Army’s DIA unit.[29]

But without a broader comparative framework and approach to the Romanian media, all of this eluded the highly partisan Romanian émigré writers on the events. Nestor Ratesh alone among this group did seem puzzled and bothered by the similarity of Romania Libera Petre Mihai Bacanu’s conclusions on the V-th Directorate and those of Bacescu (he only alluded to her dubious reputation, however, and did not name her.) But Bacanu was fallible: memorably, but also upstandingly, in December 1993, he admitted based on what he claimed were new revelations, that his previous three and a half years of exonerating the USLA had been in vain since they were erroneous: they had after all played a significant role in the repression and killing of demonstrators on the night of 21-22 December 1989 in University Square. That alone should have precipitated a rethinking about assumptions and approaches to investigating the December 1989 events and particularly the role of the Securitate and the USLA, but it did not, and has not to this day…

Romanians and Romanianists like to indulge in the reassuring myth that the “schools” of research on the Revolution were separate from the beginning—that the defining feature was the political orientation of the author and whether he or she viewed the events of December 1989 as a revolution or coup d’etat. To the extent they are willing to admit that discussions of the “terrorists” cross-pollinated and became intertwined across the borders of the political spectrum, they assume that this must have happened later, after views had become consolidated.[30] But such a view is simply ahistorical and wishful-thinking. It is simply impossible to defend honestly when you have Angela Bacescu who “showed up with lots of documents and didn’t need any money” and wrote her revisionist tracts in the oppositional Zig-Zag, when she and Olbojan were the first ones to voice theses that later became staples of the anti-Iliescu opposition—long after they had left its press.

It is indicative that Romanians still have yet to confront this methodological flaw that one of the few studies in the country to read Securitate and Army sources in addition to journalist and participant accounts, still failed to address the key similarities across the political spectrum regarding the existence and identity of the “terrorists.” Smaranda Vultur wrote in a review of Ruxandra Cesereanu’s (otherwise, groundbreaking in comparison to what had appeared before it in Romanian in book form) Decembrie ’89. Deconstructia unei revolutii (Iasi: Polirom 2004):

Beyond this, I would underscore however a deficit that results directly from the choice of the author to classify her sources based on how the source defines the events: as a revolution, a plot, or a hybrid of the two. Because of this one will thus find, contained in the same chapter, Securitate people and political analysts, revolutionaries and politicians of the old and new regimes, and journalists.[31]

In other words, my exact indictment of the approach inside and outside Romania to the study of the Revolution, and the reason why people are simply unable to acknowledge the similarity and even identicality of views of the “terrorists.”

After the aforementioned realizations in 1993-1994 about the need to be more comparative and systematic in investigating accounts of the Revolution, it took yet another two maddening years before I started to realize the significance of the ballistics evidence. It thus came comparatively late in the dissertation process. My timing was fortuitous, however. I wrote a short article in November 1996 that was published in two different forms in 22 and Sfera Politicii in December 1996—the mood in Romania was euphoric as seven years of the Iliescu regime had just come to an end through the ballot box. [32] True, it didn’t spark debate and loosen some lips as I had hoped, but it made my visit to Bucharest the following June —especially my interviews on one particular day with a journalist at Cotidianul and, several hours later, a member of the Gabrielescu Parliamentary Commission investigating the events (Adrian Popescu-Necsesti)—memorable to say the least….

Of course, not then, or even since, has anybody who has investigated the December 1989 events inside or outside Romania systematically attempted to replicate, test, or expand upon my earlier findings—other than myself. As I have noted elsewhere,[33] in Peter Siani-Davies’ otherwise excellent The Romanian Revolution of December 1989 he devotes essentially a paragraph to the ballistics’ topic in a 300 plus page book—and it is only in the context of addressing my own earlier research. Monica Ciobanu could thus not be more wrong in her declaration that Peter Siani-Davies’ 2005 volume had disproven the “myth of Securitate terrorists.”[34] Siani-Davies has nothing to say about dum-dum/vidia/exploding ammunition: hence why he does not believe in Securitate terrorists!

Since then, I have written on Securitate revisionism, “the terrorists,” and the ballistics evidence of Romanian Revolution of December 1989, in the words of one critic who seems unable to call things by their name “voluminously, although never exhaustively, elsewhere”—publishing in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, and 2006. [35] Now, more than a decade after those original ballistics’ articles, I return here putting things together I should preferably have put together long before…

The high stakes of what was at play in late December 1989 become all the clearer here. Nicolae Ceausescu’s successors faced not only the dilemma of having foreign citizens arrested for firing at and killing in cold blood Romanian citizens[36], but members of a Romanian state institution—the Securitate—in addition to those foreign citizens, had injured, maimed, and killed Romanian citizens using munitions that were outlawed by international conventions to which Romania was a party. Thus, beyond the culpability of an institution that was key to the ability of the nomenklaturists who had seized power to continue in power—i.e. the Securitate—and who undoubtedly had compromising information on those leaders, the new potentates were faced with a problem of international dimensions and proportions.

Dan Badea’s April 1991 article with which I opened this paper concluded thusly:

There are in these two declarations above[–those of Gheorghe Balasa and Radu Minea–] sufficient elements for an investigation by the Police or Prosecutor’s Office. [Dan Badea, “Gloante speciale sau ce s-a mai gasit in cladirea Directiei a V-a,” Expres, 16-22 April 1991]

That, of course, never appears to have happened. I hope that the information I have supplied above—significantly, much of it new, much of it from the Internet in recent years—should at the very least encourage Romanians and Romanianists to reopen and reexamine the ballistics evidence. Let us hope that on the twentieth anniversary of the Revolution, we may be able to read serious investigations of the ballistics evidence, rather than be subjected to the false and jaded refrain… such things did not exist!



[1] See, for example, Dorin Petrisor, “Procurorul Voinea, acuzat ca a lucrat prost dosarul Iliescu 13 iunie 1990,” Cotidianul, 7 December 2007, online edition. Voinea’s removal generally went unpublicized abroad—it was understandably not a proud day for his supporters. Kovesi claimed to have been taken aback by Voinea’s inexplicable, seemingly incompetent handling of the June 1990 files.

[2] General Dan Voinea, interview by Romulus Cristea, “Toti alergau dupa un inamic invizibil,” Romania Libera, 22 December 2005, online edition. Cristea’s apparent effort/belief—shared by many others—to suggest that it was only “the press of the time”—something I take to mean December 1989 and the immediate months after—that was filled with such claims and accusations is untrue. (The suggestion is to say that civilians with no knowledge of weapons and munitions repeated rumors spread out of fear and fueled by those who had seized power but needed to create an enemy to legitimize themselves and thus exploited those fears…) For examples of such claims “in the press of the time,” see the words of an employee of the Municipal Hospital (“In the room was a boy, very badly wounded by dum-dum bullets that had blown apart his diaphragm, his sacroiliac, and left an exit wound the size of a 5 lei coin,” Expres no. 10 (6-12 April 1990), p. 5) and the discussion of how Bogdan Stan died (“vidia bullets which explode when they hit their ‘target,’ entered into the bone marrow of his spine,” Adevarul, 13 January 1990). But such claims also appear long after the December 1989 events. Two and a half and three years after the December 1989 events, Army Colonel Ion Stoleru maintained in detail that the “terrorists” had “weapons with silencers, with scopes, for shooting at night time (in ‘infrared’), bullets with a ‘vidia’ tip [more on this and the relation to dum-dum munitions below]. Really modern weapons” and added, significantly, “The civilian and military commissions haven’t followed through in investigating this…” (see Army Colonel Ion Stoleru with Mihai Galatanu, “Din Celebra Galerie a Teroristilor,” Expres, no. 151 (22-28 December 1992), p. 4, and “Am vazut trei morti suspecti cu fata intoarsa spre caldarim,” Flacara, no. 29 (22 July 1992), p. 7.) Voinea’s steadfast denials would seem to validate Stoleru’s allegations more than a decade after he made them. Not surprisingly, but highly unfortunate, Cristea’s interview with Voinea forms the basis of conclusions about the terrorists on the Romanian-language Wikipedia webpage on the Revolution: see http://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolu%C5%A3ia_rom%C3%A2n%C4%83_din_1989.

[3] Laura Toma, Toma Roman Jr. , and Roxana Ioana Ancuta, “Belis nu a vazut cadavrele Ceausestilor,” Jurnalul National, 25 October 2005, http://www.jurnalul.ro/articole/34668/belis-nu-a-vazut-cadavrele-ceausestilor. “Frumos (Nice)…” as the Romanians say. Belis may not have interested himself in the ballistics evidence—but some of his employees apparently did (see IML Dr. Florin Stanescu’s comments in Ion Costin Grigore, Cucuveaua cu Pene Rosii (Bucharest: Editura Miracol, 1994), pp. 70-72). Moreover, there were exhumations. (“For a long time the Brasov Military Prosecutor didn’t do anything, even though there existed cases, declarations, documents, photos and even atypical unusual bullets brought in by the families of the deceased and wounded.” http://www.portalulrevolutiei.ro/forum/index.php?topic=1.msg214) On 14 June 1990, General Nicolae Spiroiu, future Defense Minister (1991-1994), appears to have been in the city of Brasov, assisting at the exhumation of people killed there during the December 1989 Revolution. Such a step was a rarity, and apparently followed earlier talks between Spiroiu, five other officers, and the staff of the local newspaper Opinia, who were seeking clarification over who was responsible for the deaths of their fellow citizens. “They found in particular bullets of a 5.6 mm caliber that are not in the Army’s arsenal,” wrote the journalist Romulus Nicolae of the investigation. (Romulus Nicolae, “Au ars dosarele procuraturii despre evenimente din decembrie,” Cuvintul, no. 32 (August 1991), pp. 4-5, cited in Richard Andrew Hall, “Orwellian…Positively Orwellian: Prosecutor Voinea’s Campaign to Sanitize the Romanian Revolution of December 1989,” http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/Voineaswar091706.html.)

[4] Dr. Nicolae Constantinescu, surgeon at Coltea Hospital: “I remember that on 1 or 2 January ’90 there appeared at the [Coltea] hospital a colonel from the Interior Ministry, who presented himself as Chircoias. He maintained in violent enough language that he was the chief of a department from the Directorate of State Security [ie. Securitate]. He asked that all of the extracted bullets be turned over to him. Thus were turned over to him 40 bullets of diverse forms and dimensions, as well as munition fragments. I didn’t hear anything back from Chircoias or any expert. Those who made the evidence disappear neglected the fact that there still exist x-rays and other military documents that I put at the disposition of the [Military] Prosecutor.”

