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 ‘Timisoara December 1989’

25 for the 25th Anniversary of the Romanian Revolution: #2 Shattered Glass: Securitate Vandalism to Justify Timisoara Crackdown

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on December 16, 2014

(Purely personal views as always, based on over two decades of research and publications inside and outside Romania)

2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe–Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania.  This series looks at 25 things I have learned about the events of the Romanian Revolution of December 1989.  The numbering is not designed to assign importance, but rather–to the extent possible–to progress chronologically through those events.

Significance:  I have essentially been the only researcher who has consistently advocated this understanding.  Most others–including Peter Siani-Davies–tended to dismiss it.  Now we have documentary evidence that it took place.

An excellent documentary from 1991 posted to the internet by Florin Iepan only recently and seen rarely if at all since its showing in 1991.  There is much interesting information in this film.  (The film seems to start at min. 19:00 and has to be rewound to its beginning.)  Here, I will focus on the claim beginning at approximately min. 17:40 that the destruction of Timisoara shops and storefronts was organized and a pretext to justify–including legally–the repression by the Ceausescu regime of Timisoara demonstrators.  Interior Minister Tudor Postelnicu’s declaration of 17 March 1990 confirms this claim and the observations of eyewitnesses.

Timisoara Decembrie 1989 / Timisoara December 1989,

regia/directed by – Ovidiu Bose Pastina
imaginea/camera – Doru Segal

Sahiafilm 1991

Tudor Postelnicu (Ministerul de Interne in decembrie 1989):  “Unii militari de la trupele de securitate ale brigazii Timisoara au facut unele provocari la unele magazine si vitrine spargind geamurile sa imprastie participantii de pe straziile din apropriere, apoi au intrat in altercatie cu ei, si acum (?) vor sa le faca militia ordine.  ‘Nu am aflat ca costa provocare a zis Gl. Nuta, am trimis pe …” (17.III.1990) 

http://sensidev.com/fc/dosare%20de%20urmarire%20penala/dosar%20%20de%20urmarire%20penala%20volumul%2011/IMG_2576.JPG (Dosarul de Urmarire Penala, Vol. 11, IMG 2576)

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Before we move on here, it is worth noting how this destruction was covered in Peter Siani-Davies’ 2005 volume The Romanian Revolution of December 1989.  As I have written on many occasions, Siani-Davies’ volume is wonderfully-written and is excellent, but the claim by Daniel Chirot that is a “near-definitive” account is far off the mark.  One of the negative characteristics of Siani-Davies’ work is the use of “filler” rational choice, cui bono arguments where he concludes there is not enough information to make a valid judgment.  The problem is the question is never one of “what was possible?” “what makes ‘sense’?” but rather what did happen?

Thus, for example in the case of the destruction of Timisoara Siani-Davies argues that there was already enough of a basis for the regime to crackdown, therefore why would they need to create a pretext for cracking down:  “Given the seriousness of the situation and the fact that shots had already been fired elsewhere, the security forces hardly needed to produce a further ‘excuse’ for the massacre which was to follow.” (p. 68)

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Back to exploring more of the evidence…

An excerpt from Chapter 5 of my Ph.D. Dissertation at Indiana University: Richard Andrew Hall, Rewriting the Revolution: Authoritarian Regime-State Relations and the Triumph of Securitate Revisionism in Post-Ceausescu Romania (defended 16 December 1996). This is the original chapter as it appeared then and thus has not been revised in any form.

Chapter Five.  The Beginning of the End: Timisoara, 15-17 December 1989

The “Window Breakers”

The reportedly unusual scope of physical destruction which occurred in Timisoara, particularly on the afternoon and evening of 17 December 1989, has fueled revisionist arguments. Estimates of the damage during the Timisoara unrest are in the neighborhood of four to five billion lei (approximately forty to fifty million dollars at the time), a reasonably large sum given Romania’s standard of living at the time. A huge number of windows was broken and as many as 300 to 400 stores suffered some sort of damage, although relatively few were actually looted. On the evening of 17 December, stores, vehicles, and kiosks were burning in at least ten different areas of the city.[65]

Former Securitate officers clearly wish to link this destruction to the “foreign tourists” who were supposedly so ubiquitous in Timisoara during these days.[66] Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, former Securitate Director Iulian Vlad argued at his trial that

…the acts of vandalism, theft, destruction, arson… acts without precedent…could not have been the work [“opera”] of the faithful [apparently referring sarcastically to Tokes’ parishioners], nor the revolutionaries. They were produced by elements which wished to create a certain atmosphere of tension.[67]

Eyewitness accounts recorded soon after the events–therefore at a time before the various plots and scenarios had permeated the popular imagination–support the hypothesis that the vandalism was organized. Moldovan Fica remarks:

I admit that I cannot escape a certain conclusion. All of this [destruction] was done by a group of about five or six individuals, whose calm demeanor and self-control continues to stay with me to this day. They did not run from the scene, they appeared as if they did not fear anything; I would say that, in fact, they were doing what was required of them, something which had been ordered directly of them![75]

Describing destruction in a different part of the city, Andras Vasile observed that

…four young men with shaved heads and wearing civilian clothes had sticks–I would term them special sticks–1.7 to 1.8 meters long, equipped with metal rings on the top of them. They were breaking the windows, but not taking anything, as if they only had something against the windows, something which they thus went about with great enjoyment…they were led by two individuals in leather jackets.[76]

Other eyewitnesses supply details which confirm the widespread character of the vandalism; its undeniably organized quality; the disinterest of its perpetrators in looting the stores; and the almost “drugged” nature of the perpetrators, who seemed unperturbed by the chaos and repression going on around them.[77]

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

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Moldovan Fica (martor ocular)

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Andras Vasile (martor ocular)

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Ioan Savu discussed the windowbreakers as follows:

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Other depictions of this event available online:

Conducerea partidului, alarmată, a trimis în Piaţa Maria, conform Ordinului 02600, numeroşi miliţieni şi trupe speciale, pentru a lichida manifestaţia care luase amploare. Circulaţia în zonă se întrerupsese. În Piaţa Maria au fost trimişi aproximativ 200 de activişti de partid, miliţieni şi numeroşi ofiţeri de securitate, îmbrăcaţi în haine civile. Au urmat ciocniri violente, mai ales după ce manifestanţii s-au încolonat şi au pornit spre sediul CJ PCR, strigând “Libertate”, “Vrem pâine”, “Vrem căldură”, “Azi la Timişoara, mâine în toată ţara”.
În acea seară echipe de miliţie dinainte pregătite au spart vitrinele magazinelor din centrul oraşului, pentru a avea argumente pentru o intervenţie în forţă. Desigur, multe vitrine au fost sparte şi de derbedei, asupra cărora s-au găsit bunuri furate. În acea noapte au fost arestate aproape 5-600 de cetăţeni. Ei au fost duşi la Penitenciarul oraşului, unde au fost bătuţi în mod bestial. În zilele care au urmat arestării au fost anchetaţi în vederea trimiterii lor în judecată. Bineînţeles, dacă Revoluţia n-ar fi reuşit.

“Azi la Timişoara”
Ivan Sabin

http://revista.memoria.ro/?location=view_article&id=371

Totuşi, se ştie că în acele zile fierbinţi din Timişoara au existat „personaje neidentificate” care au acţionat în mai multe zone ale oraşului. Am să amintesc aici doar două aspecte concrete cu privire la implicarea acestora în evenimentele din Timişoara. În zilele de 16 şi 17 decembrie au fost sparte aproape toate vitrinele magazinelor din zona centrală a oraşului. Sunt zeci de declaraţii ale revoluţionarilor care fac o descriere clară a celor care au spart acele geamuri. Au fost oameni bine îmbrăcaţi, robuşti şi tunşi scurt. Aceştia erau dotaţi cu nişte beţe speciale cu care printr-un gest scurt şi foarte bine exersat loveau vitrinele, după care plecau fără a încerca să sustragă ceva din magazine. Aceste persoane au fost văzute chiar şi de forţele de ordine desfăşurate în acea zonă, care în mod ciudat nu au luat măsuri împotriva lor, ci au acţionat împotriva manifestanţilor ce demonstrau împotriva regimului ceauşist. Un alt aspect relatat de mulţi timişoreni se referă mai ales la zilele de 17-19 decembrie, când, în rândul cordoanelor militare din diferite dispozitive amplasate în zonele importante ale oraşului, între soldaţi, erau intercalate persoane mai în vârstă, nebărbierite îmbrăcate doar parţial în uniforme militare, care nu făceau parte din acele unităţi militare.

Cine au fost acele „persoane neidentificate”? De ce s-a dorit în unele cercuri, cu insistenţă chiar, acreditarea ideii că oamenii au fost scoşi în stradă de agenţi străini? De ce, chiar şi după 20 de ani, se fac afirmaţii de genul: cadavrele celor arşi la Crematoriul „Cenuşa” erau ale unor agenţi străini? Nu voi căuta acum răspunsuri la aceste întrebări, dar, cu siguranţă, ele există.

Kali Adrian Matei

nascut in 30 iulie 1968 la Timisoara, muncitor la IJPIPS (1989), profesor de istorie la Liceul de informatica (1998), impuscat in spate

La Bijuterii concetatenii nostri tigani carau ce puteau. Numai la “Modex” nu era spart. Un grup de oameni se uitau cum niste indivizi bine instruiti spargeau geamurile de linga restaurantul Bulevard. Am rugat oamenii sa apere Modexul, pentru ca era clar ca spargatorii n-aveau nimic comun cu revolta.  30 septembrie 1995  http://timisoara.com/newmioc/4.htm

“În data de 14 decembrie, securitatea a spart toate gemurile din partea străzii principale, iar clădirea arăta ca o cetate asediată. Fostul primar al Timişorei, Petre Moţ l-a vizitat pe Tokes şi a ieşit la geam pentru a vorbi mulţimii. Moţ a cerut să se pună geamuri noi. Erau foarte multe maşini ale securiştilor. Întreaga stradă era ocupată. Se făcea filaj. Eu locuiam acolo, ba intram, ba ieşeam. Nu se vorbea încă revoluţie. Era o solidaritatea faţă de pastor”, declarat Iosif Kabai (foto), care locuieşte şi acum în clădirea bisericii reformate.Citeste mai mult: adevarul.ro/locale/timisoara/16-decembrie-1989-ziua-timisoara-s-a-strigat-data-democratie-jos-comunismul-1_50bd3d887c42d5a663c8e01f/index.html

Radu Tinu cu Angela Bacescu…

The reportedly unusual scope of physical destruction which occurred in Timisoara, particularly on the afternoon and evening of 17 December 1989, has fueled revisionist arguments. Estimates of the damage during the Timisoara unrest are in the neighborhood of four to five billion lei (approximately forty to fifty million dollars at the time), a reasonably large sum given Romania’s standard of living at the time. A huge number of windows was broken and as many as 300 to 400 stores suffered some sort of damage, although relatively few were actually looted. On the evening of 17 December, stores, vehicles, and kiosks were burning in at least ten different areas of the city.[65]

Former Securitate officers clearly wish to link this destruction to the “foreign tourists” who were supposedly so ubiquitous in Timisoara during these days.[66] Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, former Securitate Director Iulian Vlad argued at his trial that

…the acts of vandalism, theft, destruction, arson… acts without precedent…could not have been the work [“opera”] of the faithful [apparently referring sarcastically to Tokes’ parishioners], nor the revolutionaries. They were produced by elements which wished to create a certain atmosphere of tension.[67]

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RADU TINU:…SINGURLE COMPLEXE COMERCIALE RAMASE INTREGI AU FOST CELE DIN FATA MILITIEI JUDETENE SI CEL DE LANGA FABRICA “MODERN”…

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The significance of window-breaking as a justification for repression–something the Securitate would have realized–was outlined by Nicolae Ceausescu in his teleconference of 17 December 1989 as follows:

“Oricine intra intr-un Consiliu Popular, intr-un sediu de partid sau sparge un geam la un magazin trebuie sa primeasca riposta imediat.

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Col. Ion Popescu (sef IGM)’s defense lawyer appealed to Legea 21 and Decretul 121 specifically as obligating Interior Ministry (M.I.–Militia and Securitate) forces to intervene in response to the breaking of windows of commercial units…

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Thus, the breaking of windows, which according to Interior Minister was instigated and carried out in part by Securitate Brigade 30 under the command of Ion Bunoaica served a bureaucratic and legalistic function–a tactic not unknown in the annals of other totalitarian or authoritarian regimes…

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An excerpt from Chapter 5 of my Ph.D. Dissertation at Indiana University: Richard Andrew Hall, Rewriting the Revolution: Authoritarian Regime-State Relations and the Triumph of Securitate Revisionism in Post-Ceausescu Romania (defended 16 December 1996). This is the original chapter as it appeared then and thus has not been revised in any form.

Chapter Five.  The Beginning of the End: Timisoara, 15-17 December 1989

The “Window Breakers”

The reportedly unusual scope of physical destruction which occurred in Timisoara, particularly on the afternoon and evening of 17 December 1989, has fueled revisionist arguments. Estimates of the damage during the Timisoara unrest are in the neighborhood of four to five billion lei (approximately forty to fifty million dollars at the time), a reasonably large sum given Romania’s standard of living at the time. A huge number of windows was broken and as many as 300 to 400 stores suffered some sort of damage, although relatively few were actually looted. On the evening of 17 December, stores, vehicles, and kiosks were burning in at least ten different areas of the city.[65]

Former Securitate officers clearly wish to link this destruction to the “foreign tourists” who were supposedly so ubiquitous in Timisoara during these days.[66] Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, former Securitate Director Iulian Vlad argued at his trial that

…the acts of vandalism, theft, destruction, arson… acts without precedent…could not have been the work [“opera”] of the faithful [apparently referring sarcastically to Tokes’ parishioners], nor the revolutionaries. They were produced by elements which wished to create a certain atmosphere of tension.[67]

“A group of former Securitate officers” wrote to the Ceausist Democratia in September 1990 that after the Militia and Securitate refused to respond to the demonstrations provoked by the “foreign tourists”: “they advance[d] to the next stage: the massive destruction of public property designed to provoke forcible interventions–human victims were needed.”[68]

Nevertheless, here is how one opposition journalist, Grid Modorcea, has described the strange character of Timisoara destruction:

For the first time in history, a revolution…was announced in a previously unknown and absolutely original manner, both literally and figuratively speaking: through the methodical breakage of thousands of windows. On 16 and 17 December 1989, Timisoara was the city of [glass] shards. Well-trained groups of athletes spread throughout the town, tactically, but energetically smashing to pieces hundreds of huge windows without apparently being interested in stealing from these stores…they were like mythical Magis coming to announce the end of one world and the beginning of another. And they gave it an apocalyptic quality: the sound produced by the breaking glass was infernal. The panic this caused was indescribable….Those who “executed” the windows did so with karate-like kicks while yelling “Liberty and Justice”!…The crowds of people who came out into the streets transformed spontaneously into columns of demonstrators, of authentic revolutionaries. The effect was therefore monumental: the breaking of the windows unleashed the popular revolt against the dictator.[69]

Modorcea is convinced that the Tokes case was “merely a pretext” and that “someone–perhaps those who planned the vandalizing of the windows–has an interest in preventing it from being known who broke the windows.” Although Modorcea maintains he is unsure who was responsible, he insists on observing that:

Only the Customs people know how many tourists there were. All were men and long-haired. Inside their cars they had canisters. This fits with the method of the breaking of the windows, with the Molotov cocktails, and the drums used as barricades–they were exactly of the same type….To what extent the new regime which came to power was implicated, we cannot say![70]

Many Timisoara protesters appear torn between wishing to rationalize the extensive destruction as the courageous response of an enraged, long-suffering population, and denying that the perpetrators could have come from among their ranks. Even those investigators attuned to the retroactive psychology of the protesters cannot help but admit that widespread destruction occurred and that it could not have been wholly spontaneous.[71] Furthermore, as Laszlo Tokes has observed in discussing the events at Piata Maria, manipulation and attempts to instigate the crowd to violence were constant features during these days.

Tokes maintains that Securitate provocateurs had tried to agitate the crowd by shouting things like, “Let’s break into the house. The Securitate are in there; they’re trying to kidnap Laszlo Tokes! Let’s rush them!” and by appealing for him to “Come down into the street and lead us!”[72] According to Tokes:

I was alarmed at the obvious provocation from individuals in the crowd clearly intent on making the situation uncontrollable….Later, thinking about the events of those two days, I realized that the authorities would have had a great deal to gain if the situation had become a riot.[73]

Mircea Balan questions whether the protesters would have set stores on fire which were located on the ground floor of the buildings in which the protesters themselves lived.[74] Moreover, he wonders how even the revolutionary fury of the crowd could drive protesters to break so many windows, particularly given the presence of repressive forces on the streets. It is what Balan has termed the “systematic devastation” of property which raises questions.

Eyewitness accounts recorded soon after the events–therefore at a time before the various plots and scenarios had permeated the popular imagination–support the hypothesis that the vandalism was organized. Moldovan Fica remarks:

I admit that I cannot escape a certain conclusion. All of this [destruction] was done by a group of about five or six individuals, whose calm demeanor and self-control continues to stay with me to this day. They did not run from the scene, they appeared as if they did not fear anything; I would say that, in fact, they were doing what was required of them, something which had been ordered directly of them![75]

Describing destruction in a different part of the city, Andras Vasile observed that

…four young men with shaved heads and wearing civilian clothes had sticks–I would term them special sticks–1.7 to 1.8 meters long, equipped with metal rings on the top of them. They were breaking the windows, but not taking anything, as if they only had something against the windows, something which they thus went about with great enjoyment…they were led by two individuals in leather jackets.[76]

Other eyewitnesses supply details which confirm the widespread character of the vandalism; its undeniably organized quality; the disinterest of its perpetrators in looting the stores; and the almost “drugged” nature of the perpetrators, who seemed unperturbed by the chaos and repression going on around them.[77]

Mircea Balan has little doubt who committed this “systematic destruction”:

Demonstrators might have thrown rocks in windows, but the destruction of the entire store was not their work…Nobody need believe that for such a thing foreign intervention was necessary, seeing as there were enough first-class specialists in destruction and demolition right here at home. The Securitate could not have been foreign to what happened, no matter how much it fiercely attempts to deny this today. They were professionals in the art of destruction. They needed a justification for the bloody repression.[78]

In March 1990, Puspoki had been willing to identify the culprits more specifically. According to Puspoki, as the demonstrators began to gather to prevent Tokes’ eviction:

The USLA’s Sabotage and Diversion team was readied to break store windows, to devastate and set fires–to create the conditions necessary for mass repression: the existence of disorder in the streets and theft on the part of the demonstrators.[79]

Securitate Major Radu Tinu’s observation that the commercial complex “in front of the county Militia building” (i.e. the Inspectorate in which both the Securitate and Militia offices were located) was one of only two such complexes in the whole city to remain intact during these days may also be an indication of the source of the destruction.[80]

It is possible then that to the extent that this destruction did indeed contain an organized component, it was designed by the regime to subvert and cast suspicion upon the intentions of the protesters and to create a pretext for repression. To the extent that an organized component did contribute to the destruction, it was far more likely to have been regime forces attempting to undermine the protests than foreign agents attempting to provoke an uprising against the regime.

[65].. See, for example, Grid Modorcea, “Spargerea Geamurilor [The Breaking of the Windows],” Expres Magazin, no. 49 (1991), 8-9; Mircea Bunea, “Eroii noi si vechi [New and old heroes],” Adevarul, 2 February 1991, in Bunea, Praf in Ochi, 448-449; Suciu, Reportaj cu Sufletul, 57-58.

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

[67].. Mircea Bunea, “Ipse Dixit,” Adevarul, 21 February 1991, in Bunea, Praf in Ochi, 463. Vlad’s determination to emphasize that these were “acts without precedent” makes one wonder if they were indeed without precedent.

[68].. A group of former Securitate officers, “Asa va place revolutia? Asa a fost! [You like the revolution? Here is how it was!],” Democratia, no. 36 (24-30 September 1990), 4. The lengthy defense by these officers of the Fifth Directorate in this letter suggests that they were members of this directorate.

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

[70].. Ibid.

[71].. Balan, “Masacrul.”

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

[73].. Ibid., 156.

[74].. Balan, “Masacrul.”

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

[76].. Ibid, 118. The fact that the two persons supervising the destruction are described as having worn “leather jackets” strongly suggests they may have been Securitate men. Mihai Decean claims that on a train headed for Bucharest on 25 December (therefore after Ceausescu’s flight), he helped in the arrest of two USLA officers whom he describes as “athletic, with shaved heads, and wearing leather jackets.” See Laura Ganea, “La Timisoara se mai trage inca” Tinerama, no. 77 (July 1991), 3.

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

[78].. Balan, “Masacrul.”

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

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

The following was added some years later as a footnote to the section above in republications of this chapter.  Badea says here “many years later” Postelnicu admitted this, but as we can now see from the Timisoara files, he wrote it in his declaration/statement dated 17 March 1990.

(In connection with the “window breakers” we do know a little more today than we did then back in 1996.  Dan Badea wrote in 1999 Bunoaica and the Window Breakers that “Tudor Postelnicu, the Interior Minister at the time, was to declare many years later that the “breaking of the windows” was a mission executed by personnel from the 30th Securitate Brigade led by col. Ion Bunoaica).  Orele 20.00 – 21.00: Sint sparte toate vitrinele magazinelor de pe Bulevardul 6 Martie (Tudor Postelnicu, ministru de interne la acea vreme, avea sa declare multi ani mai tirziu ca “spargerea vitrinelor” a fost o misiune executata de militari ai Brigazii 30 Securitate condusa de col. Ion Bunoaica).

25 for the 25th Anniversary of the Romanian Revolution: #1 The Securitate Deny Foreign Instigation of the Timisoara Uprising

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25 for the 25th Anniversary of the Romanian Revolution: #1 The Securitate Deny Foreign Instigation of the Timisoara Uprising

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on December 16, 2014

(strictly personal views, based on more than two decades of prior research and publications)

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

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

2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe–Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania.  This series looks at 25 things I have learned about the events of the Romanian Revolution of December 1989.  The numbering is not designed to assign importance, but rather–to the extent possible–to progress chronologically through those events.

Looking through the Romanian media’s articles devoted to the 25th anniversary of the Romanian Revolution of December 1989 that overthrew the communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, one cannot help but be reminded of Valentin Ceausescu’s 1997 claim according to which (paraphrased),

–“Have you noticed? All the heroes…now are the militia and the Securitate.” “The villains are now the heroes…and the heroes are now the villains!”

Until the documents [screen captures] below were made publicly available and I unearthed the following, we had to rely primarily on arguments emphasizing the Securitate roots of these claims and/or about the implausibility and often absurdity of these claims.  We now have documentary evidence that in the immediate wake of December 1989 not even the Securitate believed in the claims they would make so frequently later on according to which foreign agents were allegedly responsible for the Timisoara uprising.