( http://www.romanialibera.ro/a113826/revolutia-5-000-de-victime-nici-un-vinovat.html)

[5] Tom Gallagher, Modern Romania: The End of Communism, the Failure of Democratic Reform, and the Theft of a Nation, (NY: New York University Press, 2005), p. 190.

[6] Jeremy Bransten, “Romania: The Bloody Revolution in 1989: Chaos as the Ceausescus Are Executed,” RFE/RFL, 14 December 1999 at http://www.rferl.org/specials/communism/10years/romania2.asp. This unfortunate comment aside, Brantsen’s series is an excellent journalistic introduction to the December 1989 events.

[7] Iliesiu is dead wrong. See the signed testimony to the contrary by Ion Lungu and Dumitru Refenschi dated 26 December 1989, reproduced in Ioan Itu, “Mostenirea teroristilor,” Tinerama, no. 123 (9-15 April 1993), p. 7. I translated the important parts of this document in Hall, “Orwellian…Positively Orwellian” http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/Voineaswar091706.html. Significantly, according to this document, Dr. Belis had access to the dead terrorists:

Dead Terrorists. Although their existence is vehemently denied by all official institutions, we are able to prove that they existed and have sufficient details to identify them.…We continue with some excerpts of the declaration of Ion Lungu, head of the group of fighters who guarded the ‘Institute of Legal Medicine’ [IML, the main Bucharest morgue], beginning from the evening of 22 December 1989:

“Starting from the 23rd, there were brought, in succession, more ‘special’ corpses. They were brought only by military vehicles and were accompanied by officers. They were all dressed the same: kaki uniforms, with or without military insignia, fur-lined boots, cotton underwear. All the clothes were new. The established procedure at that point was that when the bodies were unloaded from the trucks, at the ramp to the back of the IML, to be disrobed and inspected. The documents found were released to Prosecutor Vasiliu and criminology officers. The weapons and munitions we found and surrendered—on the basis of a verbal procedure—to the officer on duty from UM 01046. Weapons and ammunition were found only on those ‘special’ corpses. Those who brought them said that they were terrorists. I turned over to this military unit five pistols (three Stecikin and two Makarov—all 9 mm caliber), two commando daggers and hundreds of 9 mm and 7.62 mm cartridges (compatible with the AKM machine gun). They were held separately from the other corpses, in a room—I believe that it used to be the coatroom—with a guard at the door.…

Access to the room with the terrorists was strictly forbidden. Only Prosecutor Vasiliu, criminologist officers, Dr. Belis, and the chief of autopsies could enter. On top of them, next to the arms, there were personal documents, passports (some blank), all types of identity cards—one of them was clearly false, it stated that the dead terrorist was the director at Laromet (at that plant no director died)—identity cards that were brand new, different service stamps in white. All had been shot by rifles (one was severed in two) and showed evidence of gunshots of large caliber. Some had tattoos (they had vultures on their chests), were young (around 30 years old), and were solidly built. I believe that their identity was known, since otherwise I can’t explain why their photographs were attached to those of unidentified corpses. They were brought to us in a single truck. In all, there were around 30 dead terrorists. [The document is signed by Ion Lungu and Dumitru Refenschi on 26 December 1989]”

[8] Once again Iliesiu is wrong. Professor Andrei Firica at the Bucharest “Emergency Hospital” apparently also was paid a visit by Colonel Chircoias (aka Ghircoias), see fn. 4. He claims that he “made a small file of the medical situations of the 15-20 suspected terrorists from [i.e. interned at] the Emergency Hospital,” but as he adds “of course, all these files disappeared.” Firica reports that a Militia colonel, whom he later saw on TV in stripes as a defendant in the Timisoara trial [i.e. Ghircoias], came to the hospital and advised him “not to bring reporters to the beds of the terrorists, because these were just terrorist suspects and I didn’t want to wake up one day on trial for having defamed someone” (!) The colonel later came and loaded the wounded terrorist suspects into a bus and off they went. (Professor Andrei Firica, interview by Florin Condurateanu, “Teroristii din Spitalul de Urgenta,” Jurnalul National, 9 March 2004, online edition.) Cited in Hall, “Orwellian…Positively Orwellian” http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/Voineaswar091706.html.

[9] I don’t even know where to begin on this one. As I have written before, not all of those detained were terrorists, and many of the terrorists seemed to have eluded arrest, but there are so many accounts of people arrested as terrorists who legitimately fit that description that I don’t even know where to begin. See the multiple translations in Hall, “Orwellian…Positively Orwellian” http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/Voineaswar091706.html.

[10] Sorin Iliesiu, “18 ani de la masacrul care a deturnat revoluţia anticomunistă,” 21 December 2007, found at http://www.romanialibera.com/articole/articol.php?step=articol&id=6709 (note: this is NOT the Romania Libera daily newspaper). One will find many well-known names in the West among those who signed this petition: Dragoş Paul Aligică, Matei Călinescu, Ruxandra Cesereanu, Anneli Ute Gabanyi, Tom Gallagher, Gabriel Liiceanu, Norman Manea, Nicolae Manolescu, Mircea Mihaies, Ion Mihai Pacepa, Horia-Roman Patapievici, Radu Portocală, Nestor Ratesh, Lavinia Stan, Stelian Tănase, Alin Teodorescu, and Vladimir Tismăneanu. Sorin Iliesiu, who is a filmmaker and Vice President of the “Civic Alliance” organization, has written that he was part of the “team” that “edited” the seven page chapter on the Romanian Revolution contained in the Report of the Presidential Commission to Analyze the Communist Dictatorship of Romania (PCACDR). He is not a scholar and most certainly not a scholar of the December 1989 events. A textual comparison of the Report’s chapter on the Revolution and Vladimir Tismaneanu’s chapter in a Dawisha and Parrott edited volume from 1997 is unambiguous: the introductory two paragraphs of the Report’s chapter are taken verbatim in translation from p. 414 of Tismaneanu’s 1997 chapter, and other verbatim paragraphs, sentences, and phrases from pp. 414-417 make up parts of the rest of the Report’s Revolution chapter without any reference to the 1997 chapter. As the author(s) of an earlier chapter in the Report cite(s) Tismaneanu’s 1997 chapter (see p. 376 fn. 55) correctly, this leaves really only two possible explanations for the failure of Iliesiu et. al. to cite that they have borrowed wholesale from Tismaneanu’s 1997 chapter: a) an absence of scholarly knowledge, or b) an attempt to mask their dependence upon and deference to Tismaneanu, the Chair of the Commission, since the citations that do appear are the exact citations from the 1997 chapter and claims are translated word-by-word, so much so that Iliesiu et. al. did not even bother to change verb tenses despite the passage of a decade. Iliesiu et. al. can attempt to avoid answering questions and attempt to change the subject, but the textual analysis is unambiguous: Tismaneanu’s unattributed 1997 chapter forms the bulk of the Report’s chapter on the Revolution. The only question that needs to be answered is: why and why are they unwilling to admit the textual identicality?

[11] All of this eludes Charles King in his Winter 2007 Slavic Review essay “Remembering Romanian Communism.” In his five page essay, he pauses no less than four times to mention the Revolution, despite the fact that its coverage takes up barely one percent of the PCACDR report. He relates the most banal of conclusions—“The report thus repeats the common view (at least among western academics) of the revolution as having been hijacked…”—yet misses or avoids what Iliesiu clearly seems most proud of: having inserted the claim that Nicolae Ceausescu was responsible for “only 162 deaths,” thereby insinuating Ceausescu’s successors bear responsibility for the other 942, and the claim to which such a reckoning is intimately related, namely Voinea’s that there were “no terrorists.” (It is interesting to note how Iliesiu et. al., the eternally suspicious of the state, miraculously become assiduous promoters of “official” and “state” claims once they turn out to be their own, thereby suggesting that their skepticism of the state is primarily situational rather than inherent—these are not equal opportunity skeptical and critical intellectuals.) King’s treatment of the Report is overall insufficiently informed, and as a consequence contextually-wanting and one-sided. He cites a handful of Romanian reviews of the Report, but they are almost uniformly positive accounts, almost as if supplied by the Chair of the Commission himself (see fn. 1, p. 718). He pauses to cite the former head of Radio Free Europe’s Romanian Research Division Michael Shafir’s 1985 book, yet makes no mention of Shafir’s trenchant criticisms (he gave the report a 7 out of 10 and mixed the positive with the negative) in a 1/12/07 interview in Ziua de Cluj, his extended critique “RAPORTUL TISMĂNEANU: NOTE DIN PUBLIC ŞI DIN CULISE” available in spring 2007 at http:// www.eleonardo.tk/ (no. 11), or his “Scrisoare (ultra)deschisa” in Observator Cultural no. 382 (25 July-1 August 2007) [given the timeline of scholarly publication, I am attempting to give King the benefit of the doubt here …He would certainly do well to read Shafir’s most recent discussion in Observator Cultural NR. 148 (406) 17 – 23 ianuarie 2008, “Despre clarificari nebuloase, plagiate, imposturi si careerism,” to see what a venerable critic and serious scholar was subjected to as a result of deigning to not wholeheartedly embrace the Report. Shafir’s treatment by the Report’s zealots has little to do with the liberal democratic view of the open society the Report’s authors ceaselessly profess.] Finally, had Charles King bothered to read Ciprian Siulea’s “Tentatia unui nou absolutism moral: Cu cine si de ce polemizeaza Vladimir Tismaneanu?” (Observator Cultural, nr. 379, 5-11 iulie 2007, once again conceivably within the publishing timeline) he might have refrained from parrotting the polarizing and unhelpful plebiscitary logic applied to the Report when he closed “The question is now whether the commission’s report will be used as yet another opportunity to reject history or as a way of helping Romanians learn, at last, how to own it” (p. 723). This, of course, suggests a certain infallible quality to the Report—which is far from the case—a conclusion only enhanced by King’s willingness to focus on the “hate speech” directed against the Report, but yet failing to cite and discuss any of the Romanian scholarly criticism of it.

[12] “Aghiotantii lui Ceausescu povestesc minut cu minut: O zi din viata dictatorului,” Romania Libera, 2 December 2005, online at http://www.romanialibera.ro/a5040/o-zi-din-viata-dictatorului.html. “Declaratie Subsemnatul TALPEANU ION, fiul lui Marin si Elena, nascut la 27 mai 1947 in comuna Baneasa, judetul Giurgiu, fost aghiotant prezidential cu grad de lt. col. in cadrul Directiei a V-a – Serviciul 1. Cu privire la armamentul din dotare arat ca, noi, aghiotantii aveam pistol “Makarov” cu 12 cartuse, iar sefii de grupa si ofiterii din grupa aveau pistolet “Makarov”, pistolet “Stecikin” si pistol-mitraliera AKM, cu munitie aferenta, care era cea obisnuita, in sensul ca nu aveam gloante dum-dum sau cu proprietati speciale, de provenienta straina.” (Dated 2 February 1990). His denial of dum-dum bullets is, of course, par for the course for former Securitate officers, who remember and thus “know nothing.”

[13] Quoted from http://www.tourismguide.ro/html/orase/Arad/Curtici/istoric_curtici.php. This raises an interesting point: there were foreign doctors who participated in Romania or in their home country in the surgery, treatment, and rehabilitation of those wounded. It would be interesting to hear what they remember and what they have to say regarding the munitions.

[15]Adina Anghelescu-Stancu refers to the “crippled and handicapped by dum-dum bullets” who do not number among Romania’s celebrities and about whom no one wishes to remember in today’s Romania, “Dureri care nu trec! (despre decembrie ‘89),” Gardianul, 18 December 2007, online at http://www.gardianul.ro/2007/12/18/editorial-c27/dureri_care_nu_trec_despre_decembrie_89_-s106259.html.

[16] I have examined the incident in detail several times, for the references to other works, see Richard Andrew Hall, “The Romanian Revolution as Geopolitical Parlor Game,” http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/checkmate040405.pdf, and Hall, “Orwellian…Positively Orwellian,” http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/Voineaswar091706.html.

[17] Once again, see “The Romanian Revolution as Geopolitical Parlor Game,” http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/checkmate040405.pdf, and “Orwellian…Positively Orwellian,” http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/Voineaswar091706.html. The critical articles were authored by Mihai Floca and Victor Stoica, who interviewed the Army cadre who had been involved in the incident and the residents of the surrounding apartment blocs who survived the fighting of those days.

[18] destituirea “Romanian Revolution USLA attack Dec 23 1989 Revolutia,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlBRSxUVQ5E

[19] For the photo see http://www.portalulrevolutiei.ro/documente/glont.htm; for one of his posts see http://www.portalulrevolutiei.ro/index.php?menu=6&pg=forum_thread.php&lnk=1&pagina=39. I cannot verify that this is indeed a “vidia” munition.

[20] Christian Levant, “Dacă tata nu-l salva pe Tokes, dacă nu salva biserici, tot se întâmpla ceva,” Adevarul, 30 September 2006, online at http://www.adevarul.ro/articole/dac-x103-tata-nu-l-salva-pe-tokes-dac-x103-nu-salva-biserici-tot-se-nt-mpla-ceva/200090.

[21] Cezar-Vladimir Rogoz, Povestirile teroristilor amintiri preluate si prelucrate de Cezar-Vladimir Rogoz, (Alma Print Galati 2007), p. 297, available online at http://www.bvau.ro/docs/e-books/2007/Rogoz,%20Cezar-Vladimir/povestirile_teroristilor.pdf.

[22]“A invatat sa zambeasca, [He learned how to smile],” http://marianmanescu.wordpress.com/2007/12/21/a-invatat-sa-zambeasca.

[25] Puspoki F., “Piramida Umbrelor (III),” Orizont (Timisoara), no. 11 (16 March 1990) p.4, and Roland Vasilevici, Piramida Umbrelor (Timisoara: Editura de Vest, 1991), p. 61.

[26] For the discussion of the former Securitate response to those who have violated the code of silence, see Hall, “Orwellian…Positively Orwellian,” http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/Voineaswar091706.html.

[28] I refer here to, for example, the works of Vladimir Tismaneanu, Matei Calinescu, Andrei Codrescu, Anneli Ute Gabanyi, Radu Portocala, and Nestor Ratesh. Some, like Tismaneanu in a 1993 article in EEPS, “The Quasi-Revolution and its Discontents,” were more explicit about this rather rigid dichotomous approach to the Romanian media, but it also comes through clearly in the sourcing, citations, and footnotes/endnotes of the others. (It continues to haunt the historiography of post-communist Romania, as works such as Tom Gallagher’s aforementioned Modern Romania make clear). To say the least, the issue of ballistics evidence essentially goes unanalyzed in these accounts. Moreover, although as we have seen, these authors have no problem affixing their names to petitions and the like, none of them has published any research on the December 1989 events since the early 1990s. It should tell you something that they continue to rely on and repeat the accounts they wrote in 1990 and 1991…as if nothing had been discovered or written since. In that way, it is almost fitting that the Report of the PCADCR reproduced Tismaneanu’s 1997 Dawisha and Parrott chapter in some places verbatim, down to failing to even change verb tenses when it states that certain questions “remain to be clarified.” I deconstructed the methodological faults in source selection in these émigré accounts in “The Romanian Revolution as Geopolitical Parlor Game” at http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/checkmate040405.html.

[29] For earlier discussions of all of this, see Richard Andrew Hall, “The Uses of Absurdity: The Staged-War Theory of the Romanian Revolution of December 1989,” East European Politics and Societies, vol. 13, no. 3, and Richard Andrew Hall, “The Securitate Roots of a Modern Romanian Fairy Tale,” Radio Free Europe East European Perspectives, April-May 2002, three part series, available at http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/romania%20securitate%205-2002.html.

[30] In “The Romanian Revolution as Geopolitical Parlor Game,” I demonstrated how even the so-called French and German schools (really the schools of Romanian émigrés in those countries) in 1990 were not and could not be independent from accounts in Romania, and that the accounts fed into and reinforced one another. It is simply intellectual myth—and an all too convenient one—to argue the antisceptic separation of these accounts as independent.

[31] Smaranda Vultur, “Revolutia recitita,” 22 no. 787 (9-15 April 2005) online at http://www.revista22.ro.

[32] Richard Andrew Hall, trans. Adrian Bobeica, “Ce demonstreaza probele balistice dupa sapte ani?” 22, no. 51 (17-23 December 1996), p. 10, and Richard Andrew Hall, trans. Corina Ileana Pop, “Dupa 7 ani,” Sfera Politicii no. 44 (1996), pp. 61-63.

[33] See my discussion in “Orwellian…Positively Orwellian,” at http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/Voineaswar091706.html.

[34] Monica Ciobanu’s review of Siani-Davies The Romanian Revolution of December 1989 and Tom Gallagher’s Modern Romania: Theft of a Nation is entitled “The Myth Factory” (found at http://www.tol.cz).

[35] Charles King, “Remembering Romanian Communism,” Slavic Review, Winter 2007, p 719. In King’s short article, he does not hesitate to make occasionally gratuitous citations for things he did not need to cite. Yet in discussing December 1989 and using the term “elsewhere”—which usually prefaces a description of “where else” one might find these things—there are no citations. “Although never exhaustively” is itself a gratuitous choice of words and far from accidental: in my last work on December 1989, I made light of how ridiculous it was for Daniel Chirot to claim that Peter Siani-Davies’ The Romanian Revolution of December 1989, an otherwise excellent work, was “near definitive” when so much was missing from Siani-Davies’ discussion—notably, for our purposes here, the question of dum-dum/vidia/exploding munitions. One could indeed be left with the impression that King intends to deliver a put-down, that some fellow Romanianists will no doubt catch, but yet deny the broader audience references to what he alludes and simultaneously protect his image from having delivered such a “palma” as the Romanians would say. It would appear that at least for readers of this paper, his goals won’t go completely fulfilled.

[36] See my discussion in “Orwellian…Positively Orwellian,” at http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/Voineaswar091706.html.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Romanian Revolution for Dum-Dums by Richard Andrew Hall

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on October 25, 2008

THE ROMANIAN REVOLUTION FOR DUM-DUMS:

(like me…and perhaps even you)

by Richard Andrew Hall, Ph.D.

Standard Disclaimer: All statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official positions or views of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or any other U.S. Government agency. Nothing in the contents should be construed as asserting or implying U.S. Government authentication of information or CIA endorsement of the author’s views. This material has been reviewed by CIA to prevent the disclosure of classified information.

I am an intelligence analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency. I have been a CIA analyst since 2000. Prior to that time, I had no association with CIA outside of the application process.

I have been researching the Revolution for the better part of the past 18 years. I first visited Romania in 1987 while backpacking through Europe, and I spent a total of about 20 months in the country during the years 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993-1994, and 1997, when I conducted pre-dissertation, dissertation, and post-dissertation research on the Revolution.

I have written on the topic of the Revolution, voluminously some might say, publishing in 1996, 1999, and 2000 before joining the Agency, and since I entered the Agency in 2002, 2004, 2005, and 2006.

It will and should be hard to believe for the outsider to this problem, but my work has been essentially the only systematic, ongoing investigation of the ballistics evidence—such are the shortcomings of small “communities of interest” investigating a peripheral historical topic and the perils of “group think.”

This article is, for lack of a better description, about “connecting the dots.”


–The story of the Romanian Revolution of December 1989 since December 1989 has been the struggle of disparate voices who share their memories, often with great frustration and a sense of resignation. They are hardly a unified chorus.

The accounts of ideologues seek to suggest to us that “the truth” miraculously is the province of people of this or that particular political persuasion in post-communist Romania. That is morality play and fairy tale; it is not the work of the serious historian. Would that history were so neat and tidy! It is not.

Instead, what one finds is that the people with the details that matter most are spread across the ideological and political spectrum—including people with what many of us might term distasteful, illiberal, ultranationalist, and nostalgic views.

There are those who relate these details in a narrative consistent with where those details lead.

There are those who relate these details even though it contradicts their narrative and ultimate conclusions about December 1989.

Finally, there are those—and there are many of them—who just know they experienced what they experienced. They aren’t sure exactly how it fits in with a larger narrative: they merely want to tell their story.

Together, they relate these details in the face of cynicism, indifference, and an often stunning intellectual conceit and deaf ear.

Theirs, however, and not the ideologues’, is the story of December 1989.


There was a lot of talk during the crimes of December ’89 about the special bullets with which the young and old alike were killed, bullets which—it is said were not in the arsenal of our military units. There was so much talk that there was no more to say and after there was no more to say for a sufficient amount of time the discussion was reopened with the line “such things don’t exist!” The special bullets didn’t exist!—our highest authorities hurried to tell us…In order to search for proof a little work is necessary by our legal organs that they are not terribly inclined to take….