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Back in 1997, the American novelist and Pulitzer Prize Winner William McPherson wrote of what Valentin Ceausescu, communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s eldest son, told him about the events of the Romanian Revolution of December 1989.  Here are some excerpts:

  • Valentin and I were having coffee in the Vox Maris, the same grand casino where the funeral feast was held. It was morning, two days after the funeral [of Nicu Ceausescu], and the crowds had not yet arrived.
  • “Nicu was never groomed to be the successor. That was [only] the rumor.” He paused for a moment. “But rumors even become the reality.”
  • “Yes. Especially in Romania.”
  • “Maybe others in the party thought it would be a good idea. He could command a lot of sympathy. He always wanted to look tough and act strong, but he wasn’t. He was more like a child than anything else.”
  • “What about the 90 people killed in Sibiu?”
  • “He did not order the shooting. I know when he’s trying to lie, and he wasn’t lying. I knew immediately. That’s why I defended him so strongly.”
  • He paused and lit another Pall Mall. “Have you noticed? All the heroes in Sibiu now are the militia and the Securitate – all the dead people, and now they are the heroes of the revolution.”
  • “So the villains are now the heroes?”
  • “Yes.”
  • And the heroes are now the villains.
  • The official toll of the dead, revised frequently with a final version released three years after the events, is 1,104; only 160 were killed before the dictator fled.
  • Curious – if the figures are accurate – that the majority of them were killed in Sibiu. “A lot of effort,” Valentin once said, “to kill these two old people.”

William McPherson, “A Balkan Comedy,” The Wilson Quarterly, Volume 21, Issue 3 (Summer 1997)

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Thus it is that at Evenimentul Zilei, long hailed by Romania’s westward leaning intelligentsia and Romanianists in North America as the most authentically anti-communist and credible of Romania’s dailies, articles continue their reliance–very selectively–of recent years on the claims of senior former Securitate officers, Iulian Vlad, Emil Macri, Filip Teodorescu, Nicolae Mavru, etc., or on the research of Alex Mihai Stoenescu, whose work is detailed and meticulous and thus deserves to be read, but, who, it turns out, not accidentally, is also an acknowledged former Securitate collaborator.  (Not for nothing, the Evenimentul Zilei series is entitled “25 de ani de la evenimentele din decembrie ’89. Lumini si umbre” thus intentionally or unintentionally conjuring up the name, appropriately enough, of the current preferred vehicle of the former Securitate for discussing December 1989, http://www.acmrr-sri.ro/categorii/19/revista-vitralii–lumini-si-umbre.html )

(See, for example, http://www.evz.ro/document-strict-secret-1989-raportul-generalului-iulian-vlad-catre-nicolae-ceausescu.html or http://www.evz.ro/25de-ani-de-la-evenimentele-din-decembrie-1989-generalul-iulian-vlad-daca-oamenii-nu-erau-nemultumiti-strainatatea-nu-l-putea-rasturna-pe-ceausescu.html; http://www.evz.ro/timisoara-protestul-pentru-laszlo-tokes-si-povestea-agentilor-straini.html; http://www.evz.ro/dec-1989-cum-a-izbucnit-revolutia-romana-revolta-de-la-iasi-si-scanteia-maghiara-de-la-timisoara.html; http://www.evz.ro/25de-ani-de-la-evenimentele-din-decembrie-1989-declaratia-generalului-iulian-vlad-seful-securitatii-din-procesul-revolutiei-de-la-timisoara-daca-oamenii-nu-erau-nemultumiti-strainatatea-nu-l-putea-rasturna-pe-ceausescu.html)

[Oh, but wait, there is good news!  In addition to all these articles furthering the viewpoint, to a lesser or greater extent, of the former Securitate, is the beginning of the chapter on December 1989 in The Greatest Tribute to Truth and Justice in the History of the World!, the so-called Final Report of the Tismaneanu Commission (CPADCR) of December 2006 condemning communism http://www.evz.ro/25de-ani-de-la-evenimentele-din-decembrie-1989-raportul-final-al-comisiei-prezidentiale-de-analiza-a-dictaturii-comuniste-condusa-de-vladimir-tismaneanu.html, which continues the glorious copy-paste tradition of the original, failing to cite that the text used in 2006 and now again in 2014, is from a 1997 chapter by the chair of the commission, Professor Vladimir Tismaneanu–that this is inarguable, see here https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2010/05/01/the-romanian-revolution-for-dum-dums-by-richard-andrew-hall/ , the xeroxes in fn. 10 in particular)]

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The Timisoara files about December 1989 are now publicly available (when the link works!) on the Internet at http://dosarelerevolutiei.ro/.  What they show is that Securitate, Militia, and other regime officials from Timis County were asked by Bucharest–communicated via the person of Securitate Director, General Iulian Vlad–to investigate the role of foreign elements, specifically tourists, in the Timisoara protests of mid-December 1989.  But they were not the only ones.  General Vlad tasked senior Securitate officials from Bucharest sent to Timisoara to report back to him on this very topic alleging external involvement and manipulation of the Timisoara demonstrations.  What remains unclear is how much of this tasking was General Vlad communicating his own “hypothesis” or how much of it was he relaying Nicolae Ceausescu’s “theory” about what was going on.  This much is clear:  neither those stationed in Timis County, nor those officials sent from Bucharest could find evidence of a foreign hand in the Timisoara uprising, despite being asked to investigate exactly this aspect.  How do we know this?  From their own written confessions immediately after the December 1989 events.  (Below are four of them:  Nicolae Mavru, Liviu Dinulescu, Emil Macri, and Filip Teodorescu.)

Niculae Mavru, fost sef al sectiei ‘Filaj si investigatie’ de la Securitatea Timis, declaratia din 13 ianuarie 1990:  …la ordinul col. Sima Traian, am primit…misiuni de a observa si sesiza aspecte din masa manifestantilor, din diferite zone ale orasului in sensul de a raporta daca sint straini (ceea ce nu prea au fost) care incita la dezordine, acte de violenta sau altfel de acte… 0331 25 iunie 1991 “Desi ne-am straduit nu am putut raporta col. Sima implicarea completa a vreunui cetatean strain in evolutia demonstratiilor cit si fenomenlor care au avut loc la Timisoara,..”

0173

“Sarcina primordiala pe care am primit-o de la col. Sima a fost daca in evenimentele declansate la Timisoara erau implicate elemente straine din afara tarii.  Cu toate eforturile facute nu a rezultat lucru pe linia mea de munca.” 0174

26 iunie 1991, Declaratia lui Liviu Dinulescu, cpt. la Serviciul de Pasapoarte al jud. Timis (in decembrie 1989, lt. maj. ofiter operativ Securitate judetean la Serv. III, care se ocupa de contraspionaj)

“Precizez ca anterior declansarii evenimentelor de la Timisoara din datele ce le detineam serviciul nostru nu rezulta vreun amestec din exterior in zona judetului Timis.”

0197

Generalul Emil Macri (seful Dir. II-a Securitatii, Contrainformatii Economice),

Declaratie 2 ianuarie 1990:

“Rezumind sintetic informatiile obtinute ele nu au pus in evidenta nici lideri si nici amestecul vreunei puteri straine in producerea evenimentelor de la Timisoara.  Raportarea acestor date la esalonul superior respectivi generalului I. Vlad a produs iritare si chiar suparare…”

IMG_1219 IMG_1215 Filip Teodorescu (adj. sef. Dir III Contraspionaj D.S.S.), Declaratie, 12 ianaurie 1990:  Seara [luni, 18 decembrie 1989], dupa 23:00, responsabili (anumiti ?) de generalul-maior Macri Emil pe diferitele linii de munca au inceput sa vina sa-i raporteze informatiile obtinute.  Au fost destul de neconcludente si cu mare dificultate am redat o informare pe care generalul-maior Macri Emil a acceptat-o si am expediat-o prin telex in jurul orei 01:00 [marti, 19 decembrie 1989.  In esenta se refera la: –nu sint date ca ar exista instigatori sau conducatori anume veniti din strainatate… IMG_1453 IMG_1438 https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2013/04/29/high-time-to-unpack-already-why-the-restless-journey-of-the-soviet-tourists-of-the-romanian-revolution-should-come-to-an-end/

Mai jos, declaratiile lui Petre Pele, Tudor Postelnicu, Gheorghe Diaconescu, si Iulian Vlad Excerpt from Chapter 5 of my Ph.D. Dissertation at Indiana University: Richard Andrew Hall, Rewriting the Revolution: Authoritarian Regime-State Relations and the Triumph of Securitate Revisionism in Post-Ceausescu Romania (defended 16 December 1996). This is the original chapter as it appeared then and thus have not been revised in any form. https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/rewriting-the-revolution-1997/

A Review of the Evidence

Although at first glance the regime’s treatment of Pastor Tokes seems strange and even illogical, within the context of the workings of the Ceausescu regime and the regime’s strategy for dealing with dissent it makes perfect sense. There is simply no convincing evidence to believe that the Securitate–or a faction within it–purposely dragged its feet in enforcing Pastor Tokes’ eviction, or was attempting to spark a demonstration in the hopes of precipitating Ceausescu’s fall. The regime’s decision to evict Tokes was not a last-minute decision. Moreover, the regime exerted tremendous and sometimes brutal pressure to silence Tokes in the months preceding this deadline. Interestingly, according to high-ranking members of the former Securitate, Nicolae Ceausescu’s unwillingness to approve the more definitive measures requested by the Securitate allowed the Tokes case to drag on without resolution (see below). The Tokes case suggests the bureaucratic and byzantine mentalities of the Ceausescu regime, and the clash between a dictator’s instructions and how the institutions charged with defending him interpret their mission. … The suggestion that the Securitate treated Tokes gently prior to his eviction is simply incorrect. On 2 November 1989, four masked men burst through the locked doors of the parochial residence, wielding knives and screaming in a fury. Tokes was slashed on the forehead before his church bodyguards could come to his rescue, causing the four to flee. The numerous Securitate men posted out front of the building had done nothing to intervene in spite of calls for help. Puspoki suggests that these “Mafia-like thugs,” who attacked as if from “an Incan tribe,” were some of Colonel Sima’s “gorillas,” sent to deliver a clear message to Tokes that he should leave immediately.[40] The view of the former Securitate–as expounded by Colonel Sima’s senior deputy, Major Radu Tinu–insinuates a “tourist”-like scenario. According to Tinu, the incident was clearly a “set-up” designed to draw sympathy to Tokes’ cause since the assailants fled away in a car with West German tags.[41] Not for the last time, the Securitate thus appears to attempt to attribute its own actions to foreign agents. A week after the mysterious attack by the masked intruders, all of the windows of the parochial residence and nearby buildings were smashed. Interestingly, the report drawn up for Bucharest by the Timisoara Securitate attempted to argue that “workers” from the Timisoara Mechanical Enterprise, offended by pastor Tokes’ behavior, had broken the windows. According to Puspoki, the use of a propaganda-like description was not accidental: the local Securitate was trying to present the incident as evidence of “the dissatisfaction of the working people of Timisoara” in the hope that it would finally prompt Ceausescu into approving definitive measures against Tokes.[42] Was Ceausescu responsible for the fact that the Tokes case dragged on without resolution? Support for such a conclusion comes from the comments of Securitate officers Colonel Filip Teodorescu and Major Radu Tinu. Teodorescu was dispatched to Timisoara with sixty other Securitate information officers in order to “verify” the request of the local Securitate that proceedings for treason be initiated against Tokes.[43] Teodorescu laments: Unfortunately, as in other situations…Nicolae Ceausescu did not agree because he didn’t want to further muddy relations with Hungary. Moreover, groundlessly, he hoped to avoid the criticisms of “Western democracies” by taking administrative measures against the pastor through the Reformed Church to which [Tokes] belonged.[44] Major Radu Tinu suggests that Ceausescu’s approval was necessary in the case of Securitate arrests and that the local Securitate remained “stupefied” that after having worked so long and hard in gathering information with which to charge Tokes with the crime of treason, Ceausescu rejected the request.[45] Tinu speculates that Ceausescu “did not want to create problems at the international level.” Because former Securitate officers rarely pass up the opportunity to absolve themselves of blame, and it would appear both easier and more advantageous to blame the deceased Ceausescu for being too unyielding in the Tokes affair, these allegations seem plausible. Thus, it would appear that because Nicolae Ceausescu was skittish of further damaging Romania’s already deteriorating relations with the international community, and the Tokes case was a high-profile one, he refrained from approving visible, definitive action against the pastor. The Securitate‘s attempt to goad Ceausescu to bolder action would appear to confirm Ghita Ionescu’s suggestion that where the security apparatus comes to dominate regime affairs it attempts to impose its institutional prerogatives upon political superiors. Ceausescu and the Securitate appear then to have had sometimes conflicting views over how to resolve the Tokes affair in the quickest and most efficient fashion. By December 1989, a huge group of Securitate officers were working on the Tokes case: the entire branch of the First Directorate for Timis county, the special division charged with combatting Hungarian espionage, high-ranking members of the First Directorate and Independent Service “D” (responsible for disinformation) from Bucharest, and members of the division charged with “Surveillance and Investigation.”[46] Puspoki describes Timisoara at this late hour as follows: Day and night, the telex machines on the top floor of the [County Militia] “Inspectorate” incessantly banged out communications, while the telephones never stopped ringing. Minister Postelnicu yelled on the phone, Colonel Sima yelled through the offices and the hallways. The officers ran, as if out of their minds, after information, besieged neighbors of the pastor, and dispatched in his direction–what they call–”informers with possibilities.”[47] Yet the case lingered on. On Sunday, 10 December 1989, Pastor Tokes announced to his congregation that he had received a rejection of his most recent appeal: the regime would make good on its threat to evict him on Friday, 15 December. He termed this an “illegal act” and suggested that the authorities would probably use force since he would not go willingly. He appealed for people to come and attend as “peaceful witnesses.”[48] They came.

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

[41].. Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea, 78.
[42].. Puspoki, “Piramida Umbrelor (III).”
[43].. Teodorescu, Un Risc Asumat, 45-46.
[44].. Ibid., 90.
[45].. Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea, 78.
[46].. Puspoki, “Piramida Umbrelor (II).”
[47].. Ibid.
[48].. Tokes, With God, for the People, 1-4. ————————————————————————————————

Tudor Postelnicu:  “Ceausescu Nicolae facuse o psihoza, mai ales dupa ce s-a intors de la sedinta de la Moscova in toamna lui ’89.  Era convins ca se planuieste si de cei de pe plan extern caderea sa, era convins ca toti sint spioni…” 0160 Petru Pele (Dir I, DSS). Declaratie, 16 ianuarie 1990:  “Printre sarciniile mai importante efectuate de catre acestia in  perioada 17-22.12.1989 s-a numerat (?) constituierea (?) listelor celor retinuti de organele militie cu listele celor predati sau reintorsi din Ungaria, intrucit s-a emis ipoteza ca evenimentele de la Timisoara au fost puse la cale in tara vecina…” 0299 0291 Gheorghe Diaconescu, Declaratie 31 decembrie 1989 “Luni 18 decembrie gl. col.  VLAD IULIAN a avut o convorbire cu colegul meu (local?) RADULESCU EMIL … 0476 Vlad Iulian (continuarea, declaratia lui Gheorghe Diaconescu) “?… foarte dur (?) ca nu (?) ca ‘un grup de turisti isi fac de cap in Timisoara’” 0477 0472 Tocmai Iulian Vlad, el insusi, recunoaste ne-implicarea strainilor in evenimentele de la Timisoara, aici… 0289 0290 Incepind cu noaptea de 16/17 dec. si in continuare pina in data de 20 dec. 1989 organul de securitate local col. Sima cit si gl. Macri si in lipsa lui col. Teodorescu imi comunicau date din care rezulta ca sute de elemente turbulente au devastat orasul, si ca elementul strain nu rezulta a se fi implicate in continuarea fenomenului.” 0291 “Mai exact, cei trimis de mine la Timisoara mi-au raportat ca nu au elemente din care sa rezulte vreum amestec al strainatatii in producerea evenimentelor de la Timisoara.” https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2013/03/17/o-indicatie-pretioasa-de-pe-malurile-dimbovitei-implicarea-strainilor-in-evenimentele-de-la-timisoara-paranoia-lui-nicolae-ceausescu-sau-confirmarea-lui-iulian-vlad/0292

All this is important to keep in mind when coming across claims about the alleged role of these tourists in the overthrow of the communist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu:  none of the authors purporting such claims have addressed the documents above.  Among the authors who allege such a role and whose work is available on the Internet are the following:

James F. Burke (citing Grigore Corpacescu, General Iulian Vlad, and a well-known article from September 1990 in Democratia) http://www.ceausescu.org/ceausescu_texts/revolution/december_revolt_moscow.htm (I have dealt with these allegations here https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2010/12/29/presa-din-1990-despre-turistii-rusi-din-decembrie-1989/, and  https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2010/09/22/the-1989-romanian-revolution-as-geopolitical-parlor-game-brandstatter%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Ccheckmate%E2%80%9D-documentary-and-the-latest-wave-in-a-sea-of-revisionism-part-iii/)

Catherine Durandin (citing Radu Portocala) http://www.diploweb.com/english/romania/durandin1.htm  (I have addressed this allegation here https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2010/09/24/the-1989-romanian-revolution-as-geopolitical-parlor-game-brandstatter%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Ccheckmate%E2%80%9D-documentary-and-the-latest-wave-in-a-sea-of-revisionism-part-four/)

Alexander Ghaleb (fn. 9, citing “police sources”) http://www.sferapoliticii.ro/sfera/165/art03-Ghaleb.php

Jacques Levesque (citing a 1992 book by Filip Teodorescu) http://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft4q2nb3h6&chunk.id=d0e6746&toc.id=d0e6638&brand=ucpress

John Simpson (citing Virgil Magureanu and the SRI) http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/ten-days-that-fooled-the-world-1387659.html

Alex Mihai Stoenescu (p. 186 of 340, Petre Roman citing Mihai Caraman) http://www.scribd.com/doc/105257958/Alex-Mihai-Stoenescu-Istoria-Loviturilor-de-Stat-Din-Romania-Vol-4-1

Larry Watts (fn. 90 p. 26, Petre Roman citing Mihai Caraman) http://www.larrylwatts.com/excerpts/with_friends_like_these_excerpts.pdf  (Roman ironically himself undermined such a claim here:  http://adevarul.ro/news/eveniment/petre-roman-ceausescu-acceptat-controlul-psihiatric-proces-putea-scape-1_50ad124a7c42d5a6638e48ab/index.html , Watts’ claim has been televised in the series “Mostenirea Clandestina,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAPOEu0ebwI start at about 46:10 to 46:60 and then assisted by Cristian Troncota, who discusses the “Soviet tourists,” including Watts’ claim, from 47:05 to 49:50…conveniently not mentioned here or anywhere else where Troncota appears (for example with Grigore Cartianu in Adevarul), Cristian Troncota was a Lt. Maj. in the Securitate:  see the index here from a 1987 issue of the Securitate‘s “strict secret” journal, (page 4 of 46 on the pdf) with a historical article beginning on page 78:  http://www.cnsas.ro/documente/periodicul_securitatea/Securitatea%201987-4-80.pdf  (vol. 80 from 1987).

 

 

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

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on August 15, 2014

(purely personal views–to suggest otherwise is to misrepresent me–based on two decades of prior research and publications, not for unauthorized reproduction, thank you)

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

In the seemingly endless discussions of the alleged role of large numbers of Soviet agents (using the cover of being tourists) in the December 1989 overthrow of Nicolae Ceausescu’s communist dictatorship, I am inevitably reminded of this July 1991 quote from Radu Ciobotea that I used in my 2005 article “The Romanian Revolution as Geopolitical Parlor Game.”

(For a recent example, 12 August, of the reappearance of such a claim see: http://cultural.bzi.ro/25-000-de-spioni-kgb-au-stapanit-romania-aproape-un-an-18070 )

from THE 1989 ROMANIAN REVOLUTION AS GEOPOLITICAL PARLOR GAME: BRANDSTATTER’S “CHECKMATE” DOCUMENTARY AND THE LATEST WAVE IN A SEA OF REVISIONISM, Part III (cleared in March 2005)

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).

So what is the substance of the most recent popular iteration of the so-called “Soviet tourist” hypothesis as outlined in the 12 August article above?  It is actually from a 23 December 2012 article in the daily Libertatea under the bombastic headline, “25.000 de spioni KGB au stăpânit România aproape un an! Ceauşescu a fost detronat de o armată secretă sovietică, care a stat în ţara noastră în perioada decembrie 1989 – octombrie 1990” (http://www.libertatea.ro/detalii/articol/25-000-de-spioni-kgb-au-stapanit-romania-aproape-un-an-428106.html#ixzz3APp0Eq5v)

“La expunerea clară, concisă a lui Caraman (Mihai Caraman – n.r.), directorul Centralei de Informaţii Externe, am cerut sovieticilor să-şi retragă comandourile. Era vorba despre aproximativ 25.000 – 30.000 de oameni. S-au retras ca urmare a faptului că Gorbaciov modificase strategia şi spusese că URSS nu mai este jandarm în această zonă”. Declaraţia îi aparţine lui Petre Roman, fostul premier al României în perioada decembrie 1989 – septembrie 1991 şi a fost inclusă într-o carte a istoricului Alex Mihai Stoenescu.

In the same article, Larry L. Watt’s 2010 volume Fereşte-mă, Doamne, de prieteni (the English version entitled With Friends Like These) is invoked.  In the English version, Watts wrote on page 16, with a footnote on page 26:

“It is suggestive that more than 25,000 of the 37,000 “extra” Soviet tourists that deemed Romania a desirable place to visit or transit in the two weeks prior to its revolution in December 1989 chose not to leave until almost a year later, in October 1990, after the Romanian government formally insisted on their departure.90”

90. “Ceauşescu protested the sudden influx of Soviet ‘tourists’ to Moscow at the time, none of whom stayed in hotels. See e.g. Mircea Munteanu, New Evidence on the 1989 Crisis in Romania, e-Dossier no. 5, Washington D.C., Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, December 2001, pp. 3-11, CWIHP. The Romanian Senate’s investigation into the events of December 1989 disclosed the extraordinary jump in Soviet ‘tourists’ from 30,000 in 1988 to 67,000 in 1989 as recorded in customs and border statistics, as well as the unexplained delay in their departure. Mention of this glaring anomaly was qualified as unwarranted “conspiracy theory.” See e.g. Depostion of Petre Roman, Transcript no. 90/8.03.1994, Romanian Senate Archive, Bucharest, pp. 44-45. According to ex-Prime Minister Roman, 30,000 Russians ‘tourists’ remained in Romania for almost a year, until officially requested to leave in October 1990. Allegedly, Caraman’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) informed Roman about them only at that time. However, since at least March, Romanian TV had broadcast news stories of the Russian encampments.”]

Marius Mioc reproduced the Romanian version of the passages as follows (Răstălmăcirile lui Larry Watts şi răstălmăcirile altora despre Larry Watts):

Cel mai important fragment din cartea lui Larry Watts care se referă la revoluţie îl găsim la pagina 55, şi este următorul:

Este sugestiv faptul că peste 25000 din cei 37000 de turişti sovietici care au considerat România locul preferat pentru vizite sau tranzit, în cele două săptămînă anterioare revoluţiei din decembrie 1989, au ales să nu mai plece timp de aproape un an, pînă în octombrie 1990, după ce guvernul român le-a cerut oficial şi insistent să părăsească ţara.

Aici se face trimitere la o notă de subsol în care se scrie:

Ceauşescu a protestat împotriva afluxului brusc de turişti de la Moscova, din care nici unul nu stătea la vreun hotel. Vezi Mircea Munteanu, New Evidence on the 1989 Crisis in Romania, e-Dossier nr. 5, Washington D.C., Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, decembrie 2001, pp. 3-11, CWIHP. Ancheta Senatului României asupra evenimentelor din 1989 menţionează un salt de la 30000 turişti sovietici în 1988 la 67000 în 1989, precum şi o întîrziere inexplicabilă în plecarea acestora. Vezi Depoziţia lui Petre Roman, transcript nr. 90/8.03.1994, Arhiva Senatului României, pp. 44-45. Conform prim-ministrului Petre Roman, 30000 de turişti ruşi au rămas în România peste un an, pînă cînd li s-a cerut oficial să plece, în octombrie 1990. Conform lui Roman, şeful SIE, Caraman, l-a informat numai la acea dată despre aceştia. Totuşi încă din martie televiziunea română relata despre taberele sovietice.