[Dan Badea, “Gloante speciale sau ce s-a mai gasit in cladirea Directiei a V-a,” Expres, 16-22 April 1991]

The Internet allows the researcher to piece together history as never before. That’s a pretty bland statement, but the reality of it never ceases to amaze me. Take the case of those killed in the Romanian Revolution of December 1989 (officially 1,104 people perished in those events). Scroll through the list of those killed on the procesulcomunismului (“the trial of communism”) and portalulrevolutiei (“the portal to the revolution”) websites. For most, there is only limited information about the circumstances in which they died. For others, however, there is greater detail. As one scrolls through the names and photos, one of the similarities that begins to become apparent is that in cases where there is more information about the circumstances of the death, dum-dum bullets are mentioned. Thus, for example, we find the following five cases:

BUTIRI Florin, born in Joia Mare, 11 April 1969, he was living in Bucharest and was employed by the Bucharest Metro. He played rugby. On 22 December he participated in the demonstration at Sala Dalles [next to University Square]. On 23 December he went to defend the Radio Broadcast center on str. Nuferilor, and while he was saving some old people from a burning building he was shot. Brought to the Military Hospital because of a wound to his hip, caused by a dum-dum cartridge, they tried to ampute a leg. His stomach was also ravaged by a bullet. On 26 December 1989 he died. (http://www.procesulcomunismului.com/marturii/fonduri/ioanitoiu/aeroi/docs/album_2.htm)

FILOTI Claudiu
Profession: Lieutenant major UM 01171 Buzau, post-mortem Captain
Born: 30 July 1964
Birthplace: Vaslui
Date of death: 22 December 1989
Place of death: Bucharest, in the area of the Defense Ministry
Cause of death: Shot in the chest with dum-dum bullets (http://www.portalulrevolutiei.ro/index.php?menu=1&jud=53)

LUPEA Ion- Gabriel from Hunedoara, born in 1970…In 1989 he was sent from Bucharest to Anina [Resita], then to UM 01929. On 9 December 1989, he went on leave, but he was recalled. On the evening of 23 December he was on duty defending the unit [Anina-Resita], at the checkpoint, when around 11 pm they were attacked from the front and from the left flank. While crawling on hands and knees to bring more ammunition he was hit by a dum-dum bullet that entered above his left leg and exited through his left hand. Brought to the hospital he died Christmas Eve, making him the unit’s first hero; he was posthumously awarded the rank of sub-lieutenant. (http://www.procesulcomunismului.com/marturii/fonduri/ioanitoiu/aeroi/docs/album_5.htm)

MANESCU Dan, born 25 March 1964, a student in the Transportation Department, he joined with the other young people on 21 December and participated in the demonstrations in the center of the town [Bucharest]. Friday morning he went with his brother to the demonstrations and he returned after the flight of the dictator. He changed his clothes and returned for good, when on the night of 22/23 December a dum-dum bullet punctured his stomach in Palace Square. Brought to the Emergency hospital, he could not be saved. (http://www.procesulcomunismului.com/marturii/fonduri/ioanitoiu/aeroi/docs/album_5.htm)

POPTEAN Petre, born 27 December 1965, in Margau near Huedin, living in Bucharest…he worked as a driver for the Bucharest Transportation Department. On 21 December he went into town to protect his sister on her way home from work. The two of them left on Calea Victoriei and arrived at [Sala] Dalles, where in horror they watched…Petre called to his sister to aid the wounded. While on the ground, he was hit in the abdomen and left hip by dum-dum cartridges that caused him major wounds. His sister, Monica, was able to stop an ambulance with a Targoviste license number, but he didn’t make it to Hospital 9. At around 6 pm Petre passed away. (http://www.procesulcomunismului.com/marturii/fonduri/ioanitoiu/aeroi/docs/album_7.htm)

Let me draw the attention of the reader to two important details here. First, the use of dum-dum munitions was not confined to Bucharest (multiple locations), but includes the southwestern city of Resita (the case of Ion Lupea). Second, the use of dum-dum munitions occurred not just after communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu fled at midday on 22 December 1989, but also before, on the evening of 21 December (the case of Petre Poptean).

Dum-dum bullets—which fragment and cause substantially more and more lethal damage to the organs of those who are hit—are outlawed by international convention (see more below). Moreover—or perhaps better-put, officially—no Romanian institution had them in their arsenal in December 1989. Yet, as we can see, almost two decades after the events, the obituaries of those gunned down in December 1989 include references to those munitions as having played a role not only in the wounding of people, but also in their deaths.

Despite the claims above attesting to not just the wounding, but the death of several people (civilians and soldiers) over several days in several locations from dum-dum bullets in December 1989, what did General Dan Voinea—removed from his post in December 2007 by Attorney General Laura Codruta Kovesi for violating basic judicial norms in another case[1]—who headed the investigations into December 1989 for well over a decade, have to say about them in late 2005? “Such things didn’t exist!”:

Romulus Cristea: “Did special ammunition, bullets with a vidia tip or dum-dum bullets, claim [any] victims? The press of the time was filled with such claims…”

Dan Voinea: There were no victims (people who were shot) from either vidia bullets or dum-dum bullets. During the entire period of the events war munitions were used, normal munitions that were found at the time in the arsenal of the Interior Ministry and the Defense Ministry. The confusion and false information were the product of the fact that different caliber weapons were used, and therefore, the resulting sound was perceived differently.[2] (Emphasis added)

So, there is no wiggle room here, no room for misinterpretation: according to Prosecutor Voinea , nobody was killed by dum-dum bullets in December 1989.

That’s a common claim among officials of the former communist regime—Voinea was a military prosecutor since 1982 and he was directly involved in the trial of the Ceausescus. Such conclusions were also repeated in late 2005 by Dr. Vladimir Belis, who was the head of the Medical Forensics Institute (IML) in Bucharest in December 1989: asked if other than the standard 7.62 mm caliber weapons belonging to the Army were used, he did not know and couldn’t say because he claimed no autopsies were ever performed.[3] The apparent official disinterest in munitions and autopsies is—ahem—shall we say “interesting” given the comments attributed to Belis’ subordinates and to doctors at Bucharest’s main hospitals—comments made in the early 1990s, but also made well over a decade later, in the mid 2000s.[4]

General Dan Voinea spoke in late 2005. Voinea’s argument that there were no dum-dum bullets, that there were no atypical munitions used, is directly linked to his contention that there were therefore “no terrorists” in December 1989. It has been routinely repeated in various forms by the media for well over a decade and by his supporters in intellectual circles at home and abroad. The encomia for General Voinea before and since that December 2005 interview by noted Romanian intellectuals and Romanianists are breathtaking. Tom Gallagher refers to him as the “indefatigable General Voinea”[5] and Western journalists have described him as “a one-man mission to uncover the truth about exactly what happened during those days.”[6] Sorin Iliesiu justifies his claims about the Revolution squarely on Voinea’s words:

General Dan Voinea has said clearly: The terrorists did not exist. Those who seized power lied to protect the real criminals….The diversion of the ‘terrorists’ has been demonstrated by [the] Justice [System], not a single terrorist being found among the dead[7], wounded[8] or arrested[9].”[10][11]

Highly problematic and damning for General Dan Voinea, Dr. Vladimir Belis, and fellow deniers are the following, detailed written testimonies of Gheorghe Balasa and Radu Minea presented by Dan Badea in April 1991, attesting to what they had found in December 1989 in the headquarters of the Securitate’s Fifth Directorate:

Balasa Gheorghe: From [Securitate] Directorate V-a, from the weapons depot, on 23-24 December 1989, DUM-DUM cartridges, special cartridges that did not fit any arm in the arsenal of the Defense Ministry were retrieved. Three or four boxes with these kinds of cartridges were found. The special bullets were 5-6 cm. in length and less thick than a pencil. Such a cartridge had a white stone tip that was transparent. All of these cartridges I personally presented to be filmed by Mr. Spiru Zeres. All the special cartridges, other than the DUM-DUM [ones] were of West German [FRG] make. From Directorate V-a we brought these to the former CC building, and on 23-24 December ’89 they were surrendered to U.M. 01305. Captain Dr. Panait, who told us that he had never seen such ammunition before, Major Puiu and Captain Visinescu know about [what was turned over].

In the former CC of the PCR, all of those shot on the night of 23-24 December ’89 were shot with special bullets. It is absurd to search for the bullet in a corpse that can penetrate a wall…

[of course, V-a worked hand-in-hand with the USLA, or the Securitate’s “special unit for anti-terrorist warfare,” and thus it was not suprising that in Directorate V-a’s headquarters…] Among things we also found were:…the training manual for the USLA. It was about 25 cm thick, and while there, I leafed through about half of it…[and I also came across] a file in which lots of different people under the surveillance of USLA officers were listed…

(Interviewed by Dan Badea, “Gloante speciale sau ce s-a mai gasit in cladirea Directiei a V-a,” Expres, 16-22 April 1991.)

Moreover, we know from the 2005 publication of the testimony of a detained V-th Directorate officer dated 2 February 1990, that he must have been asked to comment specifically on the existence of dum-dum ammunition—since he makes a point of emphasizing that “we didn’t have dum-dum ammunition or weapons with special properties, of foreign origin.”[12] So, in other words, we know from this interrogation document that six weeks after the Revolution, those who had taken power or at least the military prosecutors of the time were still interested in the existence of these munitions—thereby suggesting that they must have had some reason for believing in their existence, say for example the character of the injuries suffered by those shot during the events, as well as perhaps recovered bullet fragments, the testimonies of the doctors who operated on those wounded, etc…

Voinea’s ceaseless interviews and revelations during this period have been reprinted repeatedly since they took place and his conclusions been given wide circulation by journalists and people such as Sorin Iliesiu. Yet those who just relate what happened in December 1989 continue to mention the existence of dum-dum munitions. Thus, if one turns to the tourism site for the western border town of Curtici (near Arad) one can read the following about the history of the city, including the events of December 1989:

The following night [at the train station], the first team of five doctors from the Austrian “Lorenz Bohler” Hospital , who arrived in Curtici with a “hospital-wagon” took 18 people in critical condition to Austria for special treatment that lasted two to three months. That is, they needed organ transplants or special care, because of the monstrous results of dum-dum bullets.[13]

Or take the case of a poster on the 18th anniversary of the Revolution, who begins:

The Romarta (central Bucharest) file? What about the file on those who fired at me at the Astronomical Observatory on Ana Ipatescu Boulevard or those who at 1700 on 24 December fired near Casa Scanteii [press building] where I found a dum-dum cartridge in my bed—us having had to sleep in the bathroom.[14]

Finally, there are the cynical comments of those—no matter what they believe about December 1989—who cannot help but remember the dum-dum munitions and the horrible pain and trauma they caused their victims, many still living with the consequences of those wounds today…and how nobody wishes to remember them; for them, this is essentially a cruel, open secret.[15]

Unfortunately, no one in Romania has tied together such claims and the evidence I present above. I do not know how many of these people are still alive, but if the Romanian media were interested, the names are there for them to contact in order to confirm the claims above: Gheorghe Balasa, Radu Minea, Spiru Zeres, Major Puiu, and Captain Visinescu.

D’oh…Dum-Dum…(Tweedle) Dumb and (Tweedle) Dumber: Dum-Dum=Vidia

When I first viewed the youtube video “Romanian Revolution USLA attack Dec 23 1989 Revolutia” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlBRSxUVQ5E ), what struck me was: here, finally, after a decade and a half of almost unopposed revisionist denial, here was someone who claims to have been an eyewitness and has photos and details of the incident, and who maintains the now almost heretical idea that the Securitate’s “Special Unit for Anti-terrorist Warfare”(USLA for short) had indeed attempted to attack the heavily-guarded Defense Ministry Headquarters on Drumul Taberei in Bucharest on the night of 23-24 December 1989! But, in fact as we shall see, although important, that is actually not the most important thing about the one and only youtube video posted by “destituirea.”

For me the transcript of the USLA unit claiming to have witnessed army units attacking their own ministry and thus the supposed reason that the USLA men who witnessed it “had to be silenced by being killed”—a transcript leaked to the press in 1993 and which led scholars such as Denis Deletant and Peter Siani-Davies to consider this “case closed” essentially—was always highly problematic. It supplied what was said, but, if we are to believe the words of the USLA Commander Gheorghe Ardeleanu, speaking to the notorious Securitate cheerleader Angela Bacescu, it did not supply the much needed context: Ardeleanu claimed that he had been placed under arrest and that it was he who chose the names of the USLA officers who were to report to the Defense Ministry. The USLA units thus came in a situation in which those who had taken control of the country were in the Defense Ministry holding their commander under arrest.[16]

But more importantly, the transcript could not explain a) the lack of any corroboration since of these supposed Army units attacking the Defense Ministry on the night of 23-24 December 1989—truly hard to believe, given all the young recruits and given their comparative willingness to talk to the media after all these years, in comparison to the former Securitate, and b) the claims in summer 1990 by the Army cadre who had been involved in the firefight with the USLA and the interviews of civilians in the surrounding blocs of flats who had lived through the fighting in December 1989 and related what they had seen.[17] The interviewees had detailed the suspicious actions of the USLA convoy and made it clear that they came with less-than-friendly intentions.

Now, here, 17 years after those famous articles by Mihai Floca and Victor Stoica is a video supporting the claim that the USLA units attempted to force their way into the Defense Ministry. The photos of the inside of the USLA ABI vehicles and of the dead USLA men (wearing black jumpsuits underneath Army clothing) are perhaps the most extensive and detailed seen to date, and the anonymous poster plays coy as to where he got them from (he claims he does not want to reveal the source—something which, given the sensitivity of the issue, I am not surprised by).

But, as I mentioned previously, it is actually not the confirmation of this understanding of the Defense Ministry incident that is the most significant thing about this youtube video. It is at the 2:01-2:05 of 8:50 mark of this silent video that the poster makes the following interesting and critical insight/claim…

USLA’s bullets were called “vidia” or “dum-dum” were usually smaller than the regular army’s bullets…Most of the capital’s residents have found this type of bullets all around the military buildings near by. (at 2:01 of 8:50)[18]

And thus, it becomes clear that the discussion of “vidia” bullets and “dum-dum” bullets is interchangeable (or at least is treated as such)! (Hence, perhaps why Romulus Cristea asked his question of General Voinea as he did in December 2005: “Did special ammunition, bullets with a vidia tip or dum-dum bullets, claim [any] victims? The press of the time was filled with such claims…”) “Vidia” translates as “grooved,” and thus describes the modified feature of the bullets which makes them so lethal, thereby making the treatment of vidia and dumdum as de facto synonyms understandable.

This is critical because as I have previously written in detail, citing interviews and reminiscences in the Romanian press…vidia bullets showed up across the country in December 1989. In “Orwellian…Positively Orwellian: Prosecutor Voinea’s Campaign to Sanitize the Romanian Revolution of December 1989” (http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/Voineaswar091706.html) I detail examples of vidia bullets showing up across the country—Brasov, Sibiu, Bucharest (multiple locations), Braila, Caransebes, Craiova, and Hunedoara—as recounted by civilians and Army personnel, at various times since the events—not just during or right after. Such wide dispersion of the use of officially non-existent munitions is critical too because it infirms the notion that somehow demonstrators or the Army put their hands on such “free floating weapons” and used them during the December 1989 events—that it would have happened in one or two places could be explained, but that the same thing would happen in so many geographic centers is scarcely plausible.

Recall from our earlier extract from Prosecutor Dan Voinea’s December 2005 interview, his unambiguous denial of the use of vidia munitions. Nevertheless, significantly, since that interview we continue to find people who remember what they remember and they remember the use of vidia munitions. I have found yet more references. Alexandru Stepanian, who writes under the motto “Dreptate si Onoare! (Justice and Honor!),” not only claims to still have a vidia bullet from 22-23 December 1989 in the area around the TV Station in Bucharest, but he has placed a photo of it on the portalulrevolutiei website.[19] In fall 2006, the daughter of a priest recalled:

In December ’89, after he arrived from Timisoara, my father stayed with me on Stefan Cel Mare Boulevard. When we returned to our home, on the corner of Admiral Balescu and Rosenthal. I found the cupboard of the dresser pure and simple riddled with bullets, about 8 to 10 of them. Someone who knew about such things told me they were vidia bullets. They were brought to a commission, but I don’t know what happened to them.[20]

In 2007 a book entitled The Tales of the Terrorists was published in Galati. In one section, a Eugen Stoleriu recounts his dispatch to Bucharest as a military recruit during the events and how for the first time in his life he came across vidia bullets that were shot at him.[21]

Another apparent synonym for “vidia” is “crestata” or “notched.” I take it that the reference is to the same type of munitions because the damage caused to those wounded by them was equally catastrophic. In December 2007, Alexandru Tudor, a soccer official famous apparently for his stern, unsmiling demeanor, who was shot on 23 December 1989 around 10 am in the area of Piata Aviatorilor near the TV studio, recounted the episode that ended his career:

They brought me to Colentina Hospital and there I had the great fortune of two great doctors. If they had operated on me, they would have to amputate both my legs beneath the knee, but instead they left the bullets in there 12 days. Their explanation was that the bullets were too close to arteries, and since they were gloante crestate (notched bullets), it was very dangerous. After they were removed, I kept the bullets, I have them at home. I was on crutches for six months, I went through therapy, but I had to give up soccer.[22]

Also on the 18th anniversary of the Revolution, a frustrated poster to another site asked pointedly:

Who in Romania in 1989 had 5.5 mm caliber NATO-type munition, that in addition was “notched”—something outlawed by the Geneva Convention, while it is known that the Romanian Army had only the caliber used by Warsaw Pact nations for their weapons, that is to say 7,62 mm….At that time even the Olympic speed shooting champion, Sorin Babii, expressed his surprise….I had in my hand several samples of this cartridge: small, black, with a spiral on the top, or with 4 cuts (those who know a little bit about ballistics and medical forensics can attest to the devastating role caused by these modifications). I await a response to my questions…perhaps someone will be willing to break the silence. I thank you in advance. [emphases added][23]

In other words, the existence of crestate/vidia/dum-dum bullets is known, and not everyone has so blithely forgotten their existence.

A Dum-Dum by Any Other Name: Gloante explosive (exploding bullets), gloante speciale (special bullets)

Crestate, vidia, dum-dum…by now we know: these are very dangerous munitions…

In the field of firearms, an expanding bullet is a bullet designed to expand on impact. Such bullets are often known as Dum-dum or dumdum bullets. There are several types of dum-dum designs. Two popular designs are the hollow point (made during the manufacturing phase) and X-ing made usually by the user by making two notches perpendicular to each other on the tip of the bullet, commonly with a knife. The effect is that the bullet deforms and sometimes fragments upon impact due to the indentations. This creates a larger wound channel or channels with greater blood loss and trauma.

The hollow-point bullet, and the soft-nosed bullet, are sometimes also referred to as the dum-dum, so named after the British arsenal at Dum-Dum, near Calcutta, India, where it is said that jacketed, expanding bullets were first developed. This term is rare among shooters, but can still be found in use, usually in the news media and sensational popular fiction. Recreational shooters sometimes refer to hollow points as “JHPs”, from the common manufacturer’s abbreviation for “Jacketed Hollow Point”.

To be most correct, the term “Dum Dum Bullet” refers only to soft point bullets, not to hollow points, though it is very common for it to be mistakenly used this way.

The Hague Convention of 1899, Declaration III, prohibits the use in warfare of bullets which easily expand or flatten in the body, and was an expansion of the Declaration of St Petersburg in 1868, which banned exploding projectiles of less than 400 grams. These treaties limited the use of “explosive” bullets in military use, defining illegal rounds as a jacketed bullet with an exposed lead tip (and, by implication, a jacketed base).[24]

Thus, under the synonym for dumdum/vidia/crestate bullets of “exploding bullets,” we find the following on the Internet:

On the evening of 27 December 1989, Eugen Maresi, 20 years old, a military draftee, was sent to organize a checkpoint on soseaua Chitilei, at the entrance to Bucharest….A group of 25 soldiers came under fire from the belltower of a church. Eugen was the first shot…. “The doctors told me my only child was shot with (gloante explosive) exploding bullets. The fragments shattered all of his internal organs,” says Dumitru Maresi, the father of the [Drobeta Turnu] Severin hero. http://2003.informatia.ro/Article42788.phtml

and

Gheorghe Nicolosu, was shot in the leg…After he was operated on, it was established that the bullet with which he was shot did not figure in [the arsenal of] the Romanian Army. Nicolosu was operated on in Hunedoara, then arrived in Italy, where he underwent another surgery…In the same area, on Lipscani, Cristea Valeria, 36 years old, was shot in the stomach by ammunition that did not belong to the army. He died a few hours later, the doctors trying to save his life, but the glontul exploziv (exploding bullet) perforated his intestines. Another youngster, 18 year old Ion Gherasim was shot in the back at the entrance to UM 01933 by munition that did not belong to the army. (Emphases added) http://www.replicahd.ro/images/replica216/special2.htm

Once again, we are speaking here of far-flung locations across the country—Chitila (Bucharest) and Hunedoara—which makes the idea of accident and “free floating weapons” unlikely.

Ammunition…Consistent with the Confessions of Former Securitate Whistleblowers

And so, who was it, who has told us about “exploding bullets” and “special cartridges” like this, and who has it been said possessed them in December 1989?

For years I have been essentially the sole researcher inside or outside the country familiar with and promoting the claims of 1) former Timisoara Securitate Directorate I officer Roland Vasilevici—who published his claims about December 1989 under the byline of Puspoki F. in the Timisoara political-cultural weekly Orizont in March 1990 and under the pseudonym “Romeo Vasiliu”—and 2) an anonymous USLA recruit who told his story to AM Press Dolj (published on the five year anniversary of the events in Romania Libera 28 December 1994…ironically (?) next to a story about how a former Securitate official attempted to interrupt a private television broadcast in which Roland Vasilevici was being interviewed in Timisoara about Libyan involvement in December 1989).