But, as it turns out, Watts’ claim is neither new, nor his own.  It indeed appears to belong to Alex Mihai Stoenescu.  Stoenescu wrote the following in a 2004 volume which I found online here, although unfortunately without the endnotes,  http://hot24.weebly.com/uploads/5/2/3/8/5238782/alex_mihai_stoenescu_-_istoria_loviturilor_de_stat_in_romania_vol_4-1.pdf)

...Asadar, coloanele de „turisti” sovietici se prezentau ca fiind în tranzit spre sau din Iugoslavia, dar nu fãceau tranzitul. Ei au rãmas pe teritoriul României în preajma marilor orase pentru a interveni în cazul esecului diversiunilor care trebuiau sã provoace cãderea lui Ceausescu. Au fost pur si simplu dati afarã din tarã abia în octombrie 1990 de cãtre priniul-ministru Petre Roman: „A mai fost un moment foarte delicat, în octombrie 1990, cînd în tarã se aflau 30 000 de rusi! Cu masinile lor! Eu, cînd am aflat de a-ceasta, în calitate de prim-ministru, de la organul competent, adicã S.I. Externe, am fãcut mare tãrãboi si, mã rog, pînã la urmã am reactionat, au fost scosi din tarã. A mai fost o miscare foarte ciudatã înainte de 19 martie 1990 la Tîrgu-Mures”395. într-o discutie particularã, Petre Roman i-a confirmat autorului cã identitatea acestor „turisti” ca luptãtori ai fortelor speciale sovietice fusese deplin documentatã de SIE. Ce fel de tranzit era acela în care 30 000 de turisti (probabil cã nu toti erau luptãtori ai fortelor speciale sovietice, dar ei ofereau acoperirea) rãmîn pe teritoriul unui stat, prin care se presupune cã trec în maximum 48 de ore, si rãmîn un an de zile! (pp. 189-190)

I have through some searching been able to find the sources for Stoenescu’s claim:  Arhiva Senatului României, Stenograma nr.90/8 martie 1994, Audiere Petre Roman, pp.44-45.
http://internationalfreemedia.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/relatiile-romano-americane-de-la-razboiul-absurd-la-fratia-in-nato/#_ftn7 .  The claim from Stoenescu’s 2004 volume appears to have made its way into the press beginning in 2006 in Evenimentul Zilei, ironically (?) on the eve of the presentation to parliament of the Report by the Presidential Commission for the Analysis of the Communist Dictatorship in Romania (CPADCR) on 18 December 2006, despite the fact that Evenimentul Zilei was/is supposedly the hub of opposition to communist and Securitate revisionism in Romania! (it must be, since Vladimir Tismaneanu, head of the CPADCR, published op-eds there at the time and still does!):  http://www.evz.ro/operatiunea-kgb-decembrie-1989-423201.html.

In other words, Watts’ claim is recycled and originates with Alex Mihai Stoenescu.  Watts likes to point out that because Petre Roman was a former Prime Minister and was testifying under oath to a parliamentary committee, and because Roman claims he received the information from the then head of foreign intelligence that this enhances the credibility of the claim (see his comment on the post Mostenirea Clandestina).  Marius Mioc’s observation thus seems appropriate in light of such an interpretation:

Ceilalţi – Comisia Senatorială “Decembrie 1989″, Alex Mihai Stoenescu, Larry Watts, Grigore Cartianu, Sorin Golea – nu fac decît să repete cele spuse de Petre Roman. Remarc că Comisia Senatorială “Decembrie 1989″ n-a făcut nici minima verificare de a-l contacta şi pe Mihai Caraman, pentru a vedea dacă acesta confirmă spusele lui Petre Roman. Despre căutarea unor documente în arhivele Guvernului României sau ale Ministerului Afacerilor Externe care să ateste cererea făcută către sovietici de a-şi retrage agenţii nici nu mai vorbesc.

(from Răstălmăcirile lui Larry Watts şi răstălmăcirile altora despre Larry Watts)

Moreover, what is the background of the people making such allegations or to whom such allegations are ascribed?  Mihai Caraman was a long-time member of the Securitate’s Foreign Intelligence organization, named the CIE in its latter days.  Thus, Petre Roman’s source for this information is a former high-ranking Securitate official.  As I have argued consistently and repeatedly for over two decades in publications, for the purposes of investigating December 1989 three questions are relevant when it comes to what former Securitate personnel argue:

1) Does what they argue absolve the Securitate as an institution of wrongdoing in December 1989–wrongdoing that can be proved as having been committed by Securitate personnel?

2) Is what they argue similar to what other former Securitate personnel argue and can therefore be interpreted as an institutional view?

3) What was their personal relationship with the Securitate:  did they work for the institution?  Were they informers or collaborators of the institution during the communist era?

For example, Mihai Caraman, the alleged source of former PM Petre Roman’s claim was a longtime member of the Securitate’s foreign intelligence organization, and his claim about the alleged presence and role of numerous Soviet agents in the overthrow has been enunciated by numerous other former Securitate personnel (whether internal or external) from 1990 onward, as this site has demonstrated on numerous occasions.

Likewise, Alex Mihai Stoenescu, who first drew attention to the 1994 Petre Roman statement, has been defintively declared by CNSAS as having collaborated with the Securitate in the 1980s (see http://activenews.ro/decizie-definitiva-iccj-istoricul-alex-mihai-stoenescu-colaborat-cu-fosta-securitate_1829506.html or http://www.avocatura.com/stire/10316/istoricul-alex-mihai-stoenescu-verdict-irevocabil-de-colaborator-al-securitatii.html)

Finally, it has to be stressed that, besides sounding absurd–even if we ignore Petre Roman’s supposed earlier clarification to Stoenescu, according to Stoenescu, that all 30,000 of these Soviet tourists were members of Soviet special forces and estimate “conservatively” that “only” 10 percent were actual Soviet agents, that still leaves 3,000 Soviet agents (an incredible devotion of man power) traversing Romania not in Romanian Dacias so as to not draw attention but instead supposedly in Ladas and Moskovici!!!–THERE IS NO RECORD OF A SINGLE “SOVIET TOURIST” HAVING BEEN ARRESTED UPON SUSPICION OF INVOLVEMENT, LET ALONE ARMED INVOLVEMENT, IN THE UPHEAVAL THAT OVERTURNED THE REGIME OF NICOLAE CEAUSESCU BEFORE OR AFTER 22 DECEMBER 1989!  (And specifically with regard to the beginnings of the uprising in Timisoara, Securitate officials themselves, in the immediate aftermath of the events, confessed that despite being tasked from Bucharest to supply evidence of alleged foreign tourist involvement in the demonstrations and riots against Nicolae Ceausescu and his regime, they were unable to do so! See 25 for 2014: 25 Things You Should Know about the Romanian Revolution on the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of Nicolae Ceausescu’s Communist Regime: #1 The Securitate Deny Foreign Instigation of the Timisoara Uprising)

This then is why as Radu Ciobotea wrote, “The Securitate doesn’t say but it suggests.  It allows small details to leak out.”–precisely because it has no tactical proof of Soviet tourist responsibility for the December 1989 events, its former personnel must appeal to broad, structural, and unverifiable claims, such as the overall number of Soviet tourists in 1989, to suggest that by the mere presence of so many Soviet tourists they must have been involved.

 

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25 for 2014: 25 Things You Should Know about the Romanian Revolution on the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of Nicolae Ceausescu’s Communist Regime: #2 Shattered Glass: Securitate Vandalism to Justify Timisoara Crackdown

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on February 13, 2014

(Purely personal views as always, based on over two decades of research and publications inside and outside Romania)

2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe–Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania.  This (likely aperiodic) series looks at 25 things I have learned about the events of the Romanian Revolution of December 1989.  The numbering is not designed to assign importance, but rather–to the extent possible–to progress chronologically through those events.

Significance:  I have essentially been the only researcher who has consistently advocated this understanding.  Most others–including Peter Siani-Davies–tended to dismiss it.  Now we have documentary evidence that it took place.

An excellent documentary from 1991 posted to the internet by Florin Iepan only recently and seen rarely if at all since its showing in 1991.  There is much interesting information in this film.  (The film seems to start at min. 19:00 and has to be rewound to its beginning.)  Here, I will focus on the claim beginning at approximately min. 17:40 that the destruction of Timisoara shops and storefronts was organized and a pretext to justify–including legally–the repression by the Ceausescu regime of Timisoara demonstrators.  Interior Minister Tudor Postelnicu’s declaration of 17 March 1990 confirms this claim and the observations of eyewitnesses.

Timisoara Decembrie 1989 / Timisoara December 1989,

regia/directed by – Ovidiu Bose Pastina
imaginea/camera – Doru Segal

Sahiafilm 1991

Tudor Postelnicu (Ministerul de Interne in decembrie 1989):  “Unii militari de la trupele de securitate ale brigazii Timisoara au facut unele provocari la unele magazine si vitrine spargind geamurile sa imprastie participantii de pe straziile din apropriere, apoi au intrat in altercatie cu ei, si acum (?) vor sa le faca militia ordine.  ‘Nu am aflat ca costa provocare a zis Gl. Nuta, am trimis pe …” (17.III.1990) 

http://sensidev.com/fc/dosare%20de%20urmarire%20penala/dosar%20%20de%20urmarire%20penala%20volumul%2011/IMG_2576.JPG (Dosarul de Urmarire Penala, Vol. 11, IMG 2576)

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Before we move on here, it is worth noting how this destruction was covered in Peter Siani-Davies’ 2005 volume The Romanian Revolution of December 1989.  As I have written on many occasions, Siani-Davies’ volume is wonderfully-written and is excellent, but the claim by Daniel Chirot that is a “near-definitive” account is far off the mark.  One of the negative characteristics of Siani-Davies’ work is the use of “filler” rational choice, cui bono arguments where he concludes there is not enough information to make a valid judgment.  The problem is the question is never one of “what was possible?” “what makes ‘sense’?” but rather what did happen?

Thus, for example in the case of the destruction of Timisoara Siani-Davies argues that there was already enough of a basis for the regime to crackdown, therefore why would they need to create a pretext for cracking down:  “Given the seriousness of the situation and the fact that shots had already been fired elsewhere, the security forces hardly needed to produce a further ‘excuse’ for the massacre which was to follow.” (p. 68)

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Back to exploring more of the evidence…

An excerpt from Chapter 5 of my Ph.D. Dissertation at Indiana University: Richard Andrew Hall, Rewriting the Revolution: Authoritarian Regime-State Relations and the Triumph of Securitate Revisionism in Post-Ceausescu Romania (defended 16 December 1996). This is the original chapter as it appeared then and thus has not been revised in any form.

Chapter Five.  The Beginning of the End: Timisoara, 15-17 December 1989

The “Window Breakers”

The reportedly unusual scope of physical destruction which occurred in Timisoara, particularly on the afternoon and evening of 17 December 1989, has fueled revisionist arguments. Estimates of the damage during the Timisoara unrest are in the neighborhood of four to five billion lei (approximately forty to fifty million dollars at the time), a reasonably large sum given Romania’s standard of living at the time. A huge number of windows was broken and as many as 300 to 400 stores suffered some sort of damage, although relatively few were actually looted. On the evening of 17 December, stores, vehicles, and kiosks were burning in at least ten different areas of the city.[65]

Former Securitate officers clearly wish to link this destruction to the “foreign tourists” who were supposedly so ubiquitous in Timisoara during these days.[66] Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, former Securitate Director Iulian Vlad argued at his trial that

…the acts of vandalism, theft, destruction, arson… acts without precedent…could not have been the work [“opera”] of the faithful [apparently referring sarcastically to Tokes’ parishioners], nor the revolutionaries. They were produced by elements which wished to create a certain atmosphere of tension.[67]

Eyewitness accounts recorded soon after the events–therefore at a time before the various plots and scenarios had permeated the popular imagination–support the hypothesis that the vandalism was organized. Moldovan Fica remarks:

I admit that I cannot escape a certain conclusion. All of this [destruction] was done by a group of about five or six individuals, whose calm demeanor and self-control continues to stay with me to this day. They did not run from the scene, they appeared as if they did not fear anything; I would say that, in fact, they were doing what was required of them, something which had been ordered directly of them![75]

Describing destruction in a different part of the city, Andras Vasile observed that

…four young men with shaved heads and wearing civilian clothes had sticks–I would term them special sticks–1.7 to 1.8 meters long, equipped with metal rings on the top of them. They were breaking the windows, but not taking anything, as if they only had something against the windows, something which they thus went about with great enjoyment…they were led by two individuals in leather jackets.[76]

Other eyewitnesses supply details which confirm the widespread character of the vandalism; its undeniably organized quality; the disinterest of its perpetrators in looting the stores; and the almost “drugged” nature of the perpetrators, who seemed unperturbed by the chaos and repression going on around them.[77]

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

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Moldovan Fica (martor ocular)

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Andras Vasile (martor ocular)

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Ioan Savu discussed the windowbreakers as follows:

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Other depictions of this event available online:

Conducerea partidului, alarmată, a trimis în Piaţa Maria, conform Ordinului 02600, numeroşi miliţieni şi trupe speciale, pentru a lichida manifestaţia care luase amploare. Circulaţia în zonă se întrerupsese. În Piaţa Maria au fost trimişi aproximativ 200 de activişti de partid, miliţieni şi numeroşi ofiţeri de securitate, îmbrăcaţi în haine civile. Au urmat ciocniri violente, mai ales după ce manifestanţii s-au încolonat şi au pornit spre sediul CJ PCR, strigând “Libertate”, “Vrem pâine”, “Vrem căldură”, “Azi la Timişoara, mâine în toată ţara”.
În acea seară echipe de miliţie dinainte pregătite au spart vitrinele magazinelor din centrul oraşului, pentru a avea argumente pentru o intervenţie în forţă. Desigur, multe vitrine au fost sparte şi de derbedei, asupra cărora s-au găsit bunuri furate. În acea noapte au fost arestate aproape 5-600 de cetăţeni. Ei au fost duşi la Penitenciarul oraşului, unde au fost bătuţi în mod bestial. În zilele care au urmat arestării au fost anchetaţi în vederea trimiterii lor în judecată. Bineînţeles, dacă Revoluţia n-ar fi reuşit.

“Azi la Timişoara”
Ivan Sabin

http://revista.memoria.ro/?location=view_article&id=371

Totuşi, se ştie că în acele zile fierbinţi din Timişoara au existat „personaje neidentificate” care au acţionat în mai multe zone ale oraşului. Am să amintesc aici doar două aspecte concrete cu privire la implicarea acestora în evenimentele din Timişoara. În zilele de 16 şi 17 decembrie au fost sparte aproape toate vitrinele magazinelor din zona centrală a oraşului. Sunt zeci de declaraţii ale revoluţionarilor care fac o descriere clară a celor care au spart acele geamuri. Au fost oameni bine îmbrăcaţi, robuşti şi tunşi scurt. Aceştia erau dotaţi cu nişte beţe speciale cu care printr-un gest scurt şi foarte bine exersat loveau vitrinele, după care plecau fără a încerca să sustragă ceva din magazine. Aceste persoane au fost văzute chiar şi de forţele de ordine desfăşurate în acea zonă, care în mod ciudat nu au luat măsuri împotriva lor, ci au acţionat împotriva manifestanţilor ce demonstrau împotriva regimului ceauşist. Un alt aspect relatat de mulţi timişoreni se referă mai ales la zilele de 17-19 decembrie, când, în rândul cordoanelor militare din diferite dispozitive amplasate în zonele importante ale oraşului, între soldaţi, erau intercalate persoane mai în vârstă, nebărbierite îmbrăcate doar parţial în uniforme militare, care nu făceau parte din acele unităţi militare.

Cine au fost acele „persoane neidentificate”? De ce s-a dorit în unele cercuri, cu insistenţă chiar, acreditarea ideii că oamenii au fost scoşi în stradă de agenţi străini? De ce, chiar şi după 20 de ani, se fac afirmaţii de genul: cadavrele celor arşi la Crematoriul „Cenuşa” erau ale unor agenţi străini? Nu voi căuta acum răspunsuri la aceste întrebări, dar, cu siguranţă, ele există.

Kali Adrian Matei

nascut in 30 iulie 1968 la Timisoara, muncitor la IJPIPS (1989), profesor de istorie la Liceul de informatica (1998), impuscat in spate

La Bijuterii concetatenii nostri tigani carau ce puteau. Numai la “Modex” nu era spart. Un grup de oameni se uitau cum niste indivizi bine instruiti spargeau geamurile de linga restaurantul Bulevard. Am rugat oamenii sa apere Modexul, pentru ca era clar ca spargatorii n-aveau nimic comun cu revolta.  30 septembrie 1995  http://timisoara.com/newmioc/4.htm

“În data de 14 decembrie, securitatea a spart toate gemurile din partea străzii principale, iar clădirea arăta ca o cetate asediată. Fostul primar al Timişorei, Petre Moţ l-a vizitat pe Tokes şi a ieşit la geam pentru a vorbi mulţimii. Moţ a cerut să se pună geamuri noi. Erau foarte multe maşini ale securiştilor. Întreaga stradă era ocupată. Se făcea filaj. Eu locuiam acolo, ba intram, ba ieşeam. Nu se vorbea încă revoluţie. Era o solidaritatea faţă de pastor”, declarat Iosif Kabai (foto), care locuieşte şi acum în clădirea bisericii reformate.Citeste mai mult: adevarul.ro/locale/timisoara/16-decembrie-1989-ziua-timisoara-s-a-strigat-data-democratie-jos-comunismul-1_50bd3d887c42d5a663c8e01f/index.html

Radu Tinu cu Angela Bacescu…

The reportedly unusual scope of physical destruction which occurred in Timisoara, particularly on the afternoon and evening of 17 December 1989, has fueled revisionist arguments. Estimates of the damage during the Timisoara unrest are in the neighborhood of four to five billion lei (approximately forty to fifty million dollars at the time), a reasonably large sum given Romania’s standard of living at the time. A huge number of windows was broken and as many as 300 to 400 stores suffered some sort of damage, although relatively few were actually looted. On the evening of 17 December, stores, vehicles, and kiosks were burning in at least ten different areas of the city.[65]

Former Securitate officers clearly wish to link this destruction to the “foreign tourists” who were supposedly so ubiquitous in Timisoara during these days.[66] Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, former Securitate Director Iulian Vlad argued at his trial that

…the acts of vandalism, theft, destruction, arson… acts without precedent…could not have been the work [“opera”] of the faithful [apparently referring sarcastically to Tokes’ parishioners], nor the revolutionaries. They were produced by elements which wished to create a certain atmosphere of tension.[67]

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RADU TINU:…SINGURLE COMPLEXE COMERCIALE RAMASE INTREGI AU FOST CELE DIN FATA MILITIEI JUDETENE SI CEL DE LANGA FABRICA “MODERN”…

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The significance of window-breaking as a justification for repression–something the Securitate would have realized–was outlined by Nicolae Ceausescu in his teleconference of 17 December 1989 as follows:

“Oricine intra intr-un Consiliu Popular, intr-un sediu de partid sau sparge un geam la un magazin trebuie sa primeasca riposta imediat.

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Col. Ion Popescu (sef IGM)’s defense lawyer appealed to Legea 21 and Decretul 121 specifically as obligating Interior Ministry (M.I.–Militia and Securitate) forces to intervene in response to the breaking of windows of commercial units…

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Thus, the breaking of windows, which according to Interior Minister was instigated and carried out in part by Securitate Brigade 30 under the command of Ion Bunoaica served a bureaucratic and legalistic function–a tactic not unknown in the annals of other totalitarian or authoritarian regimes…

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An excerpt from Chapter 5 of my Ph.D. Dissertation at Indiana University: Richard Andrew Hall, Rewriting the Revolution: Authoritarian Regime-State Relations and the Triumph of Securitate Revisionism in Post-Ceausescu Romania (defended 16 December 1996). This is the original chapter as it appeared then and thus has not been revised in any form.

Chapter Five.  The Beginning of the End: Timisoara, 15-17 December 1989

The “Window Breakers”

The reportedly unusual scope of physical destruction which occurred in Timisoara, particularly on the afternoon and evening of 17 December 1989, has fueled revisionist arguments. Estimates of the damage during the Timisoara unrest are in the neighborhood of four to five billion lei (approximately forty to fifty million dollars at the time), a reasonably large sum given Romania’s standard of living at the time. A huge number of windows was broken and as many as 300 to 400 stores suffered some sort of damage, although relatively few were actually looted. On the evening of 17 December, stores, vehicles, and kiosks were burning in at least ten different areas of the city.[65]

Former Securitate officers clearly wish to link this destruction to the “foreign tourists” who were supposedly so ubiquitous in Timisoara during these days.[66] Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, former Securitate Director Iulian Vlad argued at his trial that

…the acts of vandalism, theft, destruction, arson… acts without precedent…could not have been the work [“opera”] of the faithful [apparently referring sarcastically to Tokes’ parishioners], nor the revolutionaries. They were produced by elements which wished to create a certain atmosphere of tension.[67]

“A group of former Securitate officers” wrote to the Ceausist Democratia in September 1990 that after the Militia and Securitate refused to respond to the demonstrations provoked by the “foreign tourists”: “they advance[d] to the next stage: the massive destruction of public property designed to provoke forcible interventions–human victims were needed.”[68]

Nevertheless, here is how one opposition journalist, Grid Modorcea, has described the strange character of Timisoara destruction:

For the first time in history, a revolution…was announced in a previously unknown and absolutely original manner, both literally and figuratively speaking: through the methodical breakage of thousands of windows. On 16 and 17 December 1989, Timisoara was the city of [glass] shards. Well-trained groups of athletes spread throughout the town, tactically, but energetically smashing to pieces hundreds of huge windows without apparently being interested in stealing from these stores…they were like mythical Magis coming to announce the end of one world and the beginning of another. And they gave it an apocalyptic quality: the sound produced by the breaking glass was infernal. The panic this caused was indescribable….Those who “executed” the windows did so with karate-like kicks while yelling “Liberty and Justice”!…The crowds of people who came out into the streets transformed spontaneously into columns of demonstrators, of authentic revolutionaries. The effect was therefore monumental: the breaking of the windows unleashed the popular revolt against the dictator.[69]

Modorcea is convinced that the Tokes case was “merely a pretext” and that “someone–perhaps those who planned the vandalizing of the windows–has an interest in preventing it from being known who broke the windows.” Although Modorcea maintains he is unsure who was responsible, he insists on observing that:

Only the Customs people know how many tourists there were. All were men and long-haired. Inside their cars they had canisters. This fits with the method of the breaking of the windows, with the Molotov cocktails, and the drums used as barricades–they were exactly of the same type….To what extent the new regime which came to power was implicated, we cannot say![70]

Many Timisoara protesters appear torn between wishing to rationalize the extensive destruction as the courageous response of an enraged, long-suffering population, and denying that the perpetrators could have come from among their ranks. Even those investigators attuned to the retroactive psychology of the protesters cannot help but admit that widespread destruction occurred and that it could not have been wholly spontaneous.[71] Furthermore, as Laszlo Tokes has observed in discussing the events at Piata Maria, manipulation and attempts to instigate the crowd to violence were constant features during these days.