Vasilevici claimed in those March 1990 articles and in a 140 page book that followed—both the series and the book titled Pyramid of Shadows—that the USLA and Arab commandos were the “terrorists” of December 1989. What is particularly noteworthy in light of the above discussion about “exploding bullets” was his claim that the USLA and the foreign students who supplemented them “used special cartridges which upon hitting their targets caused new explosions.”[25]

The anonymous USLA recruit stated separately, but similarly:

I was in Timisoara and Bucharest in December ’89. In addition to us [USLA] draftees, recalled professionals, who wore black camouflage outfits, were dispatched. Antiterrorist troop units and these professionals received live ammunition. In Timisoara demonstrators were shot at short distances. I saw how the skulls of those who were shot would explode. I believe the masked ones, using their own special weapons, shot with exploding bullets. In January 1990, all the draftees from the USLA troops were put in detox. We had been drugged. We were discharged five months before our service was due to expire in order to lose any trace of us. Don’t publish my name. I fear for me and my parents. When we trained and practiced we were separated into ‘friends’ and ‘enemies.’ The masked ones were the ‘enemies’ who we had to find and neutralize. I believe the masked ones were the ‘terrorists’. [emphases added]

As I have pointed out, despite the short shrift given these two revelations by Romanian media and Romanianists, one group has paid close attention: the former Securitate. That is not accidental. [26]

With the advent of the Internet, unverifiable bulletin board postings also pop up. On 23 December 2003, under the name of “kodiak,” the following appeared:

In ’89 I was a major in the USLA…and I know enough things that it would be better I didn’t know…15, 16, 20, 30 years will pass and nothing will be known beyond what you need and have permission to know…” (http://www.cafeneaua.com)[27]

Clearly, the legal constraints of security oaths and fear continue to cast a long shadow, long after the events of December 1989.

Si totusi…se stie [And nevertheless…it is known]

It took over three years into my research on the Revolution—and physically being in the Library of the Romanian Academy—before I came to the realization: oh yeah, that’s a good idea, yeah, I should systematically compare what the former Securitate have to say about December 1989 and compare it with what others are saying. It took a maddening additional half year before I came to the conclusion: oh yeah, and how about what the Army has to say? It may seem ridiculous—and it is in some ways indefensible from the perspective of performing historical research—but you have to understand how Romanian émigrés dominated early investigations of the Revolution, and how they divided the post-communist Romania media into the pro-regime (untrustworthy) press and the opposition (trustworthy) press, and the influence this “research frame” and methodology had at the time upon younger researchers such as myself.[28]

A more systematic mind probably would have come to these revelations long before I did. Instead, it took the accidental, simultaneous ordering of issues from 1990 and 1991 of the vigorous anti-Iliescu regime university publication NU (Cluj), the similarly oppositional Zig-Zag (Bucharest), and the former Securitate mouthpiece Europa to discover this. There I found Radu Nicolae making his way among diametrically opposed publications, saying the same things about December 1989. And it mattered: the source for example of Radu Portocala’s claim that there were “no terrorists” in December 1989 was Radu Nicolae. But more important still, was the discovery of Angela Bacescu revising the Defense Ministry incident, exonerating the USLA, and claiming there were no Securitate terrorists in Sibiu (only victims) in Zig-Zag…only to show up months later in Romania Mare and Europa months later writing the same stuff, and in the case of the Sibiu article republishing it verbatim. Nor was Bacescu alone among the former Securitate at Zig-Zag: she was for example joined by Gheorghe Ionescu Olbojan, the first to pen revisionist articles about the Army’s DIA unit.[29]

But without a broader comparative framework and approach to the Romanian media, all of this eluded the highly partisan Romanian émigré writers on the events. Nestor Ratesh alone among this group did seem puzzled and bothered by the similarity of Romania Libera Petre Mihai Bacanu’s conclusions on the V-th Directorate and those of Bacescu (he only alluded to her dubious reputation, however, and did not name her.) But Bacanu was fallible: memorably, but also upstandingly, in December 1993, he admitted based on what he claimed were new revelations, that his previous three and a half years of exonerating the USLA had been in vain since they were erroneous: they had after all played a significant role in the repression and killing of demonstrators on the night of 21-22 December 1989 in University Square. That alone should have precipitated a rethinking about assumptions and approaches to investigating the December 1989 events and particularly the role of the Securitate and the USLA, but it did not, and has not to this day…

Romanians and Romanianists like to indulge in the reassuring myth that the “schools” of research on the Revolution were separate from the beginning—that the defining feature was the political orientation of the author and whether he or she viewed the events of December 1989 as a revolution or coup d’etat. To the extent they are willing to admit that discussions of the “terrorists” cross-pollinated and became intertwined across the borders of the political spectrum, they assume that this must have happened later, after views had become consolidated.[30] But such a view is simply ahistorical and wishful-thinking. It is simply impossible to defend honestly when you have Angela Bacescu who “showed up with lots of documents and didn’t need any money” and wrote her revisionist tracts in the oppositional Zig-Zag, when she and Olbojan were the first ones to voice theses that later became staples of the anti-Iliescu opposition—long after they had left its press.

It is indicative that Romanians still have yet to confront this methodological flaw that one of the few studies in the country to read Securitate and Army sources in addition to journalist and participant accounts, still failed to address the key similarities across the political spectrum regarding the existence and identity of the “terrorists.” Smaranda Vultur wrote in a review of Ruxandra Cesereanu’s (otherwise, groundbreaking in comparison to what had appeared before it in Romanian in book form) Decembrie ’89. Deconstructia unei revolutii (Iasi: Polirom 2004):

Beyond this, I would underscore however a deficit that results directly from the choice of the author to classify her sources based on how the source defines the events: as a revolution, a plot, or a hybrid of the two. Because of this one will thus find, contained in the same chapter, Securitate people and political analysts, revolutionaries and politicians of the old and new regimes, and journalists.[31]

In other words, my exact indictment of the approach inside and outside Romania to the study of the Revolution, and the reason why people are simply unable to acknowledge the similarity and even identicality of views of the “terrorists.”

After the aforementioned realizations in 1993-1994 about the need to be more comparative and systematic in investigating accounts of the Revolution, it took yet another two maddening years before I started to realize the significance of the ballistics evidence. It thus came comparatively late in the dissertation process. My timing was fortuitous, however. I wrote a short article in November 1996 that was published in two different forms in 22 and Sfera Politicii in December 1996—the mood in Romania was euphoric as seven years of the Iliescu regime had just come to an end through the ballot box. [32] True, it didn’t spark debate and loosen some lips as I had hoped, but it made my visit to Bucharest the following June —especially my interviews on one particular day with a journalist at Cotidianul and, several hours later, a member of the Gabrielescu Parliamentary Commission investigating the events (Adrian Popescu-Necsesti)—memorable to say the least….

Of course, not then, or even since, has anybody who has investigated the December 1989 events inside or outside Romania systematically attempted to replicate, test, or expand upon my earlier findings—other than myself. As I have noted elsewhere,[33] in Peter Siani-Davies’ otherwise excellent The Romanian Revolution of December 1989 he devotes essentially a paragraph to the ballistics’ topic in a 300 plus page book—and it is only in the context of addressing my own earlier research. Monica Ciobanu could thus not be more wrong in her declaration that Peter Siani-Davies’ 2005 volume had disproven the “myth of Securitate terrorists.”[34] Siani-Davies has nothing to say about dum-dum/vidia/exploding ammunition: hence why he does not believe in Securitate terrorists!

Since then, I have written on Securitate revisionism, “the terrorists,” and the ballistics evidence of Romanian Revolution of December 1989, in the words of one critic who seems unable to call things by their name “voluminously, although never exhaustively, elsewhere”—publishing in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, and 2006. [35] Now, more than a decade after those original ballistics’ articles, I return here putting things together I should preferably have put together long before…

The high stakes of what was at play in late December 1989 become all the clearer here. Nicolae Ceausescu’s successors faced not only the dilemma of having foreign citizens arrested for firing at and killing in cold blood Romanian citizens[36], but members of a Romanian state institution—the Securitate—in addition to those foreign citizens, had injured, maimed, and killed Romanian citizens using munitions that were outlawed by international conventions to which Romania was a party. Thus, beyond the culpability of an institution that was key to the ability of the nomenklaturists who had seized power to continue in power—i.e. the Securitate—and who undoubtedly had compromising information on those leaders, the new potentates were faced with a problem of international dimensions and proportions.

Dan Badea’s April 1991 article with which I opened this paper concluded thusly:

There are in these two declarations above[–those of Gheorghe Balasa and Radu Minea–] sufficient elements for an investigation by the Police or Prosecutor’s Office. [Dan Badea, “Gloante speciale sau ce s-a mai gasit in cladirea Directiei a V-a,” Expres, 16-22 April 1991]

That, of course, never appears to have happened. I hope that the information I have supplied above—significantly, much of it new, much of it from the Internet in recent years—should at the very least encourage Romanians and Romanianists to reopen and reexamine the ballistics evidence. Let us hope that on the twentieth anniversary of the Revolution, we may be able to read serious investigations of the ballistics evidence, rather than be subjected to the false and jaded refrain… such things did not exist!



[1] See, for example, Dorin Petrisor, “Procurorul Voinea, acuzat ca a lucrat prost dosarul Iliescu 13 iunie 1990,” Cotidianul, 7 December 2007, online edition. Voinea’s removal generally went unpublicized abroad—it was understandably not a proud day for his supporters. Kovesi claimed to have been taken aback by Voinea’s inexplicable, seemingly incompetent handling of the June 1990 files.

[2] General Dan Voinea, interview by Romulus Cristea, “Toti alergau dupa un inamic invizibil,” Romania Libera, 22 December 2005, online edition. Cristea’s apparent effort/belief—shared by many others—to suggest that it was only “the press of the time”—something I take to mean December 1989 and the immediate months after—that was filled with such claims and accusations is untrue. (The suggestion is to say that civilians with no knowledge of weapons and munitions repeated rumors spread out of fear and fueled by those who had seized power but needed to create an enemy to legitimize themselves and thus exploited those fears…) For examples of such claims “in the press of the time,” see the words of an employee of the Municipal Hospital (“In the room was a boy, very badly wounded by dum-dum bullets that had blown apart his diaphragm, his sacroiliac, and left an exit wound the size of a 5 lei coin,” Expres no. 10 (6-12 April 1990), p. 5) and the discussion of how Bogdan Stan died (“vidia bullets which explode when they hit their ‘target,’ entered into the bone marrow of his spine,” Adevarul, 13 January 1990). But such claims also appear long after the December 1989 events. Two and a half and three years after the December 1989 events, Army Colonel Ion Stoleru maintained in detail that the “terrorists” had “weapons with silencers, with scopes, for shooting at night time (in ‘infrared’), bullets with a ‘vidia’ tip [more on this and the relation to dum-dum munitions below]. Really modern weapons” and added, significantly, “The civilian and military commissions haven’t followed through in investigating this…” (see Army Colonel Ion Stoleru with Mihai Galatanu, “Din Celebra Galerie a Teroristilor,” Expres, no. 151 (22-28 December 1992), p. 4, and “Am vazut trei morti suspecti cu fata intoarsa spre caldarim,” Flacara, no. 29 (22 July 1992), p. 7.) Voinea’s steadfast denials would seem to validate Stoleru’s allegations more than a decade after he made them. Not surprisingly, but highly unfortunate, Cristea’s interview with Voinea forms the basis of conclusions about the terrorists on the Romanian-language Wikipedia webpage on the Revolution: see http://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolu%C5%A3ia_rom%C3%A2n%C4%83_din_1989.

[3] Laura Toma, Toma Roman Jr. , and Roxana Ioana Ancuta, “Belis nu a vazut cadavrele Ceausestilor,” Jurnalul National, 25 October 2005, http://www.jurnalul.ro/articole/34668/belis-nu-a-vazut-cadavrele-ceausestilor. “Frumos (Nice)…” as the Romanians say. Belis may not have interested himself in the ballistics evidence—but some of his employees apparently did (see IML Dr. Florin Stanescu’s comments in Ion Costin Grigore, Cucuveaua cu Pene Rosii (Bucharest: Editura Miracol, 1994), pp. 70-72). Moreover, there were exhumations. (“For a long time the Brasov Military Prosecutor didn’t do anything, even though there existed cases, declarations, documents, photos and even atypical unusual bullets brought in by the families of the deceased and wounded.” http://www.portalulrevolutiei.ro/forum/index.php?topic=1.msg214) On 14 June 1990, General Nicolae Spiroiu, future Defense Minister (1991-1994), appears to have been in the city of Brasov, assisting at the exhumation of people killed there during the December 1989 Revolution. Such a step was a rarity, and apparently followed earlier talks between Spiroiu, five other officers, and the staff of the local newspaper Opinia, who were seeking clarification over who was responsible for the deaths of their fellow citizens. “They found in particular bullets of a 5.6 mm caliber that are not in the Army’s arsenal,” wrote the journalist Romulus Nicolae of the investigation. (Romulus Nicolae, “Au ars dosarele procuraturii despre evenimente din decembrie,” Cuvintul, no. 32 (August 1991), pp. 4-5, cited in Richard Andrew Hall, “Orwellian…Positively Orwellian: Prosecutor Voinea’s Campaign to Sanitize the Romanian Revolution of December 1989,” http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/Voineaswar091706.html.)

[4] Dr. Nicolae Constantinescu, surgeon at Coltea Hospital: “I remember that on 1 or 2 January ’90 there appeared at the [Coltea] hospital a colonel from the Interior Ministry, who presented himself as Chircoias. He maintained in violent enough language that he was the chief of a department from the Directorate of State Security [ie. Securitate]. He asked that all of the extracted bullets be turned over to him. Thus were turned over to him 40 bullets of diverse forms and dimensions, as well as munition fragments. I didn’t hear anything back from Chircoias or any expert. Those who made the evidence disappear neglected the fact that there still exist x-rays and other military documents that I put at the disposition of the [Military] Prosecutor.”

( http://www.romanialibera.ro/a113826/revolutia-5-000-de-victime-nici-un-vinovat.html)

[5] Tom Gallagher, Modern Romania: The End of Communism, the Failure of Democratic Reform, and the Theft of a Nation, (NY: New York University Press, 2005), p. 190.

[6] Jeremy Bransten, “Romania: The Bloody Revolution in 1989: Chaos as the Ceausescus Are Executed,” RFE/RFL, 14 December 1999 at http://www.rferl.org/specials/communism/10years/romania2.asp. This unfortunate comment aside, Brantsen’s series is an excellent journalistic introduction to the December 1989 events.

[7] Iliesiu is dead wrong. See the signed testimony to the contrary by Ion Lungu and Dumitru Refenschi dated 26 December 1989, reproduced in Ioan Itu, “Mostenirea teroristilor,” Tinerama, no. 123 (9-15 April 1993), p. 7. I translated the important parts of this document in Hall, “Orwellian…Positively Orwellian” http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/Voineaswar091706.html. Significantly, according to this document, Dr. Belis had access to the dead terrorists:

Dead Terrorists. Although their existence is vehemently denied by all official institutions, we are able to prove that they existed and have sufficient details to identify them.…We continue with some excerpts of the declaration of Ion Lungu, head of the group of fighters who guarded the ‘Institute of Legal Medicine’ [IML, the main Bucharest morgue], beginning from the evening of 22 December 1989:

“Starting from the 23rd, there were brought, in succession, more ‘special’ corpses. They were brought only by military vehicles and were accompanied by officers. They were all dressed the same: kaki uniforms, with or without military insignia, fur-lined boots, cotton underwear. All the clothes were new. The established procedure at that point was that when the bodies were unloaded from the trucks, at the ramp to the back of the IML, to be disrobed and inspected. The documents found were released to Prosecutor Vasiliu and criminology officers. The weapons and munitions we found and surrendered—on the basis of a verbal procedure—to the officer on duty from UM 01046. Weapons and ammunition were found only on those ‘special’ corpses. Those who brought them said that they were terrorists. I turned over to this military unit five pistols (three Stecikin and two Makarov—all 9 mm caliber), two commando daggers and hundreds of 9 mm and 7.62 mm cartridges (compatible with the AKM machine gun). They were held separately from the other corpses, in a room—I believe that it used to be the coatroom—with a guard at the door.…

Access to the room with the terrorists was strictly forbidden. Only Prosecutor Vasiliu, criminologist officers, Dr. Belis, and the chief of autopsies could enter. On top of them, next to the arms, there were personal documents, passports (some blank), all types of identity cards—one of them was clearly false, it stated that the dead terrorist was the director at Laromet (at that plant no director died)—identity cards that were brand new, different service stamps in white. All had been shot by rifles (one was severed in two) and showed evidence of gunshots of large caliber. Some had tattoos (they had vultures on their chests), were young (around 30 years old), and were solidly built. I believe that their identity was known, since otherwise I can’t explain why their photographs were attached to those of unidentified corpses. They were brought to us in a single truck. In all, there were around 30 dead terrorists. [The document is signed by Ion Lungu and Dumitru Refenschi on 26 December 1989]”

[8] Once again Iliesiu is wrong. Professor Andrei Firica at the Bucharest “Emergency Hospital” apparently also was paid a visit by Colonel Chircoias (aka Ghircoias), see fn. 4. He claims that he “made a small file of the medical situations of the 15-20 suspected terrorists from [i.e. interned at] the Emergency Hospital,” but as he adds “of course, all these files disappeared.” Firica reports that a Militia colonel, whom he later saw on TV in stripes as a defendant in the Timisoara trial [i.e. Ghircoias], came to the hospital and advised him “not to bring reporters to the beds of the terrorists, because these were just terrorist suspects and I didn’t want to wake up one day on trial for having defamed someone” (!) The colonel later came and loaded the wounded terrorist suspects into a bus and off they went. (Professor Andrei Firica, interview by Florin Condurateanu, “Teroristii din Spitalul de Urgenta,” Jurnalul National, 9 March 2004, online edition.) Cited in Hall, “Orwellian…Positively Orwellian” http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/Voineaswar091706.html.

[9] I don’t even know where to begin on this one. As I have written before, not all of those detained were terrorists, and many of the terrorists seemed to have eluded arrest, but there are so many accounts of people arrested as terrorists who legitimately fit that description that I don’t even know where to begin. See the multiple translations in Hall, “Orwellian…Positively Orwellian” http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/Voineaswar091706.html.

[10] Sorin Iliesiu, “18 ani de la masacrul care a deturnat revoluţia anticomunistă,” 21 December 2007, found at http://www.romanialibera.com/articole/articol.php?step=articol&id=6709 (note: this is NOT the Romania Libera daily newspaper). One will find many well-known names in the West among those who signed this petition: Dragoş Paul Aligică, Matei Călinescu, Ruxandra Cesereanu, Anneli Ute Gabanyi, Tom Gallagher, Gabriel Liiceanu, Norman Manea, Nicolae Manolescu, Mircea Mihaies, Ion Mihai Pacepa, Horia-Roman Patapievici, Radu Portocală, Nestor Ratesh, Lavinia Stan, Stelian Tănase, Alin Teodorescu, and Vladimir Tismăneanu. Sorin Iliesiu, who is a filmmaker and Vice President of the “Civic Alliance” organization, has written that he was part of the “team” that “edited” the seven page chapter on the Romanian Revolution contained in the Report of the Presidential Commission to Analyze the Communist Dictatorship of Romania (PCACDR). He is not a scholar and most certainly not a scholar of the December 1989 events. A textual comparison of the Report’s chapter on the Revolution and Vladimir Tismaneanu’s chapter in a Dawisha and Parrott edited volume from 1997 is unambiguous: the introductory two paragraphs of the Report’s chapter are taken verbatim in translation from p. 414 of Tismaneanu’s 1997 chapter, and other verbatim paragraphs, sentences, and phrases from pp. 414-417 make up parts of the rest of the Report’s Revolution chapter without any reference to the 1997 chapter. As the author(s) of an earlier chapter in the Report cite(s) Tismaneanu’s 1997 chapter (see p. 376 fn. 55) correctly, this leaves really only two possible explanations for the failure of Iliesiu et. al. to cite that they have borrowed wholesale from Tismaneanu’s 1997 chapter: a) an absence of scholarly knowledge, or b) an attempt to mask their dependence upon and deference to Tismaneanu, the Chair of the Commission, since the citations that do appear are the exact citations from the 1997 chapter and claims are translated word-by-word, so much so that Iliesiu et. al. did not even bother to change verb tenses despite the passage of a decade. Iliesiu et. al. can attempt to avoid answering questions and attempt to change the subject, but the textual analysis is unambiguous: Tismaneanu’s unattributed 1997 chapter forms the bulk of the Report’s chapter on the Revolution. The only question that needs to be answered is: why and why are they unwilling to admit the textual identicality?