Tokes maintains that Securitate provocateurs had tried to agitate the crowd by shouting things like, “Let’s break into the house. The Securitate are in there; they’re trying to kidnap Laszlo Tokes! Let’s rush them!” and by appealing for him to “Come down into the street and lead us!”[72] According to Tokes:

I was alarmed at the obvious provocation from individuals in the crowd clearly intent on making the situation uncontrollable….Later, thinking about the events of those two days, I realized that the authorities would have had a great deal to gain if the situation had become a riot.[73]

Mircea Balan questions whether the protesters would have set stores on fire which were located on the ground floor of the buildings in which the protesters themselves lived.[74] Moreover, he wonders how even the revolutionary fury of the crowd could drive protesters to break so many windows, particularly given the presence of repressive forces on the streets. It is what Balan has termed the “systematic devastation” of property which raises questions.

Eyewitness accounts recorded soon after the events–therefore at a time before the various plots and scenarios had permeated the popular imagination–support the hypothesis that the vandalism was organized. Moldovan Fica remarks:

I admit that I cannot escape a certain conclusion. All of this [destruction] was done by a group of about five or six individuals, whose calm demeanor and self-control continues to stay with me to this day. They did not run from the scene, they appeared as if they did not fear anything; I would say that, in fact, they were doing what was required of them, something which had been ordered directly of them![75]

Describing destruction in a different part of the city, Andras Vasile observed that

…four young men with shaved heads and wearing civilian clothes had sticks–I would term them special sticks–1.7 to 1.8 meters long, equipped with metal rings on the top of them. They were breaking the windows, but not taking anything, as if they only had something against the windows, something which they thus went about with great enjoyment…they were led by two individuals in leather jackets.[76]

Other eyewitnesses supply details which confirm the widespread character of the vandalism; its undeniably organized quality; the disinterest of its perpetrators in looting the stores; and the almost “drugged” nature of the perpetrators, who seemed unperturbed by the chaos and repression going on around them.[77]

Mircea Balan has little doubt who committed this “systematic destruction”:

Demonstrators might have thrown rocks in windows, but the destruction of the entire store was not their work…Nobody need believe that for such a thing foreign intervention was necessary, seeing as there were enough first-class specialists in destruction and demolition right here at home. The Securitate could not have been foreign to what happened, no matter how much it fiercely attempts to deny this today. They were professionals in the art of destruction. They needed a justification for the bloody repression.[78]

In March 1990, Puspoki had been willing to identify the culprits more specifically. According to Puspoki, as the demonstrators began to gather to prevent Tokes’ eviction:

The USLA’s Sabotage and Diversion team was readied to break store windows, to devastate and set fires–to create the conditions necessary for mass repression: the existence of disorder in the streets and theft on the part of the demonstrators.[79]

Securitate Major Radu Tinu’s observation that the commercial complex “in front of the county Militia building” (i.e. the Inspectorate in which both the Securitate and Militia offices were located) was one of only two such complexes in the whole city to remain intact during these days may also be an indication of the source of the destruction.[80]

It is possible then that to the extent that this destruction did indeed contain an organized component, it was designed by the regime to subvert and cast suspicion upon the intentions of the protesters and to create a pretext for repression. To the extent that an organized component did contribute to the destruction, it was far more likely to have been regime forces attempting to undermine the protests than foreign agents attempting to provoke an uprising against the regime.

[65].. See, for example, Grid Modorcea, “Spargerea Geamurilor [The Breaking of the Windows],” Expres Magazin, no. 49 (1991), 8-9; Mircea Bunea, “Eroii noi si vechi [New and old heroes],” Adevarul, 2 February 1991, in Bunea, Praf in Ochi, 448-449; Suciu, Reportaj cu Sufletul, 57-58.

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

[67].. Mircea Bunea, “Ipse Dixit,” Adevarul, 21 February 1991, in Bunea, Praf in Ochi, 463. Vlad’s determination to emphasize that these were “acts without precedent” makes one wonder if they were indeed without precedent.

[68].. A group of former Securitate officers, “Asa va place revolutia? Asa a fost! [You like the revolution? Here is how it was!],” Democratia, no. 36 (24-30 September 1990), 4. The lengthy defense by these officers of the Fifth Directorate in this letter suggests that they were members of this directorate.

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

[70].. Ibid.

[71].. Balan, “Masacrul.”

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

[73].. Ibid., 156.

[74].. Balan, “Masacrul.”

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

[76].. Ibid, 118. The fact that the two persons supervising the destruction are described as having worn “leather jackets” strongly suggests they may have been Securitate men. Mihai Decean claims that on a train headed for Bucharest on 25 December (therefore after Ceausescu’s flight), he helped in the arrest of two USLA officers whom he describes as “athletic, with shaved heads, and wearing leather jackets.” See Laura Ganea, “La Timisoara se mai trage inca” Tinerama, no. 77 (July 1991), 3.

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

[78].. Balan, “Masacrul.”

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

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

The following was added some years later as a footnote to the section above in republications of this chapter.  Badea says here “many years later” Postelnicu admitted this, but as we can now see from the Timisoara files, he wrote it in his declaration/statement dated 17 March 1990.

(In connection with the “window breakers” we do know a little more today than we did then back in 1996.  Dan Badea wrote in 1999 Bunoaica and the Window Breakers that “Tudor Postelnicu, the Interior Minister at the time, was to declare many years later that the “breaking of the windows” was a mission executed by personnel from the 30th Securitate Brigade led by col. Ion Bunoaica).  Orele 20.00 – 21.00: Sint sparte toate vitrinele magazinelor de pe Bulevardul 6 Martie (Tudor Postelnicu, ministru de interne la acea vreme, avea sa declare multi ani mai tirziu ca “spargerea vitrinelor” a fost o misiune executata de militari ai Brigazii 30 Securitate condusa de col. Ion Bunoaica).

25 for 2014: 25 Things You Should Know about the Romanian Revolution on the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of Nicolae Ceausescu’s Communist Regime: #1 The Securitate Deny Foreign Instigation of the Timisoara Uprising

Posted in decembrie 1989 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

25 for 2014: 25 Things You Should Know about the Romanian Revolution on the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of Nicolae Ceausescu’s Communist Regime: #1 The Securitate Deny Foreign Instigation of the Timisoara Uprising

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on February 2, 2014

(Purely personal views as always, based on over two decades of research and publications inside and outside Romania)

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

[UPDATE 2.  A Response to Watts: The Pitfalls of Not Having Any Evidence

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

UPDATE I.  Related of relevance:  https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/all-the-soviet-tourists-where-do-they-all-come-from/

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

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

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

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

https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2014/01/24/what-would-it-have-looked-like-if-nicolae-ceausescus-securitate-executed-a-plan-to-counter-an-invasionbut-the-invaders-never-came-iii/ ]

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe–Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania.  This (likely aperiodic) series looks at 25 things I have learned about the events of the Romanian Revolution of December 1989.  The numbering is not designed to assign importance, but rather–to the extent possible–to progress chronologically through those events.

Significance:  Until the documents below were made publicly available and I unearthed the following, we had to rely primarily on arguments emphasizing the Securitate roots of these claims and/or about the implausibility and often absurdity of these claims.  We now have documentary evidence that in the immediate wake of December 1989 not even the Securitate believed in the claims they would make so frequently later on.

The Timisoara files about December 1989 are now publicly available (when the link works!) on the Internet at http://dosarelerevolutiei.ro/.  What they show is that Securitate, Militia, and other regime officials from Timis County were asked by Bucharest–communicated via the person of Securitate Director, General Iulian Vlad–to investigate the role of foreign elements, specifically tourists, in the Timisoara protests of mid-December 1989.  But they were not the only ones.  General Vlad tasked senior Securitate officials from Bucharest sent to Timisoara to report back to him on this very topic alleging external involvement and manipulation of the Timisoara demonstrations.  What remains unclear is how much of this tasking was General Vlad communicating his own “hypothesis” or how much of it was he relaying Nicolae Ceausescu’s “theory” about what was going on.  This much is clear:  neither those stationed in Timis County, nor those officials sent from Bucharest could find evidence of a foreign hand in the Timisoara uprising, despite being asked to investigate exactly this aspect.  How do we know this?  From their own written confessions immediately after the December 1989 events.  (Below are four of them:  Nicolae Mavru, Liviu Dinulescu, Emil Macri, and Filip Teodorescu.)

Niculae Mavru, fost sef al sectiei ‘Filaj si investigatie’ de la Securitatea Timis, declaratia din 13 ianuarie 1990:  …la ordinul col. Sima Traian, am primit…misiuni de a observa si sesiza aspecte din masa manifestantilor, din diferite zone ale orasului in sensul de a raporta daca sint straini (ceea ce nu prea au fost) care incita la dezordine, acte de violenta sau altfel de acte… 0331 25 iunie 1991 “Desi ne-am straduit nu am putut raporta col. Sima implicarea completa a vreunui cetatean strain in evolutia demonstratiilor cit si fenomenlor care au avut loc la Timisoara,..”

0173

“Sarcina primordiala pe care am primit-o de la col. Sima a fost daca in evenimentele declansate la Timisoara erau implicate elemente straine din afara tarii.  Cu toate eforturile facute nu a rezultat lucru pe linia mea de munca.” 0174

26 iunie 1991, Declaratia lui Liviu Dinulescu, cpt. la Serviciul de Pasapoarte al jud. Timis (in decembrie 1989, lt. maj. ofiter operativ Securitate judetean la Serv. III, care se ocupa de contraspionaj)

“Precizez ca anterior declansarii evenimentelor de la Timisoara din datele ce le detineam serviciul nostru nu rezulta vreun amestec din exterior in zona judetului Timis.”

0197

Generalul Emil Macri (seful Dir. II-a Securitatii, Contrainformatii Economice),

Declaratie 2 ianuarie 1990:

“Rezumind sintetic informatiile obtinute ele nu au pus in evidenta nici lideri si nici amestecul vreunei puteri straine in producerea evenimentelor de la Timisoara.  Raportarea acestor date la esalonul superior respectivi generalului I. Vlad a produs iritare si chiar suparare…”

IMG_1219 IMG_1215 Filip Teodorescu (adj. sef. Dir III Contraspionaj D.S.S.), Declaratie, 12 ianaurie 1990:  Seara [luni, 18 decembrie 1989], dupa 23:00, responsabili (anumiti ?) de generalul-maior Macri Emil pe diferitele linii de munca au inceput sa vina sa-i raporteze informatiile obtinute.  Au fost destul de neconcludente si cu mare dificultate am redat o informare pe care generalul-maior Macri Emil a acceptat-o si am expediat-o prin telex in jurul orei 01:00 [marti, 19 decembrie 1989.  In esenta se refera la: –nu sint date ca ar exista instigatori sau conducatori anume veniti din strainatate… IMG_1453 IMG_1438 https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2013/04/29/high-time-to-unpack-already-why-the-restless-journey-of-the-soviet-tourists-of-the-romanian-revolution-should-come-to-an-end/

Mai jos, declaratiile lui Petre Pele, Tudor Postelnicu, Gheorghe Diaconescu, si Iulian Vlad Excerpt from Chapter 5 of my Ph.D. Dissertation at Indiana University: Richard Andrew Hall, Rewriting the Revolution: Authoritarian Regime-State Relations and the Triumph of Securitate Revisionism in Post-Ceausescu Romania (defended 16 December 1996). This is the original chapter as it appeared then and thus have not been revised in any form. https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/rewriting-the-revolution-1997/

A Review of the Evidence

Although at first glance the regime’s treatment of Pastor Tokes seems strange and even illogical, within the context of the workings of the Ceausescu regime and the regime’s strategy for dealing with dissent it makes perfect sense. There is simply no convincing evidence to believe that the Securitate–or a faction within it–purposely dragged its feet in enforcing Pastor Tokes’ eviction, or was attempting to spark a demonstration in the hopes of precipitating Ceausescu’s fall. The regime’s decision to evict Tokes was not a last-minute decision. Moreover, the regime exerted tremendous and sometimes brutal pressure to silence Tokes in the months preceding this deadline. Interestingly, according to high-ranking members of the former Securitate, Nicolae Ceausescu’s unwillingness to approve the more definitive measures requested by the Securitate allowed the Tokes case to drag on without resolution (see below). The Tokes case suggests the bureaucratic and byzantine mentalities of the Ceausescu regime, and the clash between a dictator’s instructions and how the institutions charged with defending him interpret their mission. … The suggestion that the Securitate treated Tokes gently prior to his eviction is simply incorrect. On 2 November 1989, four masked men burst through the locked doors of the parochial residence, wielding knives and screaming in a fury. Tokes was slashed on the forehead before his church bodyguards could come to his rescue, causing the four to flee. The numerous Securitate men posted out front of the building had done nothing to intervene in spite of calls for help. Puspoki suggests that these “Mafia-like thugs,” who attacked as if from “an Incan tribe,” were some of Colonel Sima’s “gorillas,” sent to deliver a clear message to Tokes that he should leave immediately.[40] The view of the former Securitate–as expounded by Colonel Sima’s senior deputy, Major Radu Tinu–insinuates a “tourist”-like scenario. According to Tinu, the incident was clearly a “set-up” designed to draw sympathy to Tokes’ cause since the assailants fled away in a car with West German tags.[41] Not for the last time, the Securitate thus appears to attempt to attribute its own actions to foreign agents. A week after the mysterious attack by the masked intruders, all of the windows of the parochial residence and nearby buildings were smashed. Interestingly, the report drawn up for Bucharest by the Timisoara Securitate attempted to argue that “workers” from the Timisoara Mechanical Enterprise, offended by pastor Tokes’ behavior, had broken the windows. According to Puspoki, the use of a propaganda-like description was not accidental: the local Securitate was trying to present the incident as evidence of “the dissatisfaction of the working people of Timisoara” in the hope that it would finally prompt Ceausescu into approving definitive measures against Tokes.[42] Was Ceausescu responsible for the fact that the Tokes case dragged on without resolution? Support for such a conclusion comes from the comments of Securitate officers Colonel Filip Teodorescu and Major Radu Tinu. Teodorescu was dispatched to Timisoara with sixty other Securitate information officers in order to “verify” the request of the local Securitate that proceedings for treason be initiated against Tokes.[43] Teodorescu laments: Unfortunately, as in other situations…Nicolae Ceausescu did not agree because he didn’t want to further muddy relations with Hungary. Moreover, groundlessly, he hoped to avoid the criticisms of “Western democracies” by taking administrative measures against the pastor through the Reformed Church to which [Tokes] belonged.[44] Major Radu Tinu suggests that Ceausescu’s approval was necessary in the case of Securitate arrests and that the local Securitate remained “stupefied” that after having worked so long and hard in gathering information with which to charge Tokes with the crime of treason, Ceausescu rejected the request.[45] Tinu speculates that Ceausescu “did not want to create problems at the international level.” Because former Securitate officers rarely pass up the opportunity to absolve themselves of blame, and it would appear both easier and more advantageous to blame the deceased Ceausescu for being too unyielding in the Tokes affair, these allegations seem plausible. Thus, it would appear that because Nicolae Ceausescu was skittish of further damaging Romania’s already deteriorating relations with the international community, and the Tokes case was a high-profile one, he refrained from approving visible, definitive action against the pastor. The Securitate‘s attempt to goad Ceausescu to bolder action would appear to confirm Ghita Ionescu’s suggestion that where the security apparatus comes to dominate regime affairs it attempts to impose its institutional prerogatives upon political superiors. Ceausescu and the Securitate appear then to have had sometimes conflicting views over how to resolve the Tokes affair in the quickest and most efficient fashion. By December 1989, a huge group of Securitate officers were working on the Tokes case: the entire branch of the First Directorate for Timis county, the special division charged with combatting Hungarian espionage, high-ranking members of the First Directorate and Independent Service “D” (responsible for disinformation) from Bucharest, and members of the division charged with “Surveillance and Investigation.”[46] Puspoki describes Timisoara at this late hour as follows: Day and night, the telex machines on the top floor of the [County Militia] “Inspectorate” incessantly banged out communications, while the telephones never stopped ringing. Minister Postelnicu yelled on the phone, Colonel Sima yelled through the offices and the hallways. The officers ran, as if out of their minds, after information, besieged neighbors of the pastor, and dispatched in his direction–what they call–”informers with possibilities.”[47] Yet the case lingered on. On Sunday, 10 December 1989, Pastor Tokes announced to his congregation that he had received a rejection of his most recent appeal: the regime would make good on its threat to evict him on Friday, 15 December. He termed this an “illegal act” and suggested that the authorities would probably use force since he would not go willingly. He appealed for people to come and attend as “peaceful witnesses.”[48] They came.

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

[41].. Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea, 78.
[42].. Puspoki, “Piramida Umbrelor (III).”
[43].. Teodorescu, Un Risc Asumat, 45-46.
[44].. Ibid., 90.
[45].. Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea, 78.
[46].. Puspoki, “Piramida Umbrelor (II).”
[47].. Ibid.
[48].. Tokes, With God, for the People, 1-4. ————————————————————————————————

Tudor Postelnicu:  “Ceausescu Nicolae facuse o psihoza, mai ales dupa ce s-a intors de la sedinta de la Moscova in toamna lui ’89.  Era convins ca se planuieste si de cei de pe plan extern caderea sa, era convins ca toti sint spioni…” 0160 Petru Pele (Dir I, DSS). Declaratie, 16 ianuarie 1990:  “Printre sarciniile mai importante efectuate de catre acestia in  perioada 17-22.12.1989 s-a numerat (?) constituierea (?) listelor celor retinuti de organele militie cu listele celor predati sau reintorsi din Ungaria, intrucit s-a emis ipoteza ca evenimentele de la Timisoara au fost puse la cale in tara vecina…” 0299 0291 Gheorghe Diaconescu, Declaratie 31 decembrie 1989 “Luni 18 decembrie gl. col.  VLAD IULIAN a avut o convorbire cu colegul meu (local?) RADULESCU EMIL … 0476 Vlad Iulian (continuarea, declaratia lui Gheorghe Diaconescu) “?… foarte dur (?) ca nu (?) ca ‘un grup de turisti isi fac de cap in Timisoara’” 0477 0472 Tocmai Iulian Vlad, el insusi, recunoaste ne-implicarea strainilor in evenimentele de la Timisoara, aici… 0289 0290 Incepind cu noaptea de 16/17 dec. si in continuare pina in data de 20 dec. 1989 organul de securitate local col. Sima cit si gl. Macri si in lipsa lui col. Teodorescu imi comunicau date din care rezulta ca sute de elemente turbulente au devastat orasul, si ca elementul strain nu rezulta a se fi implicate in continuarea fenomenului.” 0291 “Mai exact, cei trimis de mine la Timisoara mi-au raportat ca nu au elemente din care sa rezulte vreum amestec al strainatatii in producerea evenimentelor de la Timisoara.” https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2013/03/17/o-indicatie-pretioasa-de-pe-malurile-dimbovitei-implicarea-strainilor-in-evenimentele-de-la-timisoara-paranoia-lui-nicolae-ceausescu-sau-confirmarea-lui-iulian-vlad/0292

All this is important to keep in mind when coming across claims about the alleged role of these tourists in the overthrow of the communist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu:  none of the authors purporting such claims have addressed the documents above.  Among the authors who allege such a role and whose work is available on the Internet are the following:

James F. Burke (citing Grigore Corpacescu, General Iulian Vlad, and a well-known article from September 1990 in Democratia) http://www.ceausescu.org/ceausescu_texts/revolution/december_revolt_moscow.htm (I have dealt with these allegations here https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2010/12/29/presa-din-1990-despre-turistii-rusi-din-decembrie-1989/, and  https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2010/09/22/the-1989-romanian-revolution-as-geopolitical-parlor-game-brandstatter%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Ccheckmate%E2%80%9D-documentary-and-the-latest-wave-in-a-sea-of-revisionism-part-iii/)

Catherine Durandin (citing Radu Portocala) http://www.diploweb.com/english/romania/durandin1.htm  (I have addressed this allegation here https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2010/09/24/the-1989-romanian-revolution-as-geopolitical-parlor-game-brandstatter%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Ccheckmate%E2%80%9D-documentary-and-the-latest-wave-in-a-sea-of-revisionism-part-four/)

Alexander Ghaleb (fn. 9, citing “police sources”) http://www.sferapoliticii.ro/sfera/165/art03-Ghaleb.php

Jacques Levesque (citing a 1992 book by Filip Teodorescu) http://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft4q2nb3h6&chunk.id=d0e6746&toc.id=d0e6638&brand=ucpress

John Simpson (citing Virgil Magureanu and the SRI) http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/ten-days-that-fooled-the-world-1387659.html

Alex Mihai Stoenescu (p. 186 of 340, Petre Roman citing Mihai Caraman) http://www.scribd.com/doc/105257958/Alex-Mihai-Stoenescu-Istoria-Loviturilor-de-Stat-Din-Romania-Vol-4-1

Larry Watts (fn. 90 p. 26, Petre Roman citing Mihai Caraman) http://www.larrylwatts.com/excerpts/with_friends_like_these_excerpts.pdf  (Roman ironically himself undermined such a claim here:  http://adevarul.ro/news/eveniment/petre-roman-ceausescu-acceptat-controlul-psihiatric-proces-putea-scape-1_50ad124a7c42d5a6638e48ab/index.html , Watts’ claim has been televised in the series “Mostenirea Clandestina,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAPOEu0ebwI start at about 46:10 to 46:60 and then assisted by Cristian Troncota, who discusses the “Soviet tourists,” including Watts’ claim, from 47:05 to 49:50…conveniently not mentioned here or anywhere else where Troncota appears (for example with Grigore Cartianu in Adevarul), Cristian Troncota was a Lt. Maj. in the Securitate:  see the index here from a 1987 issue of the Securitate‘s “strict secret” journal, (page 4 of 46 on the pdf) with a historical article beginning on page 78:  http://www.cnsas.ro/documente/periodicul_securitatea/Securitatea%201987-4-80.pdf  (vol. 80 from 1987).

 

Posted in decembrie 1989, raport final | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments »

High Time to Unpack Already: Why the Restless Journey of the “Soviet tourists” of the Romanian Revolution Should Come to an End.

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on April 29, 2013

(purely personal views as always, based on two decades of research and publication, not for reproduction, thank you!)

Somewhere out there, on the Great Highway in the Sky, or perhaps more fittingly, the Beltway of one of Dante’s circles, the “Soviet tourists” (alternatively, “Russian tourists”) of December 1989 in Romania continue to drive around, aimlessly, and, of course, as we are so often told, not staying in hotels.  Sadly, for the lovers of absurdity, this never-ending holiday from reality must–or at least should–come to an end.  Here’s why:

The Timisoara files about December 1989 are now publicly available (when the link works!) on the Internet at http://dosarelerevolutiei.ro/.  What they show is that Securitate, Militia, and other regime officials from Timis County were asked by Bucharest–communicated via the person of Securitate Director, General Iulian Vlad–to investigate the role of foreign elements, specifically tourists, in the Timisoara protests of mid-December 1989.  But they were not the only ones.  General Vlad tasked senior Securitate officials from Bucharest sent to Timisoara to report back to him on this very topic alleging external involvement and manipulation of the Timisoara demonstrations.  What remains unclear is how much of this tasking was General Vlad communicating his own “hypothesis” or how much of it was he relaying Nicolae Ceausescu’s “theory” about what was going on.  This much is clear:  neither those stationed in Timis County, nor those officials sent from Bucharest could find evidence of a foreign hand in the Timisoara uprising, despite being asked to investigate exactly this aspect.  How do we know this?  From their own written confessions immediately after the December 1989 events.  (Below are four of them:  Nicolae Mavru, Liviu Dinulescu, Emil Macri, and Filip Teodorescu.)

Niculae Mavru, fost sef al sectiei ‘Filaj si investigatie’ de la Securitatea Timis, declaratia din 13 ianuarie 1990:  …la ordinul col. Sima Traian, am primit…misiuni de a observa si sesiza aspecte din masa manifestantilor, din diferite zone ale orasului in sensul de a raporta daca sint straini (ceea ce nu prea au fost) care incita la dezordine, acte de violenta sau altfel de acte…

0331

25 iunie 1991

“Desi ne-am straduit nu am putut raporta col. Sima implicarea completa a vreunui cetatean strain in evolutia demonstratiilor cit si fenomenlor care au avut loc la Timisoara,..”

0173

“Sarcina primordiala pe care am primit-o de la col. Sima a fost daca in evenimentele declansate la Timisoara erau implicate elemente straine din afara tarii.  Cu toate eforturile facute nu a rezultat lucru pe linia mea de munca.”

0174

26 iunie 1991, Declaratia lui Liviu Dinulescu, cpt. la Serviciul de Pasapoarte al jud. Timis (in decembrie 1989, lt. maj. ofiter operativ Securitate judetean la Serv. III, care se ocupa de contraspionaj)

“Precizez ca anterior declansarii evenimentelor de la Timisoara din datele ce le detineam serviciul nostru nu rezulta vreun amestec din exterior in zona judetului Timis.”

0197

Generalul Emil Macri (seful Dir. II-a Securitatii, Contrainformatii Economice),

Declaratie 2 ianuarie 1990:

“Rezumind sintetic informatiile obtinute ele nu au pus in evidenta nici lideri si nici amestecul vreunei puteri straine in producerea evenimentelor de la Timisoara.  Raportarea acestor date la esalonul superior respectivi generalului I. Vlad a produs iritare si chiar suparare…”

IMG_1219

IMG_1215

Filip Teodorescu (adj. sef. Dir III Contraspionaj D.S.S.), Declaratie, 12 ianaurie 1990: 

Seara [luni, 18 decembrie 1989], dupa 23:00, responsabili (anumiti ?) de generalul-maior Macri Emil pe diferitele linii de munca au inceput sa vina sa-i raporteze informatiile obtinute.  Au fost destul de neconcludente si cu mare dificultate am redat o informare pe care generalul-maior Macri Emil a acceptat-o si am expediat-o prin telex in jurul orei 01:00 [marti, 19 decembrie 1989.  In esenta se refera la:

–nu sint date ca ar exista instigatori sau conducatori anume veniti din strainatate…

IMG_1453

IMG_1438

All this is important to keep in mind when coming across claims about the alleged role of these tourists in the overthrow of the communist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu:  none of the authors purporting such claims have addressed the documents above.  Among the authors who allege such a role and whose work is available on the Internet are the following:

James F. Burke (citing Grigore Corpacescu, General Iulian Vlad, and a well-known article from September 1990 in Democratia) http://www.ceausescu.org/ceausescu_texts/revolution/december_revolt_moscow.htm (I have dealt with these allegations here https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2010/12/29/presa-din-1990-despre-turistii-rusi-din-decembrie-1989/, and  https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2010/09/22/the-1989-romanian-revolution-as-geopolitical-parlor-game-brandstatter%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Ccheckmate%E2%80%9D-documentary-and-the-latest-wave-in-a-sea-of-revisionism-part-iii/)

Catherine Durandin (citing Radu Portocala) http://www.diploweb.com/english/romania/durandin1.htm  (I have addressed this allegation here https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2010/09/24/the-1989-romanian-revolution-as-geopolitical-parlor-game-brandstatter%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Ccheckmate%E2%80%9D-documentary-and-the-latest-wave-in-a-sea-of-revisionism-part-four/)

Alexander Ghaleb (fn. 9, citing “police sources”) http://www.sferapoliticii.ro/sfera/165/art03-Ghaleb.php

Jacques Levesque (citing a 1992 book by Filip Teodorescu) http://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft4q2nb3h6&chunk.id=d0e6746&toc.id=d0e6638&brand=ucpress

John Simpson (citing Virgil Magureanu and the SRI) http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/ten-days-that-fooled-the-world-1387659.html

Alex Mihai Stoenescu (p. 186 of 340, Petre Roman citing Mihai Caraman) http://www.scribd.com/doc/105257958/Alex-Mihai-Stoenescu-Istoria-Loviturilor-de-Stat-Din-Romania-Vol-4-1

Larry Watts (fn. 90 p. 26, Petre Roman citing Mihai Caraman) http://www.larrylwatts.com/excerpts/with_friends_like_these_excerpts.pdf  (Roman ironically himself undermined such a claim here:  http://adevarul.ro/news/eveniment/petre-roman-ceausescu-acceptat-controlul-psihiatric-proces-putea-scape-1_50ad124a7c42d5a6638e48ab/index.html)

Posted in decembrie 1989, raport final | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Bullets, Lies, and Videotape: The Amazing, Disappearing Romanian Counter-Revolution of December 1989 (Part I: “His name was Ghircoias…Nicolae Ghircoias”) by Richard Andrew Hall

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on October 20, 2010

Bullets, Lies, and Videotape:

The Amazing, Disappearing Romanian Counter-Revolution of December 1989[1]

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. [Submitted 19 November 2009; PRB approved 15 December 2009]

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.

Part I

His name was Ghircoias…Nicolae Ghircoias.

And in Romania in December 1989 and January 1990, Nicolae Ghircoias was a very busy man.

We know, officially, of Nicolae Ghircoias’ actions in the last days leading up to the fall of the regime of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu on 22 December 1989, as a result of what he and others said at a trial later in January 1990.  In bureaucratic parlance, Colonel Nicolae Ghircoias, was the Director of the Criminalistic Institute of the Militia’s [Police’s] General Inspectorate.   In colloquial terms, in December 1989 it appears that this amounted to being something of a “cleaner,” or “fixer,” the kind of guy who could make unpleasant things—such as corpses—go away, without leaving a trace.

After regime forces opened fire on anti-regime protesters in the western city of Timisoara on 17 and 18 December 1989, Colonel Ghircoias was dispatched to recover the corpses of those with gunshot wounds from the city’s morgue.  The unautopsied cadavers of 43 demonstrators were stolen from the morgue in the dead of night and then transported to the outskirts of the capital Bucharest by refrigerated truck, where they were cremated.[2] Ghircoias was also in charge of collecting and destroying the hospital records and any other incriminating material that might indicate not just the death, but also the life of those who had perished—the official explanation for the disappearance of these citizens was to be that they had fled the country, thus taking their documents with them.  In other words, Colonel Nicolae Ghircoias’ job was primarily, it seems, the destruction of evidence.[3]

COLONEL GHIRCOIAS MAKES THE ROUNDS OF BUCHAREST’S HOSPITALS

Unofficially, we also know of Colonel Ghircoias’ exploits after the Ceausescu regime collapsed on 22 December 1989, exploits for which he was not charged at his trial and for which he has never been charged.  Of the 1,104 people killed and 3,352 people injured during the December 1989 bloodshed, 942 of them were killed and 2,251 wounded after Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu fled power on 22 December 1989.  At the time, personnel of the communist regime’s secret police—known as the Securitate—and allied foreign mercenaries fighting to restore the Ceausescu regime—collectively christened “the terrorists”—were thought to be the primary source behind the post-22 December bloodshed.

It was in this context, that doctors from Bucharest’s various main hospitals recall Colonel Ghircoias’ sudden, unannounced appearances during the last days of December 1989 and first days of January 1990.  Professor Andrei Firica of the Bucharest “Emergency Hospital” recounted in a 2004 media interview largely the same details he had conveyed to the press in the summer of 1990.  According to Firica, some 15 to 20 suspected terrorists had been interned at the “Emergency Hospital” in varying states of medical distress.  He says he made a small file of the medical situations of these patients.  A Militia colonel, whom he later was to see in [prisoner] stripes on TV as a defendant in the Timisoara trial—i.e. fairly clearly Ghircoias—came one day and counseled him to keep nosy foreign reporters away from the beds of the “terrorists,” stating ominously that “these were just terrorist suspects and he [Dr. Firica] didn’t want to wake up one day on trial for having defamed someone”!   The colonel later came and loaded the wounded terrorist suspects onto a bus and off they went.  Firica maintains the files he kept on the terrorist suspects “of course, disappeared.”  He noted, however, that he asked his son, who had studied theater and film at university, to film the terrorists tied down to the hospital beds, and he claims he gave copies of this cassette to the Procuracy.[4]

[5]

[In viewing these photos, witness what Constantin Fugasin recounted in “Unde ne sint teroristii?” Zig-Zag, in 1990, based in part on an interview with Dr. Andrei Firica:

At the Emergency Hospital 13 suspected of being what we call terrorists were interned.  Among these a few were definitely foreign, even though all had Romanian papers.  Two clearly had ‘Mongoloid’ (‘Asiatic’) features (one stated that his mother was Romanian, while his father was from Laos), while four others were Arabs.  Nevertheless, they spoke Romanian very well.  Doctor Nicolae Staicovici, who worked a time in Egypt and who treated them for a time spoke with them.  At a moment, he formed a question in Arabic.  One of the injured responded to him perfectly.  All were well-built, one was a ‘mountain of a man.’  He said nothing, although he probably had terrible pains.  There were also two terrorists who were not wounded.  One arrived at night, under some pretext.  Those on guard suspecting him, immobilized him.  He had on three layers of clothing and several ids.  They tied him to the stretcher, but although he appeared rather frail, at a given moment he ripped the restraints off.[6]]

[7]

[Dr. Andrei Firica, 2004:  From a diagnostic perspective, those who maintain that the terrorists didn’t exist are telling an outrageous lie…In the Emergency Hospital, people were brought who were shot with precision in the forehead, from behind, just a few yards in the crowd of demonstrators, such people who did this can only be called terrorists…[8]]


Dr. Nicolae Constantinescu, chief surgeon at the Coltea Hospital, also was paid the honor of a visit by Colonel Ghircoias during these days:

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 I-don’t-know-what “criminalistic” 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.

To the question of whether he informed the Military Procuracy?

Of course, I announced the Prosecutor’s Office, and requested an investigation [of those shot in the revolution].  For example, when I showed them the apartment from where there were was shooting during the revolution, on the fourth floor of the ‘Luceafarul’ cinema, the prosecutors told me that they sought to verify it and uncovered that there was a Securitate ‘safehouse’ there and that was it.

In 1992, I signed along with other doctors, university professors, renowned surgeons, a memorandum [see page 5 (below) for an article apparently linked to the memorandum] addressed to the Prosecutor General in which we requested an investigation regarding the wounded and dead by gunfire.  Not having received any response, after six months I went there to ask what was going on.  They told me they were working on it, and they showed me two or three requests and that was it.  One of the prosecutors took me into the hallway and told me “I have a child, a wife, it is very complicated.”  He asked me what I thought I was doing…I lit back into him, I told him I wasn’t just any kind of person to be blown off.

I showed him the x-rays of those who were shot, I showed him the bullets in the liver.  The x-rays exist, they weren’t my invention, I didn’t just dream all this up to demand an investigation!  I told them that there are some people who wish to find out the truth and they signed a memo to the Procuracy and they aren’t just anybody, but doctors with experience, experts in the field.  In vain, we requested ballistics tests and other research, in vain we presented forms, documents, x-rays, studies.  They did not want to undertake a serious investigation.[9]

[1]For some of my previous publications on this topic, see Richard Andrew Hall:

Hall 2008 http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/romrevfordumdums042108tk.html,

Hall 2006 http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/Voineaswar091706.html,

Hall 2005 http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/checkmate040405.html,

Hall 2004 http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/doublespeak%20romania%203-2004.html,

Hall 2002 http://homepage.mac.com/khallbobo/RichardHall/pubs/romania%20securitate%205-2002.html,

Richard Andrew Hall, “Theories of Collective Action and Revolution:  Evidence from the Romanian Transition of December 1989,” Europe-Asia Studies 2000, no. 6 (September 2000).

Richard Andrew Hall, “The Uses of Absurdity:  The ‘Staged-War’ Theory and the Romanian Revolution of December 1989,” East European Politics and Societies vol 13, no. 3 (Fall 1999) (University of California Berkeley Press).

[2] For a good discussion of this in English, which explains how cremation practices were  at odds with Romanian burial traditions, see the article entitled “The Red Mask of Death:  The Evil Politics of Cremation in Romania 1989,” in the journal Mortality, no. 15 (1).

[3]For more information online, see, for example, http://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolae_Ghircoia%C5%9F, http://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opera%C5%A3iunea_Trandafirul, http://www.romanialibera.ro/a51078/cine-a-organizat-furtul-cadavrelor-din-morga-spitalului-judetean.html, http://www.timisoara.com/newmioc/53.htm, http://www.timisoara.com/newmioc/67.htm. Even the 1994 SRI report admits that confusion surrounding the identity of those who were cremated stems from Ghircoias’ burning—after the flight of the Ceausescus on 22 December—of all relevant documents he had seized from the Timisoara county hospital http://www.ceausescu.org/ceausescu_texts/revolution/raportul_sri11.htm.  Thus, it seems appropriate to say Ghircoias’ job involved making things disappear…

[4]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. For similar accounts, see Florin Mircea Corcoz si Mircea Aries, “Terorist ascuns in Apuseni?” Romania Libera, 21 August 1992, p. 1–“Colonelul Ghircoias, former director of the Securitate’s penal investigative unit, brought together the individuals accused of being terrorists and made them disappear”; Andreea Hasnas, “Reportajul unui film cu TERORISTI,” Expres, no. 10 (6-12 aprilie 1990), p. 5; Constantin Fugasin, “Unde ne sint teroristii?” Zig-Zag, 1990.

[5] Screen capture from http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7rp6b_revolutia-romana-2225-dec1989-part_shortfilms posted by Alexandru2006.

[6] Significantly this video is in direct contradiction and contests the claims of the Sorin Iliesiu who maintains that “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, wounded or arrested  (Sorin Iliesiu, “18 ani de la masacrul care a deturnat revoluţia anticomunistă,” 21 December 2007, http://www.romanialibera.com/articole/articol.php?step=articol&id=6709).  For a discussion, see Hall 2008.

[7] Screen capture from http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7rp6b_revolutia-romana-2225-dec1989-part_shortfilms posted by Alexandru2006.

[8] Professor Andrei Firica, interview by Florin Condurateanu, “Teroristii din Spitalul de Urgenta,” Jurnalul National, 9 March 2004, online edition.

[9] Dr. Professor Nicolae Constantinescu, interview by Romulus Cristea, “”Nici acum nu-mi dau seama cum am putut sa operez nonstop timp de trei zile,” Romania Libera, 20 December 2006, online edition.

 

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

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on April 5, 2009

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

http://mariusmioc.wordpress.com/2009/02/04/rich-andrew-hall-rescrierea-istoriei-revolutiei-triumful-revizionismului-securist-in-romania-8-concluzii/ ***

Chapter Six

18-22 December 1989: The Ceausescu Regime Falls

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

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

Ceausescu Departs for Iran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20 December 1989: The Protesters Conquer Timisoara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Threw the “petarde”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of the Army officers told Bacanu that during the evening

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

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

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

Soldier Tiberiu Florea described a similar scene:

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

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

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

22 December 1989: What Forced the Ceausescus to Flee?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ceausescus on the Run

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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


Endnotes


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[17].. Ibid.

[18].. Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

[25].. Ibid.

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

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

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

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

[30].. Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[41].. Stoian, Decembrie ‘89, 23.

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

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

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

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

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

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

[48].. Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[70].. Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[87].. Ibid., 2.

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

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

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

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

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

[93].. Ibid., 88.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[101].. Ibid.

[102].. Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[111].. Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[125].. Ibid.

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

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

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

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

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

[131].. Ibid., 3.

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

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

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

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

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

[137].. Ibid.

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

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

[140].. Ibid.

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

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

[143].. Ibid.

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

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

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

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

[148].. Ibid.

[149].. Ibid., 4.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. mariusmioc said

    December 30, 2008 at 10:13 pm eAt the Revolution forum I’ve opened a discussion regarding this article: http://piatauniversitatii.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1062

  2. romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 said

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

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

    http://www.romanialibera.ro/a71726/huliganii-astia-trebuie-anihilati.html

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

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

    Militienii imbracati in civil faceau agitatie

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

    “O forta mai dura un pic” impotriva demonstrantilor

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

    USLA, deranjata de “huligani”

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

  3. romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 said

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

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

    INCEPIND DIN 21 DECEMBRIE 1989, ORA 11.00

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

  4. romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 said

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

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

  5. romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 said

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

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

    Marius Mioc claims that I confused the Paupers’ cemetery (cimitirul saracilor) and the Heroes’ cemetery (cimitirul eroilor) in this passage and that there were 10 not 27 corpses (see http://mariusmioc.wordpress.com/2009/01/06/rich-andrew-hall-rescrierea-istoriei-revolutiei-triumful-revizionismului-securist-in-romania-2-18-19-decembrie-evenimentele-din-timisoara-in-absenta-lui-ceausescu/). My words, however, are based on those of the soldier (Liviu Stefanut) who was interviewed. Here is what Stefanut said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    În ianuarie 1990 s-a descoperit o altă groapă comună, la cimitirul eroilor, iar aceasta era într-adevăr cu morţi din revoluţie, îngropaţi cam prin 27 decembrie fiindcă nimeni nu-i revendica şi mirosea urît la morgă, nu mai puteau să-i ţină. Cazuri concrete sînt Sorin Leia http://timisoara.com/newmioc/11.htm sau Luminiţa Boţoc http://timisoara.com/newmioc/33.htm

    http://piatauniversitatii.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=974

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

    Gasita in groapa comuna http://timisoara.com/newmioc/33.htm

    Botoc Luminita Florina

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

    Botoc Virgil (tata):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    18 martie 1995

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

Posted by romanianrevolutionofdecember1989 on April 4, 2009

A chapter from my Ph.D. Dissertation at Indiana University: Richard Andrew Hall, Rewriting the Revolution: Authoritarian Regime-State Relations and the Triumph of Securitate Revisionism in Post-Ceausescu Romania (defended 16 December 1996). This is the original chapter as it appeared then and thus has not been revised in any form.

Chapter Five


The Beginning of the End: Timisoara, 15-17 December 1989

As we discussed in chapter three, where state institutions become deeply-implicated in authoritarian regime politics, the personnel of these state institutions are more likely to respond to the calls of political leaders to save the regime in the face of a serious challenge to its survival. Moreover, should the authoritarian regime nevertheless collapse, their enduring identification with authoritarian-era institutional interests and identities will prove detrimental to the construction and consolidation of democracy in the post-authoritarian era. The remnants of these authoritarian-era state institutions will constitute unaccountable islands of influence and privilege, resistant to attempts to subordinate them to democratic control, and determined to defend their lingering institutional and personal interests. The elevated role of state institutions in the authoritarian era thus means that the delegitimation and decomposition of the authoritarian regime are likely to be incomplete.

The Timisoara events of 15-17 December 1989–the events which eventually resulted in the collapse of the Ceausescu regime–offer confirmation for both these hypotheses. The details of what happened in Timisoara suggest that in spite of the clearly popular character of the anti-regime demonstrations which took place there, and the backdrop of the events which had already taken place elsewhere that fall in Eastern Europe, state institutions responded faithfully to Nicolae Ceausescu’s orders to repress. This was significantly different than what happened elsewhere in Eastern Europe where the army and security apparatus generally abstained from brutal intervention when aging, hardline leaders attempted to goad them into action against anti-regime protesters.

It is the content of the historiography of the December 1989 events which serves as our window to the ability of former Securitate personnel to influence the behavior of other Romanian citizens in the defense of the lingering institutional interests of the Securitate. Thus, it is the historiography of the December events which is our window to the legacy of Ceausescu era regime-state relations upon post-authoritarian outcomes. To the extent that we can identify an institutional view of the Securitate with regard to any particular event or incident, we can use this view to judge other accounts against. We will say that such an institutional view exists where we can show that, regardless of the directorate or unit they used to serve in, former Securitate personnel express similar views about a particular event or incident. We can conclude that the former Securitate continues to exercise detrimental influence if we can show that there is a high degree of similarity or convergence between the accounts of post-Ceausescu media and political elites, and Securitate accounts, and if we can show that this consensual account is false. Thus, in our analysis of the Timisoara events–and in the analysis of all the events of December 1989–we are interested in establishing the views of former Securitate personnel, comparing these views with accounts of the same event or incident by post-Ceausescu political and media elites, and judging the validity of the these accounts.

Ultimately, it is the behavior of opposition media and political elites which is of greatest importance for judging the Securitate’s influence. These are the people who express the greatest ideological distaste for the former Securitate and who have given proof of their independence from the Iliescu regime through their consistently vigorous criticism and investigation of the Iliescu leadership and the personnel of the Securitate’s institutional successors within the regime. Thus, we would expect for their discussion of the December 1989 events to be the most diametrically-opposed to Securitate accounts of those same events. Their behavior is something of a “lowest common denominator,” our true test of the substance of Romania’s young democracy.

In comparing the views of former Securitate personnel (or their unabashed cheerleaders in the Ceausescu nostalgic press) with those of opposition media and political elites, it is important to rely on the accounts of opposition elites who, through the content of their accounts, show that they are not merely repeating what other opposition elites have heard or said, but have come to these conclusions first-hand. Opposition elites routinely express their opinions on the December events, but the vagueness of their allegations usually suggests that these allegations are not originally their own and that they may not be aware of the context of the allegations. Such accounts are thus unsatisfying for our purposes as these elites do not exhibit a degree of knowledgeability which would confirm to us that they are sufficiently conscious of the content, meaning, and implications of their allegations.

We will assume that the closer opposition elites have gotten to the details of the December events, the more aware of, and responsible for, their allegations they must be. Therefore, among opposition elites, we are more interested in those journalists who have investigated the December events in great detail over an extended period of time than in those who sporadically express vague opinions, and in those politicians who have served on parliamentary commissions investigating the December events, rather than politicians who merely drop a line in a campaign speech about the events and clearly do not have such in-depth knowledge of them. These are the people who have set the agenda and “framed the discourse” on December 1989–who have indicated how society should think and believe about the December events–and therefore among opposition elites it is their accounts which are most important. The criteria for determining what constitutes an “opposition account” and thus who is an “opposition elite” are discussed in Appendix One.

The primary institutional interests which former Securitate members seek to defend in the historiography of the Timisoara events–and in the historiography of the December 1989 events in general–are fairly straightforward. First, they wish to deny both that major repression and bloodshed took place, and that if it did, they had any part in it. Second, they wish to cast doubt upon the degree to which the demonstrations were genuine, spontaneous, and peaceful. Third, they wish to suggest that they embraced the popular characteristics of the uprising and enabled the revolution to succeed. From the Securitate point of view, these second and third interests are not mutually exclusive–i.e. they can maintain that foreign agents sparked the protests in order to oust Ceausescu, but that even if the catalyst of the protests was illegitimate, those protests did contain a genuine, understandable, and laudable popular element. In other words, the Securitate wants to “have their cake and eat it too.”

Specifically, the historiography of the Timisoara events reveals the degree to which the Securitate were deeply implicated in the repressive policies of the Ceausescu regime and to which it attempted (especially in the period preceding the outbreak of the anti-regime demonstrations) to impose its institutional interests and interpretation of events upon the regime leadership, including Ceausescu. It also suggests the degree to which the anti-Soviet orientation of regime ideology and legitimacy influenced Ceausescu’s perception of the Timisoara events at the time and have influenced the content of Securitate disinformation in the post-Ceausescu era.

The Timisoara Uprising: An Overview

Timisoara, a multi-ethnic city of approximately 330,000 residents in southwestern Romania, was the birthplace of the December 1989 revolution. Demonstrations began there on Friday, 15 December 1989 when members of a Hungarian Reformed (Calvinist) congregation gathered to protest the imminent eviction of their pastor, Laszlo Tokes. Although originally a small demonstration of several hundred members of the Hungarian minority, many Romanians soon joined the crowd. On Saturday, 16 December and Sunday, 17 December, protest spread throughout the city and began to assume an unambiguous anti-regime tone. On the Sunday evening, the authorities opened fire on the demonstrators, killing approximately 100 and wounding in excess of 300. About 900 demonstrators were arrested. By the Monday morning, the city was described as an armed camp and the repression continued throughout the day. Protests unexpectedly rekindled on Tuesday, 19 December. By Wednesday, 20 December, regime forces were withdrawing from the city and a committee representing the demonstrators was negotiating with regime officials sent from Bucharest. As of Wednesday evening–a day before protests erupted in Bucharest and two days before the unexpected flight of the Ceausescus–protesters appeared to be in control of Timisoara.

In any country, such a sudden change in fortunes might have induced curiosity and suspicion. But because these events had taken place in one of the most tightly-controlled societies in the world, and because popular protest had been so rare and so brutally and effectively repressed in the past, questions arose almost immediately over the spontaneity of the protests and the regime’s surprising inability to crush them. How could the case of Pastor Tokes have been allowed to reach such a dangerous juncture given the extraordinarily tense circumstances in which the Ceausescu regime found itself in December 1989? Why did regime forces wait so long to engage in brutal repression and why did it then fail? How could this seemingly invincible regime lose or abandon this major industrial city to the protesters, especially given what had already happened to communist regimes elsewhere in Eastern Europe that autumn?

The incomplete, contradictory, and bizarre evidence which exists about the Timisoara events has fueled suspicion on two fronts: a) that foreign powers were involved with the intent of exploiting the upheaval and uncertainty which prevailed in Eastern Europe at the time in order to topple Ceausescu, and/or b) that elements within the Ceausescu regime nurtured the Timisoara unrest or dragged their feet in carrying out its repression in order to propel Ceausescu’s ouster. The former Securitate usually favor the first explanation because it tends to deny the spontaneous and popular dimension of the December events and presents Nicolae Ceausescu and their institution as the innocent victims of a diabolical international conspiracy. Nevertheless, it is not difficult to see how the second explanation can also serve the former Securitate’s interests. It suggests that at least a faction within the Securitate sided with or encouraged the actions of the protesters. In other words, it bestows revolutionary merit upon the Securitate.

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

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

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

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

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

Although one can probably find adherents to the Yalta-Malta theory in every East European country–particularly since the “Return of the Left” through the ballot box–there is little doubt that the theory finds its widest and most convinced audience–both at elite and mass levels–in Romania.[4] This is because, as we have seen, the suggestion that the Soviet Union and the KGB were attempting to undermine the regime leadership and infringe upon national sovereignty was not an ad hoc slogan in Romania in 1989, as it was in East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria where aging political leaderships hinted at such arguments in a last-ditch effort to save their positions. Such appeals had far greater resonance in Romania in December 1989–particularly within the regime–because they had been tenets of the Romanian regime’s ideology for well over two decades. And they have had a lingering popularity in the post-Ceausescu era for that same reason. It is the uniquely antagonistic character of the relationship between the Securitate and the KGB during the Ceausescu era (discussed in chapter four), and the genuine, scarcely-veiled animosity between Ceausescu and Gorbachev, which give the Yalta-Malta scenario a plausibility and credibility (however spurious) in Romania it cannot find elsewhere in Eastern Europe.

Western analysts have frequently caricatured the views of the former Securitate towards the Ceausescu era by suggesting that they uniformly look back favorably and nostalgically upon it. In fact, many of them now openly criticize Nicolae Ceausescu’s misguided policies, erratic behavior, and harsh rule.[5] Clearly, much of this is post facto judgement. The deceased Ceausescu serves as a convenient scapegoat for all that went wrong during his rule and by blaming him they can absolve themselves. Nevertheless, regardless of how they now view Nicolae Ceausescu, almost every former Securitate officer challenges the spontaneity of the Timisoara protests and suggests that the catalyst for the unrest came from outside Romania’s borders. Thus, they argue, even if Nicolae Ceausescu had brought the country to the point of profound crisis, this “foreign intervention” converted the Timisoara events primarily into a matter of national security.

It is interesting to recall Nicolae Ceausescu’s own interpretation of the Timisoara events during a rambling, scarcely coherent teleconference on 20 December 1989:

…all of these grave incidents in Timisoara were organized and directed by revanchist, revisionist circles, by foreign espionage services, with the clear intention of provoking disorder, of destabilizing the situation in Romania, of acting in order to eliminate the independence and territorial integrity of Romania….It is necessary to attract the attention of everyone, not only of the communists [emphasis added], but everyone to the shameful…campaign… unleashed right now by different circles, beginning with Budapest, convincingly demonstrates that…, including the declarations of the president of the United States, who declared that he had discussed the problems of Romania with Gorbachev at Malta…[6]

In their discussion of the December events, the former Securitate have expanded upon Ceausescu’s allegations of “foreign intervention.”

In February 1991, while on trial for his part in ordering the repression of demonstrators in December 1989, the former director of the Securitate, General Iulian Vlad, proposed two principal groups of suspects for the Timisoara unrest.[7] He described the first group as Romanian citizens (the majority of whom were presumably of Hungarian ethnicity) who had fled to Hungary, passed through refugee camps, and been sent back to Romania with a mission to engage in “destabilizing acts.” According to Vlad, “only able-bodied males” were sent back. The second group of suspects were large groups of so-called Soviet “tourists.” Here is Vlad’s depiction of this second group:

Halfway through December 1989 massive groups of Soviet tourists began to enter the country. They entered coming directly from the USSR or from Yugoslavia or Hungary. The majority were men and–in a coordinated fashion–they deployed in a convoy of brand-new “LADA” automobiles. During the night of 16-17 December ‘89 such a column attempted to enter Timisoara. Some of these cars were forced to make a detour around the town, others managed to enter it…[8]

Pavel Corut, a former high-ranking Securitate counter-military intelligence officer who has written dozens of novels seeking to rehabilitate the reputation of the former Securitate, has written of “the infiltration on Romanian territory of groups of Soviet commandos (Spetsnaz) under the cover of being tourists. It is noteworthy that December is not a tourist month and nevertheless the number of Soviet tourists grew greatly.”[9]

In 1994, the Securitate’s official institutional heir, the Romanian Information Service (or SRI), declared in a report on the December events:

In addition to gathering information, some Soviet agents from among our ranks received the mission to make propaganda for “changes,” even at the risk of being found out. Actions at direct incitement [of the population] were also initiated by Soviet “tourists,” whose number had grown in the preceding period and had taken on exceptional proportions by the end of 1989.

Beginning on 9 December 1989, the number of Soviet “tourists” in “private” vehicles grew from around 80 to 1,000 cars a day. This phenomenon, although realized at the time, did not lead to the necessary conclusions and measures. The occupants (two to three per car), athletic men between 25 and 40 years in the majority, avoided lodging facilities, sleeping in their cars…The cars were mostly of a “LADA” and “MOSKOVICI” make, deployed in a convoy, and had consecutively-numbered license plates and similar new equipment. The majority were “in transit towards Yugoslavia”…

It is certain that during the Timisoara events there was a large number

of Soviet “tourists.” During 15, 16, and 17 December 1989, to these already in the country were added those “returning from Yugoslavia,” the majority by car.[10]

But the reach of this theory extends well beyond the former Securitate and their cheerleaders in the Ceausist nostalgic press. The head of the first Senatorial commission investigating the December events, film director Sergiu Nicolaescu–a key figure in the newly-formed National Salvation Front during the events of 22-25 December 1989 and a legislator of the ruling Front after 1989–described the catalyst of the December events to a journalist in December 1993 as follows:

By chance, everything began in Timisoara. It could have begun elsewhere since many places were prepared. It is known that in Iasi something was being prepared, and also in Brasov and Bucharest. There was clearly foreign intervention….For example, the intervention of the Russians in Romania. A year before in 1988 about 30,000 Russians came. A year later in 1989, in December, the number doubled. Thus, it reached 67,000. It is known that there were at least 1,000 automobiles in which there were two to three men between the ages of 30 and 40 years old, at a maximum 45 years old. It is very interesting to observe that, only a few months earlier, the Securitate had ordered that for those from socialist countries crossing the border, it was no longer necessary to note their license plate number or how many people were on board.[11]

Asked who in the Securitate gave the order to no longer record this information, Nicolaescu insinuated that they were Soviet “moles” who had been placed there “4, 5, 10, and even 30 years earlier.”[12]

The theory has also found its way into the opposition media. Cornel Ivanciuc, who in 1995 wrote one of the most influential exposes to date on the former Securitate for the weekly 22, maintains that the Soviets achieved their aims in December 1989 by means of the so-called “tourist-incursionists, whose activity during the revolution was identical to those of the Spetsnaz special troops for reconnaissance and diversion of the GRU [Soviet military intelligence].”[13] Two months after General Vlad’s 1991 court statement, Sorin Rosca Stanescu, one of the most prominent journalist critics of the Iliescu regime and the SRI, presented an interview in the leading opposition daily Romania Libera with an anonymous KGB officer residing in Paris who outlined a familiar scenario.[14] The KGB officer claimed that he had entered Romania on 14 December with others as part of a KGB plan to open fire and create confusion. He had been in Timisoara during the events, but suggested he never received the anticipated order to open fire and left the country on 26 December. Rosca Stanescu, however, made sure to remind his audience of “the insistent rumors which have been circulating referring to the existence on Romanian territory of 2,000 “LADA” automobiles with Soviet tags and two men inside each car…”[15] Stanescu closed by asking his readers: “What did the Ceausescu couple know but were unable to say? Why is general Vlad held in this ambiguous chess game?…Is Iliescu protected by the KGB?”

Stanescu’s intentions are further drawn into question by the fact that this particular article has been cited positively by former Securitate officers in their writings. Colonel Filip Teodorescu of the Securitate’s Counter-espionage Directorate, the second highest-ranking Securitate officer in Timisoara during the repression and sentenced to prison for his role in those events, cites extensively and favorably from this very article by Stanescu in a book on the December events.[16] Pavel Corut also invokes Rosca Stanescu’s interview in support his arguments.[17] Moreover, Rosca Stanescu’s questionable comments make the issue of his (revealed and acknowledged) past collaboration with the Securitate’s USLA unit between 1975 and 1985 relevant.[18]

Securitate accounts also routinely insinuate that foreign diplomats who came to Timisoara ostensibly to “monitor the situation” there, and foreign radio stations such as Radio Free Europe, Voice of America, the BBC, and Deutsche Welle which transmitted information about Timisoara developments, contributed directly and intentionally to the unrest.[19] For example, the former deputy director of the Timis county Securitate, Major Radu Tinu, highlights the allegedly suspicious role played by representatives of the American and British embassies who came to Timisoara on 15 December 1989 and transmitted back to Bucharest that “everything is in order, we have seen him,” apparently referring to pastor Tokes.[20]

Similar elements also creep into some opposition accounts. Ilie Stoian, a journalist for Expres and then Tinerama, ranks among those who have written most extensively about the December events. Stoian argues for a “Yalta-Malta” interpretation of the December events.[21] In discussing the Timisoara events, he notes the presence of Hungarians who were filming the events from their “LADA” automobiles and the expulsion of Russians across the Yugoslav border by the Securitate–thus insinuating that they were somehow implicated in the unrest.[22] According to Stoian:

…the December revolution was prepared in advance. In order to make things even clearer, we draw your attention to the fact that prior to the date fixed by the authorities for the evacuation of pastor Tokes from the parochial residence, in almost every evening Voice of America and Radio Free Europe would broadcast long pieces about this personage. Moreover, inside the country, foreign diplomats began to fuss….[23]

Finally, Stoian asks:

Wasn’t the presence of foreign diplomats somehow to verify if everything “was in order,” as was said during a telephone conversation intercepted on 15 December? Weren’t they somehow doing more than just supervising and reporting on these events to their superiors? We think the answer is yes.[24]

Questioning the Regime’s Treatment of the Tokes Case

What of the scheduled eviction of the Hungarian pastor, Laszlo Tokes, which apparently sparked the Timisoara uprising? It is known that the Securitate had placed Tokes under heavy surveillance for a long time prior to this event because of his persistent criticism of the subservient hierarchy of the Reformed Church and of the Ceausescu regime’s violation of human rights. At the same time, given the Ceausescu regime’s tradition of snuffing out dissidence before it could gain a foothold among the population–Ceausescu reportedly was fond of counseling his subordinates to “avoid creating martyrs”–the regime’s failure to isolate or silence Tokes appears uncharacteristic. Moreover, the fact that demonstrators could gather to prevent his eviction without being immediately and brutally dispersed is also unexpected.

Radu Ciobotea’s summary of the circumstances surrounding the outbreak of the Timisoara events captures the suspicions of many Romanians:

The Securitate hurries slowly, makes noisy efforts…but doesn’t resolve anything. The situation is quite strange. In a totalitarian state with a top-notch information and counter-information service and a “case” which had been pursued not for months but for years, the chiefs of state security…don’t make a decision, thus allowing matters to proceed. Moreover, the intervention of these organs is–as we say–too noisy to camouflage other hidden projects.

From May until December, a simple eviction from a residence–even if it was a parochial residence–cannot be fulfilled! A single man who had the “daring” to collaborate before all of Europe with the Hungarian mass-media (and not only with them) cannot be “neutralized”! We are looking at a dubious reality, especially when we are speaking of the activity and discretion of the Securitate.

No real threat, no sickness, not even an accident, in the end, nothing, blocks the way of this person, who under the eyes of agents, becomes a personality and gives birth by way of an almost inexplicable stubbornness to a conflict which resonates in the social consciousness…of Romanians.

Where? In Timisoara…[i]n “the Western city” close to the border full of tourists and foreign and Romanian students.

When? During winter vacation when tens of thousands of young people would be on the move from their schools and university departments. When Ceausescu’s trip to Iran was certain. When–around the holidays–Romanians had nothing to put on their tables, nothing to heat their homes with, nothing with which to heal the old and young sick with pneumonia or rheumatism. When nothing was possible.

Upon close scrutiny–with the exception of the date–everything was therefore predictable.[25]

“Romania: Revelations of a Coup d’etat,” the influential expose by the French journalists Radu Portocala and Olivier Weber, challenged the spontaneity of the Timisoara protests.[26] Because the authors suggest that their conclusions are based on information provided by Romanian sources; their account was rapidly translated and published widely in the Romanian press during 1990; and it was the first concerted attempt to analyze the December events and therefore “framed the dialogue” so-to-speak–by creating a paradigm to which future analyses would implicitly have to respond–the article deserves mention.

The authors allege a “Yalta-Malta” scenario in which the KGB plays the pivotal role. They suggest that the Securitate purposely attempted to instigate the Timisoara uprising:

In Romania, it was always known when somebody was arrested, but never that somebody will be arrested. However, in the case of Laszlo Tokes this is exactly what happened. The Securitate launched the rumor from the beginning of December that the pastor would be arrested on the sixteenth or seventeenth of that month. Public opinion was therefore carefully prepared.[27]

“Someone therefore had an interest for this small demonstration of 300 to 500 people in support of Tokes to degenerate into a revolt, and then a revolution,” they conclude. In support of their allegation that foreign security services were involved in the Timisoara events, the authors marshal the court statement of Colonel Filip Teodorescu, the Securitate’s alleged “master spycatcher,” in which he claimed to have personally arrested “foreign agents” during the Timisoara unrest. Regime forces opened fire against the protesters on the evening of 17 December because “in order to create and then maintain a state of revolutionary spirit, a brutal repression also must occur.” In other words, the Timisoara events, from the genesis of the protests, to the crackdown on demonstrators, were staged, part of an elaborate coup d’etat supported–and even masterminded–by the Securitate.

Such arguments have found an echo among some opposition journalists within Romania. For example, Ilie Stoian insinuates that at least a part of the Securitate must have been trying to undermine regime policy towards Tokes:

Returning to the name of pastor Tokes, we must say that very few remember that in the months leading up to the events, [Tokes] was guarded day and night by the Securitate. Well, if he was guarded, then how did he wind up on Radio Budapest every week giving interviews? And how could the reporters who were taping his sermons or opinions smuggle the tapes out of the country? The Securitate, after all, was not made up of children! Don’t we witness in this case, a tacit accord of some men from the D.S.S. [i.e. the Securitate] with the very acts which they were supposed to stop?[28]

Ecaterina Radoi alleges that Tokes had informed his congregation of his imminent arrest on Sunday, 10 December 1989.[29] Sarcastically she asserts: “And, indeed, Friday, 15 December, the authorities intended for this event–announced long ago, and given ample media coverage in Hungary and the West–to take place.” After the protest got under way, “the forces of order intervened, dispersed the few protesters there and arrested a few so that the next day they could be let free.” Moreover, Pastor Tokes has himself become the subject of scrutiny. In 1994, the opposition weekly Tinerama published documents it maintained revealed that ever since the mid-1970s Pastor Tokes had been an informer for the Securitate.[30] Well-known journalist Ioan Itu hinted that the revelation of this fact meant that the story of December 1989 needed to be completely reconsidered in light of this new information.

A Review of the Evidence

Although at first glance the regime’s treatment of Pastor Tokes seems strange and even illogical, within the context of the workings of the Ceausescu regime and the regime’s strategy for dealing with dissent it makes perfect sense. There is simply no convincing evidence to believe that the Securitate–or a faction within it–purposely dragged its feet in enforcing Pastor Tokes’ eviction, or was attempting to spark a demonstration in the hopes of precipitating Ceausescu’s fall. The regime’s decision to evict Tokes was not a last-minute decision. Moreover, the regime exerted tremendous and sometimes brutal pressure to silence Tokes in the months preceding this deadline. Interestingly, according to high-ranking members of the former Securitate, Nicolae Ceausescu’s unwillingness to approve the more definitive measures requested by the Securitate allowed the Tokes case to drag on without resolution (see below). The Tokes case suggests the bureaucratic and byzantine mentalities of the Ceausescu regime, and the clash between a dictator’s instructions and how the institutions charged with defending him interpret their mission.

Contrary to its presentation in the aforementioned accounts, the plan to evict Tokes had not appeared overnight. Tokes had known since 31 March 1989 that he had been suspended from his position as pastor in Timisoara. In August, the Hungarian Reformed Calvinist Bishop of Oradea, Laszlo Papp, had responded to Tokes’ appeal of his suspension. Papp informed Tokes that he was to vacate his residence in Timisoara by 15 December 1989 and leave for the remote village of Mineu. On 14 October 1989, the Reformed Church Council met–according to Tokes, under duress, as a result of Papp’s heavy-handed intimidation of other council members–and sent an ultimatum to Tokes stating that he must leave Timisoara by 20 October 1989 at the latest. In response, Tokes placed himself under “voluntary house arrest” and launched another appeal claiming that the bishop’s actions lacked a legal basis. On 28 November, Tokes received a rejection of this new appeal and was informed that his eviction would definitely be enforced on Friday, 15 December 1989.[31]

Both Laszlo Tokes and his father (who was also a minister) had long had run-ins with the regime. In the mid-1980s, Laszlo Tokes had been defrocked from the ministry because of his persistent criticism of collaboration and corruption among the church’s leadership and of the regime’s policies towards the Hungarian minority. Tokes proved to be more of a problem outside of the church and unemployed than he had been as a pastor, however. Radicalized by his expulsion, he began a letter-writing campaign to slow the regime’s ongoing elimination of Hungarian educational facilities. Moreover, his fight for reinstatement in the church caught the attention of Western embassies and international organizations. This occurred right as the West was beginning to conclude that Gorbachev’s emerging reformist course in the Soviet Union and the deteriorating quality of human rights in Romania were devaluing Romania’s “maverick” status within the bloc. Thus, in 1986, apparently after the issue had been raised in the Foreign Relations Committee of the U.S. Senate and considerable diplomatic pressure had been applied, the Reformed church reinstated Tokes. This incident was once again evidence that in individual, high-profile cases, Nicolae Ceausescu could upon occasion prove surprisingly pliable in the face of external pressure.[32]

Transferred to Timisoara, Tokes rapidly became a popular preacher and continued where he had left off: in his sermons, he routinely made “scarcely veiled attacks” on Ceausescu and assailed regime policies such as the “systematization” (de-villagization) program.[33] Upon Tokes’ arrival in Timisoara in 1986, the Timis county bureau of the Securitate’s First Directorate (Internal Affairs) “Office for the Study of Nationalists, Fascists, and Hungarian Irredentists” took control of his file and placed him under surveillance. According to Puspoki, by the end of 1987 Tokes had become “public enemy number one of the Timis county Securitate” and the newly appointed director of the local Securitate, Colonel Traian Sima, had taken personal charge of the Tokes case.[34] This reflected both the regime’s increasing fear of Tokes’ dissidence and Sima’s well-known zealotry.[35]

At least initially, the Securitate pursued less heavy-handed tactics in dealing with Tokes. Laszlo Tokes has himself acknowledged the changed methods of the Securitate:

In Dej, I had been threatened, harassed and constantly pressured by the Securitate. Now my chief Securitate spy was Laszlo Papp [the Bishop of Oradea and Tokes’ superior]. From my arrival at the church in 1986 to my departure, I never saw a Securitate man in my office. They were present at Sunday services, visited the presbyters and questioned people with whom I was in close contact. But they did not approach me. At Dej I had made public outside Romania the persecution I was receiving; this time, the Securitate and the authorities were changing their tactics.[36]

Thus, when in March 1989 the regime believed Tokes’ behavior was becoming a serious threat, Tokes was not kicked out of the church as had happened several years earlier, but was instead banished to the remote village of Mineu. As Tokes comments:

open expulsion would have provoked a Church incident and considerable interest from the West. Refusal to accept a bishop’s instruction, however, would look like deliberate disobedience on my part. The skilled foresight that had ensured I was kept a probationary pastor had kept me firmly under the direct jurisdiction of the bishop.[37]

As 1989 progressed and the confrontation between Tokes and the Reformed Church leadership deepened, Tokes’ case once again emerged into the international spotlight. The BBC, Radio Free Europe, and Deutsche Welle began to follow the Tokes case closely and beamed news of it back into Romania. Reflecting the scope of political change inside Hungary, Hungarian state radio broadcast weekly reports on the pastor’s fate. The broadcast by Hungarian state television on 26 July 1989 of an interview with Pastor Tokes (secretly taped earlier that spring) seemed to precipitate a change in the Securitate’s treatment of Tokes.[38] The Securitate moved beyond the habitual telephone threats and rumor-mongering about Tokes, to detaining, beating up, and arresting (on the pretext of foreign currency violations) members of his congregation and relatives. On 14 September 1989, the church elder Erno Ujvarossy, who had previously organized a petition in defense of Tokes, was found murdered in the woods outside Timisoara. Uniformed and plainclothes Securitate men were posted permanently outside the parochial residence and in the surrounding buildings. About all Tokes was able to do by this time was to go the cemetery to conduct burials.[39]

The suggestion that the Securitate treated Tokes gently prior to his eviction is simply incorrect. On 2 November 1989, four masked men burst through the locked doors of the parochial residence, wielding knives and screaming in a fury. Tokes was slashed on the forehead before his church bodyguards could come to his rescue, causing the four to flee. The numerous Securitate men posted out front of the building had done nothing to intervene in spite of calls for help. Puspoki suggests that these “Mafia-like thugs,” who attacked as if from “an Incan tribe,” were some of Colonel Sima’s “gorillas,” sent to deliver a clear message to Tokes that he should leave immediately.[40] The view of the former Securitate–as expounded by Colonel Sima’s senior deputy, Major Radu Tinu–insinuates a “tourist”-like scenario. According to Tinu, the incident was clearly a “set-up” designed to draw sympathy to Tokes’ cause since the assailants fled away in a car with West German tags.[41] Not for the last time, the Securitate thus appears to attempt to attribute its own actions to foreign agents.

A week after the mysterious attack by the masked intruders, all of the windows of the parochial residence and nearby buildings were smashed. Interestingly, the report drawn up for Bucharest by the Timisoara Securitate attempted to argue that “workers” from the Timisoara Mechanical Enterprise, offended by pastor Tokes’ behavior, had broken the windows. According to Puspoki, the use of a propaganda-like description was not accidental: the local Securitate was trying to present the incident as evidence of “the dissatisfaction of the working people of Timisoara” in the hope that it would finally prompt Ceausescu into approving definitive measures against Tokes.[42]

Was Ceausescu responsible for the fact that the Tokes case dragged on without resolution? Support for such a conclusion comes from the comments of Securitate officers Colonel Filip Teodorescu and Major Radu Tinu. Teodorescu was dispatched to Timisoara with sixty other Securitate information officers in order to “verify” the request of the local Securitate that proceedings for treason be initiated against Tokes.[43] Teodorescu laments:

Unfortunately, as in other situations…Nicolae Ceausescu did not agree because he didn’t want to further muddy relations with Hungary. Moreover, groundlessly, he hoped to avoid the criticisms of “Western democracies” by taking administrative measures against the pastor through the Reformed Church to which [Tokes] belonged.[44]

Major Radu Tinu suggests that Ceausescu’s approval was necessary in the case of Securitate arrests and that the local Securitate remained “stupefied” that after having worked so long and hard in gathering information with which to charge Tokes with the crime of treason, Ceausescu rejected the request.[45] Tinu speculates that Ceausescu “did not want to create problems at the international level.”

Because former Securitate officers rarely pass up the opportunity to absolve themselves of blame, and it would appear both easier and more advantageous to blame the deceased Ceausescu for being too unyielding in the Tokes affair, these allegations seem plausible. Thus, it would appear that because Nicolae Ceausescu was skittish of further damaging Romania’s already deteriorating relations with the international community, and the Tokes case was a high-profile one, he refrained from approving visible, definitive action against the pastor. The Securitate’s attempt to goad Ceausescu to bolder action would appear to confirm Ghita Ionescu’s suggestion that where the security apparatus comes to dominate regime affairs it attempts to impose its institutional prerogatives upon political superiors. Ceausescu and the Securitate appear then to have had sometimes conflicting views over how to resolve the Tokes affair in the quickest and most efficient fashion.

By December 1989, a huge group of Securitate officers were working on the Tokes case: the entire branch of the First Directorate for Timis county, the special division charged with combatting Hungarian espionage, high-ranking members of the First Directorate and Independent Service “D” (responsible for disinformation) from Bucharest, and members of the division charged with “Surveillance and Investigation.”[46] Puspoki describes Timisoara at this late hour as follows:

Day and night, the telex machines on the top floor of the [County Militia] “Inspectorate” incessantly banged out communications, while the telephones never stopped ringing. Minister Postelnicu yelled on the phone, Colonel Sima yelled through the offices and the hallways. The officers ran, as if out of their minds, after information, besieged neighbors of the pastor, and dispatched in his direction–what they call–”informers with possibilities.”[47]

Yet the case lingered on. On Sunday, 10 December 1989, Pastor Tokes announced to his congregation that he had received a rejection of his most recent appeal: the regime would make good on its threat to evict him on Friday, 15 December. He termed this an “illegal act” and suggested that the authorities would probably use force since he would not go willingly. He appealed for people to come and attend as “peaceful witnesses.”[48] They came.

The Evolution of the Timisoara Protests: Securitate Complicity or Tactical Miscalculation?

From the morning of Friday, 15 December until the afternoon of Sunday, 17 December 1989, regime forces were unable to halt the expansion of the street protests which began with the intention of preventing the eviction of pastor Tokes. Regime forces appear to have had several opportunities to intervene and put an end to these demonstrations, and either chose not to do so, or did so remarkably ineffectively. Indeed, at certain key moments, regime forces seem to have disappeared or ceded control of the streets to the demonstrators for extended periods of time. Moreover, eyewitnesses suggest that there were many plainclothes Securitate operatives among the crowds. Even if the Securitate had not intended for the scheduled eviction of Tokes to spark anti-regime demonstrations, had a faction from within it attempted to exploit this unexpected opportunity?

On the morning of Friday, 15 December 1989, the scheduled day of pastor Tokes’ eviction, small groups of three to four people from his congregation began gathering in front of the parochial residence at Piata Maria. The crowd gradually grew to number in the hundreds. At this stage, most demonstrators were still ethnic Hungarians. By evening, however, many Romanians had joined the crowd. The crowd now exceeded one thousand people. Interestingly, many of these Romanians were members of the Romanian Baptist and Pentecostal communities in Timisoara. Earlier that week, a senior member of Tokes’ congregation had informed these religious communities of the scheduled eviction and they had turned out in support of Tokes. By the evening of Saturday, 16 December 1989, the crowd had been swelled by the addition of high school and university students, and its radicalized contingents decided to march on the principal regime buildings in the city.[49]

Three factors which favored the genesis of these demonstrations deserve mention here. Timisoara, located less than fifty miles from both the Hungarian and Yugoslav (Serb) borders, has an uncharacteristically cosmopolitan climate for this part of the world. Through the years, majority Romanians and minorities of Hungarians, Germans, and Serbs have lived in relative harmony. The traditional absence of inter-ethnic tensions clearly strengthened the chances for protest to bridge ethnic boundaries. That the initial core of the Timisoara demonstrations was provided by members of religious communities–and especially religious communities which were persecuted because of their identification with a particular ethnic group or because they lay outside the mainstream (Orthodox Christian in Romania)–was also vital. Throughout the communist world, after an initial period of attempting to extinguish religious institutions, communist regimes had grudgingly come to tolerate their existence (if under strict control) and even to see them as a beneficial vehicle for absorbing popular dissatisfaction with the regime.

But in a country such as Romania–where almost every other societal institution (no matter how small or seemingly innocuous) had been destroyed, outlawed, or denied local autonomy–at the grassroots level religious institutions served as a unique hub for association and resistance. Thus, Hungarian religious institutions came to be viewed as vehicles for the defense of Hungarian ethnic identity even among secular Hungarians. The sense of community among those religious institutions most persecuted by the regime provided the basis by which a demonstration of a small number of Hungarians could transform into a large crowd in which Romanians were the majority. Finally, Timisoara’s proximity to Hungary and Yugoslavia, which enabled residents to pick up Hungarian and Yugoslav television broadcasts (the latter of which ran taped CNN broadcasts at night at the time), likely meant that the population of Timisoara was better informed than others in Romania about the collapse of communism elsewhere in Eastern Europe.

How had a protest of several dozen timid parishioners evolved into a radicalized crowd of thousands in less than thirty-six hours? The answer appears to lie in the cliched image of a totalitarian regime, so overconfident of its own control and endurance, and so drunk with its own propaganda, that it is caught off-guard by the slightest expression of open dissidence and misjudges the potential for further trouble. Such regimes are prone less to an impulsive, bloody crackdown against demonstrators, than to a confused mix of violence and concessions which reflects the regime’s own confusion and hesitation. The unclear message sent by such a confused response appears to have backfired in this case and emboldened the Timisoara protesters who, perhaps after what had happened elsewhere in Eastern Europe, had come to believe that anything was possible.

After what Tokes describes as an initial “half-hearted attempt to impose control” on the morning of 15 December, around midday the Securitate and Militia men at the scene suddenly withdrew. Guards who had been posted in front of the Tokes residence for weeks disappeared. They even took with them the vehicles they had warmed themselves in during their surveillance operations. That this was merely a tactical retreat is made clear by what happened later that evening. At approximately 10:30 p.m., with about one thousand protesters blocking the entrance to the parochial residence, the authorities finally reappeared.

Mayor Petre Mot and a small delegation of officials arrived on the scene. Mot feigned ignorance of the orders for Tokes’ eviction. Nevertheless, he pledged that he would arrange a temporary civil residency permit for Tokes; that Tokes’ pregnant wife, who was quite ill, would be able to see a doctor; and that the windows–so mysteriously smashed weeks earlier and now allowing the winter air to fill the apartment–would be repaired immediately. The proposed concessions achieved their goal and the crowd began to break up. Only about 150 people stayed to stand vigil through the night. Plainclothes Securitate men then moved in with clubs and dispersed these remaining demonstrators. On this first day, the regime’s carrot-and-stick approach succeeded. It was reminiscent of what had happened in Motru in 1981 and Brasov in 1987. The targets of popular hatred–the Securitate and Militia–had disappeared merely until the setting was more to their advantage.[50]

On the morning of Saturday, 16 December, both the demonstrators and Mayor Mot’s delegation returned to the Tokes residence. The Securitate and Militia apparently kept their distance. Work crews set about replacing the broken glass–quite a sight apparently, since glass had been a rare commodity in Timisoara for months. The crowd demanded written confirmation from Mot that Tokes’ eviction would be canceled. Mot and his delegation left, promising to return with written confirmation in hand. Shortly after their departure, however, news began to filter back to the protesters: such a written promise was impossible, the Bucharest legal department charged with such matters was closed because it was Saturday![51] Meanwhile, the crowd was steadily growing.

Mot himself did not return. Instead, the deputy mayor came. An angry negotiating session ensued between the deputy mayor and ten representatives of the crowd (six Romanians and four Hungarians, a testament to the multi-ethnic character of the demonstration). The deputy mayor left, promising he would have Bucharest fax him the necessary documents to secure a peaceful end to the demonstration. As Tokes observes: “I did not ask why Bucharest was suddenly able to produce documents on a Saturday.”[52] Instead of the documents, however, the mayor sent back an ultimatum: if the crowd did not disperse by 5 p.m., water cannon would be used against the protesters.

Although Tokes appealed for the crowd to go home, he himself admits that by this time the protest had assumed a dynamic of its own and was not heeding his or anyone else’s pleas. According to Tokes: “though the crowd looked to me as a figurehead, in truth I was a prisoner of their anger.”[53] By the evening, the addition of high school and university students had clearly radicalized the crowd. Buoyed by their sense of growing strength–this time the absence of regime forces at the scene had backfired–protesters were now chanting “Down with Ceausescu! Down with the regime! Down with Communism!” and singing the long-outlawed anthem “Awake, Romanian!”[54] About one thousand of the protesters broke off from the rest of the group and headed for the Romanian Orthodox Cathedral in the central Opera Square. The demonstrators seemed to believe that the regime would be less likely to resort to violence in the shadow of a house of worship.

On their way, the protesters became increasingly aggressive and began ripping down the ubiquitous, rusting billboards extolling the joys of living in Ceausescu’s “Golden era.” Their ranks were strengthened by thousands of university students who had made their way down from the so-called “Student Complex” zone. Initially, these students had been prevented from leaving the “Student Complex” zone by cordons of Securitate men. But as their ranks grew and they became more angry, the Securitate suddenly found themselves vastly outnumbered and decided the better part of valor was to cut and run. This delighted and emboldened the protesters.[55]

The two groups of protesters made their way towards the county party headquarters building. They found it deserted, unlit, and unguarded–save for two fire engines with water cannon.[56] The water cannon were turned against the protesters and the crowd responded with a furious attack against the vehicles and the party building. The demonstrators broke the windows of the building and attempted to destroy any symbol of the regime they could find. Suddenly, Militia men appeared on the scene with clubs and tear gas. The protesters were savagely beaten and many were arrested. Around the same time, back at Piata Maria, two hundred Militia officers and junior officers (some in uniform, some in civilian clothes) had arrived. Violent altercations broke out: windows were smashed and several cars in the area set ablaze. The demonstrators threw pavement stones, bottles, anything they could get their hands on. Numerous arrests were made. Confrontations also occurred between demonstrators and regime forces elsewhere in the city.[57]

Lost in the revisionist coverage of the December events is the fact that the Securitate and Militia did indeed enforce Tokes’ eviction notice. Sometime after 3 a.m. on Sunday, 17 December, a large number of plainclothes and uniformed Securitate and Militia men broke into the parochial residence. The Tokes family sought refuge in the church. Laszlo Tokes was captured inside the church and beaten severely, then taken back to the apartment where Securitate and Militia officers, the local party secretary, and the Minister of Cults from Bucharest were waiting for him. Tokes was forced to sign a blank sheet of paper which was to serve as his resignation from the Timisoara congregation. As Tokes notes, in spite of the fact that he was bleeding profusely over his clerical robe, “there was a veneer of formality about the proceedings. One of the people in the office was a lawyer in charge of evictions, and a form of official procedure was being precariously observed.”[58] Tokes and his wife were taken by car out of Timisoara. Initially, they believed they would be killed.[59] But as they kept on driving, they realized they were heading north to Transylvania, to the village of Mineu, their ordained place of exile.

If the authorities had misjudged the intentions and resolve of the demonstrators on 15 and 16 December, by Sunday 17 December they were no longer taking any chances. Throughout the night of 16-17 December, Securitate and Army reinforcements arrived in Timisoara from bases elsewhere in the country. By mid-morning, thousands of demonstrators (as many as 7,000-8,000) had returned to the city center and were shouting for freedom, bread, and an end to Ceausescu’s rule. In an ill-conceived show of force, the Army paraded through the town with full fanfare and bugle corps, only to be pelted with rocks and jeered by the townspeople. As on the previous night, demonstrators made their way to the county party headquarters building.

The demonstrators found the building with its windows repaired, the previous night’s graffiti scrubbed away, the flowers and grass replanted, and trees broken the previous night tied together with wire![60] This was the fantasy world of totalitarianism, where the regime goes to the most absurd lengths to convince the population that black is white and white is black, to make even those who saw an event wonder if it had not all been a dream. Unlike the previous night, this time the building was guarded better. Nevertheless, the unexpectedly large numbers of protesters initially overwhelmed the regime forces and began ransacking the building. As on the previous night, however, the regime forces regrouped quickly and intervened brutally: the Militia and Securitate appeared on the scene and began savagely beating and arresting demonstrators. The first fatalities of the events also occurred at this time.[61]

Nevertheless, demonstrators continued to mass elsewhere in the city. Their numbers were perhaps in excess of ten thousand. The political character of the protests was made clear by the slogans calling for Ceausescu’s ouster and free elections. As Mircea Balan suggests, many protesters had prepared for the worst:

[v]ery many [of the demonstrators] had bags in their hands and children with them. It was a naive rationalization–that if they were arrested by the forces of order they could escape by claiming they had been out shopping or taking a walk.[62]

Perhaps because in a number of instances soldiers had fled rather than confront the crowds, and because of the widely-held impression that it was possible to appeal to the sympathy of Army soldiers, the crowds began to chant more insistently “Armata e cu noi” [The Army is with us]. Protesters challenged soldiers with phrases such as “We are the people, who are you defending?” and “You also have wives and children.” The demonstrators were clearly hoping to precipitate insubordination in the Army’s ranks and to create a rift among regime forces. According to Ratesh, on the afternoon and evening of Sunday, 17 December, “[f]or some unexplained reason, the protestors thought that either the authorities would not dare to massacre the people or the army would not follow orders to shoot with live ammunition.”[63] Ratesh’s claim seems to be born out by the testimonies of some of the demonstrators. A rumor (based on the comments of a former Army officer) circulated, according to which because a “state of emergency or war” had not been declared, the soldiers weapons were not loaded with live ammunition.[64] Tragically, the rumor was incorrect.

The “Window Breakers”

The reportedly unusual scope of physical destruction which occurred in Timisoara, particularly on the afternoon and evening of 17 December 1989, has fueled revisionist arguments. Estimates of the damage during the Timisoara unrest are in the neighborhood of four to five billion lei (approximately forty to fifty million dollars at the time), a reasonably large sum given Romania’s standard of living at the time. A huge number of windows was broken and as many as 300 to 400 stores suffered some sort of damage, although relatively few were actually looted. On the evening of 17 December, stores, vehicles, and kiosks were burning in at least ten different areas of the city.[65]

Former Securitate officers clearly wish to link this destruction to the “foreign tourists” who were supposedly so ubiquitous in Timisoara during these days.[66] Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, former Securitate Director Iulian Vlad argued at his trial that

…the acts of vandalism, theft, destruction, arson… acts without precedent…could not have been the work [“opera”] of the faithful [apparently referring sarcastically to Tokes’ parishioners], nor the revolutionaries. They were produced by elements which wished to create a certain atmosphere of tension.[67]

“A group of former Securitate officers” wrote to the Ceausist Democratia in September 1990 that after the Militia and Securitate refused to respond to the demonstrations provoked by the “foreign tourists”: “they advance[d] to the next stage: the massive destruction of public property designed to provoke forcible interventions–human victims were needed.”[68]

Nevertheless, here is how one opposition journalist, Grid Modorcea, has described the strange character of Timisoara destruction:

For the first time in history, a revolution…was announced in a previously unknown and absolutely original manner, both literally and figuratively speaking: through the methodical breakage of thousands of windows. On 16 and 17 December 1989, Timisoara was the city of [glass] shards. Well-trained groups of athletes spread throughout the town, tactically, but energetically smashing to pieces hundreds of huge windows without apparently being interested in stealing from these stores…they were like mythical Magis coming to announce the end of one world and the beginning of another. And they gave it an apocalyptic quality: the sound produced by the breaking glass was infernal. The panic this caused was indescribable….Those who “executed” the windows did so with karate-like kicks while yelling “Liberty and Justice”!…The crowds of people who came out into the streets transformed spontaneously into columns of demonstrators, of authentic revolutionaries. The effect was therefore monumental: the breaking of the windows unleashed the popular revolt against the dictator.[69]

Modorcea is convinced that the Tokes case was “merely a pretext” and that “someone–perhaps those who planned the vandalizing of the windows–has an interest in preventing it from being known who broke the windows.” Although Modorcea maintains he is unsure who was responsible, he insists on observing that:

Only the Customs people know how many tourists there were. All were men and long-haired. Inside their cars they had canisters. This fits with the method of the breaking of the windows, with the Molotov cocktails, and the drums used as barricades–they were exactly of the same type….To what extent the new regime which came to power was implicated, we cannot say![70]

Many Timisoara protesters appear torn between wishing to rationalize the extensive destruction as the courageous response of an enraged, long-suffering population, and denying that the perpetrators could have come from among their ranks. Even those investigators attuned to the retroactive psychology of the protesters cannot help but admit that widespread destruction occurred and that it could not have been wholly spontaneous.[71] Furthermore, as Laszlo Tokes has observed in discussing the events at Piata Maria, manipulation and attempts to instigate the crowd to violence were constant features during these days.

Tokes maintains that Securitate provocateurs had tried to agitate the crowd by shouting things like, “Let’s break into the house. The Securitate are in there; they’re trying to kidnap Laszlo Tokes! Let’s rush them!” and by appealing for him to “Come down into the street and lead us!”[72] According to Tokes:

I was alarmed at the obvious provocation from individuals in the crowd clearly intent on making the situation uncontrollable….Later, thinking about the events of those two days, I realized that the authorities would have had a great deal to gain if the situation had become a riot.[73]

Mircea Balan questions whether the protesters would have set stores on fire which were located on the ground floor of the buildings in which the protesters themselves lived.[74] Moreover, he wonders how even the revolutionary fury of the crowd could drive protesters to break so many windows, particularly given the presence of repressive forces on the streets. It is what Balan has termed the “systematic devastation” of property which raises questions.

Eyewitness accounts recorded soon after the events–therefore at a time before the various plots and scenarios had permeated the popular imagination–support the hypothesis that the vandalism was organized. Moldovan Fica remarks:

I admit that I cannot escape a certain conclusion. All of this [destruction] was done by a group of about five or six individuals, whose calm demeanor and self-control continues to stay with me to this day. They did not run from the scene, they appeared as if they did not fear anything; I would say that, in fact, they were doing what was required of them, something which had been ordered directly of them![75]

Describing destruction in a different part of the city, Andras Vasile observed that

…four young men with shaved heads and wearing civilian clothes had sticks–I would term them special sticks–1.7 to 1.8 meters long, equipped with metal rings on the top of them. They were breaking the windows, but not taking anything, as if they only had something against the windows, something which they thus went about with great enjoyment…they were led by two individuals in leather jackets.[76]

Other eyewitnesses supply details which confirm the widespread character of the vandalism; its undeniably organized quality; the disinterest of its perpetrators in looting the stores; and the almost “drugged” nature of the perpetrators, who seemed unperturbed by the chaos and repression going on around them.[77]

Mircea Balan has little doubt who committed this “systematic destruction”:

Demonstrators might have thrown rocks in windows, but the destruction of the entire store was not their work…Nobody need believe that for such a thing foreign intervention was necessary, seeing as there were enough first-class specialists in destruction and demolition right here at home. The Securitate could not have been foreign to what happened, no matter how much it fiercely attempts to deny this today. They were professionals in the art of destruction. They needed a justification for the bloody repression.[78]

In March 1990, Puspoki had been willing to identify the culprits more specifically. According to Puspoki, as the demonstrators began to gather to prevent Tokes’ eviction:

The USLA’s Sabotage and Diversion team was readied to break store windows, to devastate and set fires–to create the conditions necessary for mass repression: the existence of disorder in the streets and theft on the part of the demonstrators.[79]

Securitate Major Radu Tinu’s observation that the commercial complex “in front of the county Militia building” (i.e. the Inspectorate in which both the Securitate and Militia offices were located) was one of only two such complexes in the whole city to remain intact during these days may also be an indication of the source of the destruction.[80]

It is possible then that to the extent that this destruction did indeed contain an organized component, it was designed by the regime to subvert and cast suspicion upon the intentions of the protesters and to create a pretext for repression. To the extent that an organized component did contribute to the destruction, it was far more likely to have been regime forces attempting to undermine the protests than foreign agents attempting to provoke an uprising against the regime.

Ceausescu Gives the Order to Open Fire

On the afternoon of 17 December 1989, Nicolae Ceausescu convened an emergency session of the CPEx in which he berated his three main commanders–Milea (Defense), Postelnicu (Interior), and Vlad (State Security)–for their failure to put an end to the Timisoara protests.[81] He was particularly incensed by the fact that twice in less than twenty-four hours, demonstrators had penetrated the Timisoara party headquarters building. As with Stalin, failure to accomplish a task was equated with insubordination: there was no plausible alternative explanation.

When challenged as to why their troops had not been armed and had not fired at the feet of the demonstrators as he had ordered, the commanders told Ceausescu that they had misjudged the scope and potential of the protests. In the words of General Vlad: “Our thoughts were that it was an action of small proportions and that we could resolve it without cartridges.”[82] Their inability to crush the protesters thus appears to have been the product of a colossal over-confidence and complacency regarding their own abilities and a serious underestimation of the resolve of the demonstrators.

Elena, whose comments suggest that she was by far the more bloodthirsty of the two, goaded her husband into taking strict action against the three generals. Nicolae accused the three of treason and threatened to remove them from their posts and send them before a firing squad. Perhaps sensing that they might be next, the other CPEx members gingerly persuaded Nicolae to give the three generals one last chance to prove their loyalty. The three generals promised that they would not fail this time. To ensure that he had a person of unquestionable loyalty in the field, earlier that day Ceausescu had dispatched Ion Coman, party secretary in charge of coordinating military and security affairs and trusted crony, to Timisoara. The Ceausescus now awaited word from Coman on the status of the repression.

Two other aspects of this emergency CPEx meeting deserve mention. It is significant that in spite of the fact that at the beginning of this meeting Nicolae reiterated his conviction that foreign espionage services had stimulated the unrest in Timisoara, and in spite of the fact that Ceausescu’s commanders were threatened with a death sentence, none of them mentioned the “foreign tourists” who have become so famous in the post-Ceausescu era. It would seem that had the “foreign tourists” truly been thought to be responsible for the Timisoara unrest at the time, these commanders would not have hesitated to invoke a discussion of their activities, particularly after having been confronted with the prospect of being sent before a firing squad. In fact, it was Ceausescu and not his commanders who at the close of the meeting proposed that the borders must be closed to “foreign tourists” because they had “all transformed into espionage agents.”[83] This suggests that the “foreign tourist” scenario is–at a minimum–pure hindsight and, worse yet, is based on Ceausescu’s paranoid interpretation of the events at the time–hardly facts which enhance the credibility of this theory.

Secondly, Nicolae Ceausescu was clearly obsessed with the events of August 1968 and was interpreting this new challenge to his regime through this historical prism. For example, Ceausescu stated:

We will fight to the last and we must submit to the approval of the party, because the independence and sovereignty is won and defended through battle, because in 1968 had we not acted and brought the people here [apparently in reference to the main square outside the Central Committee building], if we had not armed the Patriotic Guards, they would have invaded us, as they did in Czechoslovakia, because the Soviets and Bulgarians were at the border.[84]

He thus appealed not merely or even predominantly to the need to defend the “achievements of socialism,” but to the need to defend the Romanian nation-state.

After nightfall (around 5 p.m.) on Sunday, 17 December, regime forces opened fire on demonstrators in several locations in the center of Timisoara. Erroneous, inflated death tolls reported in both the East European and Western media over the following days (suggesting that anywhere between 1,000 and as many as 12,000 people had been killed), and the realization after the events that the actual death toll was substantially lower, has tended to obscure the fact that by almost any definition a massacre did indeed occur on the evening of 17 December 1989 in Timisoara.

Doctors and staff at the Timisoara county hospital describe an “infernal” night, with estimates of at least one hundred dead and with the pace of incoming wounded (several hundred) so great that it was impossible for a time to note information about those being admitted.[85] Most accounts after the events placed the actual death toll at between 90 and 130, with between 300 and 400 wounded. For the next thirty-six hours, Timisoara was in a state of terror: the hospitals were overflowing with dead and wounded and almost one thousand people were arrested. The brutality of the Timisoara repression would seem to undermine any argument that Ceausescu’s commanders were encouraging or attempting to exploit the Timisoara protests to provoke Ceausescu’s ouster.

The Role of the Securitate in the Timisoara Massacre

Predictably, the former Securitate deny that they fired on the demonstrators. Instead, they allege that the multi-talented “foreign tourists” killed the Timisoara protesters:

On the basis of the general confusion which was building in the town, the Army intervened with the goal of reestablishing the gravely-disturbed order. This was the opportunity long-awaited by the “tourists”; they began–under the cover provided by warning shots–to shoot and stab demonstrators in the back while at the same time inciting them…[86]

In court, General Vlad maintained that throughout the events of 16 and 17 December, he repeatedly ordered his subordinates in Timisoara “not to open fire and not to become involved in what was going on in the streets.”[87] In general, Securitate and Militia officers called before the court to testify about the Timisoara events, have stuck to this line of defense: they were unarmed and–then redundantly and suspiciously–they did not open fire.[88]

Indeed, in 1994, Colonel Dumitru Rasina, the former head of the Arad county Securitate, gave testimony before the second Senatorial commission investigating the December events which appeared to preclude ipso facto the possibility that the Securitate could have been responsible for the Timisoara bloodshed. According to Rasina, at a secret meeting on 11 November 1989, General Vlad had issued instructions which stipulated that in the event of a challenge to Ceausescu’s rule, “the Securitate is not to implicate itself in the street actions or in the repression of the demonstrators.”[89] As significant as the argument itself was the source who brought it to light for public consumption: the aforementioned opposition journalist, Sorin Rosca Stanescu, who claimed he had been given this “sensational” testimony by an anonymous source within the commission.

In spite of these denials, it is clear that the Securitate took part in the repression. Even the transcript of the emergency CPEx meeting of 17 December (prior to the opening of gunfire) shows General Vlad telling Ceausescu that he had dispatched Securitate officers “with rubber clubs and tear gas” against the demonstrators–hardly an “indifferent” and “uninvolved” posture.[90] One of the few Securitate officers to deviate from the courtroom routine of steadfast denial of the institution’s involvement was Colonel Ion Bunoaica, the commander of the Securitate’s uniformed troops in Timisoara. Testifying as a witness in late 1990, Bunoaica eventually admitted both that his men had been armed during the Timisoara unrest and, suggestively, that they had taken up “battle formations” behind Army units which opened fire.[91] This might shed light on the claim of Army Lieutenant Colonel Dumitru Damian in January 1990 that approximately every unit of

…twenty soldiers was subordinated to a Securitate officer who would stand behind them and monitor them. These Securitate officers would give the order to shoot and threaten to shoot the soldiers on the spot if they refused the order to open fire.[92]

At the very least then, their persistent denials notwithstanding, the Securitate indeed appear to have been out on the streets and to have participated in the repression.

As the most controversial aspect of the Securitate’s behavior in the December 1989 events concerns the activities of the so-called USLA (the special anti-terrorist warfare unit), it is important to examine their role in the Timisoara crackdown. Colonel Gheorghe Ardeleanu, the USLA commander at the time of the December events, has strenuously denied the allegation that the USLA participated in the Timisoara repression.[93] He maintains that they could not have because their standard mission was merely the defense of embassies and airports.

When Army General Victor Stanculescu (who had himself been part of the Army team coordinating the Timisoara repression) became the new Defense Minister in February 1990, he declared that the USLA had neither been responsible for the “terrorist actions” after 22 December, nor had they taken part in the repression of demonstrators in Timisoara and Bucharest in the week prior to 22 December.[94] At the time of Stanculescu’s clarification, Horia Alexandrescu, the editor of the daily Tineretul Liber, thanked Stanculescu for “lifting the haze” which had hung over the USLA since the December events.[95] In reference to the Timisoara events, Alexandrescu wrote that Colonel Popescu, “director of the USLA service in Timisoara,” had four times refused to obey orders to engage in repressive actions against the demonstrators.[96]

Yet there is good reason to question such claims. Captain Marian Romanescu, a former USLA officer, revealed in 1991 that:

On 17 December 1989, the USLA was put on a state of alert and entered into formation. In Timisoara, the “Scutul” (”shield”) subunit was put into action, and it is possible that in addition to these persons, an intervention unit made up of the “soimii” (”eagles”) taken from their aviation duties [the “eagles” apparently performed security detail on all flights] participated.[97]

The USLA commander, Gheorghe Ardeleanu, has denied that the USLA participated in the “Scutul” action and claimed that this formation was made up only of “intervention units of the Militia.”[98] This is an artificial distinction, however. Puspoki describes the Timisoara USLA brigade as having consisted of “young officers of the [Militia] Inspectorate and those who guarded the local international airport.”[99] Moreover, according to Romanescu: “it is well-known that the Militia served as the cover for the majority of the USLA’s personnel.”[100]

Writing in early 1990, the Timisoara journalist Puspoki maintained that even as the crowds began to gather around the residence of pastor Tokes, the USLA, “the most feared organism in this part of the country,” was put on a state of alert.[101] Those regime forces which violently intervened on the evening of 16 December at the Tokes residence, and arrested as many as two hundred protesters in this area, included members of the USLA. The confrontations were fierce enough that several of the USLA ended up at the hospital.

Dr. Octavian Onisei, a surgeon at the county hospital, maintains that he treated “six members of the USLA between 9 and 10 p.m.” on 16 December, thereby clearly confirming their presence among the repressive forces.[102] Considering the frequency of the allegation in December 1989 that those captured as “terrorists” had been drugged, Dr. Onisei’s comments concerning Captain Dorneanu, the “Director of the Office of Guarding and Order of the Municipal Militia,” deserve mention:

Dorneanu I certainly won’t forget for a long time…I would say that he was drugged [emphasis added]….He behaved in a totally unnatural way. He was continuously shouting, shouting in the truest sense of the word, that these individuals were hooligans, vagabonds, that they had to be crushed; he was shouting that we wasn’t just any man, but was a commander and that he had to be among his men, if not in body at least in mind, in order to command them, to tell them what to do, his big regret being that he had not given them the order to open fire...[103]

Other sources refer to the fact that by the early hours of 17 December–when Tokes was forcibly evacuated–”the USLA troops had mastered the situation” at Piata Maria.[104] When the party headquarters building was overrun for a second time at midday on 17 December, it was USLA officers who participated in the brutal recapture of the building.[105] The USLA was also spotted making mass arrests in the center of town.[106] Writing in mid-January 1990, Alexandra Indries described the role of the USLA in yet another part of the city:

The soldiers with shields would ambush the demonstrators and throw them into paddywagons. They were known as the USLA: specialized units of anti-terrorist warfare; they are those who today we call in a more realistic manner: terrorists, in fact, their elite and avantgarde: professional killers.[107]

Did the USLA fire on protesters? According to at least one source, they did. In December 1994, a young man who had served briefly in the USLA told the A.M. Press agency:

In December 1989, I was in Timisoara and Bucharest….Anti-terrorist formations of recruits and professionals received war-munitions. In Timisoara, demonstrators were shot at from close distances. I saw how skulls fly when riddled by bullets. Those wearing masks, using their own special weapons, shot with exploding bullets. In January 1990, all active duty USLA troops were interned for detoxification. We had been drugged….Don’t publish my name. I fear for myself and for my parents.[108]

Was there a juridical basis to the Securitate’s intervention? In early 1990, at the trial of twenty-one Securitate and Militia officers arrested for their alleged participation in the Timisoara repression, the Military Prosecutor suggested that regime forces had intervened in Timisoara in accordance with the provisions of Interior Ministry Order No. 2600 of 1988. In charging the Inspector General of the Timisoara Militia, Colonel Ion Popescu–the individual referred to earlier by Alexandrescu as the “head of the USLA service in Timisoara”–the Military Prosecutor called attention to Article Six of this order:

The unique commander of all activities to be carried out on the territory of the county, in response to a grave turbulence of order and public calm, and also the unique commander of the intervention forces, will be the county’s Inspector General of the Interior Ministry, who will bear complete responsibility for the efficiency of the actions undertaken.[109]

During the course of the trial, it was established that–contrary to Alexandrescu’s protestations of Popescu’s innocence–Colonel Popescu had ordered the “intervention platoon” into action which violently dispersed the protesters in Piata Maria on the evening of 16 December.[110]

Ever since 1990, Silviu Brucan and Army General Nicolae Militaru have insisted that there is little mystery as to which regime forces participated in the repression and “terrorism” of December.[111] Silviu Brucan maintains that the USLA were intimately linked to Order No. 2600:

In all the thirty-eight pages, the document speaks of “antiterrorist” fighting units. Just change their name to “terrorist” units and that’s it. Article 11 says: “In case public order has been seriously troubled, at the order of the local chief inspector of the Interior Ministry and on the basis of a unique plan of action, units of antiterrorist defense jointly with available units of Securitate-Intervention will participate in the restoration of public order.”[112]

According to Brucan, Order No. 2600 was drafted upon Ceausescu’s orders after the Brasov riots of November 1987 caught the regime off-guard.

Information supplied by former USLA captain Marian Romanescu would seem to confirm Brucan’s claim. Romanescu has sarcastically acknowledged the USLA’s role in the 1987 Brasov events as follows:

In November 1987, in Brasov, the USLAsi had the occasion to give a plenary demonstration of their aptitude for clubbing. Back then, it was still only clubbing…[113]

According to Romanescu, although nominally charged with defending Romania from international terrorism, through 1986 the USLA were part of a so-called Plan “Aldea” which stipulated that in the event of unrest, the USLA would be responsible for arresting the most virulent opponents, and potential opponents, of the regime. “The continuation of plan ‘Aldea’ was Order 2600…”[114]

Conclusions

The historiography of the Timisoara events illustrates how Ceausescu’s paranoid explanation of those events at the time has not only been given a new lease on life in the post-Ceausescu era, but in a particularly ironic and tragic fashion, has come to dominate post-Ceausescu accounts of what happened. Ceausescu’s vague fears and delusions have been given form and content since December 1989 by the former Securitate. By suggesting that the Soviets and others instigated the Timisoara unrest, the “foreign tourist” scenario fits in perfectly with the anti-Soviet paranoia of the Securitate and the Romanian regime during the Ceausescu era. Moreover, it is interesting to note the juxtaposition or transference which sometimes occurs in Securitate accounts whereby actions which appear to have been the work of the Securitate are attributed to the mysterious and ubiquitous “tourists”: for example, when the attack by masked intruders on the Tokes residence is accredited to people driving cars with West German tags, or when the “tourists” are accused of having opened fire among the demonstrators. This, as we shall see, is a common occurrence throughout the coverage of the December events.

Perhaps one of the most important facts militating against the existence of the “foreign tourists” is that when given ample opportunity by Ceausescu to raise this point, and indeed when they were most in need of this argument–during the emergency CPEx meeting of 17 December 1989–none of Ceausescu’s commanders uttered a word to him about it. There is simply no evidence to believe that the Securitate were seeking to abandon Ceausescu; on the contrary, the evidence suggests that the Securitate obediently and ruthlessly fulfilled Ceausescu’s orders. Whereas the army and security apparatus failed to open fire on protesters in other East European countries when waves of mass protests challenged the ailing leaderships, in Romania they did.

Significantly, the theme of foreign involvement in the Timisoara events is accompanied by, and intertwined with, the denial of the Securitate’s role in the repression, especially in opening fire on the demonstrators. Thus, accounts alleging foreign involvement not only inevitably raise questions about the spontaneity and popular character of the Timisoara events–thereby placing in doubt the revolutionary definition of the events which sparked Ceausescu’s ouster–but they divert attention away from the issue of the Securitate’s culpability in the bloodshed. As we shall see, it is not only the Timisoara repression from which the USLA have been clumsily removed, but also the events in Bucharest and elsewhere on 21 and 22 December, and their disappearance from their part in the repression prior to the flight of the Ceausescus is necessitated by their disappearance from the more controversial events after 22 December 1989.


Endnotes


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

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

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

[4].. By contrast, Rosenberg clearly suggests that those who buy into the Yalta-Malta conspiracy theory elsewhere in Eastern Europe are a distinct minority in political circles and marginal figures in the post-communist era.

[5].. This has come through, for example, in the novels and articles of the well-known, former high-ranking military counter-intelligence officer, Pavel Corut, and in the comments of the former head of the First Directorate (Internal Affairs), Colonel Gheorghe Ratiu, in an extended interview during 1994 and 1995 with the Ceausist weekly Europa.

[6].. See the transcript in Bunea, Praf in Ochi, 47. Ceausescu goes on to link the US invasion of Panama which was taking place at this time to a general offensive by the superpowers to eliminate the sovereignty of independent states. The fact that Ceausescu appeals “not only to the communists” suggests his attempt to play on a non-ideological Romanian nationalism.

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

[8].. Ibid.

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

[10].. See the excerpts of the SRI’s preliminary report on the December events in “Dispozitivul informativ si de diversiune sovietic a fost conectat la toate fazele evenimentelor (III) [Soviet information and diversion teams were connected to all phases of the events],” Curierul National, 11 July 1994, 2a.

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

[12].. Ibid.

[13].. Cornel Ivanciuc, “Raporturile dintre Frontul Salvarii Nationale si KGB [The Relations between the National Salvation Front and the KGB],” 22, no. 21 (24-30 May 1995), 11.

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

[15].. Ibid. Rosca Stanescu had in fact already floated this theory. In June 1990, he wrote: “…in the Army, more and more insistently there is talk of the over 4,000 ‘LADA’ automobiles with two men per car, which travelled by various routes in the days preceding the Revolution and then disappeared…” (Sorin Rosca Stanescu, “Se destrama conspiratia tacerii? [Is the conspiracy of silence unravelling?]” Romania Libera, 14 June 1990, 2a). At that time it could be argued that Rosca Stanescu was unaware of the Securitate account. It is difficult to say the same of his comment in April 1991.

[16].. Filip Teodorescu, Un Risc Asumat: Timisoara, decembrie 1989 (Bucharest: Editura Viitorul Romanesc, 1992), 93-94. Curiously, Teodorescu adds: “Besides, I have no reason to suspect that the journalist Sorin Rosca Stanescu would have invented a story in order to come to the defense of those accused by the judicial system and public opinion of the tragic consequences of the December 1989 events.”

[17].. Although Corut does not mention Stanescu by name as does Teodorescu, the references are unambiguous. See Pavel Corut, Floarea de Argint [The Silver Flower] (Bucharest: Editura Miracol, 1994), 173; idem, Fulgerul Albastru [Blue Lightning] (Bucharest: Editura Miracol, 1993), 211.

[18].. In April 1992, documents were leaked (presumably by regime sources) to the media and foreign embassies showing that Stanescu had been an informer for the Securitate’s elite anti-terrorist unit (the USLA) between 1975 and 1985. Stanescu admitted that the charges were true. Although released from Romania Libera in June 1992, he was picked up elsewhere in the opposition press, returned to Romania Libera the following year, and eventually became editor of an opposition daily owned by the trust which runs Romania Libera. Prominent opposition figures have steadfastly defended him as a victim of the Iliescu regime, and in spite of his past, his writings have largely gone unscrutinized. On Stanescu’s case, see Sorin Rosca Stanescu, “Securea lui Magureanu,” Romania Libera, 17 April 1992, 1, 3 (the article which personally attacked the SRI’s Director Virgil Magureanu and appears to have prompted the release of Stanescu’s file); Anton Uncu, “Opriti-l pe Arturo Ui,” Romania Libera, 30 April 1992, 1, 3; Rosca Stanescu, “Sint H-15,” Romania Libera, 9 May 1992, 5; idem, interview by Andreea Pora, “‘H-15′ in slujba patriei,” 22, no. 120 (15-21 May 1992), 13; “Catre SRI,” Romania Libera, 9 June 1992, 1; “Goodbye Magureanu,” The Economist, no. 2212 (18 June 1992) in Tinerama, no. 85 (10-17 July 1992), 3.

[19].. See, for example, the comments of the deputy director of the Timis county Securitate, Major Radu Tinu, in Angela Bacescu, Din Nou in Calea Navalirilor Barbare [Once again in the path of barbaric invaders] (Cluj-Napoca: Editura “Zalmoxis,” 1994), 72-74. This book consists of articles and interviews which appeared in the Ceausist weekly Europa between 1990 and 1994.

[20].. Ibid., 73.

[21].. Ilie Stoian, Decembrie ‘89: Arta diversiunii. (Bucharest: Editura Colaj, 1993), 7-10. This book is a collection of articles he wrote while at Expres between 1991 and 1993.

[22].. Ibid., 11.

[23].. Ibid.

[24].. Ibid., 12.

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

[26].. See, for example, Radu Portocala and Olivier Weber, trans. Liviu Man, “Romania: Revelatii asupra unui complot,” Nu, no. 17 (July 1990), 6-7. The original article appeared in Le Point, no. 922 (27 May 1990).

[27].. Ibid.

[28].. Stoian, Decembrie ‘89, 9.

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

[30].. Ioan Itu, “Laszlo Tokes nu e un episcop real [Laszlo Tokes is not a real bishop],” Tinerama, no. 178 (12-19 May 1994), 2; idem, “Laszlo Tokes–informator al Securitatii [Laszlo Tokes–Securitate informer,” Tinerama, no. 182 (10-16 June 1994), 3.

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[31].. Laszlo Tokes, with David Porter, With God, For the People: The Autobiography of Laszlo Tokes (Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton Publishers, 1990), 2-3, 121, 138-139, 141.

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

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

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

[35].. Ibid. Colonel Sima had been transferred from Oradea to Timisoara after a particularly ugly action carried out against several Roman Catholic priests had gotten him into trouble with his superiors. Radio Free Europe had drawn attention to the incident and, according to Puspoki, news of it had reached the “’sensitive’ ears of the dictator,” prompting Sima’s reassignment. Upon arriving in Timisoara, the particularly ambitious and unscrupulous Sima immediately set about replacing those in the “Office for the Study of Nationalists, Fascists, and Hungarian Irredentists” with young officers who were personally loyal and appealed to his sense of zealotry for such work.

[36].. Tokes, With God, for the People, 102. According to Puspoki F., the pre-existing relationship between Securitate chief Traian Sima and Bishop Laszlo Papp facilitated Tokes’ surveillance: Papp had been “initiated into ‘the secrets’ of security work by the same Colonel Sima when the latter was Securitate chief of Bihor country.” See Puspoki, “Piramida Umbrelor (II).”

[37].. Ibid., 120.

[38].. The very fact that this broadcast was permitted in Hungary was symbolic of the scope of political change which had occurred in that country in the preceding two years alone. As the transition from one-party communist rule unfolded and political pluralization became more and more tolerated and formalized, Hungarian nationalism (which had theretofore been muted by the technocratic bent of the Kadar regime’s legitimacy) gained greater public expression. Inevitably, this meant raising the issue of the Romanian regime’s treatment of its approximately two million member Hungarian minority–something which had been done gingerly in the past.

A month after Kadar’s removal from power in May 1988, on 27 June 1988 40,000 Hungarians demonstrated in the largest protest since the 1956 uprising against the systematization program and human rights abuses in Romania (Rady, Romania in Turmoil, 73). During 1989, the Hungarian government launched protests at the United Nations against Tokes’ treatment and the Hungarian parliament nominated Tokes in conjunction with the ethnic Romanian dissident Doina Cornea from Cluj for the Nobel peace prize (Ibid., 88).

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

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

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

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

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

[44].. Ibid., 90.

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

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

[47].. Ibid.

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

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

[50].. Ibid.

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

[52].. Ibid., 153.

[53].. Ibid., 155.

[54].. Ibid., 154-157. Evidence of the rare solidarity of this moment was the fact that Hungarians were reported to have also sung this Romanian nationalist anthem.

[55].. Miodrag Milin, “Sapte zile care au zguduit Romania (II) [Seven days which shook Romania],” Orizont, (13 January 1990), 2; idem, “Sapte zile care au zguduit Romania (III),” Orizont, (19 January 1990), 2; Mircea Balan, “Au tras cu disperare ca sa inabuse revolutia [They shot out of desperation in order to crush the revolution],” Cuvintul, no. 36 (2-8 October 1990), 8.

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

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

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

[59].. Tokes and his wife firmly believed that only Western publicity about their case had prevented the Ceausescu regime from killing them at this point (Rady, Romania in Turmoil, 88).

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

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