[11] All of this eludes Charles King in his Winter 2007 Slavic Review essay “Remembering Romanian Communism.” In his five page essay, he pauses no less than four times to mention the Revolution, despite the fact that its coverage takes up barely one percent of the PCACDR report. He relates the most banal of conclusions—“The report thus repeats the common view (at least among western academics) of the revolution as having been hijacked…”—yet misses or avoids what Iliesiu clearly seems most proud of: having inserted the claim that Nicolae Ceausescu was responsible for “only 162 deaths,” thereby insinuating Ceausescu’s successors bear responsibility for the other 942, and the claim to which such a reckoning is intimately related, namely Voinea’s that there were “no terrorists.” (It is interesting to note how Iliesiu et. al., the eternally suspicious of the state, miraculously become assiduous promoters of “official” and “state” claims once they turn out to be their own, thereby suggesting that their skepticism of the state is primarily situational rather than inherent—these are not equal opportunity skeptical and critical intellectuals.) King’s treatment of the Report is overall insufficiently informed, and as a consequence contextually-wanting and one-sided. He cites a handful of Romanian reviews of the Report, but they are almost uniformly positive accounts, almost as if supplied by the Chair of the Commission himself (see fn. 1, p. 718). He pauses to cite the former head of Radio Free Europe’s Romanian Research Division Michael Shafir’s 1985 book, yet makes no mention of Shafir’s trenchant criticisms (he gave the report a 7 out of 10 and mixed the positive with the negative) in a 1/12/07 interview in Ziua de Cluj, his extended critique “RAPORTUL TISMĂNEANU: NOTE DIN PUBLIC ŞI DIN CULISE” available in spring 2007 at http:// www.eleonardo.tk/ (no. 11), or his “Scrisoare (ultra)deschisa” in Observator Cultural no. 382 (25 July-1 August 2007) [given the timeline of scholarly publication, I am attempting to give King the benefit of the doubt here …He would certainly do well to read Shafir’s most recent discussion in Observator Cultural NR. 148 (406) 17 – 23 ianuarie 2008, “Despre clarificari nebuloase, plagiate, imposturi si careerism,” to see what a venerable critic and serious scholar was subjected to as a result of deigning to not wholeheartedly embrace the Report. Shafir’s treatment by the Report’s zealots has little to do with the liberal democratic view of the open society the Report’s authors ceaselessly profess.] Finally, had Charles King bothered to read Ciprian Siulea’s “Tentatia unui nou absolutism moral: Cu cine si de ce polemizeaza Vladimir Tismaneanu?” (Observator Cultural, nr. 379, 5-11 iulie 2007, once again conceivably within the publishing timeline) he might have refrained from parrotting the polarizing and unhelpful plebiscitary logic applied to the Report when he closed “The question is now whether the commission’s report will be used as yet another opportunity to reject history or as a way of helping Romanians learn, at last, how to own it” (p. 723). This, of course, suggests a certain infallible quality to the Report—which is far from the case—a conclusion only enhanced by King’s willingness to focus on the “hate speech” directed against the Report, but yet failing to cite and discuss any of the Romanian scholarly criticism of it.

[12] “Aghiotantii lui Ceausescu povestesc minut cu minut: O zi din viata dictatorului,” Romania Libera, 2 December 2005, online at http://www.romanialibera.ro/a5040/o-zi-din-viata-dictatorului.html. “Declaratie Subsemnatul TALPEANU ION, fiul lui Marin si Elena, nascut la 27 mai 1947 in comuna Baneasa, judetul Giurgiu, fost aghiotant prezidential cu grad de lt. col. in cadrul Directiei a V-a – Serviciul 1. Cu privire la armamentul din dotare arat ca, noi, aghiotantii aveam pistol “Makarov” cu 12 cartuse, iar sefii de grupa si ofiterii din grupa aveau pistolet “Makarov”, pistolet “Stecikin” si pistol-mitraliera AKM, cu munitie aferenta, care era cea obisnuita, in sensul ca nu aveam gloante dum-dum sau cu proprietati speciale, de provenienta straina.” (Dated 2 February 1990). His denial of dum-dum bullets is, of course, par for the course for former Securitate officers, who remember and thus “know nothing.”

[13] Quoted from http://www.tourismguide.ro/html/orase/Arad/Curtici/istoric_curtici.php. This raises an interesting point: there were foreign doctors who participated in Romania or in their home country in the surgery, treatment, and rehabilitation of those wounded. It would be interesting to hear what they remember and what they have to say regarding the munitions.

[15]Adina Anghelescu-Stancu refers to the “crippled and handicapped by dum-dum bullets” who do not number among Romania’s celebrities and about whom no one wishes to remember in today’s Romania, “Dureri care nu trec! (despre decembrie ‘89),” Gardianul, 18 December 2007, online at http://www.gardianul.ro/2007/12/18/editorial-c27/dureri_care_nu_trec_despre_decembrie_89_-s106259.html.

[16] I have examined the incident in detail several times, for the references to other works, see Richard Andrew Hall, “The Romanian Revolution as Geopolitical Parlor Game,” http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/checkmate040405.pdf, and Hall, “Orwellian…Positively Orwellian,” http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/Voineaswar091706.html.

[17] Once again, see “The Romanian Revolution as Geopolitical Parlor Game,” http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/checkmate040405.pdf, and “Orwellian…Positively Orwellian,” http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/Voineaswar091706.html. The critical articles were authored by Mihai Floca and Victor Stoica, who interviewed the Army cadre who had been involved in the incident and the residents of the surrounding apartment blocs who survived the fighting of those days.

[18] destituirea “Romanian Revolution USLA attack Dec 23 1989 Revolutia,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlBRSxUVQ5E

[19] For the photo see http://www.portalulrevolutiei.ro/documente/glont.htm; for one of his posts see http://www.portalulrevolutiei.ro/index.php?menu=6&pg=forum_thread.php&lnk=1&pagina=39. I cannot verify that this is indeed a “vidia” munition.

[20] Christian Levant, “Dacă tata nu-l salva pe Tokes, dacă nu salva biserici, tot se întâmpla ceva,” Adevarul, 30 September 2006, online at http://www.adevarul.ro/articole/dac-x103-tata-nu-l-salva-pe-tokes-dac-x103-nu-salva-biserici-tot-se-nt-mpla-ceva/200090.

[21] Cezar-Vladimir Rogoz, Povestirile teroristilor amintiri preluate si prelucrate de Cezar-Vladimir Rogoz, (Alma Print Galati 2007), p. 297, available online at http://www.bvau.ro/docs/e-books/2007/Rogoz,%20Cezar-Vladimir/povestirile_teroristilor.pdf.

[22]“A invatat sa zambeasca, [He learned how to smile],” http://marianmanescu.wordpress.com/2007/12/21/a-invatat-sa-zambeasca.

[25] Puspoki F., “Piramida Umbrelor (III),” Orizont (Timisoara), no. 11 (16 March 1990) p.4, and Roland Vasilevici, Piramida Umbrelor (Timisoara: Editura de Vest, 1991), p. 61.

[26] For the discussion of the former Securitate response to those who have violated the code of silence, see Hall, “Orwellian…Positively Orwellian,” http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/Voineaswar091706.html.

[28] I refer here to, for example, the works of Vladimir Tismaneanu, Matei Calinescu, Andrei Codrescu, Anneli Ute Gabanyi, Radu Portocala, and Nestor Ratesh. Some, like Tismaneanu in a 1993 article in EEPS, “The Quasi-Revolution and its Discontents,” were more explicit about this rather rigid dichotomous approach to the Romanian media, but it also comes through clearly in the sourcing, citations, and footnotes/endnotes of the others. (It continues to haunt the historiography of post-communist Romania, as works such as Tom Gallagher’s aforementioned Modern Romania make clear). To say the least, the issue of ballistics evidence essentially goes unanalyzed in these accounts. Moreover, although as we have seen, these authors have no problem affixing their names to petitions and the like, none of them has published any research on the December 1989 events since the early 1990s. It should tell you something that they continue to rely on and repeat the accounts they wrote in 1990 and 1991…as if nothing had been discovered or written since. In that way, it is almost fitting that the Report of the PCADCR reproduced Tismaneanu’s 1997 Dawisha and Parrott chapter in some places verbatim, down to failing to even change verb tenses when it states that certain questions “remain to be clarified.” I deconstructed the methodological faults in source selection in these émigré accounts in “The Romanian Revolution as Geopolitical Parlor Game” at http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/checkmate040405.html.

[29] For earlier discussions of all of this, see Richard Andrew Hall, “The Uses of Absurdity: The Staged-War Theory of the Romanian Revolution of December 1989,” East European Politics and Societies, vol. 13, no. 3, and Richard Andrew Hall, “The Securitate Roots of a Modern Romanian Fairy Tale,” Radio Free Europe East European Perspectives, April-May 2002, three part series, available at http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/romania%20securitate%205-2002.html.

[30] In “The Romanian Revolution as Geopolitical Parlor Game,” I demonstrated how even the so-called French and German schools (really the schools of Romanian émigrés in those countries) in 1990 were not and could not be independent from accounts in Romania, and that the accounts fed into and reinforced one another. It is simply intellectual myth—and an all too convenient one—to argue the antisceptic separation of these accounts as independent.

[31] Smaranda Vultur, “Revolutia recitita,” 22 no. 787 (9-15 April 2005) online at http://www.revista22.ro.

[32] Richard Andrew Hall, trans. Adrian Bobeica, “Ce demonstreaza probele balistice dupa sapte ani?” 22, no. 51 (17-23 December 1996), p. 10, and Richard Andrew Hall, trans. Corina Ileana Pop, “Dupa 7 ani,” Sfera Politicii no. 44 (1996), pp. 61-63.

[33] See my discussion in “Orwellian…Positively Orwellian,” at http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/Voineaswar091706.html.

[34] Monica Ciobanu’s review of Siani-Davies The Romanian Revolution of December 1989 and Tom Gallagher’s Modern Romania: Theft of a Nation is entitled “The Myth Factory” (found at http://www.tol.cz).

[35] Charles King, “Remembering Romanian Communism,” Slavic Review, Winter 2007, p 719. In King’s short article, he does not hesitate to make occasionally gratuitous citations for things he did not need to cite. Yet in discussing December 1989 and using the term “elsewhere”—which usually prefaces a description of “where else” one might find these things—there are no citations. “Although never exhaustively” is itself a gratuitous choice of words and far from accidental: in my last work on December 1989, I made light of how ridiculous it was for Daniel Chirot to claim that Peter Siani-Davies’ The Romanian Revolution of December 1989, an otherwise excellent work, was “near definitive” when so much was missing from Siani-Davies’ discussion—notably, for our purposes here, the question of dum-dum/vidia/exploding munitions. One could indeed be left with the impression that King intends to deliver a put-down, that some fellow Romanianists will no doubt catch, but yet deny the broader audience references to what he alludes and simultaneously protect his image from having delivered such a “palma” as the Romanians would say. It would appear that at least for readers of this paper, his goals won’t go completely fulfilled.

[36] See my discussion in “Orwellian…Positively Orwellian,” at http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/Voineaswar091706.html.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »