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Postdiktatorische Geschichtskulturen im Sden und Osten Europas

Diktaturen und ihre berwindung

im 20. und 21.Jahrhundert
Herausgegeben von
Carola Sachse und Edgar Wolfrum
Band 5

im Sden und Osten Europas
Bestandsaufnahme und
Herausgegeben von
Stefan Troebst
unter Mitarbeit von
Susan Baumgartl


Gedruckt mit Untersttzung

der VolkswagenStiftung, Hannover,
und des Geisteswissenschaftlichen Zentrums Geschichte und Kultur
Ostmitteleuropas an der Universitt Leipzig (GWZO)

Bibliografische Information der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek

Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek verzeichnet diese Publikation in der
Deutschen Nationalbibliografie; detaillierte bibliografische Daten
sind im Internet ber abrufbar.

Wallstein Verlag, Gttingen 2010
Vom Verlag gesetzt aus der Adobe Garamond
Umschlaggestaltung: Basta Werbeagentur, Steffi Riemann
Titelfotos: ..
Druck: Hubert & Co, Gttingen
isbn 978-3-8353-0637-0


Vorwort . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Stefan Troebst
Postdiktatorische Geschichtskulturen im stlichen und sdlichen Europa
Eine vergleichende Einfhrung . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Portugal, Griechenland und Spanien

seit 1974/76
Manuel Loff
Coming to Terms with the Dictatorial Past in Portugal after 1974
Silence, Remembrance and Ambiguity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Adamantios Skordos
Die Diktatur der Jahre 1967 bis 1974 in der griechischen und
internationalen Historiographie . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123
Xos-Manoel Nez und Andreas Stucki
Neueste Entwicklungen und Tendenzen der postdiktatorischen
Geschichtskultur in Spanien . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 206
Carsten Humlebk
The National Question after Franco: Spain and its Internal Others . . . 225
Polen, Bulgarien, Rumnien, Lettland
und die Ukraine seit 1989/91
Krzysztof Ruchniewicz
Die polnische Geschichtspolitik der Nach-Wende-Zeit am Scheideweg 307
Daina Bleiere
Overcoming the Communist and Authoritarian Past in Latvia
History and Monuments in the Political Discourse . . . . . . . . . . . 330
Iskra Baeva, Evgenija Kalinova und Nikolaj Poppetrov
Die kommunistische ra im kollektiven Gedchtnis der Bulgaren . . . . 405


Cristina Petrescu and Drago Petrescu

The Piteti Syndrome: A Romanian Vergangenheitsbewltigung? . . . . . 502
Georgiy Kasianov
The Great Famine of 1932-1933 (Holodomor) and the Politics
of History in Contemporary Ukraine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 619
Autorenverzeichnis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 642

The Piteti Syndrome

A Romanian Vergangenheitsbewltigung?
Cristina Petrescu and Drago Petrescu
The communist past is a continuous presence in post-communist Romania. It
is actually common place to argue that this particular period in Romanias recent
history is at the origin of the protracted transition to democracy underwent by
that country. The reverse relationship, i.e., the influence of the present upon the
recent and yet under-researched history is, however, mostly ignored. The official
control upon the past vanished with the collapse of communism on 22 December 1989, a moment that coincided with the emergence of a genuine popular
interest in discovering the true history of the country under the defunct regime. Historians were called to replace the single and propagandistic interpretation of that period, imposed by the communist regime, with professional reconstructions. Yet, in Romania, twenty years after the Revolution of 1989, not much
has been achieved as compared to other former communist countries. The mainstream opinion on historical craftsmanship in Romania places the discipline in
the 19th century: no archival documents, no history! As the official records from
the communist epoch are not entirely available for research, the monographs
covering this period of recent history authored by genuine professionals are still
scarce. At the same time, the Romanian audience, whose interest in the communist period did not vanish, has been exposed to a diversity of private versions
of that particular past. The present study focuses on the various forms of remembering communism that emerged in the post-communist public sphere,
defines the major vectors of memory responsible for shaping the public opinion,
and analyzes their specific ways of dealing with the recent past. Different representations of the past do coexist. However, there is a dominant view on the
communist past, which, these authors argue, represents a reflection of the cultural and societal syndrome generated by a traumatic relationship with that
The first part of this study reviews Romanias long and painful exit from
communist in order to explain the emergence, persistence and hegemony of a
single public representation of communism. It argues that in post-communist
Romania, the particularities of the pre-1989 regime, the nature of the revolution,
as well as the post-1989 political developments made amnesty impossible and
amnesia undesirable. As the political and societal cleavages were cut along the
dichotomy communists vs. anti-communists, the genuine commitment to build
a democratic society, this study illustrates, became solely associated with anticommunist convictions. Consequently, any reconstruction of the recent past
that aimed to be publicly accepted as legitimate must have reflected this political
as well as civic anti-communist ethos. The second part maps the most active


vectors of memory within the Romanian society and explains their different
agendas with regard to the communist past. In this respect, the present study
illustrates how each particular way of remembering is susceptible of being politicized by preserving the memory of some events and imposing willingly or
by default amnesia over others. Some vectors of memory are genuine carriers
of their own lived experiences, while others are rather makers of memory that
promote publicly representations of the past that originate not in their own
recollections, but in those of other groups. Accordingly, these authors stress that
remembering communism has to do also with conscious or nonconscious forms
of legitimation related to the post-communist political confrontations.
The third part of this study analyzes the main narratives on the origins, nature
and demise of communism in Romania, as they emerged from corroborating the
private versions of history advocated by the above-mentioned vectors of memory. The dominating view maintains that it was a repressive regime established by
a tiny local group backed by the Soviet Union and dominated, at least in the
beginnings, by activists of Jewish and Hungarian origin. Furthermore, the argument reads, the small communist sect survived for more than four decades due
to the powerful secret police it created, which suppressed in status nascendi any
attempt at rebelling against it. Accordingly, Romanian communism represented
the most atrocious dictatorship in East-Central Europe, not only during the
earlier terror period that coincided with the rule of Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej,
but also later, under Nicolae Ceauescus repressive regime. Quite the contrary,
the collapse of communism in Romania represents a most controversial event
that still divides the society. In the fourth part, these authors illustrate that the
issue of continuity with the communist past practically hampered the formulation of a coherent representation of the 1989 events. This is not to say that in
post-1989 Romania this subject provoked a real debate. It was rather a dialogue
of the deaf, materialized in parallel stories, supported by different carriers of
memory. However, the controversial nature of the Revolution of 1989 and its
widespread perception as an incomplete break with the past contributed by
default to the emergence, persistence and ultimately hegemony of the above
mentioned representation of Romanian communism. In other words, if the
revolution did not fulfill its anti-communist goals and thus did not succeed in
leaving behind the dictatorial past, then public discourses accomplished that by
reiterating constantly anti-communist representations of the past.
This study is based on a large variety of sources, ranging from articles in the
media to personal recollections, from literary works to collections of historical
documents, as well as from academic studies to feature films. Historical writings
represent a rather modest category among the consistent body of post-communist publications that concentrate on the issue of remembering communism.
The works of fiction, especially pieces of literature inspired by the communist
period, are also marginal sources for this study, since such writings were not only
less numerous, but also less popular with the public after 1989. On the contrary,
since the taste of the general audience moved towards visual images, the feature

cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

films focusing on the communist epoch though not many are thoroughly
analyzed as a genre quite influential in shaping public perceptions and attitudes
towards the defunct regime. The most substantial category of sources addressed
is that of personal accounts, such as memoirs, diaries, interviews, and various
testimonies or thematically oriented recollections. These writings authored by
laymen are not only the most numerous, but also more important than professional writings for the purpose of this study. Although interest in historical
works related to the recent past still exists among the educated strata, common
knowledge about this controversial period of the recent past is rather shaped by
certain private versions of history coming together due to their prominence in
the media. Personal accounts, just like literary works or movie scripts, are not
only read as sources for a history of communism, but also as testimonies that
more often than not tell more about their authors and the time of their creation
than about the period they recollect. However, for the purpose of this study,
historical writings are also analyzed as narratives influenced by the current dominant public representation of Romanian communism. In short, all sources have
been also regarded as forms of memory and mis-memory of communism that
reveal the symptoms of a particular post-communist cultural and societal syndrome.
The analysis of these sources illustrates that in Romania the communist epoch is mostly remembered as a period of sheer terror and widespread repression,
during which the Romanians suffered and tried adamantly to resist. Such recollections do convey a part of national memory that must be urgently recuperated.
The many victims deserve to be honored, while the few heroes deserve to be
praised. The wrongdoers must be punished accordingly. Nonetheless, the largest
majority of the Romanians that went out of communism in 1989 could not be
placed in either of these categories. Moreover, the recollections of the communist past made public so far do not cover their lived experiences as well. The
representation of Romanian communism centered on sufferings and resistance
reflects a morally correct attitude towards the past that has a necessary therapeutic dimension in a post-dictatorial society.1 However, this is not accompanied by
a genuine reflection upon the past and an adequate historical reconstruction of
it, able to explain the evolution of the communist system. Thus, the authors of
this study consider that the crystallization of such a public representation of the
communist past represents the manifestation of a syndrome, metaphorically
defined here as the Piteti syndrome,2 whose very existence indicates that the
Romanians have not been able yet to come to terms with their communist
1 Moral correctness, in the same vein as political correctness, is a code of verbal conduct
that epitomizes a bind of public conformism. See Todorov, Tzvetan: Hope and Memory. Reflections on the Twentieth Century. London 2003, 187-197.
2 The authors use this term in the same sense Henry Rousso did with regard to the
memory of the Second World War in France. See Rousso, Henry: The Vichy Syndrome.
History and Memory in France since 1944. Cambridge/Massachusetts 1991.



It is difficult to assess if this syndrome has affected the entire Romanian society; most probably not. This study only demonstrates that some particular
societal groups including the prestige groups consisting of critical intellectuals that monopolized the public sphere since the collapse of communism ma
nifested the symptoms of the Piteti syndrome. Such groups, although not the
only vectors of memory in post-communist Romania, had a crucial importance
for the purpose of this study. Due to their prominence in media and prestige
among educated strata of the population, they succeeded in imposing their own
representation of communism as being the legitimate form of collective memory, while all the other forms of representation remained marginal. Taking advantage of their special public platform, such groups assumed the mission of healing the nation from the disease caused by communism, a task that seemed
indeed a political and civic priority in the early post-communist context, as it is
further shown.3 The cure required a fight for recuperating the true memory,
i.e. the recollections of the past that had been erased officially by the communist
regime. If the so-called legacies of communism4 really indicate that the Romanian nation was affected by the 45 years of communism, such intellectuals could
though hardly claim to be the solution.5 They should have acknowledged, one
could say, to be part of the problem.
The above mentioned cultural and societal syndrome has been caused by the
trauma of a nation whose self-appointed vectors of memory had to tackle a key
question: How could one explain the fact that the Romanians endured an
abominable regime like that of Nicolae Ceauescu without rebelling against it?
The only possible answer that could have been convincing for the average
Romanian and convenient to the intellectual elite that never produced an orga
3 It is interesting to note though that, in post-communist Romania, the language used by
these prestige groups of public intellectuals to explain their nations relationship to the
communist past was also inspired from medicine: the dominant perspective was that
the Romanians were suffering from a serious disease provoked by communism, which
had socially and culturally destroyed the nation. See Antohi, Sorin: Romnii n anii 90.
Geografie simbolic i identitate social [The Romanians in the 1990s. Symbolic Geo
graphy and Social Identity]. In: Exerciiul distanei. Discursuri, societi, metode [The
exercise of distance. Discourses, societies, methods]. Bucharest 1997, 304-310.
4 There is much talk in Romania on the legacies of communism, mostly carried on by
dilettantes who use such terms as mere clichs. For instance, Kenneth Jowitts study, in
which the author explained at length his already classic concept of Leninist legacy,
although available in Romanian, is rarely a reference even for professionals. See Jowitt,
Kenneth: New World Disorder. The Leninist Extinction. Berkeley-Los Angeles 1992.
5 For an example of an assumed missionary role in this respect, see the statement by
Stejrel Olaru, who touches upon the problem of what he sees as a failed trial of communism and concludes: By not passing a lustration law, all attempts to cure the
society of this illness of communism have failed. In a way, the battle has been lost,
yet some Romanians found satisfaction in having engaging in it. See Herbstritt, Georg/
Olaru, Stejrel (eds.): Vademekum-Contemporary History Romania. A Guide through
Archives, Research Institutions, Libraries, Societies, Museums and Memorial Places.
Berlin 2004, 47.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

nized form of dissent was to maintain that Romania experienced the most
atrocious dictatorship in the Soviet bloc. Such a dictatorship, the argument goes,
was based on the most effective secret police agency in East-Central Europe,
which made the greatest number of victims. In short, the Romanians only suffered under communism, while trying desperately to oppose it. True, the Securitate is one of the communist secret police agencies that gained notoriety beyond the borders of its native country due to the intrinsic association with the
sinister reputation of its last supreme commander, Romanias late dictator Nicolae Ceauescu. It does enjoy neither the status of its model, KGB, subject of so
many narratives among which the literary and the cinematic genre features high,
nor that of its fraternal institution, Stasi, object of study for German historians
educated in the spirit of Aufarbeitung the traumatic and criminal past of their
country. It has however generated a new entry in English dictionaries. The monitoring of the thoughts of Romanias entire population through microphones
installed in the walls, the employment of lethal radiations against the internal
critics of the regime, and the attempts at assassinating some outspoken members
of the Romanian desk of the Radio Free Europe represent only a few samples of
the ruthless treatment applied to all those who became targets of the Securitate.6
However, the secret police could not have functioned effectively without the
huge supporting network of informants. Consequently, the vision on communism that victimizes almost all Romanians and implicitly externalizes guilt hardly represents a premise for the process of reconciliation with the past. Such vision
triggered indeed solutions to pressing issues, such as punishing the perpetrators
or recompensing the victims. Yet, the process of coming to terms with the past,
these authors argue, is much more intricate. Such a process would also entail
acknowledging and assuming the responsibility that each of the survivors had in
perpetuating the former regime for decades. It will take much longer than expected to reflect upon the issues of everyday cooptation by and implicit collaboration with the defunct communist regime. Until then, however, many
Romanians have located the guilt collectively in them: the former secret police the Securitate, as well as the Romanian Communist Party and its former
nomenklatura. To sum up, the Piteti syndrome has been caused by the refusal to
6 The first study in the English language on this institution is Deletant, Dennis: Ceauescu
and the Securitate. Coercion and Dissent in Romania 1965-1989. London 1995. However, the infamous activities of this institution were internationally disclosed by the
bestselling book authored by one of its former high ranking officers who had chosen
liberty by immigrating to the USA. Although this account focuses mostly on the external activity of the Romanian secret police, it is nevertheless at the origins of an entire
range of stories about the uses and abuses of the methods characteristic to such institution. This book reinforced not only the already existing image that the Romanian secret
police was a criminal organization, but also that it acted always at the direct order of
the General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party himself. See Pacepa, Ion
Mihai: Red Horizons. Chronicles of a Communist Spy Chief. Washington/DC 1987.



accept that the communist system could not have survived for such a long period without benefiting from the tacit approval of the silent majority of the
population, and the active support of larger groups than them.
The major symptom of the syndrome consists in the aforementioned monopolization of the public sphere by a unique form of remembering communism, while all other forms of memory remain marginal. The Piteti syndrome
manifests itself through continuous references to the exceptional nature of the
Romanian communism, which is considered to have been a phenomenon alien
to the Romanian psyche and, more importantly, has been fiercely rejected from
the very beginning. That phenomenon, the argument further reads, survived for
more than four decades against peoples will only due to the sheer terror practiced by the former secret police, the infamous Securitate. Much more than the
former nomenklatura, that omnipresent and omnipotent institution is perceived
as the very essence of Romanian communism, and the sole capable of maintaining the illegitimate communists in power by transforming an entire innocent
population into its victims. Moreover, since the overwhelming majority of the
Romanians must have been incapable of revolting against the regime due to the
ubiquitous secret police, it must have been the Securitate that organized the
Revolution of 1989 and then took advantage of it. Thus, by occupying all the
prominent positions in the post-communist economic structures and political
offices, it is largely believed that the Securitate and its still undisclosed collaborators continues to rule the country, direct the transition to democracy according
to their interests, and deprive once again the Romanians of the benefits of liberty. In other words, the former secret police, an institution that officially no
longer exists, but symbolically survives in peoples minds, is identified as the
source of all evils and blamed for each and every misfortune since the end of the
Second World War. Accordingly, the very process of retribution for past wrongdoings focused solely on the Securitate, as it is shown below.
Last but by no means least, an issue that deserves further elaboration is the
name chosen to define the cultural syndrome addressed by the present study. In
naming the syndrome Piteti, these authors hint at the terrible communist experiment known as reeducation that took place in a prison in that city.7 The
experiment aimed at mentally annihilating the political prisoners by forcing
them to abjure their most profound values and destroying their most humane
feelings. It was believed that one effective way of reaching such a goal was ac7 Apart from being famous for this communist experiment of reeducation, Piteti is a
medium-size city (approx. 150,000 inhabitants), located 120 km north of Bucharest,
near which the automobile factory Dacia was built in the late 1960s in collaboration
with the French state-owned company Renault. After 1989 Renault invested massively
in the factory, which currently produces the low-budget car whose commercial name is
still Dacia. It represents one of the very few success stories of communist modernization
in Romania, if measured in terms of the convertibility from a pre-1989 industrial giant
based on obsolete technology into a post-communist internationally competitive company.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

cording to the principles outlined by Anton S. Makarenko in his capital work,

the notorious Pedagogical Poem by applying torture continuously, without
leaving individuals any time to recover. In order to achieve it, a part of the
political prisoners was converted into the torturers of the other part. In short,
after a horrifying process of self-denial, the victims were turned into perpetrators
just to end up all together by being either repressed or totally reeducated.8
Although it was also introduced in other prisons, the reeducation on the
Piteti model was not generalized throughout the Romanian Gulag.9 Known in
literature as the Piteti phenomenon, reeducation, according to the current state
of research, was a singular experiment not only in Romania, but also in the
Soviet bloc.10 In other words, the Piteti type of reeducation symbolizes not only
the diabolical character of Romanian communism, but also its uniqueness in
East-Central Europe. After 1989, the idea that before 1989 the whole country
was a prison in which the entire Romanian nation was subjected to a Piteti-style
process of reeducation at the end of which each and every Romanian was turned
into a New Man has become a common place.11 It is in this sense that this
8 The Piteti experiment was mentioned as Romanias original contribution to the history of repression in East-Central Europe. See Courtois, Stphane et al.: Le livre noire
du communisme. Crimes, terreur et rpression. Paris 1997, 391. The first account of
this horrible experiment was published by the Romanian diaspora in Spain, which
included mostly members and supporters of the extreme right. See Bacu, Dumitru:
Piteti. Centru de reeducare studeneasc [Piteti. Center of student reeducation]. Madrid 1963. It is interesting to note that the nucleus of the torturers recruited from
among political prisoners was composed of former members of the Iron Guard, the
Romanian interwar fascist party. For recent research on the Piteti phenomenon, see
Murean, Alin: Piteti. Cronica unei sinucideri asistate [Piteti. The Chronicle of an
assisted suicide]. Iai 2008.
9 A first volume of archival documents illustrated that reeducation was applied in other
Romanian prisons as well. See Memorialul Ororii. Documente ale procesului
reeducrii din nchisorile Piteti, Gherla [The Memorial of Horror. Documents of
the reeducation process in the Piteti and Gherla prisons]. Bucharest 1995. Recent
research has documented that reeducation was first applied in the Aiud prison, then
perfected in the Suceava penitenciary, to be then fully applied in the Piteti prison
and extended to other penitenciaties, such as Braov, Trgor, Gherla, Trgu Ocna,
Ocnele Mari, and the Danube-Black Sea Canal. A first volume of this research was
published as Stnescu, Mircea: Reeducarea n Romnia comunist 1945-1952. Aiud,
Suceava, Piteti, Braov [Reeducation in Communist Romania 1945-1952. Aiud,
Suceava, Piteti, Braov]. Iai 2010.
10 It seems that a somehow similar system of brain-washing was established in China.
See Courtois 1997 (cf. n. 8), 475-486.
11 This argument is developed by Horia Roman Patapievici, who maintains that the
Romanian society was affected by a deep identity crisis. According to Patapievici, two
theories were articulated by Romanian contemporary authors to explain the crisis. The
first, which the author calls the thesis of the historical misfortune, focuses only on the
influence of communism which was largely considered to have been imposed from
the outside against the will of the Romanians. The second is defined as the thesis of
failed modernity, and maintains that the current crisis has its origins in the 19th century. According to the latter thesis, the crisis the Romanian society faces represents the



experiment has gained a central place in the process of remembering communism.12 And it is in this particular sense that the authors of the present study use
the name Piteti for defining the post-1989 societal and cultural syndrome that,
in various ways, prevents the Romanians to reconcile, and eventually to come to
terms, with their past. To sum up, the Piteti syndrome does not epitomize the
history of communism in Romania, but the memory and mis-memory of that
period of the recent past in post-communism.

The Politics of Remembering the Communist Past

Post-Communist Anti-Communism vs. Neo-Communism
As mentioned, Romanian communism is almost exclusively remembered as a
period of great sufferings imposed upon an innocent population by a Sovietbacked regime, which made extensive use of the terror through the secret police
to crush any possible opposition. This vision corresponds to the dominant public representation of communism. How communism is actually remembered by
the voiceless part of the Romanians, who do not express themselves publicly,
represents an equally fascinating topic, but one that requires a different type of
inquiry. Nevertheless, one should acknowledge that the discourses in the public
sphere certainly influence the views of the rest of the population, which ironically enough, is no longer quasi-illiterate due to the communist educational
policies. In other words, memories of the communist period even those originating in personal experiences are under the constant assault of public disdirect result of the implementation of western institutions in a society unprepared to
absorb them. Thus, communism only deepened an already existing crisis. See Patapievici, H.-R.: Anatomia unei catastrofe [The anatomy of a catastrophe]. In: Politice
[Political writings]. Bucharest 1996, 79-94.
12 The first volume of the newly established publishing house Humanitas, a main promoter of works related to the so-called trial of communism, was Ierunca, Virgil:
Fenomenul Piteti [The Piteti phenomenon]. Bucharest 1990. The volume represented a new edition of an earlier version published abroad in 1981. Ierunca was a Parisbased collaborator of the Romanian desk of Radio Free Europe and one of the most
popular voices with the public within the country due to his programs that criticized
the communist literary establishment. It should be mentioned that the Romanian
translation of The Black Book of Communism was published by the same Humanitas
publishing house in collaboration with the Civic Academy Foundation that established
the memorial dedicated to the victims of communism at Sighet. To the Romanian
translation, an addendum dedicated to the crimes committed by the Romanian communist regime, which includes a subchapter on the Piteti phenomenon, was added.
See Deletant, Dennis. Metode de reeducare. Fenomenul Piteti [Methods of reeducation. The Piteti phenomenon]. In: Cartea Neagr a Comunismului. Crime, teroare,
represiune. Ed. by Stphane Courtois et al. Transl. by Maria Ivnescu, Luana Schidu,
Brndua Prelipceanu, Emanoil Marcu, Doina Jela Despois, Daniela tefnescu, Ileana
Busuioc. Bucharest 1998, 770-772.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

courses, which are expected to alter the private versions of the history of that
period produced in post-communism. The following part reconstructs the particular political and societal context in which the aforementioned public representation of communism was produced, reproduced and legitimated in the past
twenty years.
When communism finally collapsed on 22 December 1989, it took most of
the Romanians by surprise. Neither the ruling elite, from among whose members none was advocating a reformist path, nor the population at large, which,
with few exceptions, did not openly protest against the regime prior to the days
of the revolution, seemed to have planned it. On the one hand, the former communist elite did not give up power willingly, but it was smashed by a sudden
popular revolt, hardly anticipated by a majority of the observers. On the other
hand, because there was no organized opposition under communism to pave the
way to the systemic changes of 1989, the second- and third-rank communist
bureaucrats took over power and won the first post-communist free elections of
1990. Briefly put, in Romania the break with the communist past was non-negotiated, because there was neither an inside group in the Romanian Communist Party (Partidul Comunist Romn, PCR) with whom an agreement could
have been made, nor organized groups outside the party to ask for it.13 At the
same time, Romanias exit from communism was perceived as being the least
radical from among the former Soviet bloc countries because of the obvious
continuity between the two regimes in terms of political elite recruitment.
After Ceauescus downfall, in the evening of 22 December 1989, the National Salvation Front (Frontul Salvrii Naionale, FSN) established itself as the
new ruling body of the country, destined to lead the country until the first free
elections. This ad-hoc group had a very diverse membership, ranging from marginalized apparatchiks and technocrats close to the party to non-aligned critical
intellectuals and radical dissidents.14 Most of the names on the FSN list were
known to the average Romanian from the programs of the western broadcasting
agencies among which Radio Free Europe featured prominently as persons
who opposed at some point the megalomaniac policies of the former dictator.
Yet, the initial coherence of this group quickly faded away. It became clear soon
that the group of former apparatchiks gathered around Ion Iliescu was the most
active and adroit in establishing the new power structures. When reading the
proclamation of 22 December regarding the future of post-communist Roma-

13 This argument was formulated in a comparative perspective in Linz, Juan/Stepan,

Alfred: Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation. Southern Europe,
South America and Post-Communist Europe. Baltimore 1996.
14 See the English translation of the Communiqu of the National Salvation Front of 22
December 1989 and the list of its members, presented to the disoriented Romanians
on the national TV in the evening of that day by Romanias future president, Ion
Iliescu, in Daniels, Robert V. (ed.): A Documentary History of Communism and the
World. From Revolution to Collapse. Hanover-London 1994, 345-346.



nia, Iliescu modestly put himself the last on the list of signatories.15 However,
once FSN was in control of state institutions, including media avenues of communication such as the national TV and radio stations, it declared itself on 23
January 1990 a political party heading for the general elections established for
20 May the same year. As a consequence, former dissidents, unwilling to back
such a maneuver destined to boost the second- and third-rank communist officials to power in post-communism, left the ruling body, thus opening a period
of fierce political confrontations.16
An opposition to FSN established itself quickly and began to act against the
overwhelming political influence of the respective party as well as to protest
against the uneven electoral competition. On the one hand, FSN came to be
increasingly perceived by the political opposition as the party of the former activists and nomenklatura members. On the other hand, a majority of the population continued to support FSN, in which they saw the political force that put
an end to Ceauescus rule.17 FSN never acknowledged any continuity with the
former communist party, whose patrimony was passed to the Romanian state.
Ideologically, FSN had little to do with the communist doctrine, which ceased
long before 1989 to be the credo of a large majority of PCR members, with the

15 Known as being a moderate reformist marginalized by Ceauescu, Ion Iliescu came into
the public attention in the late 1980s due to rumors that credited him as a close friend
of Gorbachev from the time spent in Moscow for university studies. His prestige had
already been constructed by 1989; through his association with the Soviet reformist
leader, Iliescu was considered one of the most likely successors of Ceauescu by numerous Romanians, including the authors of this study. One could not assess how widespread was such a view, but it is worth mentioning that it was promoted not only
through simple rumors, but also by the broadcastings of the RFE. The director of the
Romanian division of the RFE, Vlad Georgescu, commenting Silviu Brucans latest
book of 1987, made a parallel between his ideas and those expressed by Ion Iliescu in
an article which had appeared earlier in that year in the literary weekly Romnia
literar. Silviu Brucan was a member of the generation of old-timers, also marginalized
by Ceauescu. He came to prominence again in 1989, due to the letter of protest addressed to Ceauescu by him and five other communists from the old guard. Ion
Iliescu was not among the signatories. From the signatories of the letter also known
as the letter of the six Brucan distinguished himself in post-communism as an astute political analyst. For comments on Iliescus argument of the late 1980s see Georgescu, Vlad: Reading Brucan. 19 December 1987, OSA/RFE Archives, Romanian Fond,
300/60/3/Box 6, File Dissidents: Silviu Brucan.
16 In the following days, former dissidents and critical intellectuals such as Doina Cornea
and Ana Blandiana resigned from FSN. Significant demonstrations were organized
during the following weekend by the historical parties against FSNs decision, while
FSN brought its own supporters to counter-demonstrate.
17 A famous slogan of the time was FSN=PCR (Partidul Comunist Romn, i.e., the
Romanian Communist Party). It should be stressed that it is exclusively the concentration of second-rank party members in the leadership of FSN that made this party to
be identified with communism.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

notable exception of its last general secretary, Nicolae Ceauescu.18 Yet, as a

political force, FSN could be identified with communism due to its membership that displayed a large concentration of former prominent PCR apparatchiks
that brought with them in post-communism their old habits of the mind. In
response to the post-1989 political dominance of the lower nomenklatura after
what should have been an anti-communist revolution, the emerging opposition
to FSN asked for the continuation of the revolution to achieve Romanias true
exit from communism.19

The Revolution Continued. Memory against Amnesia

Briefly put, anti-communism became the essential ingredient in defining the
identity of the post-communist opposition, which had two dimensions. One
was political: until the first shift in power occurred in 1996, the polarization
of the political spectrum and implicitly the electoral competition were clearly
shaped by the dichotomy of anti-communists vs. communists. While the post1989 political power displayed a party monolithism that was arguably inherited
from PCR, the party of origin for the overwhelming majority of its members,
the opposition was less coherent, but still united in their anti-communist
stance.20 The other dimension was civic: the anti-communist ethos gave a
great impetus to the organization of civil society in post-communism. In this
respect, the societal polarization in post-1989 Romania mirrored the state vs.
alternative society cleavage characteristic to the post-Helsinki Central European
countries. Politically, the most coherent and most visible group that promoted
anti-communism was that of the former political prisoners, many of whom were
18 Vladimir Tismneanu, a keen observer of the political culture of Romanian communism, argues that Nicolae Ceauescu was the last true believer in Romania, an obsolete
and belated Stalinist in an increasingly reform-oriented Soviet camp, who declared that
his hobby was the construction of socialism in Romania. Tismneanus main thesis
is that the Romanian communist elite never abandoned Stalinism as an ideology, but
only simulated its abandonment while preserving staunch anti-reformist views. In this
respect, it should be mentioned that Ceauescus ideological perspective was shaped by
Stalins Problems of Leninism, which he had openly declared to have preserved with
great care even after 1953 while others were throwing it away because it contained
most valuable thoughts. For more on this see Tismneanu, Vladimir: Stalinism for All
Seasons. A Political History of Romanian Communism. Berkeley 2003.
19 Corneliu Coposu, the emblematic leader of the opposition to FSN, identified Ion
Iliescu and his newly established party with the perpetuation of the communist manipulation of truth in Romanian post-1989 politics. See Coposu, Corneliu: Dialoguri
cu Vartan Arachelian [Dialogues with Vartan Arachelian]. Bucharest 1991, 120-122.
20 It should also be mentioned that, in terms of recruitment, all post-communist parties
included approximately the same percentage of former members of PCR. The difference
between them lies in the representation former second- and third-rank party activists had
in the leadership of FSN as compared to the other parties. See tefan, Laureniu: Patterns
of Elite Recruitment in Post-communist Romania. Bucharest 2004.



also key members of the so-called historical parties, the pre-communist parties
that reemerged after the 1989 revolution. Civically, there were the public intellectuals who epitomized civil society, as it happened before the collapse of communism in Hungary or former Czechoslovakia (but not in Poland). The two
groups were by no means homogenous, but both acted as if they epitomized the
identity of these social categories and, what is more, imposed themselves from
the first days of the transition as the most active pressure groups. Such a particular configuration of the political and civic opposition also reflected a gap
between two generations. With a few exceptions that could be placed in either
category, the historical parties side comprised those who had already arrived
at political maturity at the moment of the communist takeover, while the public
intellectuals side gathered mostly individuals whose political socialization was
limited to the communist period.21 Although the discourses and agendas of the
two groups did not entirely coincide, both were manifestly anti-communist, and
equally important, both organized themselves from the very first days of the
Revolution of 1989.
The post-1989 historical parties claimed descent from the three major democratic political organizations in interwar Romania: the National Peasant Party
(Partidul Naional rnesc, PN, subsequently named Partidul Naional
Trnesc-Cretin Democrat, PN-CD), the National Liberal Party (Partidul
Naional Liberal, PNL) and the Romanian Social-Democratic Party (Partidul
Social Democrat Romn, PSDR). In the early 1990s, all three were dominated by
members of the interwar political elite that survived the Romanian Gulag. From
among the former political prisoners that reentered politics in post-communism,
a charismatic personality emerged as the very symbol of the political opposition
to FSN: Corneliu Coposu (1914-1995), the undisputable leader of the post-1989
National Peasant Party. There were at least two major factors that contributed
to Coposus public recognition. First, he epitomized the continuity with the
interwar democratic politics as former deputy general secretary of the National
Peasant Party and personal secretary of Iuliu Maniu a legendary democratic
figure of Romanian politics in the first half of the 20th century and one of the
most active participants in the making of Greater Romania in 1918. Second,
Coposu embodied the sufferings of the political prisoners under the communist
regime: he was imprisoned between 1947 and 1962 in the most terrifying communist prisons such as Vcreti, Jilava, Piteti, Aiud, Poarta Alb, Rmnicu
Srat, Gherla and Sighet. Finally, in post-1989 politics, it was Coposus determination to build a strong political force able to oppose Ion Iliescus party that gave
impetus to the process of establishing a united democratic opposition, which
21 Christian Mititelu, former director of the Romanian desk of BBC, has provided insightful comments on the societal and generational gap between former political pri
soners and critical intellectuals, in Rusan, Romulus (ed.): Cei care au spus NU.
Oponeni i disideni din anii 70 i 80 [Those who said NO. Opponents and Dissidents of the 1970s and the 1980s]. Bucharest 2005, 216-217.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

culminated with the creation of the Democratic Convention in Romania

(Convenia Democratic din Romnia, CDR).22
All these historical parties based their legitimacy on the notion of continuity
with the organizations banned after the communist takeover and the appalling
sufferings of their members and followers. In the long run, the vision on communism promoted by those who had been the victims of that regime became
dominant. One should note, however, that those who were detained as political
prisoners went through their most traumatic experiences before the general amnesty of 1964 and thus upon their liberation from prison they were almost completely silenced. Furthermore, until 1989 the Securitate kept the former political
prisoners under strict surveillance. Consequently, such individuals had only a
very limited margin for maneuver and could engage with great difficulty in oppositionist activities after their release from prison.23 Moreover, when courageous gestures were nevertheless made by former members of the historical parties, these received less attention by Western broadcasting agencies than those of
the critical intellectuals.24 Nevertheless, many of the former members of the
22 After his liberation from prison, Coposu was active in the underground National Peasant Party, and it was due to his efforts that the party adhered to the Christian-Democratic International in 1987. See Coposu 1991 (cf. n. 19), 82-114. His physical presence
of a very thin man seemed the very embodiment of the sufferings in the Romanian
Gulag: he had entered in prison with 112 kg., and went out with 51 kg., which means
less than half. His family drama was very impressing too: his wife was also imprisoned,
and died after her liberation, but prior to his release, so that they never met each
other again in liberty. For more on this see Fie de detenie. Corneliu Coposu [Fiches
of detention. Corneliu Coposu]. In: Aldine, supplement of the daily newspaper
Romnia liber, 11 November 2005, 4.
23 Dumitru Petrescu, grandfather of one of the present authors, was detained as a political prisoner in the early 1950s in a labor camp. After 1989, when asked if the threats of
Securitate made him unwilling to speak of his prison experiences before 1989, he said
that it were not the threats, but the nightmarish conditions and the appalling things
witnessed in the labor camp that silenced him. At liberation, he said, the sheer statement that if someone disclosed something that individual would be brought back to
prison made him and other former political prisoners remain silent throughout the
communist period.
24 The most notable gesture of opposition against the Ceauescu regime was the public
statement made by three former prominent members of the National Peasant Party in
1986, with the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution, in which
they expressed their solidarity with the Hungarian, Czech-Slovak and Polish dissidents.
In October 1986, Corneliu Coposu, Nicolae Carandino and Ion Puiu expressed their
admiration for the Hungarians, who so valiantly fought for their freedom 30 years
ago. See Socor, Vladimir: Three Romanians Reported to Have Endorsed Joint Dissident Statement. In: Romanian Situation Report, 6 November 1986, OSA/RFE Archives, Romanian Fond, 300/60/3/Box 18, File Opposition 1987. Their message was
made public at a press conference organized on 22 October 1986 by Ion Raiu, a Romanian refugee in London. Raiu was in his youth a member of the same National
Peasant Party, but left the country with the first wave of emigration in the aftermath
of the war, avoiding the imprisonment that the other three had to endure for 15 to 17
years. In 1986, Raiu established the World Union of the Free Romanians (Uniunea



historical parties maintained informal networks throughout the entire communist period, so that they could reorganize themselves politically immediately
after the 1989 revolution.
The historical parties had a strong anti-communist stance from the very moment of their official reemergence in January 1990, and all identified communism with FSN, the party that symbolically represented the continuity with the
past through its most prominent members such as Ion Iliescu. If the post-1989
public intellectuals possessed a certain degree of legitimacy mostly in the eyes
of the educated strata as either already established personalities under communism or former dissidents made known through the programs of the Western
broadcasting agencies, the historical parties had a serious problem in this respect.
As none of their members was a public figure before 1989, the Romanians
perhaps with the exception of the older generations knew very little about
them.25 The lessons learned in school about the interwar democratic parties were
the expression of the distorted communist version of history, aiming at indoctrinating the Romanians. Thus, especially in early 1990, large segments of the
population were misled by the FSN propaganda that claimed that the historical
parties were determined to sell the country to the West. Consequently, the
Mondial a Romnilor Liberi), which aimed at uniting all the members of the Romanian emigration in the West and helping dissidents at home. After December 1989,
Raiu returned to Romania and became a prominent member of the National Peasant
Party. He ran for presidency against Ion Iliescu the representative of FSN, and Radu
Cmpeanu the representative of the National Liberal Party, in the first presidential
elections of 1990. For more on this see Raiu, Ion: n fine, acas. Note zilnice, decembrie 1989-decembrie 1990 [Finally at home. Daily notes, December 1989-December
1990]. Bucharest 1999.
25 The greatest historical moment from which these parties could capitalize politically was
the establishment of Greater Romania in the aftermath of WWI. It should be mentioned that, on the one hand, everything that was taught under communism about the
interwar period was subordinated to the idea that political parties contributed to the
ruin of the country because of wicked policies in times of peace and bad alliances in
war times. On the other hand, the moment of the union of 1918 was one of the greatest moments in the national-communist historical canon, which interpreted the entire
Romanian history as a constant struggle for unity and independence. The most promi
nent political post-communist personality from the midst of the re-born historical
parties, Corneliu Coposu, stressed time and again the role played in the making of
Greater Romania by his political mentor, the Transylvanian-born lawyer Iuliu Maniu,
whose contribution to this event had been totally ignored in the communist textbooks.
Maniu had been one of the most important political leaders in interwar Romania as
the president the National Peasant Party until its interdiction in 1947, and a symbol
for the democratic traditions of this country, however feeble these might have been.
Following a mock trial in the same year, he was imprisoned for life at the age of 74.
After his death in 1953 in one of the most terrible communist prisons from the small
town of Sighet, he was buried in an unknown place in the cemetery of the poor. See
for instance the posthumously published volume Coposu, Corneliu: Confesiuni. Dialoguri cu Doina Alexandru [Confessions. Dialogues with Doina Alexandru]. Bucharest
1996, esp. 28-32.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

anti-communist discourse promoted by the historical parties, which was shaped

by sufferings in the communist prisons, was received at the time with skepticism.
Such a skepticism was rooted in the fact that in Romania the communist
party had become by 1989 a mass party of almost 4 million members, while no
structured opposition against the communist regime managed to emerge. Instead, most of the population struggled to find a way to cope with daily shortages and muddle through the miseries of everyday life. Thus, it is still not clear
how many Romanians actually wanted during the days of the 1989 revolution to
put an end to the communist regime and how many sought only to get rid of
Nicolae Ceauescu. However, it became clear soon after the regime change that
the average Romanians identified themselves with the party of Ion Iliescu, who
spoke a familiar language to them, and not with those who symbolized precommunist Romania and suffered enormously under communism. Consequently, in the first free elections, the radical anti-communist message of these
parties, speaking about a part of recent history that was totally new for those
who never had a member of the family imprisoned, captured the hearts and
minds of a very small part of the electorate. Thus, FSN won more than two
thirds of the seats in the Parliament, while the historical parties were barely
It was in reaction to such a development that the anti-communist discourse,
promoted by the historical parties and actively supported by the public intellectuals, would gradually become influential. Due to the fact that under communism intellectual dissent was scarce, many of the intellectuals who did not
openly speak against, but still refrained from supporting, Ceauescus regime
emerged aside the few pre-1989 critiques of the communist system as powerful
voices in the post-1989 public sphere. This is not to say that they had a tremendous influence upon large strata of the population. On the contrary, Romanian
26 FSN won 66.31% for the Chamber of Deputies and 67.02% for the Senate, which
brought them 263 seats out of a total of 395, respectively 91 seats out of 118. For comparison, the National Peasant Party had only 12 deputies and 1 senator, the National
Liberal Party 29 deputies and 10 senators, while the Romanian Social Democrat Party
only 2 deputies and no senator. See Stoica, Stan: Romnia 1989-2005. O istorie
cronologic [Romania 1989-2005. A chronology]. Bucharest 2005, 169-173. See an interesting parallel between the interwar period and the post-communist one in terms of
the functioning of the electoral systems in Preda, Cristian: Romnia postcomunist i
Romnia interbelic [Post-communist Romania and interwar Romania]. Bucharest
2002. In this respect, it should also be taken into account that, in terms of electoral
behavior, the political culture in Romania was always characterized by a clear tendency
to vote for the party in power. For the interwar period see Dogan, Mattei: Analiza
statistic a democraiei parlamentare din Romnia [The Statistical analysis of parliamentary democracy in Romania]. Bucharest 1946. For the post-communist period
see Barbu, Daniel: Republica absent. Politic i societate n Romnia postcomunist
[The absent republic. Politics and society in post-communist Romania]. Bucharest
1999, esp. 147-180.



intellectuals attempts of taking seriously their public responsibility in a society

that was not prepared for that ended violently in the so-called mineriada of June
1990. In the long run, however, anti-communism would be imposed by intellectuals as a supreme value of the emerging Romanian democracy. Actually, it
was only due to their massive civic involvement on the political side represented
by the historical parties while enjoying a growing influence in the public sphere
that anti-communism has been institutionalized as a major theme of Romanian
post-communism. To such an anti-communist credo was associated a particular
representation of communism, centered on appalling sufferings and utter resistance.
The public intellectuals imposed themselves rapidly also due to the fact that,
largely, they acted in early post-communism as a coherent group. The first and
the most visible association was the Group for Social Dialogue (Grupul pentru
Dialog Social, GDS), which gathered together the most prominent cultural and
artistic personalities in 1989 Romania. This group is later on analyzed in detail
as a major vector of memory in post-communist Romania, but for the time being it should be mentioned that it represented only the tip of the iceberg. The
very establishment of GDS in Romania a country where intellectuals have
always been connected to the powers-that-be ever since the establishment of the
modern state in the 19th century was a premiere as it promoted the idea that
intellectuals should be independent of and critical towards the political power.
Moreover, in a country that never really assimilated the values of the Enlightenment, the very idea that intellectuals should acknowledge their public responsibility and act as such was again a novelty.27
It should be stressed though that a majority of the Romanian intellectuals
only mirrored in post-communism the ideas put earlier forward by the Central
European dissident movements. In communist Central Europe, dissidents acted
as critical voices aiming at articulating the claims of the voiceless ordinary citizens against the oppressing state. As previously mentioned, in Romania there
were very few pre-1989 open critiques of communism and therefore many of the
public intellectuals in present-day Romania are post-1989 critiques of communism. For the purpose of this study, it does not make sense to treat them as
separate categories, since as a group all promoted the same representation of
communism. Yet, while FSN was identified by its opposition as a sort of postnomenklatura, the critical discourse that targeted this apparent inheritor of the
communist regime was produced by what might be called a post-dissidence.
Finally, in order to clarify the relationship between such groups and the historical parties, it should be added that GDS, as well as other intellectual groups,
were declared anti-political organizations in the sense the pre-1989 Central Eu27 A plea for the public responsibility of the intellectuals see in Dahrendorf, Ralf: After
1989. Morals, Revolution and Civil Society. New York 1997. On the role played by
public intellectuals in East-Central European politics after 1989, and a comparison to
their peers in Western Europe, see Garton Ash, Timothy: History of the Present. Essays, Sketches and Dispatches from Europe in the 1900s. New York 1999.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

ropean dissent was. Nevertheless, their anti-communism was rather a-political

than anti-political. In other words, although acting in the post-communist pluralist political system, a large part of Romanian critical intellectuals behaved as
if the opportunity to join the historical parties did not exist. With very few
exceptions, they did not effectively enroll in these parties.28 Yet, public intellectuals were on the same side in their criticism against FSN and its attempts to
obstruct the emergence of political pluralism in Romania. While historical parties appealed mostly to the older generations, the anti-communist discourse of
the critical intellectuals had a significant influence on the urban educated Romanians. To sum up, if the historical parties were indispensable for institutionalizing political pluralism in post-communism, public intellectuals were crucial
in generating civil society nuclei in the early 1990s. After years of social atomization and political apathy, such intellectuals, not only through channels of media
communications, but also through the power of personal example, succeeded in
stimulating the political participation of their audiences.
In this respect, another group, further discussed as another major vector of
memory the Civic Alliance (Aliana Civic, AC) with its related foundation,
the Civic Academy (Academia Civic) was highly instrumental. In order to
understand the context in which AC emerged, more details on the April June
1990 events in Bucharest are needed. The increasing dominance of FSN and the
former communists in the post-1989 power structures led to large demonstrations that culminated with the occupation of the center of Bucharest on 22 April
1990. The small urban zone controlled by the demonstrators was declared the
first area free of neo-communism. The round-the-clock protest that followed
and lasted for almost two months is known in Romania as the University Square
phenomenon.29 The main actors in that series of daily demonstrations were the
public intellectuals, who delivered anti-communist speeches every afternoon

28 In 1990, some prominent critical intellectuals run in elections on a separate list including politically independent candidates, but got no significant support from voters. It
was only later, in 1991, that a party of critical intellectuals, called the Party of the
Civic Alliance (Partidul Alianei Civice, PAC) was established. In spite of some electoral success in 1992, it proved to have a short life in Romanian politics. After failing
to enter the Parliament in 1996, it joined the National Liberal Party in 1998. For more
on this, see Scurtu, Ioan (ed.): Structuri politice n Europa Central i de Sud-Est 19182001 [Political structures in Central and Southeast Europe 1918-2001], vol. 2: Romania.
Bucharest 2003, 180-181.
29 This phenomenon implied a threefold division: (1) one in space (the area free of
neo-communism vs. the rest); (2) a societal one (the demonstrators were called by Ion
Iliescu golani, which means tramps in Romanian, an appellative they used then with
positive connotations); and (3) an ideological one. For more on the meanings of this
phenomenon, see Gussi, Alexandru: Construction et usage politique dun lieu de mmoire. La place de lUniversit de Bucarest. In: Studia Politica, vol. 2, 4(2002), 10601075.



from the balcony of the University of Bucharest.30 In essence, these manifestations represented a desperate attempt by several independent associations the
kernel of civil society in post-communist Romania to prevent the seizure of
the anti-communist Revolution of 1989 by the party of Ion Iliescu, dominated
by former communist officials of lower rank.
Among the most important requests of the University Square demonstrators
was the introduction of lustration, a request formulated for the first time on 11
March 1990 in Timioara, the city that started the Romanian Revolution of 1989,
and referred ever since as the Article 8 of the so-called Proclamation of
Timioara. The respective article asked for the banning of all former nomenklatura members, party activists, and officers of the former secret police to run
in the next three elections.31 In full control of the national TV and radio, FSN
took advantage of the distorted way in which history was taught under communism and managed to present the demonstrators as enemies of the Romanian people, representatives of the former boyars who wanted their possessions
back and former Iron Guard militants who aspired to criminal revenge. Thus,
those daily demonstrations did not succeed in preventing FSN and Ion Iliescu
from winning the first free elections of 20 May 1990. After such a political blow,
the University Square manifestations lost strength, but did not cease.
The University Square phenomenon ended in violence and bloodshed during
the mineriada of June 1990. Beginning with 13 June, the police and special
troops, as well as workers from Bucharests industrial platform and Jiu Valley
miners brought to Bucharest by train, brutally attacked the remaining de
monstrators. The headquarters of the historical parties, those of the newspapers
supporting the opposition such as the daily Romnia liber or the weekly
Revista 22, as well as the main building of the University of Bucharest, were
devastated. If Romania had become again an exception among the post-communist Central European countries after the elections that legitimated the former
communists in power, such events made the country be perceived as lost for
democracy. Slogans such as Death to intellectuals! were shouted by the frenzy
miners who distinguished themselves by beating everyone that looked like an
educated person.32
30 A famous song of the University Square demonstrations was entitled Mai bine mort
dect comunist [I would be rather dead than a communist], which was interpreted by
one of the most famous pop singers of the time, Valeriu Sterian.
31 See Annex 2: Proclamaia de la Timioara [Proclamation of Timioara]. In: tefnescu,
Domnia: Cinci ani din istoria Romniei. O cronologie a evenimentelor decembrie
1989-decembrie 1995 [Five years of Romanias history. A chronology of events between
December 1989 and December 1994]. Bucharest 1995, 453-454.
32 The repression of the University Square demonstrations is analyzed in detail in Berindei, Mihnea/Combes, Ariadna/Planche, Anne: Roumanie. Le livre blanc. La ralit
dun pouvoir no-communiste. Paris 1990. All three authors were instrumental in supporting dissidents in Romania before 1989, and acted in close collaboration with Radio
Free Europe. Actually, Combes is the daughter of Doina Cornea, one of the most
known Romanian dissidents. The repression of the University Square protest had re-


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

Despite of this sudden and violent end, the University Square survived in
spirit through the very idea that the anti-communist Revolution of 1989 was not
finished as long as former communist officials were still in power. The public
representation of communism centered on terror and sufferings emerged in the
highly confrontational atmosphere of the early post-communism to become in
the long run dominant in the public sphere. According to such a perspective,
the population of Romania, ignorant of its communist past, voted for the former
communists without understanding what communism really meant. Holding
such premise as true, all individuals who felt responsible for the democratic
future of their country assumed the mission of publicly revealing the true history of communism by speaking about the crimes and the repressive policies of
the communist regime. Consequently, the major confrontation in post-communist Romania took place, as strangely as it may sound, between communists and
anti-communists. In the following, these authors use the terms neo-communists and post-communist anti-communists to refer to these two mutually
antagonistic societal groups and the discourses they produced in the post-1989
Neo-communists, as defined by the University Square protesters, were the
members and active supporters of FSN. They were not necessarily communists
by conviction, but individuals who had contributed, to a greater or a lesser extent, to the functioning of the communist bureaucracy. Such an experience,
their opponents considered, must have left an enduring legacy that was traceable
in attitudes and patterns of behavior. By contrast, the post-communist anticommunists were those who did not support the communist regime actively, but
in their majority did not publicly criticize it either before 1989. It should be
though emphasized that the post-communist anti-communists were not simple
opportunists who turned into the critiques of the defunct regime after its collapse. Yet, since in Romania there was no autonomous public sphere before 1989
as in the Central European countries, their anti-communism was not openly
expressed prior to the revolution; it was only implied through the refusal to act
for endorsing the communist regime. In short, the anti-communism displayed
by such individuals was publicly expressed only after 1989. Thus, much of the
anti-communism of the post-communist period originates in a rather diffuse
sentiment of guilt for not contributing to the collapse of the previous regime.
In addition, the neo-communists overwhelming victory in the 1990 free elections gave a fresh impetus to the post-communist anti-communists who could
thus identify a clear target for their criticism.33
sulted in a massive wave of emigration. A personal account illustrating the disillusionment of an entire young generation with their homeland, Romania, and unfortunately with their adoptive countries, in this case Germany, is Tric, Drago: Apatridul
[Without a homeland]. Bucharest 2005.
33 The concept of neo-communists, as results from the above, implies the perspective of
their political opponents and critiques. As such or under the form of the synonymous
term crypto-communists, it was largely used in the public sphere, especially until 1996.



To the camp of the post-communist anti-communists also belonged genuine

dissidents, individuals that publicly manifested their opposition against the
communist regime before 1989. However, the strong wave of anti-communism
that followed the December 1989 events in Romania obscured in many ways the
legitimate claims of those who truly fought against and suffered immensely
under communism. Obviously, it would be cynical and dishonest to label as
post-communist anti-communists the survivors of the terrible prisons and labor
camps of the 1950s or the few dissidents that took the risk of openly protesting
against the Ceauescu regime. These individuals were true to their own memories when recollecting sufferings from their past and the most legitimate in their
claims for retroactive justice and restitution. Many such voices though remained
marginal in the post-communist public sphere. To conclude, the adversaries of
neo-communism included the few pre-1989 resolute opponents to communism,
as well as the many post-1989 critiques of the defunct regime and its postcommunist remnants identified with FSN. The feeble anti-communism articulated prior to the revolution produced in reaction an excessively displayed anticommunism afterwards. In other words, the overrepresentation of the latter and
more numerous group made the entire camp, otherwise very heterogeneous,
appear rather fundamentalist in its overall view on the communist past. To sum
up, in the Romanian post-1989 context the distinction between the post-communist anti-communists and the neo-communists, which had a political as well
as a civic dimension, seemed to reproduce the state vs. alternative society
cleavage characteristic to the Central European countries under communism. It
is a rather past-oriented distinction, when compared to the future-oriented
dichotomy communists vs. decommunizers.34 The latter was employed to
separate the proponents of lustration from those of the thick line with the past,
In English, the best analysis of the Romanian early post-communism that underlines
the centrality of the concept of neo-communism is Verdery, Katherine/Klingman,
Gail: Romania after Ceauescu. Post-communist Communism? In: Eastern Europe in
Revolution. Ed. by Ivo Banac. Ithaca 1992, 127-147. The concept of post-communist
anti-communism is barely used in the Romanian public sphere; the authors opted for
it because it obviously supports the main thesis of this study. Of the Romanian authors
who employed the term in a similar vein, one can mention Daniel Barbu and Cristian
Preda, who stress the widespread of anti-communist stances among the Romanian
intellectuals after 1989. They also observe that the communist past was exclusively
understood as a period of oppression forced upon an innocent population. See Barbu,
Daniel: Anticomunismul postcomunist [The post-communist anti-communism]. In:
Idem 1999 (cf. n. 26), 93-106; and Preda, Cristian: Memorie i democraie [Memory
and democracy]. In: Occidentul nostru [Our West]. Bucharest 1999, 150-158.
34 Such categories were used in post-communist Poland, especially in relation to the societal gap between the pro-lustration and anti-lustration camps. Adam Michnik, in
fact, criticizes the idea that Poland was indeed divided between communists and decommunizers, arguing that common issues related to democratization are far more
important in post-communism than the issue of decommunization understood solely
in terms of lustration. See Michnik, Adam: I am a Polish Intellectual. In: Letters from
Freedom. Post-Cold War Realities and Perspectives. Berkeley 1998, 286-305.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

and cut across the political cleavage characteristic to the communist period.
Former prominent Central-European dissidents the best known examples being Adam Michnik and Vclav Havel were among the most fervent advocates
of preemptive forgiveness, but not forgetfulness. In Romania, the distinction
between the two camps separates two different relations with the past rather
than two visions about the future. With the neo-communists jealously guarding
the access to all sorts of archives, this battle was mostly about the recuperation
of the past, as it is further shown. In other words, the distinction neo-communism vs. post-communist anti-communism is perfectly symbolized by the dichotomy amnesia vs. memory.

Anti-Communism Continued.
Moral, Legal and Political Arguments
Since the early 1990s, Romania changed substantially and such a sharp distinction has become blurred in the political realm due to a series of party splits and
mergers. Moreover, during the twenty years of post-communism there were already several electoral shifts. The first major breakthrough took place in 1996,
when the neo-communists, i.e., Ion Iliescu and his followers, were sent in opposition for the fist time. Meanwhile, however, many politicians from the neocommunist camp have migrated to the other side of the political spectrum. In
March 1992, following a series of disagreements between president Ion Iliescu
and former prime minister Petre Roman, a major split occurred in FSN. A faction faithful to Ion Iliescu established in April 1992 the Democratic Front of
National Salvation (Frontul Democratic al Salvrii Naionale, FDSN), which in
July 1993 changed its name into the Party of Social Democracy in Romania
(Partidul Democraiei Sociale din Romnia, PDSR).35 The remaining part of
FSN, under the leadership of Petre Roman, entered in opposition after the elections of September 1992, and was renamed the Democratic Party (Partidul
Democrat, PD) in 1993.
At the same time, by 1992, the idea that the democratic opposition could
achieve an electoral success only if all political groups that were against the neocommunists would establish a coalition gained momentum.36 Because of this
35 Another significant split within PDSR occurred in June 1997, when the party was in
opposition for the first time. Then, a group led by Teodor Melecanu, former minister
of foreign affairs, left PDSR and established the Alliance for Romania (Aliana pentru
Romnia, ApR). See Scurtu 2003 (cf. n. 28), 163.
36 The Democratic Convention in Romania was established before the local elections of
1992. Then, it performed very well in all major cities, including Bucharest. In the
parliamentary elections of that year, however, after the withdrawal of the National
Liberal Party, CDR was only second with 20.01% of the votes for the Chamber, and
20.16% for the Senate. First in the preference of the electorate was FSN with 27.71%
for the Chamber, and 28.29% for the Senate. CDRs presidential candidate, Emil Con-



new policy, the Democratic Convention in Romania (Convenia Democratic din

Romnia, CDR), as an alliance grouping together the historical parties, other
smaller parties, and civil society associations, was created. As stated above, this
coalition succeeded in winning the 1996 elections under the famous slogan: We
can make it only together! After this victory of the democratic opposition, the
general feeling was that an electoral revolution finally fulfilled what was started
in 1989. The former rector of the University of Bucharest, Emil Constatinescu,
became Romanias first post-communist president that had not been a member
of the former nomenklatura.37
In the year 2000, CDR broke apart and Ion Iliescu came back to power together with his party, which reinvented itself a year later as the Social-Democratic Party (Partidul Social Democrat, PSD), after its unification with the historical
social-democratic party, i.e., the Romanian Social-Democratic Party (Partidul
Social Democrat Romn, PSDR).38 During the same elections of 2000, the most
powerful historical party, the National Peasant Party, the key member of the
ruling coalition between 1996 and 2000, did not gather enough votes to enter
the Parliament. Instead, the extreme-right Greater Romania Party (Partidul
Romnia Mare, PRM) scored much beyond expectations.39 Equally important,
stantinescu, came second after Ion Iliescu in both the first and the second rounds, with
31.24% vs. 47.34%, and 38.57% vs. 61.43% respectively. This electoral result created a lot
of disappointment, especially to the young generations, from among which many decided to leave the country, producing the second wave of post-communist emigration.
The best sociological analysis of the elections of 1990 and 1992, mapping the types of
discourses proposed by the candidates and the reactions of the electorate according to
opinion polls, was made by Pavel Cmpeanu. As the author put it, the cold rhetoric
of the polls describes [] the pain and strife of a society deeply engaged in a process
of self-regeneration. See Cmpeanu, Pavel: De patru ori n faa urnelor [Four times
voting]. Bucharest 1993.
37 In the next parliamentary elections of 1996, CDR reversed the order, winning 30.17%
of the votes for the Chamber, and 30.70 for the Senate, as compared to FSN, which
scored only 21.52%, and 23.08% respectively, arriving second for the first time in its
history. Emil Constantinescu came second in the first presidential round with 28.51%,
while Iliescu gathered 32.25% of the votes. Constantinescu, however, won in the second
round with 54.41%. For a detailed history of the rise and fall of the Democratic Convention in Romania, see Pavel, Dan/Huiu, Iulia: Nu putem reui dect mpreun. O
istorie analitic a Conveniei Democratice 1989-2000 [We can make it only together.
An analytic history of the Democratic Convention 1989-2000]. Iai 2003.
38 On 16 June 2001, Ion Iliescus Party of Social Democracy in Romania completed the
process of merging with the historical Romanian Social-Democratic Party, thus forming the Social-Democratic Party, whose president was Adrian Nstase (former PDSR)
and president of the National Council of the party was Alexandru Athanasiu (former
PSDR). See Scurtu 2003 (cf. n. 28), 160-167.
39 PDSR came first with 36.61% of the votes for the Chamber, and 37.09% for the Senate
in the parliamentary elections of 2000. Surprisingly, the PRM came second with
19.48%, and 21.01% respectively. The rump CDR, which was, in fact, the National
Peasant Party almost alone, was the sixth, with around 5% of the votes, which were not
enough to enter the parliament as a coalition. Emil Constantinescu decided to with-


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

many talked about the end of the ideology era, because it was for the first time
ever in a Romanian post-communist electoral campaign that anti-communism
played a rather marginal role, while the main message of all parties involved was
pro-European.40 However, in 2004, PSD lost power once again, after an electoral campaign in which anti-communist discourses were again heavily used by
its main competitor, the Alliance Justice and Truth, which was formed by two
parties that had been in the ruling coalition of 1996-2000. One was the party
that emerged after the first major split of FSN, the Democratic Party (PD),
which had moved in the meantime from center-left to center-right. The other
was the historical National Liberal Party (PNL), which had absorbed in January
2002 a faction originating in FSN-PDSR, called the Alliance for Romania
(Aliana pentru Romnia, ApR).41 The Alliance Justice and Truth broke apart
when PD left the government in 2007 to enlarge itself later with a rump faction
from its former ally PNL and turn into the Democratic-Liberal Party (Partidul

draw from the presidential race in the last minute, so that the parties of the former
CDR presented two different candidates. Consequently, Iliescu won in the first tour
36.35% of the votes. On the second place, with 28.34%, came PRMs candidate, Corneliu Vadim Tudor. A former court poet of Nicolae Ceauescu, Tudor represented the
embodiment of the Romanian national-communism. With all united against Tudor
and the menace of right wing extremism, Iliescu had no problems in wining the second
tour with 66.82% of the votes. The plea of the president of the Civic Academy Foundation, Ana Blandiana, to vote against Tudor (and, implicitly, to vote for Iliescu) became
famous enough to be quoted by Iliescus followers. Such a situation made Blandiana
defend publicly her position even after years. See Blandiana, Ana: Vorbele i realitatea.
Interviu cu Ana Blandiana [Words and reality. Interview with Ana Bladiana]. In:
Romnia liber, 27 January 2006, 2.
40 See for instance the article by Alexandrescu, Sorin: Amurgul societii civile [The wa
ning of civil society]. In: Revista 22, 557(2000), 7. The author observed that, with the
withdrawal of Emil Constantinescu from the direct confrontation with Ion Iliescu, the
polarization of the electorate between anti-communists and crypto-communists,
which characterized to the previous elections, disappeared.
41 As already mentioned, PD originated in one of the factions that emerged after the first
major split within FSN in April 1992. The other faction, led by Ion Iliescu, established
FDSN. As part of FSN, members of the current PD were in power until 1992. PD run
separately in the 1992 elections (as FSN) and remained in opposition until 1996, when
it entered CDR. As political partner within CDR, PD was in government between
1996 and 2000, entering again in opposition afterwards. In 2004, PD allied with the
National Liberal Party and established the Alliance Justice and Truth [Dreptate i
Adevr, in short DA, which means yes in Romanian]. Traian Bsescu, then mayor of
Bucharest, was nominated candidate for the presidential seat on behalf of both parties.
Although the DA Alliance came second with 31.33% for the Chamber, and 31.77% for
the Senate, Bsescu won the second round of the presidential elections against PSDs
candidate, Adrian Nstase. President Bsescu nominated a person from the DA Alliance Clin Popescu-Triceanu, a member of the National Liberal Party as prime
minister and charged him with government formation, thus forcing PSD in opposition.



Democrat-Liberal, PD-L) which won the parliamentary elections of 2008.42 This

victory seemed to announce again the end of ideology in Romanian politics
as the dichotomy communist vs. anti-communists became irrelevant. Following
its victory, PD-L formed a governmental coalition with PSD its party of origin
and former political opponent in the first left-right coalition in Romanias
post-communist history. However, this coalition broke after several months to
create another left-right alliance, uniting this time PSD with PNL and other
smaller parties against PD-L in the battle for the presidential elections of 2009.
Traian Bsescu who had already served one term in office as president over the
2004-2009 period and was supported by PD-L won with a very slight margin.43 Towards this victory, the anti-communist ethos played once again a crucial
role. While Bsescu succeeded in presenting himself as the true follower of the
University Square spirit, PNL and its candidate were perceived as betraying that
particular spirit because of the alliance with PSD, the direct inheritor of the
party that crushed the peaceful demonstrators in June 1990.
The many twists and turns in the post-1989 Romanian politics show that
since the early days of post-communism, the camps of the neo-communists and
post-communist anti-communists became blurred in terms of both political actors and their electorates. As the aforementioned alternations to power suggest,
the ideologically polarized spectrum of the early 1990s was transformed into a
variety of political options with loosely defined doctrinal profiles. However, the
post-communist anti-communist ethos is not exhausted. It continues to be sup42 In fact, PSD and PD-L received almost the same number of votes, with a slight advantage for the former (33.09% compared to 32.36%), but when the parliamentary seats
were distributed according to the new electoral law, the latter had three MPs more than
the former, so the president named the prime minister from this party. For the Chamber, PSD and his ally the Conservative Party received 2,227,449 votes, corresponding
to 114 mandates of deputies, while PD-L gathered 2,228,860, corresponding to 115
mandates. For the Senate, the former received 2,352,968 votes and 49 mandates of
senators; while the latter 2,312,358 and 51 mandates. Besides them, only two other parties entered the Parliament, PNL and the Hungarian Democratic Union in Romania,
which cleared the political scene of extremist parties, such as PRM. For the results of
the parliamentary elections of 2008 see the official site of the Central Electoral Bureau
(Biroul Electoral Central, BEC),, 4 February
43 It has been rightfully asserted that these elections were won with the votes of diaspora.
The candidate of PD-L, Traian Bsescu, received inside Romania slightly less votes than
Mircea Geoan, the candidate of PSD, also supported by the formerly radical anticommunist PNL. Bsescu was though overwhelmingly voted by the exile, where he
received a number of 115,831 votes out of 147,754. The difference of more than 87,000
votes made him win the elections with a margin of only 77,944 votes. This illustrates
the crucial role of the anti-communist ethos, still powerful among those who left the
country either under the communist regime or immediately after its collapse. Such
persons voted mostly for PNL in 2008 but in 2009 refused to support the presidential
candidate of PSD, although he was backed also by PNL. For comments on the presidential elections see, 4 February 2010.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

ported above all by the general and diffuse feeling that, in spite of the bloody
Revolution of 1989, there was no clear break with the communist past.44 The
very fact that so many enigmas regarding the 1989 events remained unsolved to
this day heavily contributed to the perpetuation of the idea that the anti-communist revolt has been perverted, or diverted, by the neo-communists. After all,
the Revolution of 1989 took by surprise many Romanians, who found themselves in the midst of a popular revolt without really knowing who started it or
who opposed it so fiercely and made so many victims.45 The only clear issue was
that, unlike in any other former communist country, second- and third-rank
former activists came to power after the revolution.
Since the political stakes are no longer simply identified with the dethronement of the neo-communists, as it was the case in the early 1990s, post-communist anti-communism lost some of its ideological appeal, but it continued to
44 In fact, post-communist anti-communism is continuously fuelled by the widespread
perception that the Romanian Revolution of 1989 did not lead to a genuine break with
the communist past and implicitly to a moral regeneration of society. Thus, the application of lustration came to be perceived as the only way of accomplishing the
moral societal regeneration. As this process was long postponed, the complementary
process of remembering the past sufferings was regarded as a substitute for making
justice to the victims. From such memories emerged the hegemonic public representation of Romanian communism, which became not only an expression of post-communist anti-communism, but also surrogate break with the non-democratic past. For more
on the three major processes of dealing with the communist past in Romania, i.e.
retribution, remembering and representation, see Petrescu, Cristina/Petrescu, Drago:
Retribution, Remembering, Representation. On Romanias Incomplete Break with the
Communist Past. In: Geschichtsbilder in den postdiktatorischen Lndern Europas.
Auf der Suche nach historisch-politischen Identitten. Ed. by Gerhard Besier and Katarzyna Stokosa. Berlin 2009, 155-182.
45 On 22 December 2005, at the anniversary of sixteen years since the revolution, the
military prosecutor, general-magistrate Dan Voinea, the person in charge at the time
with the file of the revolution on behalf of the Romanian Supreme Court of Justice,
granted an interview. He clearly stated that, up to that day, no terrorist was found and
no evidence of an external plot orchestrated with the help of foreign agents came out.
In short, Voinea affirmed that no clear answers regarding those responsible for more
than one thousand deaths could be provided at the present stage of inquiry. It should
be mentioned that Voinea was a prosecutor during the trial of the Ceauescu family in
December 1989. See Voinea, Dan: Toi alergau dup un inamic invizibil. Interviu cu
Generalul-Magistrat Dan Voinea [All were chasing an invisible enemy. Interview with
general-magistrate Dan Voinea]. In: Romnia liber, 22 December 2005, 5. In 2008,
Voinea was discharged from his position because he proved unable to come with a
conclusion, but his removal did not bring more clarity to this issue. The bulk of the
files of the revolution were until recently secret. Only part of them were released as a
result of the decision of the European Court of Human Rights, to which the leader of
the revolutionaries Association 21 December, Teodor Mrie, appealed. However, in
2009, the year of the twentieth anniversary of the revolution, Mrie had to enter in a
hunger strike to have these documents released by the institutions that administer
them, i.e. the Romanian Intelligence Service, the Army and the Service of Special



manifest itself in two major directions.46 At one pole, there is a legal-political

argument, which continues to identify the evil in Romanian society as coming
from the neo-communists associated with the party of Ion Iliescu. According to
it, the period in which the current PSD, formerly FSN-PDSR, stayed in power
was marked by huge scandals of corruption and generated a widespread feeling
that the neo-communists, former nomenklatura members and Securitate officers
seized the control of the economy and with it the financial rewards of the transition to capitalism.47 To such a view, the first non-communist president of
post-communist Romania, Emil Constantinescu, also contributed. After his
first term in power, he decided not to run again for the highest office, publicly
announcing that he was defeated by the Securitate.48 In short, it may be argued
that there is a general belief that the Romanian society would not be healed of
communism until all former secret police officers and party activists are unmasked and punished for their past deeds.
46 The concept of neo-communism has been, in fact, enlarged by de-ideologizing it and
associating it with the opportunistic former secret police. As mentioned, this institution is widely perceived as the embodiment of the radical turn made by some profiteers
of the communist regime who became in the meantime the winners of the revolution. A strong argument in this respect is provided in the introduction to the album
of the monuments dedicated to the victims of communism and the anti-communist
resistance, edited by the Association of the Former Political Prisoners (Asociaia Fotilor
Deinui Politici, AFDPR), authored by AFDPRs president, Constantin Ticu Dumitrescu. In his text, Ticu Dumitrescu mentions the structures belonging to the party and
the secret police, referring to the remnants of the former nomenklatura and the former
secret police that dominate the current political and economic life of Romania. See
Dumitrescu, Constantin Ticu: Foreword. In: Album Memorial. Monumente nchinate
jertfei, suferinei i luptei mpotriva comunismului [Memorial Album. Monuments
dedicated to the sacrifices, the sufferings and the resistance against communism]. Bucharest 2004, 6-7.
47 This is why the conspiracy scenario, in which the revolution was just a coup orchestrated by the former secret police, which wanted to get rid of an obsolete dictator that
hampered them to get rich in a market-oriented society, remains to this day very powerful. This argument is put forward in Oprea, Marius: Motenirea Securitii [The
legacy of the Securitate]. Bucharest 2004. The various theories about the role of the
secret police are mapped by former dissident Dan Petrescu, who argues that such
speculations diverge towards two extremes. The minimalist ones almost absolve the
Securitate of any involvement in the post-communist affairs. The maximalist ones, that
see the Securitate everywhere in todays Romania, are clearly prevalent. Their origins
could be traced from the book authored by the former Securitate general Ion Mihai
Pacepa who escaped to the United States in 1978. See Pacepa 1987 (cf. n. 6). For more
on the Romanian post-communist theories on the role of the former communist secret
police see Petrescu, Dan: Addenda la Legea Ticu [Addendum to the Ticu Law]. In: n
rspr [In disagreement]. Bucharest 2000, 402-417.
48 Constantinescu reiterated this argument in a book published in 2004. See Constantinescu, Emil: Adevrul despre Romnia 1989-2004. Un preedinte n rzboi cu mafia
securisto-comunist [The truth about Romania 1989-2004. A president at war with the
communist and the Securitate mafia]. Bucharest 2004.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

At the other pole, there is the view that confers a moral stake to the anticommunist discourse. According to this type of discourse, the reconciliation
with the communist past must be done by officially condemning the defunct
regime and its criminal character. In June 2005, various non-governmental organizations reiterated the calls for opening a trial of communism.49 Such an
idea has been continuously present in the public sphere since the fall of the
Ceauescu regime, but, as it was employed with very different meanings, there
has been no agreement upon its materialization. This rather symbolic request
finally took a more precise form in 2005. In an open letter to Romanias president, the above mentioned Civic Alliance, one of the most active associations in
organizing the memory of communism, asked for the establishment of an official commission comprising reputed scholars to investigate the crimes of communism.50 Such a commission was meant to provide the scientific evidence that
would enable the president so he was asked to officially condemn communism. It was in reply to these calls that president Traian Bsescu established
in April 2006 the Presidential Commission for the Analysis of the Communist
Dictatorship in Romania (Comisia Prezidenial pentru Analiza Dictaturii Comuniste din Romnia, CPADCR), headed by the Romanian born American professor of political science, Vladimir Tismneanu. The commission issued a 650page long report, which assessed the nature and extent of the crimes perpetrated
under communism. On the basis of this report, the president made an official
statement in front of the joint Chambers of the Romanian Parliament on 18
December 2006, and publicly declared that the communist regime in Romania
was illegal and criminal.51
Romania is, to the knowledge of these authors, the only former communist
country where this kind of representation of communism was turned into an
officially endorsed account on the past. Such an approach to the recent and
controversial history had already a precedent in the International Commission
for the Study of Holocaust in Romania, established by president Ion Iliescu in
2003, in the particular context of Romanias sustained efforts aimed at joining
49 Such appeals have been intensely publicized in media. See Apel pentru Romnia iunie 2005 [Appeal for Romania June 2005],, 12 October 2007.
50 For the open letter asking president Bsescu to establish a committee for the study of
the crimes of communism, see the daily newspaper Ziua, 24 October 2005, http://, 24 October 2005.
51 The rationale behind the establishment of this commission, according to president
Bsescu, was that the works on Romanian communism already published corresponded to the perspective of their respective authors, while he envisaged a national consensus generated by a commission of reputed scholars. He also mentioned that such an
idea was inspired by the establishment of the International Commission on Study of
the Holocaust in Romania. See Bsescu, Traian: Interviewed by Rodica Palade. In:
Revista 22, 801(2005),, 15 February 2006. For the report of the
commission see Tismneanu, Vladimir (ed.): Raport final [Final Report]. Bucharest
2006; see also, 15 October 2007.



the European Union.52 The report issued by this latter commission documented
a shameful historical chapter and concluded that the Romanian authorities of
the time were responsible for the crimes committed against the Jewish population living in Romania and in the territories occupied by the Romanian army
during the Second World War.53 Its results contradicted the general view according to which the Holocaust occurred only in Germany, but not on Romanian soil induced by decades of teaching a distorted version of national history.54 Both commissions, on the Holocaust, and on the communist dictatorship,
in Romania addressed highly traumatic episodes of the recent past. In both
cases, the reports produced were transformed into official documents of the
Romanian state. Nonetheless, a major difference existed between the roles each
of these two reports played in promoting certain representations of the past. The
crimes committed during the Holocaust were perpetrated by Romanians and
this is why that episode was only reluctantly accepted as belonging to the national history. Thus, the role of the commission was to increase public awareness
and put an end to the attempts at denying the historical evidence. On the contrary, the large majority of the victims of the communist regime were Romanians
52 As Tony Judt aptly observed: Today the pertinent European reference is not baptism.
It is extermination. Holocaust recognition is our contemporary European entry ticket.
Judt, Tony: Postwar. A History of Europe since 1945. London 2007, 803.
53 The International Commission for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania, which was
established in October 2003 by president Ion Iliescu, under international pressure, was
conceived from the very beginning as an independent research body, free of any influence and political consideration. The Commissions budget and composition were approved under Governmental Decisions 227/20 February 2004 and 672/5 May 2004,
respectively. At the invitation of the president of Romania, Mr. Elie Wiesel, Nobel
Peace prize laureate and honorary member of the Romanian Academy, accepted the
chairmanship of the Commission. The Commissions aim was to research the facts and
to determine the truth about the Holocaust in Romania during World War II, and the
events preceding this tragedy. The results of the research by the Commission are presented in this Report, exclusively based on scientific standards. See Friling, Tuvia/
Ioanid, Radu/Ionescu, Mihai (eds.): Raport final [Final report]. Bucharest 2005, 7.
54 It should be mentioned that in the case of the Holocaust, such a solution was also
adopted for reasons of educational strategy. After decades in which the Holocaust was
barely mentioned by the communists who had no interest in portraying Nazism as
essentially anti-Semitic, but essentially anti-communist and, when mentioned, it was
minimized, a widespread belief that there was no Holocaust in Romania still persists.
If accepted, though, it is claimed either that it was insignificant or that the Romanians
did not have a clear responsibility in perpetrating it. Most of the Romanians consider
that, after all, that was their Holocaust, not ours. Ours are the crimes committed
under communism, whose victims were we, the argument goes. A pertinent analysis
of the perception of the Holocaust in post-communist countries, ranging from total
denial to what the author calls trivialization by comparison with the Gulag, was provided by Shafir, Michael: ntre negare i trivializare prin comparaie. Negarea Holocaustului n rile postcomuniste din Europa Central i de Est [Between negation and
trivialization by comparison. Holocaust denial in post-communist countries of Central
and Eastern Europe]. Iai 2002.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

and the reconstruction of that past, centered on the crimes committed by the
regime, turned in the meantime into the common place in representing the
communist past. Accordingly, the commission on the communist dictatorship
provided a report that in fact epitomized the post-communist hegemonic vision
on Romanian communism.
Obviously, this report had a tremendous importance for the victims as it officially endorsed the public recognition of their sufferings. At the same time, it
officially endorsed a historical representation that can lead neither to the reconciliation with this traumatic past nor to its better understanding. As shown
above, during the 1990s it was believed that by popularizing the criminal dimension of the communist regime, the Romanians would eventually understand that
the neo-communists who dominated post-1989 politics had to go out of politics.
This goal was achieved in 1996, not necessarily because such a therapy actually
worked, but rather due to the economic hardships of the transition. The side
effect, however, was felt in the realm of historical reconstruction, which, as it is
further shown, did not yet emancipate itself from the hegemonic public representation of communism centered on crimes and sufferings.
Of course, there are limits of representation with regard to Romanian communism, which are set not only by its particularities especially the sufferings
in the Romanian Gulag and the daily experiences of the grim 1980s but also
by the violent nature of the Revolution of 1989, during which more than 1,000
people died. In short, the representation of the past must be a reflection of the
past. In Romania, though, the current representation is rather a reflection of the
present. The narratives about the recent past comprise only two mutually exclusive groups: us the majority of the Romanians who claim the status of victimhood, and them the rather small group of perpetrators, among whom the
former officers and collaborators of the Securitate rank the highest. This clearly
cut societal gap is consistent with the political and civic cleavages of early postcommunist Romania: anti-communists vs. communists. It is though insufficient to explain the survival of the communist system for 45 years that implied
the everyday voluntary participation of ordinary citizens in supporting its functioning, as Central European dissidents already argued before 1989.55 Such debates are yet to be expected in Romania. In the absence of such introspections
into the communist past it is questionable whether the process of coming to
terms with that past could be effective. The following section presents the main

55 The daily lies and the small compromises that allowed such regimes to function for
decades represented themes already tackled by Central European dissident intellectuals.
Havels famous greengrocer, for instance, that displayed the slogan: Proletarians of all
countries, unite! in the window of his shop implicitly contributed to the functioning
of the regime by inertia. In other words, by simply complying with the official lie instead of criticizing it publicly, the individual ensured the survival of communism, although he did not support it openly. See Havel, Vclav: The Power of the Powerless.
New York 1985; and Idem: Living in Truth. London 1986.



vectors of memory which, consciously or not, contributed to the articulation of

the public representations of the communist past.

Vectors of Memory in Post-1989 Romania

Dealing with the Past Legally, Politically, Morally, or Scholarly?
Calls for a trial of communism, as mentioned, have become a leitmotif of
post-communism. This idea, however, has been continuously perverted by politicians, who used it cynically, as well as by public persons and groups who just
paid lip service to it in order to manipulate their own sinful past or to build a
career on the sufferings of others. In other words, the trial of communism, as
envisaged in Romania, represents a rather symbolic syntagm that circulate in the
public sphere without being really discussed. The term is rather employed by
various groups for divergent purposes, ranging from legitimation to retribution.
Otherwise, very few Romanians have a clear idea that the trial of communism
could have very different meanings, pending on the way one is dealing with the
past. In the following, the analysis almost exclusively concentrates on the postcommunist anti-communist groups and their representations of the past since,
as illustrated above, the vision proposed by these groups, which at least implicitly condemn the former regime, is prevailing. In contrast, the attempts to
rehabilitate the regime by former communist officials are truly marginal.
Before discussing the representations of communism generated by the do
mineering groups, it should be mentioned that the neo-communists, although
poorly represented in the public debates, had to deal with the past as well. The
former apparatchiks that seized power after 1989 and claimed to have transformed themselves in genuine democrats had to cope with the fact that their
very own lives were easily identifiable with the former regime and its abuses.
Thus, they refrained from really proposing their own vision upon the communist past, but rather suggested that the past should be left behind.56 In this respect, they differ radically from the former nomenklatura members who were
ousted from power in 1989, and tried to deal with the past psychologically by
56 There were, however, two personal attempts by two prominent leaders of PSD from
two different generations to publicly assess their own trajectories under communism.
The perspective of the generation of true believers that tried to reform communism
after the 1960s but was marginalized by Ceauescu is given in: Marele oc. Din finalul
unui secol scurt. Ion Iliescu n dialog cu Vladimir Tismneanu [The great shock. At
the end of a short century. Ion Iliescu in dialog with Vladimir Tismneanu]. Bucharest
2004. The perspective of the new generation of technocrats destined from the very
beginning to remain marginal had the Revolution of 1989 never occurred is proposed
in: De la Karl Marx la Coca-Cola. Adrian Nstase n dialog deschis cu Alin Teodorescu
[From Karl Marx to Coca-Cola. Adrian Nstase in open dialogue with Alin Teodo
rescu]. Bucharest 2004.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

explaining the inner mechanisms that made them support a regime that had
fallen into popular disapproval. To the extent that such top communist officials
decided to write memoirs or give interviews, they bore witness for the achievements of the regime they served.57 As shown below, the alternative view on
Romanian communism they propose is constructed upon the alleged independence within the Soviet bloc and the modernization project based on heavy industrialization and rapid urbanization. As these attempts represent a minority,
their audience is rather limited to the circle of researchers of recent history and
influenced very little the public representation.
Ignoring the past was yet insufficient for the neo-communists who had first
to clearly separate themselves from the high-ranking communist officials associated with the old regime in order to be able to present themselves as truly
converted to democracy. They could avoid referring to the recent past, but they
definitely had to distance themselves from that past. Thus, they opted to deal
with it legally. However, the disqualification from public office of the former
nomenklatura was never taken into consideration by the neo-communists, for
the very obvious reason that it would have banned them from holding such
positions. Instead, criminal law procedures were applied only to the most prominent members of the former communist bureaucracy who remained loyal to the
previous regime up to the end. Such individuals were put on trial and condemned immediately after December 1989. The first was the well-known mock
trial of the Ceauescu family, which ended with their hasty condemnation to
death and rapid execution.58 Beginning in January 1990, however, other trials of
former apparatchiks and secret police officers followed. Criminal punishment
was applied in relation to the repression of the demonstrators in Timioara and
Bucharest, or against those who were part of Ceauescus inner circle of power.
The most prominent trials were the so-called Trial of the Four; the Trial of
the Twenty-Four Members of the Executive Political Committee (Comitetul
Politic Executiv, CPEx) of the Central Committee of PCR; the Trial of the
57 Such testimonies aim at rehabilitating the communist ideals with which the authors
identified themselves and continue to identify. These witnesses also aim at restoring
the memory of the two leaders by blaming either Moscow, in the case of Gheorghe
Gheorghiu-Dej, or Elena Ceauescu, in the case of her husband. In addition, the thesis
of the omnipotent secret police that controlled everything is employed in order to
absolve the party apparatus. See in this respect comments by Mihilescu, Dan C.:
Literatura romn n postceauism. Memorialistica sau trecutul ca re-umanizare [Romanian literature in post-Ceauescuism. Memoirs as form of re-humanizing the past].
Iai 2004, 406-408.
58 Although Romanians inside the country were simply relieved when hearing that
Ceauescu was executed, the first assessments of those in exile were negative, stressing
that such a trial should have been public and thoroughly prepared. See, in this respect,
the two contrasting interviews by Liviu Cangeopol, former dissident that emigrated to
the USA, with his fellow dissident from Romania, writer Dan Petrescu, and the Romanian-born American political scientist Vladimir Tismneanu. In: East European
Reporter, vol. 4, 1(1989/90), 8-11.



Twenty-Five; and the Trial of Nicu Ceauescu. The first in chronological

order opened on 27 January 1990 was the trial that involved four of
Ceauescus closest collaborators: Manea Mnescu (member of CPEx); Tudor
Postelnicu (minister of internal affairs and candidate member of CPEx); Ion
Dinc (prime deputy-prime minister and member of the CPEx) and Emil Bobu
(member of the Secretariat of CC of PCR and member of CPEx). Already on 2
February 1990, the Bucharest Military Tribunal sentenced them to life in prison
for complicity to genocide. Their unanimous support for Ceauescus decision
to repress the demonstrators was proved with the transcripts of the CPEx meetings on 17 and 22 December 1989. However, after 1-3 years all four were released
from prison for poor health reasons.
The Trial of the Twenty-Four Members of CPEx was initiated on 4 June
1990, and lasted several years until final sentences were pronounced. The defendants were also accused of genocide given their participation to the two
CPEx meetings, where the repression of the revolts in Timioara and Bucharest
was unanimously decided. On 25 March 1991, the defendants were sentenced to
a total of 34 years and 3 months in prison, individual prison terms ranging from
a maximum of 5 years and 6 months to a minimum of 2 years. After contesting
the sentences, all were cleared, but again put on trial after the Supreme Court
of Justice allowed the appeal formulated by the prosecutor general of Romania.
On 20 April 1992, the members of the former CPEx were sentenced to a total
of 255 years in prison, with individual prison terms ranging from eight to sixteen
years. However, by the end of 1996, all those convicted were either liberated from
prison on poor health reasons, or granted amnesty by president Ion Iliescu.59
The Trial of the Twenty-Five involved 25 high-ranking communist officials,
Securitate and Militia officers, including two civilians from the staff of the Bucharest Crematorium. On 9 December 1991, the Military Section of the Supreme Court of Justice found them guilty, among others, of repressing the demonstrations in Timioara on 16-18 December 1989 and for organizing a cover-up
operation involving the stealing of 40 corpses of assassinated demonstrators,
which were transported to Bucharest and cremated at the local crematorium.
From the total of 25, only nine individuals were actually sentenced to prison
terms ranging from four to twenty-five years, but all benefited later from reductions of the prison terms and, finally, from amnesty. Of the offspring of the
Ceauescu couple they had two sons, Nicu and Valentin, and a daughter,
Zoe only Nicu became involved in politics. Furthermore, during the 1980s,
there were consistent rumors about Nicu being chosen as the supreme leaders
heir. In the aftermath of the 1989 regime change, Nicu Ceauescu was put on
59 For more on the trial of the 24 CPEx members see tefnescu 1995 (cf. n. 31), 99, 134136, 192, 219, 375. On the political careers of the CPEx members see Dobre, Florica et
al. (ed.): Membrii C.C. al P.C.R. 1945-1989 [The members of the Central Committee
of the Romanian Communist Party]. Bucharest 2004. See also Neagoe, Stelian: Istoria
guvernelor Romniei 1859-1995 [A history of Romanias governments, 1859-1995]. Bucharest 1995, 230-243.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

trial and, on 21 September 1990, the Bucharest Military Tribunal charged him
with incitation to murder and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. Nicu
Ceauescu was released from prison in 1992 for poor health reasons and died in
To sum up, many of those put on trial walked away with minor penalties and
thus, in a matter of a few years, none of them remained in prison. This created
a deep popular frustration: it seemed that those responsible for the crimes committed under communism would escape without being seriously judged. On the
one hand, it instilled the idea that such trials targeting only some individuals
could not represent the trial of communism, which should be larger in scope
and include the writing of recent history in such a way as to condemn the crimes
that would remain otherwise unpunished.61 On the other hand, these mis-conducted trials that focused on the repression of the revolution only added to the
confusion regarding the events of December 1989 to the extent that up to this
day it is not very clear if some were heroes of the revolution or instruments responsible for repressing it.62 Accordingly, post-communist anti-communist discourses, which maintain that there was no revolution in 1989 in Romania, but
a masquerade organized by the neo-communists in order to get rid of the dogmatic communists and seize power for themselves, still persist. Unfortunately,
such arguments, which were used against the neo-communists that came to
power in early post-communism, deprived by default the Romanian society of
a founding myth for the emerging democracy.63
60 For the repression of the revolution in Timioara and the related trials see Mioc, Marius: Procesele Revoluiei din Timioara 1989. Documente istorice [Trials of the Revolution in Timioara 1989. Historical documents]. Timioara 2004. On the sentences
pronounced in the Trial of Nicu Ceauescu see Stoica 2005 (cf. n. 26), 29.
61 This idea is supported by the Institute for the Investigation of the Communist Crimes,
and it has been included in a volume published under its aegis, which discusses in
detail these four trials, as well as other minor trials. See Grosescu, Raluca/Ursachi,
Raluca: Justiie penal de tranziie. De la Nrnberg la postcomunismul romnesc [Criminal punishment in transition. From Nuremberg to Romanian postcommunism]. Iai
62 This is, for instance, the case of the Ceauescus minister of national defense, Vasile
Milea, who was not put on trial because he committed suicide on the morning of 22
December. Some consider him a hero of the revolution and squares were named after
him in many cities, while others consider him responsible for the crimes committed in
Timioara by the army beginning with 17 December 1989. Moreover, the second wave
of trials, opened after the electoral victory of the democratic opposition in 1996, which
involved high-ranking army officers responsible for the repression of 1989, deepened
the already existing confusion without clarifying anything. For more on this see Grosescu/Ursachi 2009 (cf. n. 61), 168-181.
63 This is one of the arguments put forward in the open letter addressed by the Romanian-born Hungarian dissident G. M. Tams to his Romanian friends after the elections of 2000. He reproaches to the Romanian intellectuals their denial of the Revolution of 1989 on the basis that the political results were not as expected. Comparing to
the situation in Hungary where the Revolution of 1956 also left unanswered questions
even after so many years, yet it is not minimized by anyone Tams underlines that



With the trials of the former nomenklatura members who failed to abandon
the sinking ship of communism in due time, the neo-communists wanted but
failed to establish a break with their own controversial past. These lower rank
party apparatchiks who managed to continue a political career after 1989 were
confronted from the very beginning with a deficit of political legitimacy. PCR,
in which they had been active until 1989, was one of the most monolithic parties
in the former Soviet bloc, whose leaders jealously guarded the unity of the
party up to the very end.64 No reform-oriented group ever appeared among the
Romanian communist top officials, in spite of the fact that some of them shared
mildly reformist views. Thus, it was of paramount importance for all former
marginal party bureaucrats that finally got access to power once Ceauescu left
the headquarters of PCR on 22 December 1989 to leave their own communist
past behind. It was the Revolution of 1989 that became their legitimating political myth. Thus, former apparatchiks who continued to stay in politics in
post-communism repeatedly stated that in 1989 Romania witnessed a genuine
the Romanian intellectuals have destroyed the memory of a great accomplishment in
Romanian history and, with this, the founding myth of the new democracy. In fact,
this letter reflects upon the causes of the strong vote for the extreme right in the 2000
elections, and identifies these with the weakness of the Left in modern Romania.
Moreover, observing the low intellectual support for a democratic Left throughout the
20th century, Tams criticizes the Romanian intellectuals for their eternal preference
for the political Right, which could lead to confusions between its democratic and
extreme versions. The elections of 2000 were proof in this sense, Tams maintains. This
open letter triggered responses from many Romanian public intellectuals, generating
one of the major debates in post-communist Romania. The answers, together with
Tams letter, have been published in Vasilescu, Mircea (ed.): Intelectualul romn fa
cu inaciunea. n jurul unei scrisori a lui G. M. Tams [The Romanian intellectual face
with inaction. Reactions to a letter by G. M. Tams]. Bucharest 2002.
64 Michael Shafir proposes the concept of faction-anxiety in order to explain the unusual cohesion of the generation of old-timers. It was the experience of the underground party struggles, marked by bloody revenges backed by Moscow, which assured
the unity of the party, and not the ethnic, social, or educational homogeneity. Shafir,
Michael: Romania. Politics, Economics and Society. London 1985, 65-84. Moreover, in
the interviews with former nomenklatura members, which were published after 1989,
all these former officials point to the fear of factionalism within the party as to an
essential and distinctive element in the political culture of Romanian communism. To
quote only from the views of the signatories, Gheorghe Apostol, the closest collaborator of Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, Romanias first communist dictator, declared: I have
made myself a myth from the unity of the party. In a similar vein, Alexandru
Brldeanu, a sort of Ota Sik of Romania, marginalized by Ceauescu in 1967 as too
reformist for his views, stated: We feared factionalism more than leprosy. All these
testimonies illustrate that the fear to be punished for the mortal sin of factionalism
remained unaltered even after the Romanian Communist Party expressed its right to
autonomy in 1964. See Betea, Lavinia (ed.): Maurer i lumea de ieri. Mrturii despre
stalinizarea Romniei [Maurer and the yesterday world. Testimonies on Romanias
Stalinization]. Arad 1995, 275, and respectively Idem (ed.): Alexandru Brldeanu despre Dej, Ceauescu i Iliescu. Convorbiri [Alexandru Brldeanu on Dej, Ceauescu
and Iliescu. Conversations]. Bucharest 1998, 305.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

upheaval that put an end to communism. As long as that event is considered a

genuine regime change, they could claim that whatever connection they might
have had with the defunct regime, this was severed by the popular revolt.
This interest in the revolution as the source of political legitimacy has been
transformed into a broader scholarly interest. In December 2004, days before
the end of his last presidential mandate, Ion Iliescu established the Institute for
the Study of the Romanian Revolution of December 1989. Directly sponsored
from the budget of the Senate, the Institute is led by a National Council of 25
former participants in the events of December 1989 under the direct leadership
of Ion Iliescu himself.65 A notable body of personal accounts, analyzed below,
was authored by the neo-communists who directly participated in the revolution. It should be mentioned that such testimonies are in consonance with those
of the genuine revolutionaries themselves, who poured into the streets to manifest before the moment of Ceauescus escape, that is, before all Romanians
joined the mass protest. However, the neo-communists never asserted that the
anti-communist revolution was betrayed, stolen or kidnapped, as the participants to the revolt that remained outside their political entourage maintained. On the contrary, for them communism ended together with Ceauescu
and his closest acolytes. Such a thesis is supported also by the very fact that a
party composed of almost four million members disappeared overnight in December 1989 and no post-communist party really claimed to be its descendent.66
In short, the revolution is considered by the neo-communists as the year zero,
the genuine turning point in Romanian history, when democracy was born
under their own guidance. Furthermore, neo-communists were interested mostly in politically manipulating the symbols of the revolution, while the people
from below that participated in those events and later established civil society
associations to defend their rights were clearly oriented towards the commemoration of the victims of the December 1989 communist repression.67
65 The Institute for the Study of the Romanian Revolution of December 1989 was established by the Law 556/7 December 2004. The objective of this institute is to analyze
the causes, the unfolding and the effects of the revolution. Its main publication is
Caietele Revoluiei [Cahiers of the revolution]. The institute also has a Scientific
Council of 21 members, whose influence is yet restricted to an advisory role. For the
Law 556, see Monitorul Oficial al Romniei [Official Bulletin of Romania], 1194, 14
December 2004, 2-3. See, 8 February 2006.
66 There was, though, the Labor Socialist Party (Partidul Socialist al Muncii, PSM), headed by a former prime minister under Ceauescu, Ilie Verde, which claimed some
continuity with the former PCR. PSM entered the Parliament in 1992 to disappear in
1996, after playing a marginal political role in post-communist Romania.
67 The Memorial of the Revolution of 16-22 December 1989 in Timioara was established
on 24 April 1990. Headed by one of the participants to the revolt of that city, Dr. Traian
Orban, the Timioara Memorial is by far the most active revolutionary association.
Ever since its foundation, it has constantly struggled to raise public funds for monuments commemorating the victims. Until now, it succeeded in erecting a memorial in
the Heroes Cemetery of Timioara and no less than 13 other monuments in those
corners of the city where a high number of victims of the repression had fallen. In



Coming back to the object of this study i.e., the organization of memory
in the public sphere two categories, which, acting differently and even disjointedly, contributed to the production and reproduction of the hegemonic
representation of communism as a period of sheer terror: (1) the former political
prisoners; and (2) the public intellectuals. Most of these carriers and makers of
memory were not professional historians but laymen. The former conveyed
personal memories, while the latter rather directed their efforts towards the
preservation of the hitherto suppressed traumatic memories of the former. This
dominating public representation of communism that comes out from such
memories, as already mentioned, is centered on the Romanians sufferings and
resistance to an alien regime driven by an ideology embraced by only a few before the arrival of the Soviet troops. Although historians are important vectors
of memory, in post-communist Romania they did not produce narratives that
go against the mainstream representation proposed by non-professionals. Thus,
they are considered below only as a sub-category of the public intellectuals
Given their terrible and unjust experiences, the former political prisoners
were haunted by the appalling sufferings endured in the period of Stalinist terror: the destruction of their families, the disappearance of their close friends, the
confiscation of their properties, the ruining of their careers, the lives lost in the
Romanian Gulag. By contrast, post-communist public intellectuals, who belong
mostly to a next generation, born and educated under communism, did not
undergo such traumatic personal experiences, as the regime later alleviated its
repressive nature. Nonetheless, most of them do have a problematic relationship
with their past generated by the incapacity to act against a communist regime
still abusive, but considerably softer in the 1970s and 1980s. Consequently, terror
is central in such representations of the communist regime, as if that regime
remained fundamentally unchanged and randomly repressive from its establishment to its demise.

Former Political Prisoners against Amnesty

Bearing witness for their sufferings, political prisoners explicitly advocated the
recovery of the arrested memory.68 Recollections from the Romanian Gulag
addition, this association has established a National Center for the Documentation,
the Research and the Public Information about the Romanian Revolution of December
1989. Apart from a database concerning the victims, the center has a valuable archive
of oral testimonies by participants to the events. See, 15 February 2006.
68 Thus, a group of former political prisoners established, immediately after the fall of
the Ceauescu regime, the review Memoria. Revista memoriei arestate [Memory. The
review of the imprisoned memory]. The review Memoria has published testimonies of
the communist repression, biographies of the prominent victims of the Romanian


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

could not have had any place in the official versions of history written under
communism. Until 1989, such private versions of history were preserved only in
family memories. The post-1989 recollections originate in the legitimate endeavor of sharing stories about personal sufferings that were prohibited under
communism and largely unknown to those who never had a member of their
family in prison. Before 1989, as it happened in other communist countries, the
crimes committed against communists were condemned after the period of
Stalinist terror ended, but total silence was imposed on the crimes committed
against non-communists.69 Given the age of the survivors, the preservation of
the memory of the early victims of communism was indeed an urgent post-1989
The former political prisoners, as mentioned, were prominent in all three
historical parties that were (re)organized immediately after the revolution by the
surviving members of the interwar political elite.70 At the same time, they organized themselves rapidly in a civic organization as well. The Association of the
Former Political Prisoners in Romania (Asociaia Fotilor Deinui Politici din
Romnia, AFDPR) worked closely with the historical parties, especially with the
National Peasant Party, and other civil society groups, in particular with the
Civic Alliance. It also promoted a specific agenda related to restitutions for all
those who had been politically persecuted under communism.71 Besides defendGulag, verses written in prison and preserved orally, drawer literature, and historical
writings related to taboo subjects under communism. Its first editor-in-chief, until his
death, was physician Banu Rdulescu, a former political detainee himself.
69 In 1968, Nicolae Ceauescu rehabilitated selectively some victims of the Stalinist period
from among the communists: for instance, the Romanian Lucreiu Ptrcanu was
rehabilitated, but never the Jewish Ana Pauker or the Hungarian Lszlo Luka. As for
the non-communist victims, a telling example is that of the book about the victims of
the Stalinist period authored by Marin Preda, one of the most popular novelists in
communist Romania. The main character was a professor of philosophy condemned
for an imaginary crime, detained in most horrible conditions, and humiliated by illiterate guardians. Although it clearly aimed at contrasting the Gheorghiu-Dej era
dominated by random terror, with that of Ceauescu in favor of the latter, the book
was withdrawn immediately after publication. See Preda, Marin: Cel mai iubit dintre
pmnteni [The most beloved among the human beings]. Bucharest 1980.
70 The prominence of the former political prisoners diminished dramatically after 2000,
when the party of Ion Iliescu, re-baptized the Social-Democratic Party, returned to
power, while the hitherto most powerful historical party, the National Peasant Party,
lost all seats in Parliament after defeat in elections.
71 AFDPR was established on 2 January 1990, and, by the end of the year, it enrolled
98,700 members. Today only half of them are still alive. However, AFDPR was an
example of self-organization of interests, being the first group that succeeded in legalizing its existence and publicly advocating for the rights of its members, although with
rather limited success. The Decree-Law 118/1990 granted special rights to former political prisoners, including medical care, and local transport free of charge, subventions
for medicines, limited free railroad transport, etc. The association, however, did not
manage to make the victims feel compensated for their sufferings: its members still
have meager pensions, while the former communist officials and secret police officers



ing the rights of the members of the association, it had a very active role in establishing memorials for the victims of the communist terror. Moreover, the few
heroes, especially those who engaged in the armed resistance in the mountains
or participated in peasant riots, were given the due tribute by AFDPR.72 The
objectives of this association are: To continue fighting against communism and
any form of totalitarianism, [] to honor the memory of those who lost their
lives fighting against communism, [] to morally condemn communism and
legally deal with all those responsible for genocide and crimes against the Romanian people.73 As one could immediately grasp, for the former political
prisoners the trial of communism means not only bringing the perpetrators to
justice, but also restituting to the victims the proper place in society by acknowledging the injustice made to them by the previous regime. As envisaged by
AFDPR, the trial of communism must have a twofold dimension: legal and
From a legal point of view, the AFDPRs greatest victory was the passing of
the Law for the access to the personal file and the disclosure of the former secret
police as political police by the Romanian Parliament in December 1999, after
years of postponement and repeated modifications. Known to almost everyone
as the Ticu Law, after its main proponent, the late president of AFDPR and
former senator of the National Peasant Party, Constantin Ticu Dumitrescu
(1928-2008), Law 187/1999 was inspired by the German Law of 1991, which had
established the once-called Gauck Authority.74 Accordingly, it provided the legal
basis for the functioning of a new institution, the National Council for the
enjoy substantial retirement incomes. For the Decree-Law 118 regarding the rights of
the persons politically persecuted by the dictatorship established on 6 March 1945, see
its republication in Monitorul Oficial al Romniei [Official Bulletin of Romania], 118,
18 April 1998, 5-7.
72 A recently published album includes photographs of all monuments commemorating
the victims of communism in Romania that AFDPR succeeded to erect so far. The
Romanian post-communist state did not support such endeavors and thus, except for
some funding received from local authorities, all was accomplished through private
donations. Some of the monuments were erected near communist prisons and labor
camps, such as those in Aiud, Poarta Alb, Gherla, Trgor, Piteti, Insula Mare a
Brilei, Baia Sprie, Nistru, Cavnic, Miercurea Ciuc, Suceava, Botoani, Bicaz. Other
monuments were established in mountain areas where armed resistance was organized
or in the villages where riots against collectivization took place. Such monuments exist
in Teregova, Caransebe, Smbta, Nucoara, Meidanchioi, Chiindia, Rstolnia,
Ibneti, Mnzleti, Mesentea, Oravia, Vadu Roca. See Album Memorial 2004 (cf.
n. 46).
73 This association does not have a website, for its statutes see, 20 February 2006.
74 Civic organizations, including AFDPR, considered the German legislation as the most
appropriate model to emulate. At their initiative, on 25-26 May 1992, pastor Joachim
Gauck visited Romania and spoke about the German experience. It was for the first
time when the problem of dealing with the files of the secret police was discussed in a
professional manner in Romania.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

Study of the Securitate Archives (Consiliul Naional pentru Studierea Arhivelor

Securitii, CNSAS), meant to take over the files of the former secret police. The
mission of this institution is threefold: it is an investigative agency for the disclosure of the Securitate; a public archive; and a research institute. More precisely, the law not only offered the citizens the possibility to access his or her
own file devised by and preserved in the archives of the Securitate, but also created for the first time a legal framework for the study of these documents by all
those interested in assessing the political police activities of the former secret
police in order to offer to society a picture of the communist period as correct
as possible.75 However, the primary function of the institution is related to the
disclosure of the Securitate: it searches for evidence concerning the actions of the
former agents and informal collaborators of the secret police, thus providing the
legal basis for the public exposure and disqualification of these categories on the
basis of the individual responsibility principle. A board of 11 persons, named
Collegium, is empowered to carry out the verification either at request or ex
officio in the case of the candidates, the persons appointed or already elected in
public offices. The entire activity of CNSAS and its Collegium is under parliamentary control.76
This law was conceived as consistent as possible to the rule-of-law principles.
The basis of disqualification is the documented collaboration with the Securitate
as political police, understood as those structures of the secret police created
in order to install and maintain the communist totalitarian power, and to suppress and restrict the fundamental human rights and liberties. As already mentioned, the guiding principle for the activity of CNSAS is that of individual
responsibility, and not that of the collective guilt resulted from the simple association with the communist secret police.77 In other words, the Romanian law
disqualifies individuals on the basis of what they did, as in the case of the German legislation, and not according to what kind of position they occupied, as
in former Czechoslovakia. Moreover, disqualifications were not retroactive, but
triggered only by violations of fundamental human and civil rights that were
anyway stipulated in the Romanian communist constitution. On the basis of
documents found in the archive, the Collegium was empowered to grant those
running for public offices certificates of morality. Individuals disclosed by the
Collegium as collaborators were not automatically disqualified by this decision:
75 The Law 187/7 December 1999 was published in Monitorul Oficial al Romniei [Official Bulletin of Romania], 603, 9 December 1999, 1-5.
76 The members of the Collegium are nominated in the following way: nine by the political parties in such a way as to adequately cover their representation in the Parliament, one by the president of Romania and one by the prime minister. All receive
six-year renewable mandates, validated by the Parliament.
77 Vclav Havel and Adam Michnik, coming from two countries that approached lustration very differently, agreed that the application of lustration is a highly sensitive issue,
which leads only to doubtful results. See Michnik, Adam: The Strange Epoch of Postcommunism. A Conversation with Vclav Havel. In: Idem 1998 (cf. n. 34), 228-229.



the law guaranteed them the right to appeal to a court of law. Otherwise, the
law provided a rather ineffectual lever to obtain disqualification: only those
persons that failed to acknowledge their collaboration prior to their acceptance
of the public office were subject to disqualification, as in the Polish law of 1997.
Until today, a number of resignations were triggered by the decisions of the
CNSAS Collegium, but these occurred mostly because of the public opprobrium expressed through media or internal institutional pressure.78
The application of the law, however, underwent a very sinuous path, which
comprises three stages until today. In the first stage, the application of the law
was practically hampered by the return of Ion Iliescu and his party to power in
the year 2000. Between 1999 and 2005, the institutional successors of the communist secret police, i.e. Serviciul Romn de Informaii, SRI and Serviciul de
Informaii Externe, SIE, as well as other institutional archive-holders were unbelievably slow in handing over the documents produced by the Securitate to
CNSAS. Thus, by 2005, only around 10,000 files were selectively transferred to
the new institution.79 Such a situation only reinforced the idea that the institutions that took over the Securitate files were attempting at hiding the identity of
those responsible for the crimes of the past.
The second stage represented a radical change in the functioning of this institution and occurred only as a result of the elections of 2004, when the traditional opponents of neo-communism returned to power. Under the pressure of
civil society, the newly elected president, Traian Bsescu, took an active stance
and asked all the institutions that were holding relevant Securitate documents to
78 Holders of public office must complete a declaration concerning their collaboration
with the Securitate. In case that evidence of collaboration was found in the Securitate
files and the respective person did not acknowledge this in his or her declaration, the
respective person was charged with false statements in public documents. During the
period March 2006-January 2010, a series of resignations and disqualifications occurred, but there is no societal or legal agreement what is to be done with such individuals afterwards. An interesting debate emerged in German newspapers with regard
to the participation of two former collaborators of the Securitate to a summer school
organized by the Romanian Cultural Institute in Berlin. See Mller, Herta: Spitzel in
der Sommerakademie,, 20 July 2008.
79 In this period CNSAS had still published a significant number of works on the activity of the Securitate, many of which do reflect the dominant way of remembering
communism in post-1989 Romania. See, for instance, Onioru, Gheorghe (ed.): Totalitarism i rezisten, teroare i represiune n Romnia comunist [Totalitarianism
and resistance, terror and repression in communist Romania]. Bucharest 2001; and
Idem (ed.): Micarea armat de rezisten anticomunist din Romnia 1944-1962
[Armed anti-communist resistance in Romania 1944-1962]. Bucharest 2003. The most
important work produced by researchers from CNSAS, though, is Dobre 2004 (cf. n.
59). CNSAS also publishes thematic collections of documents related to the former
communist secret police. See, for instance, Idem et al. (eds.): Bande, bandii i eroi.
Grupurile de rezisten i Securitatea 1948-1968 [Gangs, bandits, and heroes. The
resistance groups and the Securitate 1948-1968]. Bucharest 2004; Idem et al. (eds.):
Trupele de Securitate 1949-1989 [The Securitate troops 1949-1989]. Bucharest 2004.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

transfer them to CNSAS. In November 2005, the functioning of this institution

was extended for another 6 years and in March 2006 a new Collegium that
included among its members the initiator of the law, Constantin Ticu Dumitrescu was voted by the Parliament.80 Not long before, in mid-December
2005, SRI transferred the bulk of the Securitate archive over 1.5 million files
to CNSAS, which had to inaugurate a new building for their preservation.
Until then, the malfunctioning of this process originated also in a rather narrow
interpretation of the law, which stipulates that the access to the former secret
police files must be restricted by the principle of national security. This provision allowed the classifying of numerous files. Following a series of decisions of
the Supreme Council for the Defense of the Country (Consiliul Suprem de
Aprare a rii, CSAT), large numbers of Securitate files, including files of
prominent politicians previously classified for reasons of national security
have been declassified and transferred to CNSAS. Ever since, this process continued so that the number of the files that were taken into custody by CNSAS
constantly increased. 81
Consequently, the activity of CNSAS has taken momentum and more and
more persons from among all the segments of society, from politicians to the
higher clergy, and from all fields of activity, ranging from the judiciary to the
academia were gradually disclosed as former collaborators.82 However, the rather insufficient personnel83 could not do wonders with an already disorganized
archive. Time and again, the media raised questions about the destruction of
relevant files after 1989. Indeed, the collaboration of prominent politicians was
revealed not by their personal files as informants, which were not preserved, but
by the files of their victims, in which evidence of collaboration (usually copies
of informative notes) was found. In other words, even though some files of
80 In the meantime, the functioning of CNSAS had been successively improved by Governmental Ordinance 16/27 February 2006 and Governmental Decision 731/7 June
2006. See Monitorul Oficial al Romniei [Official Bulletin of Romania], 182, 27 February 2006, 1-8. For the extension of the activity of CNSAS, see Monitorul Oficial al
Romniei [Official Bulletin of Romania], 1008, 14 November 2005, 7-8.
81 If until 2005, the number of files taken over from SRI amounted to less than 10,000,
by the end of 2005 the number of files in the custody of CNSAS numbered already
1,306,875 files (amounting to 1,564,340 volumes). See CNSAS Activity Report 2005,, 12 October 2007. The latest estimate of the files in custody of
CNSAS indicates 1,773,595 files, comprising 2,158,886 volumes (approx. 20 km of archives).
82 The estimates made until now indicate that by 1989, the informative network of the
Romanian secret police comprised 486,000 individuals who spied on a population of
approx. 23 millions. See Arhivele Securitii [Archives of the Securitate]. Bucharest
2002, 35-36. The Stasi files indicate the number of 174,000 Inoffizielle Mitarbeiter for
a population of almost 17 million East Germans. The figures are provided by BStU;; 3 January 2010. Accordingly, in Romania there was an informer for 47 individuals, while in former East Germany one for 97.
83 CNSAS has no local branches, but only a central institution with around 250 employees, and a yearly budget of approx. 3 million euro (according to the figures for 2009).



former collaborators are now missing, their informative notes can still be found
in the files of those on whom the respective individuals provided information,
so that the process of unmasking the acts of collaboration is neither totally irrelevant nor useless.84
Another turn in the activity of CNSAS occurred in January 2008, when the
Romanian Constitutional Court decided on several grounds that the Law
187/1999 was in fact unconstitutional. The decision was highly contested and
commented as another attempt of the neo-communist camp to stop a process
that finally started to look promising.85 The sole genuine problem though was
the simultaneous function of prosecutor and judge performed by the CNSAS
Collegium, which was empowered by the law of 1999 not only to search for
proofs of collaboration with the Securitate as political police, but also to formulate a first judgment on the collaboration of the persons under verification.
Consequently, CNSAS functioned by the end of 2008 on a governmental ordinance until a new law that deferred the entire process of assessing the archival
evidence to a court of law was passed.86 Though the new legislation is more
restrictive than the previous one with regard to disqualification, it ultimately
allows more transparency in the process of unmasking former collaborators. As
mentioned, the initial law was based on the concept of political police, according to which an act of collaboration meant any denunciation that implied an
infringement of the rights guaranteed by the communist Constitution. The new
law defines the collaboration with the Securitate as those acts that not only vio84 Two high profile politicians were publicly exposed as former informers based on evidence collected from their victims files: the president of the Conservative Party a
perpetual political ally of PSD, Dan Voiculescu, and a former minister of justice, also
proposed by PSD. Both contested in court the assessment of CNSAS regarding their
collaboration, and their trials are now following the due course. Voiculescu emerged
as an adamant contender of CNSAS, as his lawyer raised the issue of the alleged unconstitutional character of the Law 187/1999 to the Romanian Constitutional Court.
On 5 February 2010, the Bucharest Court of Appeal decided that Voiculescu collaborated with the Securitate, but he still has the right to appeal to the Supreme Court of
85 See comments by Popescu, Corneliu-Liviu: Uzurparea de putere comis de Curtea
Constitutional n cazul cenzurii dispoziiilor legale privind deconspirarea poliiei
politice comuniste [The usurpation of authority by the Constitutional Court in the
case of censoring the legal dispositions regarding the unmasking of the communist
political police]. In: Noua Revist de Drepturile Omului, vol. 4, 1(2008), 3-14.
86 Both the decision of the Constitutional Court regarding the non-constitutionality of
Law 187/1999 and the Governmental Ordinance of February 2008 that provided a legal
basis for prolonging the activity of CNSAS were published together, which indicated
that the PNL government of the time was determined to assure institutional continuity for CNSAS. See Monitorul Oficial al Romniei [Official Bulletin of Romania], 95,
6 February 2008, 2-8, respectively 9-10. A subsequent Governmental Ordinance of
March 2008 regulated in detail the functioning of CNSAS until a new law was passed.
See Monitorul Oficial al Romniei [Official Bulletin of Romania], 182, 10 March 2008,


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

lated fundamental rights of individuals, but also denounced activities or attitudes adverse to the communist state.87 This principle of simultaneity infringement of fundamental rights and denounciation of anti-regime attitudes
and activities obviously reduces the number of cases that can be brought in
front of the administrative court of justice on the grounds of collaboration with
the Securitate. As practice has illustrated so far, the solutions in the most prominent cases sent to the court are systematically postponed and might very well
end with lots of absolutions, as the judicial system itself is at least partially controlled by people of the former regime.88 At the same time, the new law increases by default the number of the cases that can be immediately made public
exactly because they cannot be brought in front of the court. In other words, the
public has immediate access to the assessment of the CNSAS Collegium concerning the specific information contained by the files of those individuals the
rules regarding protection of privacy and of third parties are strictly observed
who actually informed for the Securitate but according to the law cannot be
treated as collaborators.
To conclude, the results of the disclosure of the former communist secret
police in Romania are yet to be seen, but it is hard to believe that the process
will ever achieve the expected moral regeneration of society.89 On the one hand,
87 For the text of the law that approved the Governmental Ordinance of March 2008, see
Monitorul Oficial al Romniei [Official Bulletin of Romania], 800, 28 November
2008, 1-4.
88 One problem to which all former communist countries willing to apply this type of
transitional justice were confronted is the personnel in the judicial system, who was
once part of the system of complicities that maintained the communist regime in
power, and thus totally inadequate to support any type of lustration. For more on the
downfalls of the process of retribution applied in post-totalitarian transitions in EastCentral Europe as compared to that in the post-WWII democratic restorations and the
post-authoritarian transitions in Latin American countries, see in Tucker, Aviezer:
Paranoids May Be Persecuted. Post-totalitarian Transitional Justice. In: Retribution
and Reparation in the Transition to Democracy. Ed. by Jon Elster. Cambridge 2006,
181-238. The reluctance of the judiciary to reform itself is best epitomized in Romania
by the case of Florica Bejinaru, who collaborated with the secret police, but could not
be disqualified according to the law. The Superior Council of the Magistracy, the body
in charge with supervising the entire activity of the judicial system, recently elected her
as president.
89 The activity of CNSAS could be measured on each of its three dimensions. As a public archive, CNSAS received until 2010 a number of 26,040 requests for access to the
personal file, of which 25,273 were already granted. As an investigative agency triggering disclosure and public exposure, since the change of law in 2008 CNSAS has brought
in front of the administrative court of justice 418 collaborators and 431 officers, of
which until 2010 only 31 collaborators and 70 officers received final sentences that legally acknowledge their relation with the former secret police. Of these 101 trials, only
14 were lost by CNSAS. Finally, the scientific research activity has become more systematic with the establishment of the periodical Caietele CNSAS [Cahiers of CNSAS],
which publishes studies that focus on the Securitate as well as on the Romanian communism in general.



many files appear to have been destroyed during the revolution or shortly afterwards. Consequently, suspicion over the usefulness of the operation of disclosing
the agents and collaborators of the secret police in lack of the most relevant files
might never disappear. On the other hand, the societal expectations have always
been very high: Romanians had hoped that such a process would eliminate from
public life all the enemies of democracy, identified with the wrongdoers of the
ancien rgime. First, such a process could never be fully accomplished based on
archives produced at the time with a different scope.90 The experience of lustration in the other former communist countries did not lead to radically different
results.91 Second, while amnesty was ruled out in post-1989 Romania from the
very beginning, the legislation regarding the disclosure and public exposure of
the wrongdoings of the communist regime has focused solely on the former
secret police agents and collaborators, while the communist apparatus was left
in peace after several aborted attempts of legalizing their purge from public
life.92 As mentioned above, the Securitate haunted the Romanians not only un90 See the argument put forward by Daniel Barbu, who stated that the archives of the
former secret police should be regarded as mere products of a communist institution.
Consequently, by assuming that such an institution reflected the truth about itself
and the regime it served represents a gross methodological error: Such a working
hypothesis regarding the archives transforms the investigators into the posthumous
collaborators of the Securitate. See Barbu, Daniel: Inocena public mpotriva culpei
private [Public innocence against individual guilt]. In: Politica pentru barbari [Politics
among barbarians]. Bucharest 2005, 139-153.
91 Other communist countries already experienced heated debates regarding the possible
involvement of former freedom fighters in collaboration with the infamous secret
police. The names to be found in the former secret police files are, on the one hand,
too many, as these files include sometimes people abusively registered as informal collaborators. On the other hand, the names to be found there are too few, since people
that did collaborate with the secret police, like the communist party officials, were
never registered as collaborators. See Offe, Claus: Varieties of Transition. The East
European and the East German Experience. Cambridge/Massachusetts 1997, 97-98.
The readings of the secret police files can be misleading and, as the debate in Poland
in relation to the former Solidarity leader Lech Waesa illustrates, can lead to highly
controversial interpretations.
92 A draft law concerning the lustration of the former nomenklatura was devised in 2006
by the National Liberal Party. Entitled Lustration Law regarding temporary limitation
of access to public office of persons who held official positions within the power structures and repressive apparatus of the communist regime, it envisages the persons who
held top positions within the central and local organizations of the Romanian Communist Party and the Union of Communist Youth (including the associations of Communists Students in Romania), in state administration (at both central and local levels),
judiciary, diplomacy, internal affairs (Militia), propaganda, foreign trade (heads of
commercial offices abroad) and the banking system. This disqualification from public
life is applied to offices such as: president of Romania, senator and deputy, mayor and
deputy mayor, member of the government, presidential counselor, director or deputy
director of intelligence agencies, director or member of the board of state companies,
judge or attorney at law, head of state cultural institutions (at both central and local
levels), member of the diplomatic corps. The law was voted by the Senate in April


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

til the revolution, but also after it: before 1989, it was believed to control everything and everyone,93 while after 1989 it was believed to have staged and carried
out the regime change to its own benefit, manipulating an entire country. This
unbalanced attention also comes from the very fact that the legislation discussed
above was eventually applied only in response to pressure by former political
prisoners. Their recollections as victims of the communist system documented
the prominent role in implementing repression played by the secret police,
whose representatives they directly encountered. However, this only explains the
disproportionate attention given to the secret police, but by no means the rather limited societal interest given to the nomenklatura, to which this institution
was directly subordinated. To sum up, in spite of all these downfalls, the very
existence of an institution that works for the disclosure of the secret police officers and collaborators represents a moral reparation for all those who had been
once victims of the Securitate. While the future-oriented goal of disclosing the
perpetrators in order to consolidate democracy proved to have been an unrealistic societal expectation, the past-oriented goal of acknowledging the sufferings
of the victims has been achieved by this type of one-dimensional lustration.94
What is more, CNSAS started to provide solid evidence for the revision of the
public representation based on sheer terror, as it revealed not only the existence
of a huge network of informants, but also that the very act of collaborating was
in many cases voluntary.95
Returning to the former political prisoners, a living memory of communist
atrocities, it should be mentioned that their contribution in remembering and
reconstructing the recent past goes beyond the activity of AFDPR. Many members of this association authored recollections of their sufferings in the Romanian Gulag. As a totally obscured part of the recent past until 1989, such mem2006, but it was not voted by the Chamber of Deputies. The irony of Romanian
transitional justice is that the initiator of the law regarding the lustration of former
nomenklatura was the first major victim of the lustration of the secret police collaborators.
93 A short dissident essay, authored in 1989 by poet Mircea Dinescu, currently a member
of the Collegium of CNSAS, encapsulates best the widespread fear that the Securitate
was keeping everybody under surveillance. In his text, Dinescu recalls a conversation
with a fellow writer in the totally empty Writers Union Restaurant. After expressing
their preference for a certain dish that was not on the menu, a waiter came with the
desired dish, although they never ordered it. A plate on the table had been the only
witness to the conversation, so it must have been in fact a sophisticated listening device
of the Romanian secret police. See OSA/RFE Archives, Romanian Fond, 300/60/3/Box
7, File Dissidents: Mircea Dinescu.
94 For more on the characteristics of this unidimensional lustration, see Petrescu, Drago:
Dilemmas of Transitional Justice in Post-1989 Romania. In: Lustration and Consolidation of Democracy and the Rule of Law in Central and Eastern Europe. Ed. by Vladimira Dvorkov and Andelko Milardovi. Zagreb 2007, 127-151.
95 This finding of prime importance resulted from an extensive study focusing on the
Securitate files. See Albu, Mihai: Informatorul. Studiu asupra colaborrii cu Securitatea
[The informer. Study on the collaboration with the Securitate]. Iai 2008.



oirs were placed high on the agenda of many publishing houses.96 Whereas
professional writings on the history of communism were less numerous and
therefore less influential, the public representations of that period were shaped
mostly by various private accounts on the sufferings in the communist prisons.
From among the latter, those disseminated through TV programs managed to
reach a larger public than those circulated only in written form. The period of
great terror, including not only the extreme experiences of detention and torture,
but also the repression of revolts, and the suppression of the underground groups
in the late 1940s up to the early 1960s, were very well covered by a TV series
entitled Memorialul Durerii [Memorial of Suffering]. While the neo-communists were still in power, the series was broadcast late in the night. Nevertheless,
this documentary had a decisive impact on the formation of collective memory
on communism, especially among the educated strata.97 One of the most spectacular episodes broadcast in 1991 was the one that included an interview
with a former notorious Securitate general, Alexandru Nicolschi, a man directly
responsible for the crimes committed during the period of great terror. He was
the highest-ranking former communist official in the service of the Romanian
secret police who accepted to grant an interview, and succeeded in enraging the
audience because of his refusal to repent.98 The most emotional, however, was
the interview of 1992 taken by the director of the series, journalist Lucia Hossu
96 For instance, the Humanitas Publishing House, which took over the former official
publishing house of the communist party, started to publish immediately witness accounts from the Romanian Gulag. From among the first publications of 1990, which
represented autobiographical writings or analyses of the communist system authored
and published before in exile one cam mention Ierunca 1990 (cf. n. 12); Goma, Paul:
Soldatul cinelui [Dogs soldier]. Bucharest 1990; and Idem: Culoarea curcubeului 77.
Cutremurul oamenilor [The color of the rainbow 77. The earthquake of the people].
Bucharest 1990.
97 The documentaries have been made available in written form and on DVD in 2007.
It is interesting to note that in the introduction it is mentioned that the Memorial of
Suffering replaced the history textbooks at a time when the dignifying past of Romanian democracy was ignored or even deliberately forgotten. See Hossu Longin, Lucia:
Memorialul Durerii. O istorie care nu se nva la coal [Memorial of Suffering. A
history that one does not learn at school]. Bucharest 2007.
98 Asked about the atrocities committed in the communist prisons, he shocked the public opinion when affirmed that he was imprisoned too and survived. All Romanians
knew that these sufferings could not have been comparable, since Nicolschi paid for
his allegiance to the Soviet Union. Nicolschi died in 1992. For more on this, see the
website dedicated to the so-called trial of communism, set up by members of the
Romanian post-1989 diaspora,, 25 July 2008.
Another short description of this interview is provided in Jela, Doina: Lexiconul negru:
Unelte ale represiunii comuniste [The black lexicon. Tools of the communist repression]. Bucharest 2001, 199-202. The most important torturer still alive at the moment
when communism collapsed, Alexandru Drghici, refused to talk again after this interview. He finally fled to Hungary, where his wife, Marta Cziko-Drghici, had some
relatives, and died there in 1993. Drghici served as minister of the interior between
1952 and 1968, when Ceauescu removed him from all positions, as the former was


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

Longin, to a peasant woman who survived the imprisonment and tortures,

Elisabeta Rizea. Put on trial for the guilt of supporting a group of armed resistance in the Fgra Mountains in the early 1950s, she told her story of appalling
sufferings with dignity and without trying to victimize herself in spite of the fact
that she was crippled for life by systematic beating in communist prisons. Thus,
she became almost overnight the symbol of the Romanian resistance to communism.99
Although the number of written testimonies from, and visual narratives
about, communist prisons decreased in time, the accounts by former political
prisoners left in the meantime endurable traces in peoples minds. Nonetheless,
such personal stories offer an image of the past that focuses on the Romanian
Gulag of the late 1940s and up to the general amnesty of 1964. Thus, these
recollections do not tell much about the changes operated by the regime over
the period 1945-1989 with regard to the mechanisms of social control. In other
words, the unified personal memories of one social group, focusing on a particular period, constructed an image of communism as if the period of random
terror spanned until the demise of the regime on 22 December 1989. Such a
representation was apparently not conflicting with the depressing 1980s in Romania. Unlike in other former communist countries, in Romania the corpus of
recollections by former political prisoners was not complemented by the remiconsidered an important contestant to the latters power position. For more on Drghici,
see Tismneanu, Vladimir: Arheologia terorii [The archaeology of terror]. Bucharest
1998, 77-80.
99 In 1949, Elisabeta Rizea, together with several fellow villagers from the rural sub-Carpathian area of Arge county, was arrested, imprisoned, tortured, put on trial, and
condemned to 7 years of detention for the guilt of having helped the a group of fugitives called The Rebels of Muscel County (Haiducii Muscelului). Rizea survived the
communist detention in spite of the harsh treatment she received, which left her mutilated for life. After the collapse of communism, the story of her life, told first for the
TV series Memorial of Suffering in 1992, and then published by Humanitas, was one
of the most impressing testimonies of the communist terror at its height. Her fragile
appearance combined with a highly principled conduct made her a symbol of resistance
to Romanias communization that the Romanians badly needed after 1989. See Nicolau, Irina/Niu, Teodor: Povestea Elisabetei Rizea din Nucoara/Mrturia lui Cornel
Drgoi [The story of Elisabeta Rizea from Nucoara/The testimony of Cornel Drgoi].
Bucharest 1993. As for the rebels, they were not more than 30 to 40 people, mostly
former officers in the Royal Army, who tried desperately to organize a movement of
armed resistance in the mountains close to their native place. After years of hiding, in
1958, the group was annihilated when its leaders, the Arnuoiu brothers, were captured, put on trial and condemned to death. After the communist takeover, research
into the archives proved that this was one of the most resilient groups of the kind,
which tried to resist in various mountain areas of Romania in the hope that the Americans would come and rescue the country from the Soviet hands. For more on this
group see Voicu-Arnuoiu, Ioana-Raluca (ed.): Lupttorii din muni. Toma Arnuoiu.
Grupul de la Nucoara. Documente ale anchetei, procesului, deteniei [The fighters in
the mountains. Toma Arnuoiu. The Group of Nucoara. Documents of the investigation, trial, and detention]. Bucharest 1997.



niscences of younger generations that did not pass through such extreme experiences but suffered in a different way. All those who outlived the Romanian
communism remained traumatized by the severe shortages and everyday humiliations characteristic to the decade prior to the 1989 revolution.100 The mise
ries of late communism also obscured the memories of the relative liberalization
of the 1960s, which are just about to surface in the post-communist public
sphere. At the same time, the vision according to which random terror and repression were central to Romanian communism also concurred with the public
interest in discovering, unmasking and punishing those who were responsible
for the sufferings inflicted on the population. Such a perspective on the communist past is though not concerned with the humiliating everyday collaboration, based on daily lies and tiny compromises, which ensured a tolerable life
but made the system survive for decades until its sudden collapse. As shown
above, such a perspective locates the guilt entirely in the people of the former
regime, mostly those working for the Securitate, and absolves the largest majority of any responsibility. The representation of Romanian communism originating exclusively in the memory of the sufferings in prisons gives justice to the
former victims, but at the same time eludes a genuine coming to terms with the
past by all the others.
As previously mentioned, the public intellectuals assumed the task of publicly promoting this representation of the communist past based on the experience of the former political prisoners. What is more, they also supported the
legal and moral forms of dealing with the past proposed by those who had been
once victims of the regime. It were not the common personal histories that
united the visions proposed by these two different vectors of memory, but as
it is further argued the traumas provoked by the legacy of the secret police,
the institution in charge with maintaining the population under strict control.
While the political prisoners were the victims of the repression orchestrated by
the Securitate up to the 1960s, most of the public intellectuals with few exceptions only feared that the Securitate might suppress them. In the 1970s and
1980s, dissidents were harassed, shadowed, or even arrested, but not kept imprisoned if knowledge about them reached the West and human rights associations
100 A documentary made in 1988 by Belgian journalist Josy Dubi and entitled The Red
Disaster is extremely telling about the unparalleled level of misery reached in Romania
as compared to other countries in the Soviet bloc. First broadcast by the Belgian
television on 7 December 1988, few days before the fortieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it benefited from an extensive press advertisement and registered large audience. Thus, it was later broadcast by most western
televisions, shocking the public with its incredible images. The film showed a situation
so appalling for individuals used to live in a normal world, that only those old enough
could assimilate it with something from their personal experience, i.e., the war me
mories. Things such as the shops completely empty seemed even more horrendous
that these were happening in an European country, and not in the Third World. In
addition, the destruction of Bucharest during the so-called systemization reminded to
the audiences of the devastation following bombardments or earthquakes.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

advocated their cases. Nevertheless, the image of the omnipotent and merciless
Securitate in the 1950s obsessed many Romanians up to the end of the regime,
preventing most them to revolt until December 1989.101 What is more, the spec
ter of the Securitate continues to haunt the Romanian society.

Post-Communist Public Intellectuals against Amnesia

This vector of memory is much more heterogeneous than that represented by
former political prisoners. The latter were more solidary as a generation most
of them had already reached maturity at the time of the communist takeover
and comparable in their relationship with the former regime as long as their
overwhelming majority were its conspicuous victims. The post-communist public intellectuals represented mostly the next generation, socialized exclusively
under communism, and included very diverse persons ranging from open critiques of the former regime to professionals tolerated by it. In spite of the great
internal diversity of the caste, the fact that they enjoyed a high prestige after
1989 which derived from their refraining to endorse the communist regime
and shared a similar vision of the past allow these authors to treat them as a
coherent vector of memory. The profile of the Romanian post-communist public intellectual include: an erudite with truly encyclopedic knowledge of the 19th
century type, high moral standards proved by the past experience of resistance
through culture against the ideological pressures of the communist regime and,
if possible, a certificate of good behavior conferred by their surveillance by the
secret police, interdiction to publish or at least professional marginalization.
As compared to the former political prisoners, the post-1989 public intellectuals played during the twenty years since the revolution a more important role
in producing and reproducing the representation of the past based on sufferings
and terror. The latter represent a category that enjoyed for long a substantial
prestige in society and thus a greater potential in influencing the public opinion.
The early post-communist intellectual hierarchies have been challenged recently as Romania finally entered what one might call a post-modern stage but
101 A widely publicized case is that of Gheorghe Ursu, an engineer who did not protest
in public, but kept a secret diary with critical remarks about the communist regime.
Disclosed by his colleagues to the communist authorities, Ursu was imprisoned in 1985
and savagely beaten to death. Unfortunately, information about Ursus arrest was not
passed to Radio Free Europe in order to make public his case and provide international protection. The Ursu case deepened the conviction that all those who dared to
express such views would end in the same way. However, this was just an extreme case
since none of the radical dissidents of the 1970s and the 1980s died in prison or during
interrogation. At the same time, it must be stated clearly that Ursu was an innocent
victim of the Ceauescu regime. For the report on Ursus death see Serviciul Romn
de Informaii [Romanian Intelligence Service]: Cartea Alb a Securitii. Istorii literare
i artistice 1969-1989 [The White Book of the Securitate. Literary and Artistic Stories
1969-1989]. Bucharest 1996, 503.



not seriously shaken. Thus, it can be said that until now the intellectuals that
established their public prominence immediately after 1989 have remained instrumental in shaping the mindsets of the educated strata. In order to understand the roots of the unusually high status enjoyed by public intellectuals in
post-communist Romania, one should consider not only their aura of resisters
to communism, but also the incomplete (or the perverted) modernization
underwent by the country since the mid-19th century. Students of Central and
Eastern Europe acknowledge that the massive import of Western institutions
meant to transform those societies in accordance with the original model(s) did
not produce the desired results, but forms without substance.102 For the purpose of this study, it is important to stress that such a distorted modernization
manifests itself socially by the persistence of attributes belonging to traditional
societies, such as the existence of status groups.103 It is the membership in such
groups that constitutes the basis of the social esteem enjoyed by the individuals
that compose it.104 Public intellectuals in Romania, before and after 1989, have
constituted such a distinct category, which secured a better social position than
their wealth would have otherwise allowed.
Acting as a coherent status group, such intellectuals rapidly monopolized the
public sphere that just escaped from the communist state control. In January
1990, prominent intellectuals in Romania, hitherto atomized because of the real
or perceived surveillance by the secret police, organized themselves in one of the
102 This syntagm actually belongs to the conservative prime minister Titu Maiorescu, who
was also one of the finest literary critiques in 19th century Romania, and a prominent
member of the Junimea circle in Iai, the most coherent pressure group of its time.
See the article of 1868 in Maiorescu, Titu: n contra direciei de azi n cultura romn
[Against the current direction of the Romanian culture]. In: Critice [Critical writings]. Bucharest 1967, 148-149.
103 The best analysis of Romanias incomplete modernization so far remains that of Kenneth Jowitt, written decades ago, yet relevant even in post-communism (and postmodernity). Warning against the inappropriate use of categories coined for the Western world when dealing with non-Western societies, Jowitt observes that Romanias
modernity can be understood only if one takes into account that elements of the
status society in Weberian terms coexist with elements of class society. In the first case,
the basic unit of the social identification is the corporate group, while in the second
it is the individual and the nuclear family. See Jowitt, Kenneth: Sociocultural basis of
national dependency. In: Social Change in Romania 1960-1940. A Debate on Development of a European Nation. Ed. by Idem. Berkeley 1978, 1-30. His argument was
continued in Mungiu-Pippidi, Alina: Politica dup comunism. Cultura politic a unei
societi nchise [Politics after communism. The political culture of a closed society].
Bucharest 2001.
104 A Romanian-born social scientist, currently teaching in the United States, has defined
such groups as prestige groups following Ken Jowitts analysis, and pointed out that
the Romanian cultural public sphere continues to be dominated by such groups. See
Matei, Sorin Adam: Boierii minii. Intelectualii romni ntre grupurile de prestigiu i
piaa liber a ideilor [Boyars of the mind. The Romanian intellectuals between prestige groups and the free market of ideas]. Bucharest 2004.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

most prestigious nuclei of the emerging civil society. 105 As the first non-governmental association, the Group for Social Dialogue (Grupul pentru Dialog Social,
GDS), gathered together in a matter of days whos who in Romanian cultural,
artistic and scientific life, former dissidents and non-dissidents alike. This group
has been already mentioned in this study as a producer of influential and sophisticated anti-communist discourses in post-communism. Although not all the
intellectuals active in the public sphere do belong to this group, it is certainly
considered up to this day the most representative circle of critical thinking and
it played a pioneering role in establishing the post-communist model of the
intellectual as a critical thinker.
The Group defined as the rationale behind its existence the acute need of
the Romanian democratic polity in-the-making to develop critical reflexive skills
in order to leave behind the old habits of obeying without thinking. Taking
into account that in communist Romania there were very few dissidents able to
articulate a critique of the system, GDS assumed the role of patronizing the
regeneration of civil society in post-communism. Furthermore, the group saw
itself as the promoter of the dialogue between state and society on issues of
public interest, which represented indeed a premire in Romania.106 Briefly put,
the post-communist mission of the group, as defined by its members, was very
much similar to that of the dissident intellectuals of Central Europe under communism. Yet, it should be mentioned that, unlike the intellectuals who criticized
the defunct regime before 1989, the group acted for emancipating the public
sphere from the control of the state after 1989 under incomparably better conditions. Through its newly established weekly Revista 22 [Review 22] that reminds one of 22 December 1989, and by means of public roundtables and TV
broadcastings its members became quickly extremely visible in the media.
For the purpose of the present study, this group represents perhaps the most
important vector of memory that structured the remembrance of communism
after 1989. However, its impact is evaluated only on the grounds of their visibility in the public sphere and not on the basis of their perception among the
105 As Katherine Verdery aptly illustrated, in communist Romania, an informal intellectual hierarchy, based on real professional competence, paralleled the official hierarchy,
based on the promotions allowed by the regime. Many of the intellectuals who refrained themselves from openly supporting the mini-cultural revolution preached by
Ceauescu were gradually marginalized in the 1970s and 1980s. They were, however,
the persons who enjoyed the real prestige in the Romanian intellectual circles as well
as abroad. See Verdery, Katherine: National Ideology under Socialism. Identity and
Cultural Politics in Ceausescus Romania. Berkeley 1991.
106 In fact, in all countries of East-Central Europe, perhaps with the exception of Poland
in the heydays of Solidarity, intellectuals have been rather isolated from their own
societies; they have preferred the role of advisors to the powers-that-be than the role
of advocates of ordinary people. See in this respect the argument put forward by
Baumann, Zygmunt: Intellectuals in East-Central Europe. Continuity and Change.
In: In Search of Central Europe. Ed. by George Schpflin and Nancy Wood. Totowa/
New Jersey 1989, 70-90.



population, as this group could never create a strong link with what might be
called the profound Romania. Although the establishment of a cross-class
dialogue by encouraging debates on issues of public interest featured among
their initial goals, intellectuals in Romania remained to this day isolated from
the voiceless people from below. They have a good communication with their
western peers, with whom contact is established instantly, but seem unable to
communicate with the social strata beyond their circles. This estrangement became apparent with the occasion of the first free elections of May 1990 when
the largest majority of the population failed to understand the anti-communist
discourses produced by intellectuals and legitimized with their votes the neocommunists.107 After those elections, numerous intellectuals assumed that communism affected the Romanian nation so heavily that it made it unable to free
itself.108 Thus, they considered that the best way to cure the nation was to explain what communism really meant, and to what extent it destroyed the country and its elites. In short, to promote a representation of communism focusing
on crimes, terror and repression in order to enable the average Romanian understand better the disease and find a cure for it. Briefly put, it was exactly the
incapacity to communicate their message to the Romanian society at large that
radicalized the vision on the recent history promoted by public intellectuals as
a group, bringing it close to that of the former political prisoners.
If communism was the disease of the nation, then was there anyone who
remained untouched? Yes, public intellectuals replied. It was either dissidence or
political prison that offered certificates of good health, which allowed their
bearers to claim that they were not part of the problem. Those who suffered
under the previous regime because of their anti-communist convictions were not
perverted by communism. With few notable exceptions, a large majority of the
Romanian public intellectuals did not publicly criticize the communist regime
or, if they did, their protest was mostly related to cultural issues.109 Compared
to the former political prisoners, who represented another generation, most intellectuals did not experience extreme, Gulag-like personal sufferings. From the
107 See, for instance, Mungiu-Pippidi, Alina: La noi, Havel ar fi pierdut alegerile [To us,
Havel would have lost the elections], and Eec comunitar i eec naional [The failure of the community and the failure of the nation]. In: Romnia. Mod de folosire
[Romania. Instructions for use]. Bucharest 1994, 9-11, and 71-73.
108 Philosopher Gabriel Liiceanu employs the parable of the cave, taken from Platos
Republic, in order to explain how deeply the Romanian society was affected by communism: Communism leaves behind a perverted society in which the sick person
votes in favor of his disease, the sentenced person in favor of his own punishment, the
one forcefully kept in a cave in favor of the caves walls and the moving shadows
projected onto them. See Liiceanu, Gabriel: Apel ctre lichele [Appeal to malefactors]. Bucharest 1992, 81-88. For an analysis of what he calls the discourse of national
pathology, see Antohi 1997 (cf. n. 3), 304-310.
109 For more on this, see Petrescu, Cristina: Seven Faces of Dissent. A Micro Perspective
on the Study of Political (Sub)Cultures under Communism. In: Political Culture and
Cultural Politics. Ed. by Alexandru Zub and Adrian Cioflnc. Iai 2005, 305-344.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

mid-1960s onwards, the communist regime changed its mechanisms of control

from repression to prevention. The potential opponents were kept under strict
surveillance up to 1989, but only the very few dissidents of the 1970s and 1980s
were harassed by the Securitate, yet without experiencing extreme forms of repression as the political prisoners did in the early stages of communist rule.
Otherwise, the large majority of the intellectuals suffered because of professional marginalization and, like everybody else in the country, from economic
The political prisoners who endured the Stalinist terror and the genuine dissidents of the Ceauescu epoch who supported nevertheless softer forms of
repression went through highly traumatic personal experiences during the
communist period. At the same time, the relation with the communist past
characteristic to most public intellectuals who never expressed publicly their
opposioninst views differs substantially from that of the former political priso
ners as well as that of authentic dissidents. Non-dissident intellectuals, of whom
most did not support or approve the communist regime, missed the opportunity to define clearly their position with regard to that regime prior to its collapse. Their post-1989 association with the former political prisoners and the
pre-1989 critiques of communism represents a belated attempt to come to terms
with their own recent past. By making of the secret police the cornerstone of the
regime and conveying the image of communism as a period of great terror from
day one to the very end, non-dissidents have attempted to compensate their
pre-1989 silence.
Just like the neo-communists who in spite of their poor record in opposing
Ceauescu legitimated themselves as proponents of democracy through the
revolution, post-communist anti-communist public intellectuals had to construct their own democratic myth. The legitimacy deficit of those intellectuals
who did not distinguish themselves as dissidents before 1989 is at the origin of
the model of resistance through culture. This syntagm, which made a great
career in the post-communist public debates, refers to a tactic of passive resis
tance to the ideological pressure of the communist regime, which after the cultural relaxation in the 1960s was reinforced by Ceauescus so-called Theses of
July 1971.110 Except for the return to such obsolete notions like socialist realism
and the usual talk about the guiding role of the communist teachings, Ceauescus
speeches of July 1971 contained an astonishing attack on culture: cultural production in Romania was to be kept free of Western influences. In other words,
110 In the long run, the theses would have very serious consequences upon the state of the
Romanian culture since they also triggered an increasing control over the circulation
of information across the border books and persons including that created a genuine cultural autarchy in the late 1980s. See Ceauescu, Nicolae: Propuneri de msuri
pentru mbuntirea activitii politico-ideologice, de educare marxist-leninist a
membrilor de partid, a tuturor oamenilor muncii 6 iulie 1971 [Proposals of measures
for the improvement of the political-ideological activity, for the education of the
party members and all the working people 6 July 1971]. Bucharest 1971, 205-207.



Romanian intellectuals had to look for inspiration only locally and create a
Romanian culture in complete isolation from developments in Europe, going
against the very aim of their predecessors from the 19th century onwards and up
to the communist takeover: to be in synchronism with the West. Accordingly,
resistance through culture meant to maintain good professional standards by
being connected to the values, ideas and new trends in European culture, and
produce works worthy of a notable place in European culture.111 Such a task was
also in consonance with the dream of the interwar generation of intellectuals
who considered that, once the political goal of making Greater Romania was
achieved, their sacred mission was to make a greater Romanian culture. Resistance through culture never implied public criticism of the communist regime
and therefore it differed in scope from the mission assumed by the local dissidents as well as by the critical intellectuals of Central Europe. As compared to
radical intellectual dissent, this form of resistance could be considered a form of
avoiding supporting the official communist views.112
In Romania, however, resistance through culture is considered by many as
a form of dissent. Some went further and argued that it was in fact the only
realistic and effective way of opposing Ceauescus personal rule and the only
way of saying no without suffering harsh punishment.113 It was repeatedly
claimed, before and after the 1989 revolution, that the communist regime in
111 For the idea of returning to Europe culturally, see Marino, Adrian: Pro Europa. Modelul i obstacolele sale [For Europe. The model and its obstacles]. In: Momentul
Adevrului [The moment of truth]. Ed. by Iordan Chimet. Cluj 1996, 410-418.
112 A fundamental text that theorizes the so-called resistance through culture as a specific way of opposing the Ceauescu regime is the introduction to Liiceanu, Gabriel:
Jurnalul de la Pltini. Un model paideic n cultura umanist [Pltini Diary. A paideialike model in the humanistic culture]. Bucharest 1991, 5-15. Speaking about his own
cultural group gathered around the late philosopher Constantin Noica, Liiceanu characterizes resistance through culture in the following terms: This model has, unquestionably, its greatness and its disadvantage. On the one hand, [] it hampered
the systematic and total destruction of culture, staking on the idea that only the spirit
can ensure the survival of a historically menaced country. But on the other hand, exactly in the name of this idea, this model turned his back upon the real history, that
of events []. Dialogue with [] the representatives of power, those butlers of history, was considered by Noica as a complete absurdity, and, thus, he disregarded the
dissidents as victims of an illusion, caught up in an unimportant fight []. Neither
a Havel nor an advisor to a Romanian Wasa emerged from Noicas school. Noica
believed only in the Doomsday of culture and in the certificate one can bring to it.
This volume also comprises the reprint of the 1983 edition of Liiceanus diary, in itself
a model of daily resistance through culture, a repertoire of topics of reflection and a
list of canonical readings for all intellectuals that wanted to evade the misery of everyday life under communism.
113 A self-critical and ironic view on what represented resistance through culture is expressed by another practitioner, Vintil Mihilescu: It was normal to come together
in the end. [] Because we acted with professionalism. [] We were not against the
institutions, [], but we did what we could to stay in their shadow. [] I found out
later that this was resistance through culture. See Mihilescu, Vintil: tia eram noi


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

Romania was so harsh, and the secret police so powerful, that any attempt at
intellectual dissidence was doomed to failure.114 In many respects, the Securitate
became a leitmotif of the public discourses on communism mostly because the
lack of dissent in Romania as compared to the Central European countries
had to be somehow justified. Such an argument was contrived before 1989 and
subsequently disseminated by Western accounts on communist Romania. Journalists, diplomats or human rights activists who had the chance to reach local
informants usually spoke to what one might call tolerated intellectuals due to
the fact that authentic dissidents were closely supervised and therefore difficult
to reach and asked repeatedly why nobody dared to openly criticize the regime.
In order to justify their passivity, such informants of Western visitors created the
theory of resistance through culture. Accordingly, Romania, unlike any other
country in the Soviet bloc, was nothing but a huge prison in which everybody
had to seek ways of surviving. To the extent those imprisoned in the 1950s transmitted something from their experience, they described that there were three
different reactions to such forcefully imposed experience: (1) revolt; (2) retreat
into an imaginary normal life; and (3) resistance through culture. Of the three,
the best support for getting through the hardships of such a life was culture, and
the people who chose this way of resistance were those who survived better and
went out capable of resuming a normal life.115 In short, before 1989, the resis
[So we were]. In: Cum era? Cam aa. Amintiri din anii comunismului (romnesc)
[How was it? Something like this. Remembering (Romanian) communism]. Ed. by
Clin-Andrei Mihilescu. Bucharest 2006, 18.
114 Sadly enough, resistance through culture proved to be a strategy that offered the
communist regime the opportunity to co-opt gifted intellectual by giving them the
illusion of living a normal professional life and, of course, the opportunity to travel
to the West not only in dreams, but also in reality. In this way, Europe meaning
a trip to Paris or Rome began to be the object of a perverse bargain between the
regime and many Romanian intellectuals. Yet, it should be added that, to those who
were not asked to collaborate with the regime, or still had scruples in serving it, resistance through culture offered a minimal mental comfort in a period when hardships and widespread malaise disrupted normalcy. The Romanian resistance through
culture could be very well mapped from the diaries written by one of the most prominent contributors to the Romanian desk of the Radio Free Europe, literary critique
Monica Lovinescu. Her diaries, in which she noted scrupulously noteworthy events,
represent a chronicle of her meetings with Romanian writers visiting Paris. Since a
good review in her radio program Theses and anti-theses in Paris represented a kind
of certificate of authenticity to all those who claimed to resist through culture, Lovinescu and her husband, Virgil Ierunca, were assiduously visited by all those who
were allowed by the regime to make such a trip. See Lovinescu, Monica: Jurnal 19811984 [Diary 1981-1984]. Bucharest 2002; and Idem: Jurnal 1985-1988 [Diary 1985-1988].
Bucharest 2003.
115 See the conversation recorded on tape by the secret police between one of the
leading Romanian intellectuals and two French journalists in Serviciul Romn de
Informaii 1996 (cf. n. 101), 413-418. The reaction of some Western journalists was not
necessarily sympathetic. A British journalist, who apparently met the same Romanian
intellectual, noted that the Romanians were cowards who avoided engaging in politics



tance through culture represented a strategy of coping with the communist

regime, whose goal was not revolt, but survival. After 1989, those who claimed
to have practiced this form of resistance associated themselves in this way with
the victims of communism the former political prisoners and at the same
time dissociated themselves from those who, unlike them, openly supported the
defunct regime.116
GDS has not been the only formal or informal group of public intellectuals
that gathered people who refused to endorse communism while in power, resisters through culture as well as authentic dissidents. Its leading place as a social
model of intellectual excellence is yet unchallenged.117 The pre- and post-1989
criticism of its members towards the communist regime has crystallized into an
overwhelming orientation towards center-right politics. Some even argued that
the model it proposes is so powerful that there is practically no place in the
Romanian public sphere for a genuine left-oriented intellectual. The mainstream
orientation towards the political right of the Romanian intelligentsia was the
major theme of a famous debate generated by the high number of votes given
to the nationalistic Greater Romania Party in the elections of 2000. The polemic was initiated by a former Hungarian dissident, G. M. Tams. Born in
Transylvania, Tams is a keen observer of Romania, able to assess critically its
political and intellectual debates. His major argument was that the respective
vote which, quite surprisingly, came from the young generation that expressed
its political will for the first time was the result of the weak traditions of the
Left in Romania.118 Many Romanian intellectuals concertedly replied by acunder the pretext of the secret police or the prospective punishment, although what
they are eating in here would have caused a riot even in a Victorian workhouse. See
Selbourne, David: Death of the Dark Hero. Eastern Europe 1987-1990. London
116 The first post-communist manifesto of GDS was Gabriel Liiceanus famous Apel ctre
lichele [Appeal to malefactors]. In: Revista 22, 1(1990); reprinted in Liiceanu 1992 (cf.
n. 108), 5-6. In this famous text, Liiceanu asked all those who enthusiastically supported the Ceauescus regime to step aside from public life.
117 Sorin Adam Matei argues that the survival and the force of such a prestige group is
given by the fact that it has monopolized all channels of communication. In such a
context, the control over the public sphere is assured by the control over the membership to the group. See Matei 2004 (cf. n. 104), esp. 13-53.
118 In general, intellectuals in modern Romania have leaned towards the political Right.
It is this tradition that stands at the origin of the resistance through culture performed under communism by some outstanding public intellectuals of today. During the
1970s and 1980s, outside the official institutional frameworks, but tolerated by the
regime, the above-mentioned Constantin Noica, a prominent representative of the
interwar generation and survivor of the Romanian Gulag, was instrumental in tutoring a new generation of intellectuals. Through him, the values shared by the Romanian interwar culture, preoccupied to define the Romanian nation, were, G. M. Tams
argues, transmitted to the next generation, perpetuating the orientation towards the
political Right. The same point is developed by the French anthropologist Claude
Karnoouh, in a supportive reply to G. M. Tams, whose article has stirred many cri-


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

knowledging the general political distaste for the Left, yet arguing that this could
be in perfect consonance with democracy. However, intellectual discourses
stressing anti-communism as the supreme value associated with democracy
could be misleading, as long as they fail to stress the anti-democratic orientation
of communisms archenemy, fascism.119 In a country where the debate on the
fascist period was distorted under communism and emerged only slowly in postcommunism, such confusion could be dangerous, as the elections of 2000 in
Romania showed. To sum up, the pre-1945 traditional distaste for the Left, reinforced by the criticism of the regime that ruled the country between 1945 and
1989, nurtured to a great extent the radicalism of the post-1989 anti-communist
public representation of the communist past.
Given their prominence in the public sphere, public intellectuals with the
above-described profile had indeed a primary role in organizing the memory of
communism and influencing the formation of a collective interpretation of the
past. If GDS acted mostly at a meta-discursive level, the most prominent collector and preserver of memory was a non-governmental organization: the Civic
Alliance (Aliana Civic, AC). This is also an intellectually inspired civil society
association, in which public intellectuals play a leading role as well. Nonetheless,
AC proved to be less elitist and more militant than GDS. This alliance was also
born from the frustration felt by the urban educated segments of society (mostly Bucharest-based, at least in the beginning) after the elections of May 1990,
and the subsequent anti-intellectual mineriada of June 1990.120 The symbolic
tical answers coming from Romanian intellectuals. See Tams, G. M.: Scrisoare ctre
prietenii mei romni [Letter to my Romanian friends] and Karnoouh, Claude: Tams
i ceilali [Tams and the others]. In: Vasilescu 2002 (cf. n. 63), 11-20 and, respectively,
68-72. As Marxist revisionists constituted an important critical group in other former
communist countries, it can be said that the weakness of the Left in Romania was also
one of the causes for which dissent was weaker than elsewhere. See Tismneanu,
Vladimir: Reinventing Politics. Eastern Europe from Stalin to Havel. New York
119 Indeed, if one looks at the publications of the Humanitas Publishing House, which is
headed by one of Noicas disciples, Gabriel Liiceanu, one could see that it is clearly
dominated by the interwar generation of intellectuals that had a problematic relation
with the Romanian form of fascism: Mircea Eliade, Emil Cioran, and Constantin
Noica. Works by Central European dissidents announced in the catalogue for 19901991 were never published. At the same time, Humanitas is the first publishing house
in Romania, which initiated in 1990 the publication of prison memoirs and dissident
diaries. It also initiated a series entitled Procesul comunismului [The trial of communism], where it published mostly writings on communist Romania by Romanian
authors, or translations of works on the Stalinist Soviet Union.
120 This civic association was established taking as model the Central European dissident
groups, such as Charter 77. Legally, the Civic Alliance was registered on November
29, as a result of the decision no. 2274 of the Civil Court of the First District of
Bucharest. The alliance comprised in fact several already existing associations with
civic character. Among these, worth mentioning for the purpose of this study are
those with explicit goal of preserving the memory of certain events in recent history:
November 15-Braov (comprising the participants to the strike in 1987 in this Transyl-



date for its establishment was 7 November 1990, when the daily newspaper
Romnia liber published ACs Declaration of Principles, endorsed by 216
personalities of the Romanian intellectual elite.121 Its first public manifestation
held on 15 November 1990, the anniversary of the Braov strike of 1987, a major
anti-Ceauescu working-class protest in communist Romania was an immense
success: there were around 500,000 participants, which made it the largest rally
ever organized in post-1989 Romania. The initial high popularity of AC can be
explained by considering that the diffuse sentiment of guilt for failing to manifest any civic engagement prior to 1989 and for non-participating in the revolution prior to Ceauescus escape of 22 December touched larger urban educated
strata than those who usually participate in public debates. AC attracted many
of the almost 4 million former members of PCR who were reluctant to join
political parties after 1989. To such persons that were neither too cynical to support the neo-communists, nor too energetic to enroll politically on the other
side, the alliance appeared as a purgatory: it could absolve them of their pre-1989
fear of opposing communism by giving them the illusion of doing this after
vanian city) and Timioara (comprising participants to the Revolution of 1989, which
began in this city of the Banat region). In addition, GDS was among the founding
members of the Civic Alliance.
121 Public interest in this organization was stirred beginning with 7 November 1990,
through press conferences and advertisements in the daily newspaper Romnia liber,
which published applications for membership. Consequently, during the following
months, the number of AC members increased tremendously so that this Bucharestbased organization established branches throughout the country. It is very telling also
that the main logistic support came from the daily newspaper Romnia liber. This is
due not only to the fact that its editor-in-chief, Petre Mihai Bcanu, was member in
the Steering Committee of AC, but also to the identification of the newspaper itself
with this civic movement. The editorial board of this newspaper comprised, besides
Bcanu, journalists Mihai Creang and Anton Uncu. All three, together with typographer Nicolae Chivoiu, were arrested on January 26, 1989, following their attempt to
publish anti-communist articles in a special, underground issue of newspaper Romnia liber. They were detained until the revolution. The addendum to the Romanian
translation of The Black Book of Communism, made under the auspices of the Civic
Alliance, included a reference to their failed attempt in a sketchy list of protests directed against the Romanian communist regime entitled O cronologie a societii civile
[A chronology of civil society]. See Courtois1997 (cf. n. 8), 775. Regarding their case,
it is worth mentioning that it illustrates the strategy employed by the communist regime during its last years in dealing with dissenting individuals: in order to escape
international allegations for violating human rights, they were no longer treated as
political prisoners. Bcanu, Creang and Uncu, for instance, were condemned for illegal commerce with cars.
122 Alina Mungiu has captured this very well: she criticizes the intellectuals that established the Civic Alliance exactly for the fact that they addressed an audience that was
already won, that is the urban educated strata, completely ignoring the rural, uneducated Romania, which was confronting very different problems. See Mungiu-Pippidi
1994 (cf. n. 107), 24-26.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

As stated in its statutes, the purpose of AC was the strengthening of civil

society and the establishment of the rule of law.123 Among the directions of action, one should mention the struggle for promoting moral values and disseminating the truth, as well as the organization of programs of civic education. It
is in this sense that the organization was the first to act consistently for the introduction of lustration, as formulated in the above-mentioned Article 8 of The
Proclamation of Timioara.124 Beyond the abstract goal of stimulating the development of civil society, AC assumed at the time of its establishment the role
of catalyst of the opposition to the neo-communist party, FSN. As compared to
the more elitist GDS, AC oriented itself towards militant and mass-educational
activities. Thus, the first period of the alliance (1990-1992) was dominated by
mass rallies directed against the ruling party. It was in this context that the idea
to raise the awareness of the population with regard to what communism meant
gained importance. As mentioned, it was believed that the unmasking of the
crimes perpetrated under communism would prevent another overwhelming
vote in favor of the neo-communists. It was in September 1992 that the Civic
Alliance organized the first exhibition on the communist past, which was dedicated to the memory of the victims of communism and of the resistance to
communism. This syntagm would soon become the leitmotif in remembering
Romanian communism, the very phrase that epitomized what have in the meantime emerged as the dominant public representation of the past. The exhibition
was symbolically set up in a building of the former secret police located near the
former headquarter of the Central Committee, which had been destroyed during the revolution and left in ruin as a memento. The emblematic characters
who opened the exhibition were the above-mentioned Corneliu Coposu, as the
most prominent former political prisoner, and Elisabeta Rizea, the old woman
who impressed an entire country with her story of stubborn resistance to the
communist rule.125
123 In order to achieve this, several divergent directions of action were broadly defined,
ranging from the introduction of social, economic and administrative reforms to the
preservation of the identity of the Romanians living abroad; from promoting individual rights regardless of ethnie or religion to the integration into Euro-Atlantic structures, from supporting the disadvantaged social segments to the eradication of corruption. In spite of their eclectic character, these directions of action comprised in
Article 3 in the statute give one a fairy accurate idea about Romania as it was immediately after the fall of communism. See the statute of the Civic Alliance, http://www., 24 February 2006.
124 The Article 3 in the statute of AC reiterates the famous Article 8 by stipulating that
no former member of the party and state nomenklatura, no former member of the
secret police and no former party activist should occupy public offices in post-communism.
125 The results of the elections in the fall of 1992 showed that this strategy was not successful. In spite of the large numbers of people coming to these meetings, the alliance
did not succeed in enlarging its public after the initial period of great enthusiasm. In
short, it attracted only those who wanted to listen to such a message from the very
beginning: the urban educated people. If the masses did not care much in the end, it



Such initiative aimed at bringing together public intellectuals and historical

parties in order to strengthen the opposition to neo-communists. AC was not a
political alliance, but neither an apolitical organization.126 As long as politics was
perceived as inherently corrupt due to the prominence of the neo-communists,
AC declared itself the advocate of moral values and the promoter of truth, as
stated in its founding document. It was, in short, anti-political in the sense
Gyrgy Konrd defined the term in his classical book.127 Its political role was to
confer legitimacy to the historical parties.128 It is this joint effort that made AC
the closest intellectually driven NGO to AFDPR and in the long run their collaboration contributed heavily to the preservation of the memory of the Romanian Gulag. After the elections of 1996 that brought historical parties to power,
AC changed its priorities. As the political mobilization of civil society against
neo-communism was no longer pressing, it turned increasingly upon the memory of the communist past.129
The most impressive achievement of AC, unsurpassed to this day in Romania, is Memorialul Sighet [Memorial of Sighet], which is in full consistency





should be noted that some success among younger generation was registered indeed
by the alliance later on through the educational programs organized by the Civic
Academy. In this respect, the summer schools organized for high-school students every year since 1998 are worth mentioning. Participants to these events are recruited
following a national competition, and the best papers are published in volumes.
Among these, the most interesting is Exerciii de memorie [Exercises of memory].
Bucharest 2000; that includes essays on the topic What do I know about communism? The book has received a special prize at the Book Fair Gaudeamus in March
2000 in Cluj.
It was a rump faction of AC that in July 1991 established the Party of the Civic Alliance
(Partidul Alianei Civice, PAC), which openly engaged in politics. PAC had only a
limited success in the elections of 1992, when it participated as member of CDR. For
the 1996 elections, PAC established an alliance with a rump faction of PNL, but failed
to pass the electoral threshold. In 1998, PAC was finally absorbed by PNL.
As mentioned, the alliance defined its role as if communism did not collapse yet,
copying largely the pre-1989 civic movements of Central Europe. See Konrd, Gyrgy:
Antipolitics. San Diego 1984. For a Romanian interpretation of this idea, see Prvulescu, Cristian: Politic, apolitic, antipolitic [Political, apolitical, antipolitical]. In: Sfera
Politicii, 59(1998), 18-22.
AC was an extremely powerful member of CDR, which comprised political parties
and civic associations as well. It was so influential that it succeeded in promoting its
own candidate to be elected as the single representative of this coalition in the 1992
elections in the person of the rector of the University of Bucharest, Emil Constantinescu.
AC renounced on 6 April 1998 to its membership to CDR, following a political crisis
that provoked the fall of the Victor Ciorbea government. Victor Ciorbea was a member of the National Peasant Party and the former mayor of Bucharest, who was appointed premier after the elections of 1996. In a press conference, the representatives
of AC justified their decision by arguing that the unconstitutional manner in which
the government was dismissed contradicted all the principles for which CDR, including AC, entered the electoral competition with the neo-communists.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

with the representation of communism promoted by this organization a museum dedicated to the victims of communism and to the resistance to communism. The Museum, which is since 1995 under the patronage of the Council
of Europe, is organized in a symbolic site: the former prison in the northern
Transylvanian city of Sighet, built by the Hungarian authorities in 1897, and
transformed by the communist regime into a place of political detention.130 The
motto chosen for the Memorial of Sighet reflects the perception of AC with
regard to the relation between the memory of communism and post-communist
politics: As long as the judiciary is not able to be a way of remembering, remembering itself could be a form of justice.131 In other words, if the powersthat-be do not initiate a trial of communism in order to clarify the intricacies
of the recent past and finally reconcile the Romanian society with its traumatic
past, then it is the duty of civil society to preserve its memory until the time is
ripe. The aforementioned motto illustrates also the ambiguities around the syntagm trial of communism which, in Romania, is mostly employed without
making the difference among its legal, political, moral, or academic facets. Finally, it is worth mentioning that the Sighet prison was selected as the Site of
remembering the victims of communism because of its special place in the Romanian Gulag.132 It was in this prison that the interwar leaderships of historical
parties ended their lives in horrendous conditions.133
130 The Memorial has two main components: a Museum, which is located in the building
of the former political prison of Sighet, and an International Center for the Study of
Communism, which has a second location in Bucharest. The origins of this huge
project date in January 1993, when an application asking support for the memorial
was sent to the Council of Europe, which indeed offered its patronage in 1995. The
renovation of the former prison and its transformation into a museum, including not
only exhibitions, but also a conference room and a library, required 1.5 million USD.
In 1994, the Civic Alliance established a foundation, the Civic Academy, which was
primarily destined to create the memorial, but envisaged programs of civic education,
conferences, publications too. See, 1 February 2006.
The memorial is now partially supported by the Romanian state and partially by
private sponsors from abroad, mostly from the Romanian diaspora. Personal communication by Ioana Boca, scientific secretary of the International Center for the Study
of Communism, Bucharest, October 2005.
131 The motto represents a play on words difficult to translate into English: Atunci cnd
justiia nu reuete s fie o form de memorie, memoria singur poate s fie o form
de justiie. In Romanian, the word justiie means judiciary as well as justice.
132 The city of Sighet, which is the birthplace of Elie Wiesel, has a twofold significance
in terms of sufferings: besides being the site of this terrifying communist prison, it is
a place related to the memory of the Holocaust. Most of the members of the Jewish
community of Sighet were deported to Auschwitz in 1944, when this part of today
Romania was under Hungarian administration.
133 Among the politicians that died in Sighet were Iuliu Maniu and Ion Mihalache, the
two leaders of the National Peasant Party. Both were over 70 years of age when imprisoned for life. Dinu Brtianu, the leader of the National Liberal Party, also died in
this prison. From among the members of the Brtianu family which was the boyar
family that dominated Romanian politics ever since the Revolution of 1848 and inclu-



The Sighet Museum was opened on 20 June 1997 and since 1998 as ACs
representatives state the Council of Europe considers it one of the most important lieux de mmoire in Europe, aside the Memorial of Auschwitz and the
Memorial of Peace in Normandy.134 The museum is organized in the former
prison cells, each dedicated to a different historical chapter such as: crimes, repression and acts of terror inflicted by the communist regime. Briefly put, the
exhibition of this museum is a necessary place in a post-dictatorial society, one
that commemorates the memory of those whose lives were destroyed by communism and honors all those who dared to oppose it, but it is not and it aims
not to be a museum of communism in Romania.135 In spite of the unfortunate
geographical location it is one of the remotest places from the capital city, very
ded politicians from the generation of founders of the modern state in the 19th century to that of the artisans of Greater Romania in the aftermath of WWI Gheorghe
Brtianu also ended his life in Sighet. He was one of interwar Romanias most gifted
historians, and the leader of the rump Liberal Party loyal to King Carol II, established
in 1930.
134 The president of the Civic Academy is Ana Blandiana, one of the best-known poets
in Romania. Before 1989, some of her poems for children used to circulate as a sort
of samizdat. Her book of poems for children was withdrawn from bookshops in the
fall of 1988, while she was banned from publication. This measure was taken because
of a poem about tomcat Arpagic [Scallion], which was idolized by the crowd in the
streets in a way that resembled too much Ceauescus cult of personality. Her permanent column in the literary weekly Romnia literar was also banned. Consequently,
on 3 March 1989, on the six-month anniversary of her interdiction, Blandiana addressed
a letter to Ceauescu simply asking for permission to publish again. See Blandiana,
Ana: The most Famous Tomcat in Town. How One of Romanias Best Poets Was
Banned for Publishing a Childrens Poem about a Cat. In: Index of Censorship, vol.
18, 8(1989), 34. Her name was mentioned in the so-called letter of the seven intellectuals criticizing the cultural policy of the communist regime, and thus she remained
closely associated with these seven members of the literary establishment that addressed
their protest to the president of the Writers Union in March 1989. For the text of the
letter of the seven, see Domestic Bloc No. 560, 21 April 1989, OSA/RFE Archives,
Romanian Fond, 300/60/3/Box 18, File Open Letters: The Group of Seven.
135 Such topics include, besides the commemoration of the victims of communism, or
the terror and the surveillance methods of the secret police, the anti-communist manifestations since the late 1940s to the late 1980s. Some critics of the museum argued
that it suffers because of a practice that was promoted under communism at the level
of state policy, which haunts the Romanian post-communist intelligentsia too: the
elimination from history of all those who are undesirable. Thus, the argument reads,
in Sighet, the former dissidents who entered in conflict with the organizers of the
museum were deprived of their right place in history. See in this respect the comments
by Stnescu, Mircea: Studiu introductiv. Despre criminalitatea comunist, istoria i
memoria ei [Introductory study. On the communist crimes, their history and their
memory]. In: Organismele politice romneti 1948-1965. Documente privind
instituiile politice i practicile [Romanian political agencies 1948-1965. Documents on
political institutions and their functioning]. Ed. by Idem. Bucharest 2003, esp. 29-34.
Caustic comments to the exhibition, lacking sensibility to the memory of the victims
to which this museum is dedicated, are included in Cristea, Gabriela/Radu-Bucurenci, Simina: Raising the Cross. Exorcising Romanias Communist Past in Museums,


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

hard to reach either by train or by car the museum is visited, according to AC

representatives, by 60,000 people yearly.136 The popularity of this place is yet
larger than that, due to the TV broadcastings, in particular to the four episodes
of the series Memorial of Suffering dedicated to it. Besides establishing this site
of remembrance, AC has been active in organizing conferences, roundtables and
summer schools dedicated to the reconstruction of the communist past and its
restitution to the younger generations that never experienced it directly. In this
sense, AC has opened in 1993 the International Center for the Study of Communism. From among the achievements of this center, of particular interest is
its impressive oral history archive. Although subordinated primarily to the purpose of documenting the crimes of communism and the sufferings of the population under that regime, the archive constitutes an invaluable resource since
many of the interviewees passed away in the meantime.137
Finally, it is worth mentioning that AC, as an active carrier of memory, was
one of the most prominent promoters of resistance in the mountains as object
of memory. As already mentioned, the Memorial of Sighet itself is dedicated not
only to the victims of communism, but also to the resistance to this regime. Its
epitome is the armed resistance established in the aftermath of the Second World
War in several mountainous regions of Romania, analyzed in greater detail in
the following part. It was a phenomenon practically unknown in the Western
literature dedicated to the Soviet bloc, and almost forgotten within the country.
Dubbed resistance in the mountains to resonate the aforementioned resistance through culture, it never turned into a structured movement of resistance
because the very diverse groups could never coordinate their actions and thus it
was crushed by the early 1960s by the secret police troops. However, the resis
tance in the mountains was considered as a proof that the Romanians opposed
the communist regime from its very first days in power. The alleged precedence
Memorials and Monuments. In: Past for the Eyes. East European Representations of
Communism in Cinema and Museums after 1989. Ed. by Oksana Sarkisova and Pter
Apor. Budapest 2008, 275-305.
136 However, this prison was selected among others also because, as compared to other
places of communist detention, it was no longer functioning when communism collapsed. After the general political amnesty granted by Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej in
1964, the prison of Sighet was transformed into a prison for ordinary prisoners, then
it became a fruit depot, a salt depot, a broom manufacture to be eventually deserted
and left in ruin. From the period when it functioned as a political prison, it was
transformed in such a way as to assure more humane detention conditions by adding
showers, toilets, a heating system, etc. AC tried to restore as it was before 1964. Now
the disadvantage of distance no longer exist, as one can pay a virtual visit to this museum, with language support in English, French and German, see, 29 January 2009. The virtual visit also exist on DVD format.
137 The archive consists of 5,000 hours of recordings with 2,700 survivors of the period
of great terror. In addition, the Civic Academy published numerous volumes, organized in several collections: Analele Sighet (the papers of the yearly conferences); Biblioteca Sighet (studies dedicated to the history of communism); and Documente
(archival materials); Viaa cotidian (memoirs).



of this phenomenon within the Soviet bloc could restore Romanias bad image
as a non-rebellious nation, and implicitly its lost national self-esteem.138 In the
organization of collective memory, conceived by AC as an intellectually driven
enterprise that acted in consonance with other public intellectuals, the resistance
in the mountains received a due place: heroes must certainly be celebrated.
However, for the understanding of the past the importance received by this
phenomenon exceeds its historical relevance.
Finally, this part dedicated to the major vectors of memory in post-1989
Romania should refer to historians. Only some of them could be considered as
falling into the category of public intellectuals. Nonetheless, some of them contributed to the formation of collective representations of communism, since the
interest in their writings goes beyond the small circles of professionals. In general, historians are important vectors of memory who scholarly reconstruct the
past and propose an interpretation of that past. At the same time, historians are
influenced by the dominant form of memory characteristic of their own time
and place. In post-communist Romania, the interpretations of communism proposed so far by historians do not contrast at all with the representations advocated by the non-professional public intellectuals. Yet, with regard to the historical writings on the communist past, several general comments should be
made in order to define better the role played by the historical profession in the
intricate process of reconciliation with the recent past.
Historical writing in Romania has improved significantly since the collapse
of communism. Major steps forward have been taken towards de-ideologyzing
the discipline, reaffirming its professionalism, and emancipating it from the
direct subordination to politics that was practiced until 1989. A new generation
of historians went even further and questioned not only the legacy of the communist regime in historiography, but also challenged the prevalent idea that
history is essentially objective when practiced according to the standards established in the 19th century. Nevertheless, Romanian historiography did not
fully succeed in catching-up, theoretically and methodologically, with the de138 The interesting thing about this type of discourse that emphasizes historical precedence is that it uses the recipe of protochronism, which the intellectuals who pretended to keep the professional standards by resisting through culture heavily criticized under communism. Following Ceauescus Theses of July, protochronism
argued against the mainstream idea that the Romanian culture developed mainly under the influence of Western cultures, and maintained that it was more often than not
genuinely original, and what is more, it sometimes anticipated evolutions in the West.
In short, Romanians had in fact first created literary currents, artistic forms, technical
inventions or even political ideas that made later careers in the more fortunate countries of Europe. From here the name protochronism, that meant that Romania was
neither behind nor in synchronism, but ahead of Europe. The path-breaking study in
theorizing protochronism is Papu, Edgar: Protocronismul romnesc [Romanian
protochronism]. In: Secolul XX, 5-6(1974), 8-11. For more on this see Verdery 1991
(cf.n. 105), 152-204.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

velopments that occurred in Western historiographies.139 Thus, a significant part

of the Romanian professional historians agrees that no proper historical writing
could be produced without archival documents. However, the access to the archives of Romanian communism proved to be very difficult until recently and
consequently a large majority of the local historians have concentrated their
research on the first two decades after the takeover, i.e. on the rule of Gheorghe
Gheorghiu-Dej. Topics such as the communist takeover or the Sovietization of
the country received special attention,140 while the period of Nicolae Ceauescu
has been covered less systematically by historians until now.141
At the same time, the official records preserved in various archives represent
crucial sources for the reconstruction of the recent past, aside the repressed
forms of memory. Moreover, the full access to the pre-1989 official records, be
them documents of the communist party or of the secret police, constitutes an
important step in the process of reconciliation with the past. Quite naturally,
debates concerning the role of archives and archivists in supporting the widely
claimed need for writing the true history of Romania abounded after 1989.142
The struggle against neo-communism meant also pressing for the issuance of
modern regulations to govern not only the development of archives, but also the
139 On the evolution of Romanian historiography since the collapse of communism, see
Petrescu, Cristina /Petrescu, Drago: Mastering vs. Coming to Terms with the Past. A
Critical Analysis of the Post-Communist Romanian Historiography. In: Narratives
Unbound. Historical Studies in Post-Communist Eastern Europe. Ed. by Sorin Antohi, Balzs Trencsnyi and Pter Apor. Budapest 2007, 311-408.
140 For more on the post-1989 Romanian historical wrtings covering the communist period, see Petrescu, Cristina /Petrescu, Drago: Reconstructing the Unusable Past. Historical Writings on Romanian Communism. In: Revista de Historiografia 10(2009),
141 In the meantime, the market is invaded by collections of archival documents selected
randomly and whose quality is more often than not questionable due to the lack of
insightful introductory studies and critical apparatuses. Such collections of documents
include transcripts of the meetings of the Politburo; files of famous trials against
prominent interwar politicians or opponents of the regime; documents issued by various institutions regarding collectivization, repression or other activities of the secret
police, etc. A complete list of such collections would go beyond the scope of this
study; in terms of conceptual framework, such works represent supporting evidence
for the totalitarian approach to Romanian communism over the entire 1945-1989
142 Such debates became really heated when journalists discovered in the early 1990s that
large quantities of important documents concerning the communist past (especially
documents related to the activity of the former secret police) had been destroyed. For
instance, in 1990, journalists from the independent daily newspaper Romnia liber
discovered a large quantity of partially burned documents of the Securitate in the
mountain area of the Arge county (around 200 km north from Bucharest). The socalled Berevoieti case, named after the village nearby which the half-burned documents were discovered, became an important argument in the favor of establishing a
completely new set of regulations concerning the administration of the archives in
post-communist Romania.



difficult problems related to the access to documents. A post-communist law

regulating the functioning of the National Archives was sanctioned in 1996,
while the Parliament was still controlled by the party of the former communist
bureaucrats. As a consequence, it only modernized the communist archival le
gislation of 1971 in terms of organization of archives and preservation of documents, but it maintained the general closure period of 30 years, as if no genuine
regime change occurred in 1989.143 The most contested provisions of this law
were those concerning the restricted access to the official records containing
information that could affect the national interests, the citizens rights and
liberties [], or those whose physical state is endangered. Moreover, the law
does not specify very clearly which documents should enter in these categories,
but simply stipulates that the decision has to be made by their legal owner.144 It
also allows extraordinary access to documents on the basis of special permit,
which grants the guardians of the archives extraordinary powers. Since most
archivists have been mostly trained as historians, their interest in fully opening
the archives by promoting a new legislation is quite low. As custodians of documents, they have the advantage of making an easier career by using sources inaccessible for others or by publishing collections of inedited documents. To sum
up, the post-communist law, just as the communist one, was born from the
belief that archives are created to safeguard documents, and not to preserve and

143 Concerning the appraisal, selection and preservation of documents, the Law of the
National Archives represents an attempt to modernize the ossified structure of the
Romanian National Archives. This law, however, does not differ from the 1971 regulations with regard to the institution which co-ordinates and supervises the activity of
the National Archives, namely the Ministry of the Interior. This stipulation has been
vigorously contested by numerous individuals, former dissidents, critical intellectuals,
journalists and independent researchers, as well as NGOs, and aroused endless debates
concerning the issue of archives personnel and their presumed links with the former
Securitate. Moreover, many argued that, by maintaining the National Archives under
the supervision of the Ministry of the Interior, the access to documents related especially to recent history would be seriously restricted. Simply put, many Romanians
believed that the problem of what institution supervises the National Archives was
closely related to the problem of the access to official records.
144 According to the law, there are four categories of documents that cannot be released
for research, as follows: (1) documents related to national security, states territorial
integrity and independence; (2) documents that affect citizens individual rights and
liberties; (3) documents that are unsuitable for research due to their physical state; and
(4) documents that are not processed from the archival viewpoint. Annex 6 establishes
ten categories of documents that can affect national interests and citizens rights and
liberties, and the period of closure for each category. For instance, for medical documents the period of closure is 100 years from their creation; for documents related to
national security and integrity the closure period is also 100 years. For personal files
the closure period is 75 years, for police files 90 years, for documents related to foreign
policy 50 years, etc. For the Law of the National Archives see Monitorul Oficial al
Romniei [Official Bulletin of Romania], 71/I, 9 April 1996, 1-8.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

offer them for research to all those interested.145 What is more, it fuels an old
dispute in Romania between archivists, the preservers of documents, and historians, the main users of such documents.
Numerous organizations, associations and individuals have asked for the reduction of the closure periods focusing especially on the general closure period
of thirty years, but the legislation has not been fundamentally modified since.146
Because of the slow process of removing the men of the former regime from
the public sector, the strong suspicion that crucial documents have been destroyed in the meantime persists.147 It is not surprising that documents related
to the activity of the communist party remained closed as long as lower rank
nomenklatura members controlled Romanian post-communist politics, but it is
disconcerting that the legislation regarding the archives has remained basically
unchanged.148 There is only one exception concerning the access to archives: the
files of the former secret police, the Securitate. As discussed above, the secret
police files are administered by a separate institution CNSAS which is governed by separate legislation; as a consequence, such documents are fully avai
lable for research. The Securitate files have revealed so far numerous surprises of
which the most spectacular, as everywhere in the former communist countries,
were related to the collaboration with the Securitate of some prominent post1989 public figures. Otherwise, taking into account the short time span since
their opening, the contribution of these controversial sources to the study of
Romanian communism in general, and to the public representation of this past
in particular, is yet to be assessed.
Turning back to historical writing as a component of the public representation of communism, it should be mentioned that up to 1989 this part of the
recent past was covered either by Western authors who had no access to pri145 If one compares the general closure period as well as those for particular types of
documents stipulated by the Romanian Law of the National Archives with those recommended by the International Council on Archives, one can easily observe that in
a majority of cases the Romanian law uses the longest terms in the range or even exceeds them. See, 1 February 2006.
146 The law was subsequently modified twice, but mostly with regard to the procedures
of documents appraisal., while the general closure period of 30 years remained unchanged See Law 358/6 June 2002; Governmental Ordinance 39/31 May 2006; Law
474/12 December 2006 in Monitorul Oficial al Romniei [Official Bulletin of Romania], 476/I, 3 July 2002, 1-2; 486/I, 5 June 2006, 4-5; 1016/I, 21 December 2006, 2. See
also, 20 January 2010.
147 For instance, the personal files of the nomenklatura members from the archives of the
PCR have been partially or completely destroyed: that of the first post-communist
president of Romania, Ion Iliescu, former member of the Central Committee of the
PCR until 1989, was never found in the archives.
148 There is a new project of a Law of the National Archives, supported by the civil society, but not discussed yet in the Parliament. The draft law mentions explicitly that the
archives of the Romanian Communist Party (1921-1989) and the communist state
(1945-1989) must be made fully available. See, 20
January 2010.



mary sources or by local apparatchiks who interpreted them ideologically. From

this point of view, the struggle of the local historians for the opening of the
archives of communism is legitimate. Nevertheless, the fight for the opening of
the archives in the name of the reconciliation with the communist past does not
justify the exclusive focus on documents as the sole source for the reconstruction
of that particular past. Such old-fashioned views on historical writing have been
perpetuated also by the fact that many of the current researchers of communism
have been initially specialized in other periods (chiefly medieval or ancient).
Before 1989, a majority of the historians who wanted to be decent professionals
oriented themselves towards the study of remote periods of the past, which were
considered less ideological, whereas the history of the 20th century could not be
addressed otherwise than by observing the tenets of national-communism. Consequently, the field of contemporary history which in Romanian historiography is understood as the epoch spanning from the end of the First World War
to the present was practically re-invented after December 1989. Everything had
to be started anew, that is, beginning with establishing accurate chronologies.
In institutional terms, historians of communism have meager chances to affirm themselves as a coherent group within the discipline. Two institutes dealing
with the communist past were established as a result of initiatives by prominent
politicians or political parties. The above-mentioned Institute for the Study of
the Revolution of December 1989 was established at the initiative of former
president Ion Iliescu and it is run by a team close to him and the PSD. In the
year 2005, former premier Clin Popescu-Triceanu from the PNL decided to
create the Institute for the Investigation of the Communist Crimes.149 It is also
worth noting that the research agendas of these institutions mirror the neocommunist vs. post-communist anti-communist political polarization in the
field of historical research. Since these institutes are relatively new, it remains to
be seen to what extent the scholarship they produce and the programs they
develop contribute to a genuine reconciliation with the communist past. An
institution that has a longer history and covers more comprehensively the recent
past in Romania is the National Institute for the Study of Totalitarianism, INST,
which was established in 1993 under the aegis of the Romanian Academy. As a
vector of memory, this institute mirrors the representation of the communist
past promoted through the joint efforts of the former political prisoners and the
public intellectuals, i.e. focusing on the repressive character of the regime. The
149 With the occasion of the 16th anniversary of the Revolution of 1989, it has been decided to establish a new institution meant to deal with the communist past: the Institute for the Investigation of the Communist Crimes in Romania. This institute aims,
according to its founding document, to investigate the crimes committed by the communist regime and asses the responsibilities; to create a database with all former party activists and the Securitate officers; and to identify the legal system on which repression was based. Its activity is subordinated to the government. See Monitorul
Oficial [Official Bulletin of Romania], 1195, 22 December 2005, 10-11. See also http://, 26 January 2010.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

name of the aforementioned institute might imply that it deals not only with
communism, but also with fascism.150 Its program of research however focuses
mainly on the political left and the type of totalitarianism it generated.151 In
fact, in Romania, the very term totalitarianism is generally employed as a synonym for communism. Moreover, since the communist regime is associated with
a period of sheer terror, no other concept seems to epitomize better its propensity towards establishing a total control over the population than the term totalitarianism.
To conclude, a majority of the Romanian historians agree with the viewpoint
expressed by public intellectuals of different professional backgrounds, and aspire to play a major role in the Nuremberg of communism in Romania. Almost all of them acknowledge that from a legal perspective the trials of the
former communist officials were rather miscarriages of justice, beginning with
that of the Ceauescu couple in December 1989. The process of coming to terms
with the past could be accelerated if public exposure of wrongdoers as a form of
retribution would continue. The unmasking of the former agents and collaborators of the former secret police has gained momentum since 2006, but it is too
early to evaluate the societal impact of this belated attempt at applying retroactive justice.152 The official condemnation of the communist regime by the current president of Romania was a symbolic gesture that made the victims feel
morally compensated for their appalling sufferings. Valuable historical writings
that reconstruct parts of Romanias communist epoch, accounting mostly for

150 It should be mentioned that the research team is not methodologically influenced by
the totalitarian paradigm. Moreover, this institute is mirroring the problems of the
historical discipline in Romania, producing event-centered, and archives-based historical narratives. Yet, its major achievement is the review produced by efforts of the
members of the institute Arhivele Totalitarismului [Archives of Totalitarianism], in
which some valuable studies as well as primary sources were published in the thirteen
years since its establishment. Aside the Civic Academy, the National Institute for the
Study of Totalitarianism contributed significantly to the development of resistance
in the mountains as a major research topic.
151 INSTs director, Radu Ciuceanu, a former participant to the resistance in the mountains and political prisoner, who graduated history after his release from jail, stated
clearly that the institute deals with the Bolshevik Holocaust in Romania. See his
editorial Ciuceanu, Radu: Un proiect realizat. Institutul Naional pentru Studiul
Totalitarismului [A project fulfilled. The National Institute for the Study of Totalitarianism]. In: Arhivele Totalitarismului 1(1993), 10.
152 Retroactive justice, though, must be applied by dealing with each case individually,
according to the evidence that is to be found in archives. As mentioned, it was only
lustration against the former agents and collaborators of the Securitate that was instituted on this principle in Romania, concomitantly with the release for research of a
majority of the files of the communist secret police. The lustration of the former
nomenklatura was proposed based on the collective guilt principle, and it was later
abandoned also because of its incompatibility with rule-of-the-law principles. The
archives of the Romanian Communist Party are though still not fully accessible.



the period of Stalinist terror, have already been produced.153 Arguably, these
endeavors aiming at dealing with the communist past legally, politically, morally or scholarly are facets of the so-called trial of communism. However, none
has succeeded so far in breaking the strong connection between the communist
past and present-day politics. While the disclosure and public exposure of those
responsible for past wrongdoings was considered a crucial step in dismantling
the legacies of the past, its putting into practice was belated and tortuous. As a
reaction to this delay, the preservation of the memory of the wrongdoings committed by the defunct regime was turned into a societal priority. The recollections of the victims that survived the Romanian Gulag emerged as the most
powerful vector of memory, which essentially influenced the public representation of communism. The following part of this study discusses the narratives on
the communist past that emerged since the regime change of 1989 and argues
that the aggregation of these narratives which are also manifestations of the
Piteti syndrome generated a hegemonic historical narrative on that period,
centered on prisons, surveillance and shortages.

Post-Communist (Hi)Stories of Romanian Communism

Converging and Conflicting Memories of the Recent Past
After the fall of the communist regime, the interest of the public on the communist period was driven by the desire to understand why Romania experienced
such a deviant form of national-communism and why only its exit from communism was accompanied by violence and bloodshed. Numerous drawer
books memoirs and diaries finally found a readership. Fresh interviews and
witness accounts conveyed the experiences of those who were repressed under
the communist regime, but were unable to express their sufferings. In general,
such recollections revealed the black and hidden face of communism. All such
sources together created the above-discussed post-1989 public representation of
communism. To be sure, their quality is uneven, and except for drawer books,
such testimonies were given after a considerable period of time. Thus, more
often than not, these oral history sources were contaminated by the already
emerging narrative on the past. Professional reconstructions of the past also
contributed to the shaping of public representations of that past, but such writ153 In a debate, which took place on the day of Ceauescus anniversary, 26 January, it has
been said, that so far, the trial of communism in Romania has been made through
culture, a syntagm that reminds everyone in Romania of the specific way of intellectual resistance to communism until 1989. Participants in the debate expressed the view
that, if from a legal or political perspective, this symbolic trial failed, it was nevertheless successful from a cultural perspective. Am fcut procesul comunismului prin
cultur [We have made the trial of communism through culture]. In: Aldine, supplement of the daily newspaper Romnia liber, 4 February 2006, 1.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

ings were rather marginal as compared to the witness accounts. Moreover, the
vision on communism proposed by historians did not contradict with the private versions that revealed the suffering and injustice inflicted by the former
regime. On the contrary, it rather reinforced them.
The analysis of the narratives on the recent past personal or professional
substantiated four major themes: (1) Communism as alien to the Romanian
psyche and imposed by the Red Army; (2) Stalinist terror in Romania as unparalleled in Sovietized Europe; (3) Ceauescus communism as exceptionally repressive; and (4) Communism as sheer progress and defender of national interest. The first three themes converge towards supporting the dominant
representation of the recent past, according to which most Romanians were the
innocent victims of a regime whose wrongdoings they had to endure for 45
years. This representation has been produced and reproduced by former political
prisoners and public intellectuals as vectors of memory. Only the fourth represents a conflicting interpretation, which is carried out especially by former nomenklatura members that were marginalized by the revolution. The private attempts at reconstructing the communist past and coping with this historical
trauma analyzed below are structured according to these four themes.

Communism as Alien to the Romanian Psyche

and Imposed by the Red Army
That Romanians always nurtured deep anti-communist convictions has become
a common place of post-communism. The argument that the communist party
never won in Romania any significant electoral support before the Second
World War has in fact given substance to the idea that without the Soviet military occupation and the betrayal of the West there would have never existed a
communist regime at all. Moreover, Romania is considered a victim of the Second World War, sold by the Western allies to the Soviets at the Yalta Conference in spite of the last minute switch of arms in the war, and forcefully Sovietized afterwards. At the same time, Romania is supposed to have been the only
country in the Soviet bloc that developed an armed resistance in the mountains, i.e. armed groups that withdrew in the Carpathian Mountains and fought
the communist regime up to the early 1960s.
Prominent personalities who suffered under the communist regime gave
book-length oral history interviews that endorse this theme. In this respect, one
can first mention the former King Michael I of Romania, who courageously
orchestrated the coup dtat of 23 August 1944 by which Romania shifted sides
and joined the Allied powers.154 Also, of great significance is the testimony of
the late Corneliu Coposu, the post-1989 leader of the National Peasant Party
154 Ciobanu, Mircea: Convorbiri cu Mihai I al Romniei [Conversations with Michael I
of Romania]. Bucharest 1991.



who contributed decisively to the institutionalization of political pluralism in

post-communist Romania.155 From among the drawer diaries that address the
state of despair and dissolution felt by the interwar political class at the end of
the Second World War and the early communist period, one can mention the
daily notes scrupulously kept in adverse conditions by Constantin Sntescu and
Ioan Hudi. General Sntescu was a major political and military figure during
the 1940s, whose diary was preserved in a secret place by the family until December 1989 and published in 1993.156 Historian Ioan Hudi was a former
deputy general secretary of the National Peasant Party during the short-lived
democratic political life of postwar Romania, when the aforementioned party
was considered the last bastion of the interwar democratic establishment and the
only able to oppose the communists. His very detailed daily notes were preserved
in spite of the fact that he endured a term in prison and published in postcommunism under the care of his son-in-law, historian Dan Berindei.157
Besides, the most prominent voices of the Romanian exile, which also support the thesis discussed in this section, have been gradually recuperated after
1989. Of special interest is a volume authored by Alexandru Cretzianu who, due
to his post as plenipotentiary in Ankara (September 1943-February 1946), was in
charge with maintaining the political contacts between the Antonescu regime
and the Allied powers.158 The period 1939-1947 has been the focus of a volume
gathering testimonies and eyewitness accounts, published under the aegis of the
National Institute for the Memory of the Romanian Exile. These texts first ap-

155 See Coposu 1991 (cf. n. 19); and Idem 1996 (cf. n. 25).
156 General Sntescu was the military commander of Bucharest during the Iron Guards
rebellion of January 1941 and prime minister in two of the successive governments that
followed the coup of 23 august 1944 (23 August-2 November and 4 November-2 December 1944). See Sntescu, Constantin: Jurnal [Diary]. Bucharest 1993.
157 Dan Berindei, who edited the manuscript, stated that the diary consists of around
30,000 pages. See Berindei, Dan: Profesorul, istoricul, omul politic, memorialistul
Ioan Hudi 1896-1982 [Professor, historian, politician, memorialist Ioan Hudi 18961982]. In: Dosarele istoriei [Dossiers of History], 7(2002), 4. Until now, ten volumes
were published beginning with 1997, which cover in a rather random order the period
1938-1944, as following: Hudi, Ioan: Jurnal politic [Political diary]. 1 January-24
August 1944. Bucharest 1997; 1 January-6 September 1940. Iai 1998; 7 September
1940-8 February 1941. Iai 2000; 9 February-21 June 1941. Iai 2002; 1 January-15 September 1938. Bucharest 2002; 16 September 1938-30 April 1939. Bucharest 2003; 1
May-31 December 1939. Bucharest 2004; 22 June 1941-28 February 1942. Bucharest
2005; 25 August 1944-3 November 1944. Piteti 2006; 4 November-6 December 1944.
Bucharest 2007.
158 Cretzianu was replaced by the Romanian communist authorities in February 1946. He
managed to immigrate to the United States where, in 1947, became the leader of the
anti-communist Romanian National Committee (Comitetul Naional Romn). See
Cretzianu, Alexandru: Ocazia pierdut [The lost opportunity]. Iai 1998. First published. London 1957.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

peared in Dialog [Dialogue], one of the most important journals of the Romanian political exile, published in West Germany since 1977.159
Historical works focusing on the Sovietization of Romania supported the
idea that Romania was sold to the Soviets in the aftermath of the Second
World War. Dinu C. Giurescu has reconstructed in several separate volumes the
transition to a communist regime in Romania based on American and Romanian archives. He concentrated mostly on two crucial domestic events that preceded the complete seizure of power by the communists. The first such event
was the establishment of the first communist-dominated government on
6March 1945 as a direct result of the visit to Bucharest of the Soviet Deputy
Commissar for External Affairs, Andrey Vyshinsky. The second event marked
the establishment of a communist-dominated Parliament following the alleged
victory of the communist-controlled coalition in the elections of November
1946. Giurescu proved that these elections were in fact won by the NationalPeasant Party, but were subsequently falsified by the communists.160 Benefiting
from his knowledge of Russian, historian Florin Constantiniu studied the same
period in the broader international context and argued that Stalin, taking ad-

159 Since April 1982 the journal has been directed by Ion Solacolu, and up to the present
day 262 issues were published. See Solacolu, Ion (ed.): Tragedia Romniei 1939-1947
[Romanias tragedy 1939-1947]. Bucharest 2004. One should also mention the volume
dedicated to major figures of Romanian military exile, of which the most prominent
was general Nicolae Rdescu, in: Dobre, Dumitru/Nanu, Veronica/Toader, Mihaela
(eds.): Comandani fr armat. Exilul militar romnesc 1939-1972 [Commanders without an army. Romanian military exile 1939-1972]. Bucharest 2005.
160 Professor at the University of Bucharest, Dinu C. Giurescu is the third generation in
a family of prominent Romanian historians. His father, Constantin C. Giurescu, is
the author of the most popular synthesis of national history to this day one that has
tremendously influenced the public perceptions of national identity. Before 1989,
Dinu C. Giurescu immigrated to the USA and authored there a manifesto-book
against the demolition of historical monuments in particular old churches pub
lished as: The Razing of Romanias Past. Washington/D.C. 1989. After 1989, he returned to Romania and concentrated on the history of the communist period. He wrote
perceptively on: the forced downfall of the last non-communist government, which
paved the way to the enthronement of the first communist-dominated government in
Idem: Guvernarea Nicolae Rdescu [The Nicolae Rdescu Government]. Bucharest
1996; on the royal strike against the imposition of the communist government in
Idem: Imposibila ncercare. Greva regal, 1945 [The impossible attempt. The royal
strike, 1945]. Bucharest 1999; on the Petru Groza government of 6 March 1945 and its
official recognition by Washington and London after the Moscow Conference of 6-26
December 1945 in Idem: Uzurpatorii. Romnia, 6 martie 1945-7 ianuarie 1946 [The
usurpers. Romania, 6 March 1945-7 January 1946]. Bucharest 2004; and on the falsification of the elections of 1946 by the communist party in Idem: Falsificatorii. Alegerile din 1946 [The counterfeiters: The elections of 1946]. Bucharest 2007.



vantage of the occupation of East-Central Europe by the Red Army urged the
former allies to accept the communist domination in these countries.161
This Romanian perspective upon the communist takeover is not significantly different from that of other East-Central European countries and replicates
in fact the more general view on history characteristic to this region of small
nations. More often than not, these nations were at the mercy of their powerful
neighbors or, in short, they were the perpetual losers of history. Though, this
passive perspective on national history coexists with the view that gives the
Romanians more agency in history. Accordingly, Romania was the first country
in the Soviet bloc that developed an armed resistance to the communist regime.
This thesis is supported by the very existence of the above mentioned phenomenon, known as resistance in the mountains, which occurred immediately after
the coup of 23 August 1944 when the Romanian army switched sides in the
Second World War. At the same time, this thesis maintains that communism
was alien to the Romanian psyche. As already discussed, the resistance in the
mountains stirred a sudden interest, especially among intellectuals, after 1989.
The rationale behind the mobilization of those groups that withdrew into the
mountains in order to fight against the newly established communist regime was
the widespread assumption that a confrontation between the Anglo-Americans
and the Soviets was imminent. Consequently, instead of continuing the war on
the Western front or returning home, many soldiers and officers went into the
mountains and waited for the moment to intervene on the side of the AngloAmericans, against the Soviets.162 In short, resistance in the mountains, although
did not become a real opposition movement, was initiated in the hope of participating in guerilla warfare in the case of a clash between the former allies or
of stirring a nation-wide anti-communist revolution. During the 1950s, rank and
file members of traditional parties, students, schoolteachers, priests and peasants
trying to escape collectivization joined the armed groups in the mountains.
Thus, they augmented the number of those who hoped that a democratic regime
would be soon restored in Romania with Anglo-American support.163 Compared
161 Constantiniu, Florin: Doi ori doi fac aisprezece. A nceput Rzboiul Rece n Romnia? [Two multiplied by two make sixteen. Did the Cold War begin in Romania?].
Bucharest 1997. He also wrote on the emerging dispute between the Hungarian and
Romanian communists over Transylvania. See Idem: P.C.R., Ptrcanu i Transilvania, 1945-1946 [RCP, Ptrcanu and Transylvania, 1945-1946]. Bucharest 2001.
162 In some cases, such as that of The outlaws of Avram Iancu (Haiducii lui Avram Iancu),
the most known group that emerged in that troubled period, the initiative of establishing these squads was linked with the re-occupation of Transylvania and the revenge
over the Hungarian atrocities in the parts that were under their administration between 1940-1944. See Ciuceanu, Radu/Roske, Octavian/Troncot, Cristian (eds.): nceputurile micrii de rezisten n Romnia [The beginnings of the resistance movement in Romania], vol. 1. Bucharest 1998.
163 The number of peasants hiding in the mountains increased especially after the first
wave of collectivization, launched in March 1949. An example of such a peasant group,
organized in the Neam Mountains by the local priest, is The Front of the motherland


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

with later developments, this can be considered a period of large mobilization.164

However, the resistance in the mountains was not a movement coordinated at
a national scale:165 it consisted of several isolated and locally based groups, including individuals from the entire political specter.166 Many of these groups
were spontaneously organized and, in terms of resources, dependent of the support given by people in the nearby villages.167 Those hiding in the mountains,
always in defensive, were the only Romanians who escaped the communist
states totalitarian ambitions of acquiring complete control over its subjects. In
short, they were outlaws. As one participant in these resistance groups put it,






(Frontul patriei), which resisted until 1953, when all members were finally caught and
arrested. See Popa, Neculai: Represiune i rezisten n inutul Neamului [Repression
and resistance in the Neam region]. Bucharest 2000.
According to a secret police report from September 1949, resistance groups activated
in ten regions of Romania, but none of these was over a few dozens of members.
Documents regarding one group in the Fgra Mountains were published in VoicuArnuoiu 1997 (cf. n. 99). Information on other groups became available from the
memoirs of the survivors. Regarding another group in the Fgra Mountains, see
Gavril-Ogoranu, Ion: Brazii se frng, dar nu se ndoiesc. Rezistena anticomunist n
Munii Fgraului [Fir trees break but do not bend themselves. Anti-communist resistance in the Fgra Mountains], 6 vols. Timioara 1993-2006. On groups in other
mountains, besides the above-mentioned book of Neculai Popa regarding the resistance in the Neam region, see also Bellu, tefan: Pdurea rzvrtit [The revolted
forest]. Baia Mare 1993; Verca, Filon: Parautai n Romnia vndut. Micarea de
rezisten 1944-1948 [Parachuted in betrayed Romania. The resistance movement
1944-1948]. Timioara 1993.
There were, however, attempts to link all these isolated groups into a national movement. According to the documents released until now from the archives of the former
secret police, general Aurel Aldea tried to organize these groups into a kind of partisan
network, called the National Resistance Movement. General Aldea was minister of the
interior in the first government established after the switch of arms. He was arrested
at the end of May 1946 and sent to prison, where he died in 1949. Other politicians,
including Iuliu Maniu, the leader of the National Peasant Party, and especially Dinu
Brtianu, the leader of the National Liberal Party, were reluctant to collaborate with
these groups, since many manifested anti-Semitic and ultra-nationalist sentiments.
See Ciuceanu/Roske/Troncot 1998 (cf. n. 162), 159-162 and 202-212.
Although manifestos spread by some of these groups had nationalistic and even xenophobic appeals, at this stage of research it cannot be said that these groups were prevalently right wing. On the contrary, after the former members of the Iron Guard were
allowed to enter the communist party, it is likely that their proportion in the mountain
resistance groups decreased. A report of the secret police, dating from 1951, mentions
that from 804 persons belonging to 17 different groups, only 73 were former members
of the Iron Guard. See Serviciul Romn de Informaii [Romanian Intelligence Service]: Cartea Alb a Securitii [The white book of the Securitate], vol. 2. Bucharest
1994, 82.
For a psychosocial analysis of the way the resistance in the mountains has been perceived and remembered after 1989 in the commune of Nucoara, see Liiceanu, Aurora:
Rnile memorie. Nucoara i rezistena din muni [The wounds of memory. Nucoara
and the resistance in the mountains]. Iai 2003.


as long as they survived, a place free of communism existed in Romania.168 The

number of those who retreated in the mountains grew fast after the communist
takeover and reached a peak in the early 1950s. Nonetheless, this type of anticommunist resistance never represented a real threat to the regime, which by the
early 1960s succeeded in repressing it completely.169
The large amount of works published after 1989 contributed enormously to
the creation of a veritable historical myth. Resistance in the mountains was
meant to prove that Romanians did oppose communism beginning in the late
1940s, i.e., before the GDR workers rebelled in 1953, before the Hungarian
Revolution was sparked in 1956 or the Polish Solidarity war born in 1980. For
those who fought in the mountains during the 1950s against the communist
regime, as well as for the former political prisoners of the period 1945-1964, such
an approach was quite legitimate. For many critical intellectuals such a vision
was not only sound and convincing, but also convenient since it reinforced the
victimization thesis: after all, the evils of communism originated outside the
country; the brave Romanians tried fiercely but hopelessly to oppose an adverse

Stalinist Terror in Romania as Unparalleled in Sovietized Europe

Among the personal recollections covering the communist past, the appalling
sufferings narrated by those who had been political prisoners in the communist
prisons and labor camps during the period 1948-1964 represented sheer evidence
in support of this thesis. However, until today no researcher was able to calculate
the number of people who fell victim to repression during this period of terror,
but only to estimate it. As Romanian communist bureaucracy appears to have
been unable and perhaps unwilling to keep precise records of those imprisoned,
168 In his memoirs from the period of resistance in the mountains, the survivor of one
group from the Fgra Mountains, Ion Gavril-Ogoranu, narrates that, arriving at a
chalet, he addressed the tourists with the following words: Tell everyone that there is
still a place in the kingdom of Romania which was not bowed to communism. As long
as our heads are on our shoulders, this corner of the country will be free. Tell the
people not to lose faith, for the day will come when the whole of Romania would be
free. Pray God for it, so help us God. See Gavril-Ogoranu 1993 (cf. n. 164), 304. For
supplementary details regarding the anti-communist armed groups in the mountains,
see Antohe, Ion: Rstigniri n Romnia dup Ialta [Crucifixions in Romania after
Yalta]. Bucharest 1995, 39-43. Arrested in 1951, Antohe was incarcerated first in the
Constana prison, then in the Jilava, Aiud, Lugoj and Gherla prisons, and was eventually returned to Aiud, from where he was finally released in June 1964. Thus, his
recollections are also significant for the second theme discussed in this study, i.e., the
Stalinist terror in Romania.
169 Nevertheless, in 1945-46, the American and the British administrations manifested
interest in these groups in the mountains in order to evaluate whether a partisan
movement could be established. See Ciuceanu/Roske/Troncot 1998 (cf. n. 162), 194196.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

the exact numbers will never be known. A first attempt at assessing the number
of political prisoners that died under the communist regime in Romania belonged to engineer Gheorghe Boldur-Lescu, former political prisoner himself,
who maintained that during the period 1948-1964 around 500,000 persons died
in the Romanian Gulag. His calculation took into account: the number of prisons functioning in communist Romania; the average number of detainees before 1964 and after; and the average duration of imprisonment, in order to estimate the number of persons incarcerated. To this it was added the number of
deportees. In this way, Boldur-Lescu assessed that the total number of victims
surpassed 1,100,000 persons.170 Another approximation by the late Constantin
Ticu Dumitrescu, president of the Association of Former Political Prisoners in
Romania, advanced the figure of over 2,000,000 individuals imprisoned or deported, of which 15-20% died during detention. His figures were based on the
fact that 130 prisons and camps functioned under communism between 1947
and 1989, of which some were able to accommodate up to 10,000 inmates.171
With the occasion of the official condemnation of the communist crimes by
president Bsescu, the Civic Academy made another estimate, also endorsed by
AFDPR. Considering a total number of 118,000 penal files with a medium
number of 5 persons per file, this calculation pointed towards 600,000 political
prisoners and approx. 2,000,000 victims, including those arrested, deported,
placed under house arrest or interned in labor camps in the Soviet Union, etc.172
The very fact that the total number of victims cannot be supported with clear
archival evidence is reinforcing the idea that terror was greater in Romania than
anywhere else.
The thesis discussed in this section was nurtured by a vast number of publications. Of these, the most comprehensive is perhaps Ion Ioanids five-volume
memoirs. Ion Ioanid was imprisoned for a first time in 1949, released after a
short period and imprisoned again in 1952, when detained until 1964. During
these two terms, he passed through various prisons, and his memoirs describe
with painstaking efforts the daily ordeals endured by a political prisoner.173 An170 Gheorghe Boldur-Lescu, an engineer with a doctoral degree in economics, was imprisoned as a member of a group of armed resistance in the mountains. His series of
volumes best epitomize the view of the victims of the Romanian Gulag on the communist period. See Boldur-Lescu, Gheorghe: Genocidul comunist n Romnia.
4vols. Bucharest 1992-2003, also available in English as: Communist Genocide in
Romania. Hauppauge/N.Y. 2005. For the calculation, see ibid., vol. 2. Bucharest 1994,
171 Dumitrescu, Constantin Ticu: Foreword. In: Album memorial 2004 (cf. n. 46), 7.
172 Rusan, Romulus: Cronologia i geografia represiunii comuniste din Romnia.
Recensmntul populaiei concentraionare, 1945-1989 [Chronology and geography of
communist repression on Romania. A census of detained population, 1945-1989].
Bucharest 2007, 61-62.
173 Ioanid, Ion: nchisoarea noastr cea de toate zilele [Our everyday prison]. 5 vols.
Bucharest 1991-1996. In 1969, Ion Ioanid emigrated to Germany and became a wellknown journalist of the Romanian desk of the Radio Free Europe.



other insightful account is that of Constantin Cesianu, a former high rank

diplomat in the late 1930s and early 1940s, who was imprisoned twice, between
1948-1953 and 1959-1964. His book, which covers in detail his first period of
detention, is one of the very few testimonies about the forced labor camps
around the first Danube-Black Sea Canal (1949-1953), built apparently at Soviet
advice.174 From among those who remembered their traumatic prison experiences in the late 1940s and 1950s were quite a number of former politicians from
the historical parties, especially from the National Peasant Party. Its first postcommunist leader, Corneliu Coposu, his deputy, Ion Diaconescu, as well as the
president of AFDPR, Constantin Ticu Dumitrescu, also member of this party,
narrated their ordeals in the communist prisons.175 The first wave of the communist terror in Romania also touched the communists themselves, including
those who were close to, or even members of, the party from before the seizure
of power. From among them, a most interesting character is Herbert (Belu)
Zilber (1901-1978), who left a unique testimony of the communist practices of
staging trials based on fake declarations. Himself a political prisoner, condemned
together with the others in the so-called Lucreiu Ptrscanu group, Zilber was
spared a severe sentence because of his collaboration with the prosecutors.
Patrcanu, a prominent member of the communist leadership who can be considered a Romanian Lszl Rajk, ended up executed by Gheorghiu-Dej in 1954,
although he had confessed nothing. He was rehabilitated together with the others in the group in 1968 by Ceauescu.176 Also imprisoned as part of the alleged
174 Cesianu, Constantin: Salvat din infern [Saved from inferno]. Bucharest 1992. Doina
Jela has documented a case of random terror during the construction of the aforementioned Danube-Black Sea Canal, which focuses on the tragic story of an innocent
locomotive operator who was subject of a staged trial and was executed in October
1952 under the charge of undermining the construction of the Canal. See Jela, Doina:
Cazul Nichita Dumitru. ncercare de reconstituire a unui proces comunist, 29 august-1
septembrie 1952 [The Nichita Dumitru case. An attempt at reconstructing a communist trial, 29 August-1 September 1952]. Bucharest 1995.
175 See Coposu 1991 (cf. n. 19), Coposu 1996 (cf. n. 25), Diaconescu, Ion: Temnia Destinul generaiei noastre. Memorii [The prison A destiny of our generation. Memoirs]. Bucharest 2003, Dumitrescu, Constantin Ticu: Mrturie i document [Witness account and document]. Iai 2008.
176 In fact, Zilber wrote his memoirs in two versions. The first version was written after
the rehabilitation of 1968, but confiscated by Securitate agents in May 1970. It was
recuperated after 1989. See Zilber, Herbert (Belu): Actor n procesul Ptrcanu. Prima
versiune a memoriilor lui Belu Zilber [Actor in the Ptrcanu trial. The first version
of Belu Zilbers memoirs]. Bucharest 1997. Zilber, however, wrote a second version of
his memoirs, which was preserved and published under pseudonym shortly after the
revolution, before the recuperation of the first version. See erbulescu, Andrei: Monarhia de drept dialectic. A doua versiune a memoriilor lui Belu Zilber [The monarchy
of dialectic right. The second version of Belu Zilbers memoirs]. Bucharest 1991.
Lucreiu Ptrcanu was one of the very few intellectuals who joined the communist
party before the communist takeover. Arrested in 1948, he was put on trial and executed in 1954, after Stalins death. Arguably Gheorghiu-Dej saw in him a redoubtable
rival and a possible successor. A close collaborator of Ptrcanu, Zilber was arrested


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

supporting group around Ptrcanu were, among others, his brother-in-law,

Petre Pandrea, and the Romanian artist and essayist, Lena Constante. 177 The
various memoirs of the former, a maverick and very perceptive lawyer, contain
precious information on important figures of the Stalinist period in Romania.
The touching testimony of the later is part of the larger body of recollections
left by women, who represent as a whole the most terrifying memories from the
Romanian Gulag. With regard to the appalling sufferings and humiliations endured in the communist prisons by women, the witness accounts by Adriana
Georgescu and Oana Orlea are truly impressing because the intelligence and
fragility of the victims contrasts strongly with the ignorance and brutality of
their torturers.178
The list of interwar academics imprisoned under communism is very long,
which can be also explained by the fact that many of them were touched by
repression because of their political involvement before 1945. Few survived prison and even fewer wrote after liberation about their sufferings, but those who
did so bore witness for the marginalization, humiliation and persecution endured by people who had been once the elite of the country.179 The two examples
cited below illustrate not only that repression touched families as a whole, but
also that the memory of the sufferings in the Gulag was preserved within the
strict circle of the affected families. The prominent interwar historian, who
authored the most popular national narratives of all times, Constantin C. Giurescu, was imprisoned between May 1950 and July 1955, and left behind in safe
and used by the communist authorities in staging the Ptrcanu trial. For more on
the Ptrcanu case see Rduic, Grigore: Crime n lupta pentru putere, 1966-1968.
Ancheta cazului Ptrcanu [Crimes during the power struggle 1966-1968. The inquiry on the Ptrcanu case]. Bucharest 1999.
177 Pandrea, Petre: Memoriile mandarinului valah [Memoirs of the Wallachian mandarin]. Bucharest 2000. Constante, Lena: Lvasion silencieuse, Paris 1990, translated as:
Evadarea tcut. 3000 de zile singur n nchisorile din Romnia [The silent escape.
3000 days alone in the Romanian prisons]. Bucharest 1992; available in English as:
The Silent Escape. Berkeley 1995.
178 A young lawyer, Adriana Georgescu became secretary of general Nicolae Rdescu, the
last non-communist Romanian prime minister (6 December 1944-6 March 1945) before the communist takeover. She was imprisoned in 1945, but managed to evade and
flee from Romania to arrive in Vienna in August 1948. See Georgescu, Adriana: La
nceput a fost sfritul [In the beginning there was the end]. Bucharest 1992. First
published in France in 1951. Oana Orleas real name was Maria-Ioana Cantacuzino. A
descendant of an old aristocratic Romanian family, she was a niece of the famous
Romanian composer and violinist George Enescu. Oana Orlea spent four years in
Romanias Stalinist prisons and her recollections were published in a book-length interview realized by Mariana Marin. See Orlea, Oana: Ia-i boarfele i mic! [Take
your stuff and move!]. Bucharest 1991.
179 The list of such recollections is long; among the works most touching one could cite
Voinescu, Alice: Jurnal [Diary]. Bucharest 1997; Acterian, Aravir: Jurnal, 19291945/1958-1990 [Diary, 1929-1945/1958-1990]. Bucharest 2008; Betea, Lavinia (ed.): Am
fcut Jilava n pantofi de var. Convorbiri cu Ioana Berindei [I stayed in the Jilava
[prison] in summer shoes. Conversations with Ioana Berindei]. Bucharest 2006.



hands his prison memoirs in manuscript. His son, historian Dinu C. Giurescu,
who took care of the manuscript and published it after 1989,180 has also published his own memoirs that bears witness for the unjust limitations of the upward mobility chances of those considered class enemies and their families.181
The memoirs of Nicolae Mrgineanu, a distinguished professor of psychology
at the University of Cluj, who was jailed between 1948 and 1964, constitutes in
itself a testimony for the purges operated in the academia in order to replace
genuine professionals with individuals submissive to the party. He experienced
for 16 years the most terrible communist prisons: Aiud, Jilava, Piteti, Dej and
Gherla.182 His son, film director Nicolae Mrgineanu, became after 1989 one of
the most prolific filmmakers whose works propose a vision of communism centered on prisons and suffering.183
180 Giurescu, Constantin C.: Cinci ani i dou luni n penitenciarul de la Sighet, 7 mai
1950-5 iulie 1955 [Five years and two months in the Sighet penitentiary, 7 May 1950-5
July 1955]. Bucharest 1994. This part of Giurescus memoirs was published also in
Idem: Amintiri [Memoirs]. Bucharest 2000. Actually, C. C. Giurescu published a
shortened version of his memoirs in 1976, which, for obvious reasons, did not include
the Sighet prison episode. See Idem: Amintiri [Memoirs]. Bucharest 1976. For more
on the personality of C. C. Giurescu, see the volume jointly edited by the Romanian
Academy and the Faculty of History, Philosophy and Geography at the University of
Craiova: Centenar Constantin C. Giurescu [Constantin C. Giurescu: A centennial
commemoration]. Craiova 2001.
181 The testimony of Dinu. C. Giurescu captures well the post-1956 gradual adoption of
a new political line by the Romanian communists, characterized by the selective use
of repression and independence from Moscow. Although a graduate, Dinu C. Giuresu was forced to start his professional career as a worker, but after 1956 he gradually
succeeded in integrating himself in the academic milieu. Unlike others, he is ready to
acknowledge what sort of compromises was he forced to make in order to see his
books published under communism. See Giurescu, Dinu C.: De la Sovromconstrucii
la Academia Romn. Amintiri. Mrturii [From Sovromconstruct to the Romanian
Academy. Recollections, Testimonies]. Bucharest 2008.
182 Mrgineanu, Nicolae: Amfiteatre i nchisori. Mrturii asupra unui veac zbuciumat
[Amphitheaters and prisons. Testimonies of a tormented century]. Cluj 1991, esp.
179-261. Documents from the archive of CNSAS on him and his family, all targeted
by the secret police as enemies of the people, were published together with an oral
testimony of his son, director Nicolae Mrgineanu, in Anisescu, Cristina (ed.): Nicolae Mrgineanu. Un psiholog n temniele comuniste [Nicolae Mrgineanu. A psychologist in communist prisons]. Bucharest 2006.
183 In fact, director Nicolae Mrgineanus vision of communism embodies the first three
themes discussed in this section of the study. Undeva n est [Somewhere in the East]
1991 tells the story of a Transylvanian village in which the Mgureanu family, having
a strong local tradition, is facing the assault of the communist authorities that were
given the order to eradicate the kulaks. In parallel, an armed group that withdrew in
the mountains, led by a former officer of the Royal Army, Sterian, conducts a fierce
but unequal battle against the newly established regime. It is worth mentioning that
Sterian, a central character in the movie, was played by Clin Neme, an actor that
was wounded by army fire in the early stage of the Revolution of 1989. His film
Binecuvntat fii, nchisoare! [Be blessed, prison!] 2002, describes the prison experi-


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

The first wave of communist repression resulted not only in incarceration,

but also in deportation. In this respect, the deportation of numerous inhabitants
of the Banat region to the Brgan plain a deserted region of the country that
could be rightfully called the Romanian Siberia represents a most tragic episode of the Stalinist period. Removed from their homes after the Tito-Stalin split
only because they were located too close to the Yugoslav border, the deportees
were left barehanded to build new villages.184 Together with the memories discussed above, such testimonies strengthened the idea that communist repression
was aimed at all social strata and political orientations.185 What is more, these
recollections reinforced the idea that terror represented the very essence of the
communist system. In fact, after Stalins death repression was played down, but
only to be unleashed again in the aftermath of the Hungarian Revolution of
1956. Many prominent intellectuals, who had never been politically involved,
fell victim to this second wave of terror. That period ended with a general amnesty in 1964 that, at societal level, marked the inception of Romanian nationalcommunism. From among the testimonies left by students that participated in
the revolts stirred by the Hungarian Revolution, one should mention the memoirs of Alexandru Mihalcea and Aurel Baghiu. A student in journalism imprisoned between 1959 and 1963, Mihalcea remembers not only his prison experience, but also the depressing climate at the University of Bucharest following
the student uprising. Involved in the revolts in Timioara, Baghiu describes in
ence of a young female teacher, imprisoned during the years of Stalinist terror. In
Privete nainte cu mnie [Look forward in anger] 1993, Mrgineanu focuses on the
disenchantment of those who dared to protest against regime with the outcome of the
1989 events and stresses the continuities between the pre- and post-1989 regimes. For
more on Mrgineanus filmography see Modorcea, Grid: Dicionarul filmului romnesc de ficiune [Dictionary of Romanian feature films]. Bucharest 2004, 454, 471472, and 504-505.
184 See Marineasa, Viorel/Vighi, Daniel (eds.): Rusalii 51. Fragmente din deportarea n
Brgan [Whitsunday 1951. Fragments from deportation to Brgan]. Timioara 1994;
and Vultur, Smaranda: Istorie trit istorie povestit. Deportarea n Brgan 19511956 [A lived history a narrated history. Deportation to Brgan 1951-1956]. Timioara
1997. Regarding the German minority in the Banat, see Vultur, Smaranda (ed.): Germanii din Banat prin povestirile lor [The Germans in the Banat through their accounts]. Bucharest 2000.
185 Repression touched not only Romanians, but also members of other ethno-cultural
groups. Examples in this respect are the novels of autobiographical inspiration by reverend Eginald Schlattner, who shepherds the small German community of Roia
(Rothberg), a small village near Sibiu, since 1978. He focused on the Stalinist period
in the city of Braov re-baptized in the early 1950s as Stalin City (Oraul Stalin) and
described his experience as political prisoner between 1957 and 1959 in Schlattner,
Eginald: Rote Handschuhe. Vienna 2001; available in Romanian as: Mnuile roii
[The red gloves]. Bucharest 2005. Schlattner emerged as a powerful voice of the German literature in Transylvania after the publication of his first novel, by which he
disguised himself as narrator of everyday life of the Saxon community in Transylvania
during WWII. See Idem: Der gekpfte Hahn. Vienna 1998.



his memoirs the electrifying atmosphere of those days of October as well as the
ruthless repression carried out later by the Romanian secret police.186
The most influential due to its literary quality and intellectual deepness
was undoubtedly Jurnalul fericirii [Journal of blissfulness] by Nicolae Steinhardt. His trajectory reminds the one of Aleksander Wat. A sophisticated intellectual of Jewish origin, agnostic and cosmopolitan, he experienced while in
detention an epiphany that transformed him into a genuine believer and made
him embrace Greek-Orthodoxy. Steinhardts description of prison life also coincides with the stories collected from the Soviet Gulag, where inmates survived
by educating each other, mostly narrating books and holding lectures on topics
of their expertise. More than any other similar writing, his memoirs contributed
by default to the emergence of the above-mentioned idea of resistance through
culture.187 In addition to all the above oral history projects, developed by universities, research institutes, NGOs or committed individuals, are well under
way and are expected to increase the number of the testimonies that reconstruct
the period of the communist terror.188 Some projects originate in the idea that
the repressed memory must be brought to light and preserved, others are driven
by moral obligation to those who unjustly fell victim to a dictatorial regime,
while the others are only carried out because this topic emerged as mainstream
in the field of recent history. The final result is that communist terror is much
186 See Mihalcea, Al.: Jurnal de ocn [A gaol diary]. Bucharest 1994. See Baghiu, Aurel:
Printre gratii [Through the bars]. Cluj 1995. Also, worth mentioning is a volume that
gathers eyewitness accounts by the participants to the 1956 events in Timioara, see
Sitariu, Mihaela (ed.): Oaza de libertate. Timioara, 30 octombrie 1956 [An oasis of
liberty. Timioara, 30 October 1956]. Iai 2004. As mentioned, the Civic Academy
Foundation has also established an oral history archive within the Sighet Memorial of
the Victims of Communism and Resistance. For a work based on materials from the
mentioned archive, see Boca, Ioana: 1956 Un an de ruptur: Romnia ntre
internaionalismul proletar i stalinismul antisovietic [1956 A year of rupture. Romania between the proletarian internationalism and the anti-Soviet Stalinism]. Bucharest
187 Steinhardt was imprisoned between 1959 and 1964. After his release from prison, Steinhardt embraced the monastic life and lived at the Rohia Monastery in northern Romania. There he was able to write several versions of his memoirs, from among some
were confiscated, but others survived, circulated as samizdat or were smuggled outside
the country to be broadcast by the RFE. His memoirs was published only after 1989
as Steinhardt, Nicolae: Jurnalul fericirii [Journal of blissfulness]. Cluj 1991. An interesting juxtaposition of memories related to the period of the trial and documents
from the files of the trial in which Nicolae Steinhardt was also implicated is made in
Tnase, Stelian: Anatomia mistificrii. Procesul Noica-Pillat 1944-1989 [The anatomy
of mystification. The Noica-Pillat trial 1944-1989]. Bucharest 1997.
188 From a perspective that combines methods specific to literary studies and cultural
history, the bulk of memoirs by the survivors of Romanian prisons and labor camps,
as well as the post-1989 works of fiction dealing with the same topic, are analyzed in
Cesereanu, Ruxandra: Gulagul n contiina romneasc. Memorialistica i literatura
nchisorilor i lagrelor comuniste [The Gulag in Romanian consciousness. Memoirs
and literature of communist prisons and camps]. Iai 2005.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

better covered by personal recollections as well as by various forms of reconstruction of the past ranging from historical writings to cinematic narratives than any
other topic.

Ceauescus Communism as Exceptionally Repressive

After decades of repression, Ceauescu inherited from his predecessor, Gheor
ghiu-Dej, a profoundly tamed population, so that he no longer needed to make
use of random terror or to imprison a large number of persons. To be sure, there
were people who still suffered under Ceauescu, but they suffered in a different
way. Thus, the story to be told was no longer about prisons, labor camps and
biological survival. While the recollections of the Gheorghiu-Dej period represent stories of suffering and heroism under Stalinism, those of the Ceauescu
period are narratives that convey a sense of fear and frustration. They focus on
dissidence but not on co-optation, they talk about alienation but not of cowardice, and reflect on widespread malaise but not on everyday compromise. First
and foremost, in all the testimonies from the Ceauescu period there is one
depressing presence, sometimes explicit but mostly implicit the ubiquitous
Securitate, which gives one the impression that Ceauescus rule continued to rely
primarily on repression. Measures were indeed taken by the Securitate against
those who dared to speak out against the policies of Ceauescus party-state, but
these were no longer comparable with those characteristic to the terror years. As
already argued, the secret police changed its main function from repression to
prevention once terror was no longer necessary to control the society. Accordingly, this institution, which worked as an interface between the communist
authorities and the population, epitomized as anywhere else in the Soviet bloc
the intrusion of the regime into the daily lives of the ordinary citizens. Briefly
put, the Securitate represents the very cornerstone that unites the narratives from
the Romanian Gulag that cover the period of Gheorghiu-Dej with the narratives
of those who felt like living in a huge prison in Ceauescus Romania.
In developing this theme, private recollections, mostly authored by literati
such as poets, writers and literary critics in general, public intellectuals that
refrained from supporting the regime played a crucial role. The very few genuine dissidents of the Ceauescu epoch also published their autobiographical
writings and letters of protest. The more articulated critical analyses of the Romanian communist system from the late 1970s and the 1980s were also recuperated after 1989. The novels by Paul Goma, the initiator of a short-lived Romanian-type of Charter 77, represented a first attempt at reconstructing the most
significant act of intellectual dissent in Ceauescus Romania.189 Alienated from
189 Paul Goma was arrested as one of the organizers of the protests in the University of
Bucharest that followed the outburst of the Hungarian Revolution, and spent two
years in prison and several more in house arrest until 1963. While in Paris in 1972-73,



the local literary and artistic milieus not only because of years in exile, but also
because of his failure to convince fellow writes to join his movement in 1977,
Goma also authored a polemic, sometimes unfair, diary, in which he portrays
his former colleagues, now prominent public intellectuals of post-communism,
as individuals inclined to compromise with the regime. Needless to say, his diary aroused an enormous post-1989 debate, which resulted in his total marginalization in the Romanian public sphere.190 Gomas aborted human rights movement, which enlisted 200 signatories on a collective letter of protest, will
nevertheless remain in a history of Romanian communism as the only moment
when a collective protest against the regime gained momentum. The later dissidents of the 1980s were mostly isolated individuals. It was only in 1989, not
long before the collapse of the regime, that several collective letters of protest
went public again, but without gathering more than a handful of intellectuals
among signatories.
From among the writings by dissidents of late communism, the most important critical analysis written in 1988 in the underground under surveillance by
the secret police, but published only in 1990 due to the avatars of its transmission
to the West was authored by Dan Petrescu and Liviu Cangeopol. This analysis
stands out not only as a testimony of the strict surveillance of dissidents, but also
as a sheer proof that the Securitate was not unbeatable. Otherwise, the book
represents the most comprehensive critical analysis of the communist system
written in Romania before the fall of the regime. The two authors captured the
essence of everyday life during the last years under communism, and produced
a sociological-political analysis of the countrys situation based on firsthand information. Addressing issues ranging from the poverty of daily life to the absurdity of party policy, their book advocated openly and clearly for changing the
very foundation of society, not merely reforming the regime. In other words,
they located the main source of evil in the very concept of communism itself.
Moreover, the themes addressed by the two authors the ubiquity of guilt, the

he wrote the novel inspired from his prison experience and recorded it in his own
reading for the Radio Free Europe, which broadcast it after the publication in 1976.
See Goma, Paul: Gherla [Gherla]. Paris 1976. Goma returned to Romania, and in
January 1977 tried to initiate a Charter 77-inspired human rights movement. He was
thus arrested in April 1977, and expelled from Romania in the autumn of the same
year. He lived ever since in Paris and collaborated with the Radio Free Europe. In
exile he also authored quite a number of autobiographical novels, which were published
in post-1989 Romania as Goma: Soldiers dog (cf. n. 96); Idem: The color of the rainbow
77 (cf. n. 96); Idem: Amnezia la romni [Amnesia to the Romanians]. Bucharest 1992;
Idem: Scrisori ntredeschise. Singur mpotriva lor [Half-opened letters. Alone against
them]. Oradea 1995; and Idem: Scrsuri [Writings]. Bucharest 1999.
190 Goma, Paul: Jurnal [Diary], 3 vols. Bucharest 1997. See also Idem: Alte jurnale [Other
diaries]. Cluj 1998.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

idea of moral regeneration, the alliance between critical intellectuals and workers remind one of the Central-European dissidents.191
If the analysis discussed above focuses on the decay and absurdity of daily
existence in late communism, the story of dissident Radu Filipescu is interesting
from a different perspective. An engineer by training, he never drafted critical
analyses of the communist regime, but adopted a more pragmatic approach than
those who were making a living by writing books. By the beginning of 1983, he
had made by himself, in the basement of his parents apartment, 10,000 manifestos calling for a general meeting of those unhappy with Ceauescus rule. He
was caught only by accident by the secret police and sentenced to ten years of
imprisonment, but was released after three years due to strong international
pressure. As visible dissidents were no longer imprisoned at that time, Filipescus
recollections are unique in their assessment of the conditions of detention in
Romanian prisons during the 1980s, which allow an implicit comparison with
those of the 1950s, as they appear in the memoirs of the political prisoners of the
period. Since the communist regime had become more sensitive with regard to
its international image, it reacted promptly whenever it was criticized abroad
that the conditions in the Romanian prisons were inadequate. Thus, the treatment applied to the Romanian political prisoners in the 1980s, as described by
Filipescu, had improved significantly in comparison with the 1950s, but remained much worse than that in the prisons of communist Czechoslovakia or
Poland. For example, Filipescu considered as a great achievement the fact that
he was allowed to read books in prison, at a time when Vclav Havel or Adam
Michnik were allowed to typewrite their famous letters from prison.192
Besides the above-mentioned works, other former dissident writings were
recuperated after 1989; they all convey, quite naturally, a very critical view on the
191 Petrescu, Dan/Cangeopol, Liviu: Ce-ar mai fi de spus. Convorbiri libere ntr-o ar
ocupat [What remains to be said. Free conversations in an occupied country]. In:
Agora (Philadelphia), 1 February 1990, 45-258. A second Romanian edition included
also the open letters authored by the two former dissidents, which reiterated their
ideas really radical as compared even to those of other dissidents in the country, such
as: the responsibility for Romanias desolate state was not restricted to Ceauescu and
his small clique of intimate collaborators, or the secret police could not have been the
only institution that worked perfectly in a country where nothing worked at all. See
ibid., Bucharest 2000 [11990].
192 His adventures are narrated by Herma Kpernik Kennel, an author specialized in
writing books for children. This explains why her story resembles largely a fairy tale
told to a public for which Ceauescus Romania was a completely unknown and, at
the same time, strange world. However, Filipescu confirmed to Cristina Petrescu in a
personal interview that the facts related are accurate. See Kpernik Kennel, Herma:
Jogging cu Securitatea. Rezistena tnrului Radu Filipescu [Jogging with the Securitate. Young Radu Filipescus Resistance]. Bucharest 1998. With regard to the comparison between Romanian and Central European prisons, Radu Filipescu remarked that
in 1990, the Group for Social Dialogue in Bucharest received a typewriter, which the
members were told to be the same model Havel received while in prison. Radu Filipescu, interview by Cristina Petrescu, tape recording, Bucharest, 25 April 1998.



communist system. Mihai Botez, a very prolific dissident in a tradition that

could be assimilated to that of the Central European revisionist Marxism, elaborated several structural analyses of communism, which revealed the dysfunctional characteristics of the system, but predicted at the same time its stability.193
A critical analysis of the communist system from a moral-Christian perspective
emerged from the open letters written in the late 1980s by Doina Cornea and
published after 1989.194 Gabriel Andreescu, whose philosophy of dissent reminds
one of Central European dissidents such as Vclav Havel who advocated for
living in truth, has addressed in his writings the universe of daily lies and accepted compromises specific to the last years of Ceauescus rule.195 Apart from
the writings authored by dissidents, the memoirs of former commentators of the
Romanian desk of the Radio Free Europe, RFE, emerged as another consistent
body of publications. Many of the former speakers, analysts and collaborators
of this broadcasting agency which had emerged by 1989 as the most popular
among Romanians published their diaries, memoirs, or the analyses written at
the time. Such works provided not only consistent autobiographical information, but also shed some light on the way RFE supported dissidents and critical
intellectuals in Romania, as well as on the constraints under which the broadcasting agency operated.196
193 Botez, Mihai: Lumea a doua [The Second World]. Bucharest 1997. Among his other
dissident writings, published in Romania only after the collapse of communism, one
can mention Idem: Intelectualii din Europa de Est [Intellectuals of Eastern Europe].
Bucharest 1993; and Romnii despre ei nii [Romanians about themselves]. Bucharest
1992. The letters sent his friend, Vlad Georgescu, director of the Romanian desk of
the Radio Free Europe, practically represent a repertoire of the methods used by the
secret police to intimidate and blackmail dissidents. See Idem: Scrisori ctre Vlad
Georgescu [Letters to Vlad Georgescu]. Bucharest 2003.
194 Cornea, Doina: Scrisori deschise i alte texte [Open Letters and other texts]. Bucharest
195 Gabriel Andreescu tried to act as a human rights defender and monitored cases of their
violation by the communist regime. In late 1987, the secret police observed that he was
regularly meeting a person from a Western embassy. Consequently, he was arrested on
24 December 1987 and briefly detained until January 1988. After this incident, he
emerged as one of the most visible dissidents in communist Romania. For more on
Andreescus dissident activity, see the texts published in Andreescu, Gabriel: Spre o
filozofie a disidenei [Towards a philosophy of dissent]. Bucharest 1992.
196 Bernard, Noel: Aici e Europa Liber [This is Radio Free Europe]. Bucharest 1991;
Carp, Mircea: Vocea Americii n Romnia 1969-1978 [Voice of America in Romania 1969-1978]. Iai 1997; Stroescu-Stnioar, Nicolae: n zodia exilului. Fragmente de
jurnal [Under the sign of exile. Pieces of a diary]. Bucharest 1994; Ierunca, Virgil:
Romnete [Romanian style]. Bucharest 1991; Idem: Subiect i predicat [Subject and
predicate]. Bucharest 1993; Idem: Dimpotriv [On the contrary]. Bucharest 1994;
Lovinescu, Monica: La apa Vavilonului [At the river of Vavilon]. 2 vols. Bucharest
1999, 2001; Idem: Unde scurte [Short waves]. 6 vols. Bucharest 1990-1996; Ionescu,
Gelu: Covorul cu scorpioni [The rug with scorpions]. Iai 2006; Mgur-Bernard,
Ioana. Directorul postului nostru de radio [The director of our radio station]. Bucharest 2007.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

As stated before, the largest majority of the recollections from Ceauescus

times have been authored by public intellectuals who did not openly criticize the
former regime when in power, but conveyed their negative assessments after its
demise. Interestingly enough, such writings created a perverse effect with regard
to the intricate process of remembering communism in post-1989 Romania.
Writings by radical dissidents of the Ceauescu period induced the idea that
after all, if such persons survived, the Securitate could not have been such an
omnipotent institution. On the contrary, most of the other authors were inclined to stress the totalitarian features of the Ceauescu regime in order to explain the lack of a structured dissident movement in Romania from the late
1970s onwards. Thus, many transferred, consciously or not, basic features of the
Gheorghiu-Dejs epoch of Stalinist terror to Ceauescus era that they evoked in
their post-1989 writings. Such writings of autobiographical nature are so numerous that a thorough analysis of them would go much beyond the limits of the
present study. Moreover, many are obviously driven by the desire to build the
posterity of the author. Taken as a whole, these recollections reinforced the
critical views already expressed by dissidents before 1989, but separately each
added new details related to the relationship between the regime and intellectuals, to the specific professional field of the author, or simply to aspects of daily
life. Historians remembered the way in which history was distorted under the
ideological pressure of the regime but with the active support of some members of the guild to the extent that it was turned into pure propaganda that
had nothing to do with professional research.197 Not surprisingly, the best-represented group is that of the literati. Concerned in general with their place in
the countrys literary history, such authors dedicated more often than not extensive space to the internal conflicts in the Writers Union, which opposed the
Westernizers that turned themselves after 1989 in resisters through culture, to

197 The memoirs of David Prodan, an outstanding Cluj-based historian of the modern
period, combined information on the development of Romanian historiography during the 20th century with critical remarks on issues such as the conscious distortion
of history for political ends. He is particularly critical with fellow historians Constantin Daicoviciu and tefan Pascu, who let themselves coopted by the regime and turned
into producers of purely ideological narratives on history. See Prodan, David: Memorii [Memoirs]. Bucharest 1993. Alexandru Zub, a reputed Iai-based historian and the
actual director of the A. D. Xenopol History Institute, also reflected on history writing
during communist and post-communist periods. See Zub, Alexandru: Oglinzi retrovizoare. Istorie, memorie i moral n Romnia. Alexandru Zub n dialog cu Sorin
Antohi [Rear reflecting mirrors. History, memory and morality in Romania. Alexandru Zub in dialogue with Sorin Antohi]. Iai 2002. Quite unique is Radu
Constantinescus book, which provides polemic, sometimes grotesques, Hieronymus
Bosch-like literary portraits of one hundred Romanian historians that the author considers to have been instrumental in providing intellectual support for the communist
regime. See Constantinescu, Radu: 100 de istorioare cu istoricii Epocii de Aur [100
short stories with Golden Epochs historians]. Iai 1997.



the Autochthonists encouraged and supported by the regime.198 These recollections address issues such as the reactions of the literary and artistic establishment
to the nationalistic visions of the defunct regime or retreats into the imaginary
world of books as a means of avoiding confronting reality.199 Finally, individuals
from other professions journalists, film directors, medical doctors left testimonies on the intrusion of the regime in their profession.200 To sum up, while
works by professional historians on Ceauescus communism are scarce, more or
less fabricated memories constituted themselves into a substantial corpus of
sources for the study of that period. As such, they emerged as the first wave of
writings that shaped the public representation of communism.
198 The volume of essays and book reviews by literary critic Dan C. Mihilescu gathers
pertinent analyses of memoirs and diaries published after 1989 by prominent figures
of the Romanian cultural establishment. See Mihilescu 2004 (cf. n. 57).
199 Florena Albus diary provides an insightful account on the condition of a woman
writer under communism. See Albu, Florena: Zidul martor. Pagini de jurnal 19701990 [The witnessing wall. Pages of a diary 1970-1990]. Bucharest 1994. Novelist Nicolae Breban, who flirted with the idea of open dissent after Ceauescu launched his
cultural revolution in July 1971, published his recollections of the Romanian cultural
life under national communism. Of a particular interest are Brebans considerations
on the Goma case and the intricate relationships between writers and the communist
power. See Breban, Nicolae: Confesiuni violente. Dialoguri cu Constantin Iftime
[Violent confessions. Dialogues with Constantin Iftime]. Bucharest 1994, esp. 198234. Literary critic Alexandru George adopted a very unusual stance when criticized
not only the proponents of resistance through culture, but also the dissidents. Actually, Alexandru Georges argument reads as follows: some dissidents should be
praised for their courage; at the same time, the Ceauescu regime tolerated a certain
amount of dissident activity and controlled it, while striving to prove its insignificance
as a marginal phenomenon. See George, Alexandru: Capricii i treceri cu gndul prin
spaii [Caprices and thoughts traveling through spaces]. Bucharest 1994, esp. 204-13.
As for the retreat into an imaginary world constructed with the help of books, the
paradigmatic autobiographical writing is Patapievici, H.-R.: Zbor n btaia sgeii.
Eseu asupra formrii [Flight against the arrow, Essay on self-education]. Bucharest
200 For instance, the diary of erbnescu, Tia: Femeia din fotografie. Jurnal 1987-1989
[The woman in the picture. Diary 1987-1989]. Bucharest 2002, contains some memorable pages on journalism under late communism. A more conformist fellow journalist at the daily newspaper Romnia liber also published a diary, see Buzil, Boris: n
prezena stpnilor. Treizeci de ani de jurnal secret la Romnia liber [In the presence
of the masters. Thirty years of secret diary at Romnia liber]. Bucharest 1999. One
should also mention Tatos, Alexandru: Pagini de jurnal [Pages of a diary]. Bucharest
1994, which speaks of filmmaking and the condition of a film director under the
Ceauescu regime. With regard to the medical profession under communism, see
Pascu, Dumitru: Operaie fr anestezie. Din amintirile i speranele unui chirurg
[Operation without anesthesia. Of a surgeons reminiscences and hopes]. Bucharest
2000. Ioan Popas novel based on the personal experience of the author is worth mentioning as the passionate account of an army officer who worked on the gigantesque
building place of the so-called House of the People, i.e., Ceauescus enormous palace
that houses today the Romanian Parliament. See Popa, Ioan: Robi pe Uranus [Slaves
on Uranus]. Bucharest 1992.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

It is interesting to note that, in the opinion of these authors, fictional works

proved to be closer than other genres in providing a refined and nuanced picture
of the recent past. The novel that captured perfectly the everyday Ceauescuism
of the 1980s, a period marked by the economic and moral ruin, is Adio, Europa
[Farewell, Europe!] by Ion. D. Srbu. Written between 1982 and 1985, this novel
emerged posthumously as a most impressive piece of drawer literature. Srbu,
who died few months before the collapse of communism, provided in his novel
a powerful description of everyday life in late communism, characterized by
corruption and cowardliness, nepotism and bribery, false patriotism and duplicity, urban decay and nostalgia for the bygone days of normality. The main character is an intellectual who wanted to live free in the West, but has no other
choice than to live in Isarlk, an imaginary town in southern Romania, where
the author felt trapped in a net of compromises and false pretenses. Isarlk, in
fact, epitomizes the moral decadence and the absurd face of late Ceauescuism.201
Besides this novel, a most sophisticated analysis of national-communism in Romania is to be found in Balana [The balance], a novel by the successful satirical
writer Ion Bieu, published first in censored form the 1980s.202 Based on this
novel, film director Lucian Pintilie made after 1989 a masterful reconstruction
of everyday life in Ceauescus Romania that grasps the ambiguities and intricacies of daily cooptation of large strata of the population, as well as the alienation
201 The similarity between Srbus biography and that of his character is obvious. Raised
and educated in the main cultural center of Transylvania, the city of Cluj, Srbu was
forced, because of his political biography, to settle in the Oltenian city of Craiova,
which he perceived as deeply touched by what might be called a Balkan spirit. Actually, the town of Isarlk could have been any of the towns in communist Romania.
Srbu, Ion D.: Adio, Europa! [Farewell, Europe!], 2 vols. Bucharest 1993. See also his
correspondence with friends in emigration in Srbu, Ion D.: Traversarea cortinei.
Coresponden cu Ion Negoiescu, Virgil Nemoianu, Mariana ora [Crossing the
curtain. Correspondence with Ion Negoiescu, Virgil Nemoianu, Mariana ora].
Timioara 1994.
202 An uncensored version of the novel was published after the fall of the communist
regime as Bieu, Ion: Balana [The balance] [new ed.]. Bucharest 1990. For more
details regarding the movie see Modorcea 2004 (cf. n. 183), 466-467. Under communist rule, Lucian Pintilie directed one of the boldest feature films describing the realities of socialist Romania. His movie, Reconstituirea [Reenactment], was produced
in 1969, officially released on 5 January 1970, and banned shortly afterwards. Two
friends, Vuic and Ripu, are the main characters in the movie. After drinking a little
bit too much, the two friends provoked a scandal. Nonetheless, since it was about their
first act of breaking the law, the authorities decided not punish them on the condition
that they accept to play in an educational film on the subject of their quarrel. During
the reenactment, one of them is killed. For more on this see Modorcea 2004 (cf. n.
183), 192-93. Reconstituirea is very telling with regard to the limits of the ideological
relaxation in communist Romania in the late 1960s. In spite of its critical stance towards the system, the Romanian movie is far from the radical critiques of the communist establishment one can identify in movies produced during the same year 1969
in Hungary or former Czechoslovakia. See, in this respect, Bacs, Pter: A tan [The
witness] 1969 and Menzel, Jii: Skivnci na niti [Larks on a string] 1969.



felt by those intellectuals, physicians, teachers or Orthodox priests who realized

where the regime was heading. The main characters in the movie are Nela, a
psychologist and teacher, daughter of a former Securitate officer, and Mitic, a
gifted but nonconformist surgeon. Nela and Mitic meet in a dramatic situation he saves her from a rape attempt, fall in love and decide to fight together against, or at least refuse to be overwhelmed by, the stultifying effects of
regimes irrational policies.203 It may be argued that Pintilies insightful and nuanced vision of cooptation and dissent under communism originate from more
general reflections on social and political modernity in Romania, once ridiculed
by playwright Ion Luca Caragiale, a most astute critic of the late 19th century
Above all, that absurd world of daily compromises meant to ensure the survival in an economy of shortage was dominated by the constant fear of the secret
police. It was the intrusion of the Securitate into the most intimate aspects of
private lives that made the atmosphere in Ceauescus Romania most depressing.
All dissident writings touched upon the issue of surveillance by the secret police,
and bore witness for the methods used by that institution in order to hamper
individuals to openly express their thoughts.205 An interesting post-1989 volume
that deals with this issue was authored by Stelian Tnase, who turned into an
open critique of the regime in the fall of 1989, but had been put nevertheless
under surveillance by the Securitate for years, probably because of his connections with foreign embassies. His own daily notes from the 1980s were confronted on the counter page with excerpts from the informative notes of those
who were informing on him.206 Such a comparison between two versions of the
past revealed striking differences not only in the facts considered worth recording or the manner of covering these, but also in the very purpose of narrating
small daily events. The feeling of being constantly kept under surveillance by
the secret police was though extensively and intensively transmitted by the works
203 Pintilie, Lucian: Balana [The balance] 1991; officially released on 26 October 1992.
204 In 1981, Pintilie had made an admirable screen adaptation of one of Ion Luca Caragiales
best plays, Dale carnavalului [Carnival ventures], in his: De ce trag clopotele, Mitic?
[Why do they ring the church bells, Mitic?] 1981. The movie was banned by the
Ceauescu regime and was released officially only after the fall of the regime, on 29
October 1990. For details see Modorcea 2004 (cf. n. 183), 448.
205 Among other recollections that cover acts of open dissent and revolt, one should
mention the diary of Gogea, Vasile: Fragmente salvate 1975-1989 [Saved fragments
1975-1989]. Iai 1996, which covers the intellectual life in the city of Braov and the
1987 Braov workers revolt, and the journal of Antonesei, Liviu: Jurnal din anii ciumei
1987-1989. ncercri de sociologie spontan [Diary from the years of the plague 19871989. Attempts at a spontaneous sociology]. Iai 1995, which provides interesting details on dissidence in the city of Iai during the 1980s.
206 Stelian Tnase was one of the signatories of the open protest known as the letter of
the eighteen of December 1989. See Tnase, Stelian: Acas se vorbete n oapt [At
home, one whispers]. Bucharest 2002. For a complete version of his diary, see Tnase,
Stelian: Ora oficial de iarn. Jurnal [The official wintertime. A Diary]. Iai 1995.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

of the 2009 Nobel price Laureate in literature, Herta Mller, who was born in
a German community in the Banat region in western Romania. For instance,
her novel Der Fuchs war damals schon der Jger captures perfectly not only
the anxiety and humiliation caused by the continuous invasion into private lives,
but also the special status of the Securitate people, who enjoyed catering privileges at a time when the rest of the population was enduring all kinds of shortages. The main character of this novel of autobiographical inspiration, the young
teacher Clara, displayed an independent attitude that made her suspicious in the
eyes of the ubiquitous Securitate. Put under surveillance, Clara is subject of
permanent harassment: a piece from the fox fur that serves as carpet was cut
every time the house was searched to remind her of the vigilant eyes of the Securitate.207 What is more, although the Revolution of 1989 took place in Romania too, the cutting of the fox continued. Briefly put, the novel addresses a recurring theme: it is the secret police that controlled everything in the country under
communism as well as after its collapse, because the men of the former regime
managed to maintain their influential positions during the transition towards
The writings discussed above offer an incomplete picture of the Ceauescu
period, since they all recall the gloomy and depressing 1980s and overlook the
promising and colorful 1960s. The period of late communism in fact made
Romania an exception in the sense that the powerful memories of daily humiliation and small compromises meant to ensure the sheer survival in the 1980s
have essentially shaped the patterns of remembering that period after 1989.208 In
207 The novel was first published in Germany as Mller, Herta: Der Fuchs war damals
schon der Jger. Hamburg 1992. The Romanian version was published as: nc de pe
atunci vulpea era vntorul [Since that time the fox was already the hunter]. Bucharest
1995. Herta Mllers novel was transformed into a cinematic narrative by director
Stere Gulea. His movie, Vulpe, vntor [Fox, hunter] was released on 20 December
1993. While in Romania, Herta Mller was not an open critique of communism, in
the sense Vclav Havel was, but a person that tried to put her thoughts in books
instead of reproducing the ideological views of the party. She was not only member of
another ethno-cultural group than the Romanian majority, but also active part in a
German-speaking writers circle promoting greater freedom of expression. As a person
that refused to collaborate with the secret police, she assumed all the consequences of
an attitude rather unusual in Ceauescus Romania. Thus, she was targeted by the
Securitate for her hostile attitude to the Romanian state and classified in the category fascist German writers. Her file, as many others, reveals the Orwell-like world of
dictatorships that aimed at totally controlling the lives of individuals: constant surveillance to annihilate intimacy; denigrating rumors spread to isolate socially; information gathered to manipulate, blackmail, and coerce. See Idem: Cristina und ihre
Attrappe oder Was (nicht) in den Akten der Securitate steht. Gttingen 2009.
208 The depth of human decay inflicted by shortages of all kinds, as well as by the aberrant
policies of the Ceauescu regime, such as the banning of abortions that actually triggered the direct intrusion into the private lives of all couples, is very well suggested by
the internationally acclaimed cinematic narrative 4 luni, 3 sptmni i 2 zile [4
Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days], released in 2007, and directed by Cristian Mungiu. On



comparison to Central European countries, the accounts of what happened in

the Romanian Gulag during the 1950s are not entirely conflicting with the more
recent stories of the hardships of everyday life during the 1980s. Recollections of
the more lively 1960s seem indecent as compared to the appalling stories of suffering in the Gulag or the grim accounts of shortages and surveillance in late
communism. What is more, the two types of traumatizing recollections, that
belong to two different generations, have contaminated each other during the
twenty years of transition from communism so that today is not unusual to hear
one speak of the Gulag when referring to the deprivations in the 1980s.209

Communism as Sheer Progress and Defender of National Interest

Those who suffered under communism were not the only ones that wrote or
spoke about their experiences under the communist dictatorship. After the collapse of communism, several former high rank party officials accepted to be
interviewed or engaged in writing memoirs, and offered valuable testimonies for
students of communism. As long as crucial decisions were taken outside official
meetings and, therefore, are never to be found in the archives, it was from
them, the members of the former nomenklatura, that one expected to find out
what happened behind the closed doors and what was in the mind of the people
who ruled us. Most of the members of the communist elite who decided to
talk were persons once close to Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and later marginalized
by Ceauescu: Gheorghe Apostol, Ion Gheorghe Maurer, Alexandru Brldeanu,
Gheorghe Gaston Marin, Corneliu Mnescu, Paul Niculesu-Mizil, Silviu Brucan, Paul Sfetcu, and Sorin Toma.210 Five of them were among the six signatories
the social consequences of banning abortion for the sake of making the Romanian
nation bigger, see also Kligman, Gail: The Politics of Duplicity. Controlling Reproduction in Ceauescus Romania. Berkeley 1998.
209 If we are asked today [by a foreigner] about Romania, we are only left with two topics: Dracula and Ceauescu communism and the sufferings we endured. The most
severe were experienced in Braov after [the strike of ] 1987: the use of running cold
water and gas heavily restricted, the central heating and the hot water totally suppressed during winter in a middle-class neighborhood. We lived in the Gulag and
many did not even realize that. From the cycle Amintiri din iepoca de aur [Memories
from the golden iepoch (sic!)],, 22 July 2008.
210 It is interesting to note that Dejs men picture the period of their patron almost exclusively in terms of achievements, above all standing the struggle for achieving full independence from Moscow. Their problem is to underline that it was Dej, who must
be credited as the artisan of the emancipation from the Soviet hegemony, and not
Ceauescu, who, nevertheless, with the speech on August 1968, obscured the merits of
his predecessor. Moreover, all Dejs men interpret the history of the communist party
from the late 1940s to the late 1950s as a confrontation between a national faction,
conducted by Dej himself, which defended the interests of the country, and a Sovietoriented faction, to which belonged all those who were purged. Such an interpretation
belongs, actually, to Dej himself. He made his vision plain at the Plenum of the Cen-


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

of the only major letter of protest against Ceauescus rule endorsed by members
of the Romanian nomenklatura.211 The others, Dumitru Popescu, Cornel Burtic,
Siviu Curticeanu, and Constantin Olteanu, were part of the new elite raised by
Ceauescu and remained loyal to him up to the very end.
As member of the communist party from the underground years, member of
the Politburo from 1948 until 1969, and friend of Dej from the time when both
were workers in the small city of Galai, Gheorghe Apostol is, perhaps, the most
important informant about backstage political maneuvers. As the sole survivor
from among the top leaders involved in the negotiations, he left an account on
the preparations of the discussions with the Soviet leaders concerning the presence of the Red Army in Romania.212 Alexandru Brldeanu and Gheorghe
Gaston Marin had something to say on the policy of Romanias economic reorientation towards the West.213 The former represented a first hand source concerning the rejection by the Romanian communist leadership of the so-called
Valev Plan, which envisaged an economic cooperation within the COMECON
based on a division of labor between industrial and agricultural countries.214
Marins memoirs contain detailed information of the first contacts with coun-





tral Committee held in November 1961 by stating that the purges of 1952 (the PaukerLuca-Teohari faction) and 1957 (the Constantinescu-Chiinevski group) resulted from
the struggle between the proponents of two divergent political lines: the locals
(pmnteni) and the Muscovites. See Levy, Robert: Ana Pauker. The Rise and Fall of
a Jewish Communist. Berkeley 2001, esp. 134-162.
The six signatories of this letter were Gheorghe Apostol, Alexandru Brldeanu, Corneliu Mnescu, Constantin Prvulescu, Grigore Ion Rceanu, and Silviu Brucan. The
letter was broadcast by BBC on 10 March 1989. It represented the only criticism that
emerged from within PCR. All signatories were old-timers that rose to prominence
under Gheorghiu-Dej to be later marginalized from political life by Ceauescu (except
for Rceanu, who had been ousted in 1958). That was for the first time since the end
of the power struggles in 1956-57 when members of the communist elite, however few
and alienated from the inner circle of power, dared to publicly criticize the supreme
leader. It should be mentioned however, that, these six signatories could hardly constitute a coherent group, not to speak of a reformist one. In fact, the content of the
letter illustrates that their criticism was past-oriented; for instance, it was acknowledged that the secret police was originally a necessary institution that only later turned
against the population. For more on this see Petrescu, Cristina: The Letter of the Six.
On the Political (Sub)Culture of the Romanian Communist Elite. In: Studia Politica,
vol. 5, 2(2005), 355-384.
For Apostols account, see Betea 1995 (cf. n. 64).
An economist by training and a member of the communist party since 1936, Brldeanu
held, between 1955 and 1966, the positions of first deputy chairman of the Council of
Ministers in charge with economic issues and that of Romanias representative to
COMECON. Marin, an engineer educated in Grenoble and a member of the French
resistance under the Vichy government, had a successful career in Dejs Romania,
being promoted up to the positions of chairman of the State Committee for Planning
(1954-1965) and vice president of the Council of Ministers (1962-1969).
Betea 1998 (cf. n. 64).


tries from the capitalist camp.215 As minister of foreign affairs and head of the
Romanian delegation to the United Nations General Assembly between 1961
and 1972, Mnescu represented a key witness of international relations during
the decade when Romanias position of maverick ally within the communist bloc
fully manifested.216 Information on Ceauescus surprising election as secretary
general of the party after Gheorghiu-Dejs death in 1965 is parsimoniously offered by Ion Gheorghe Maurer, a most influential person after appointed president of the Council of Ministers in 1961, and a key player in supporting
Ceauescus candidacy.217 In his memoirs, Sorin Toma between 1947 and 1960
editor in chief of the party daily Scnteia, a key instrument of the PCR propaganda machine speaks of his activity as a top communist journalist and the
people he met. It is worth mentioning the way Toma portraits Gheorghiu-Dej
as a pragmatic, calculated and by no means a primitive political leader.218 Finally, Paul Sfetcu, the secretary of Gheorghiu-Dej, offers interesting insights
into the private world of his patron, revealing some of the tensions between Dej
and other members of the elite, and some of his private thoughts regarding
political problems.219
The testimonies of the former nomenklatura members support more or less
explicitly the idea that Romanias increasing openness towards the West as well
as its cautious distancing from the Soviet Union was conceived and initiated by
Gheorghiu-Dej. Ceauescu, the arguments further reads, only benefited from
this new political line in terms of internal and external legitimacy, and ended up
by destroying the successful political project of his predecessor. In short, they all
reiterated a common place: that Ceauescu and his clique were the only respon-

215 Marin, Gheorghe Gaston: n serviciul Romniei lui Gheorghiu-Dej. nsemnri din
via [Serving Gheorghiu-Dejs Romania. Notes from my life]. Bucharest 2000.
216 Betea, Lavinia (ed.): Convorbiri neterminate. Corneliu Mnescu n dialog cu Lavinia
Betea [Unfinished conversations. Corneliu Mnescu in dialog with Lavinia Betea]. Iai
217 However, Maurers testimony needs to be corroborated with that of Apostol, the
counter-candidate, and those of other, more distant witnesses, such as Mizil or
Brldeanu, in order to grasp Ceauescus backstage maneuvers that assured him the
support of a majority of the Politburo. For Apostols account concerning Ceauescus
maneuvers to become Dejs successor, see Betea 1995 (cf. n. 64), 272-275. For Maurers
testimony, see ibid., 172-177. Brldeanu remembers that Dej admired Ceauescu for
his ability to discover documents from the Stalinist period, which attested that Miron
Constantinescu himself was a Stalinist. Betea 1998 (cf. n. 64), 130.
218 Of Jewish origin, Toma adhered to the underground Romanian Communist Party in
1932, at the age of 18, and was among the editors of the illegal party newspaper Scnteia.
See Toma, Sorin: Privind napoi. Aminitrile unui fost ziarist comunist [Looking back.
Recollections of a former communist journalist]. Bucharest 2004.
219 Sfetcu, Paul: 13 ani n anticamera lui Dej [13 years in Dejs antechamber]. Bucharest


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

sible for the disaster of the country.220 Paul Niculescu-Mizil, who held central
positions under both Dej and Ceauescu, was the only former apparatchik who
maintained that both leaders must be credited for their daring attitudes towards
the Soviet Union.221 As for Ceauescus men,222 Cornel Burtic, who held the
position of deputy prime minister, has been the only collaborator of Ceauescu
that ever resigned from office. His critical views on late communism in Romania
went as far as to advance the idea that the powerful secret police put everyone
under surveillance, including the supreme leader of the party.223 The account by
220 From Dejs collaborators, Silviu Brucan also left his views on the communist past. A
deputy editor of the party daily newspaper Scnteia between 1944 and 1956, and a
former ambassador to the United States (1956-59) and to the United Nations (195962), he was then marginalized by Ceauescu. In the late 1980s, he became an outspoken critique of Ceauescus rule, who practically authored the above-mentioned letter
of the six party veterans. Some of his books were published abroad before 1989,
mainly in the United States and Great Britain. On 22 December 1989, Brucan became
one of the members of the inner circle of power in the newly established FSN, and
many argued that he was its first ideologue. See Brucan, Silviu: The Dissolution of
Power. New York 1971; Idem: The Dialectic of World Politics. London 1978; and
Idem: The Post-Brezhnev Era. New York 1983. As for his recollections, see Idem:
Generaia irosit [The lost generation]. Bucharest 1992; Idem: De la capitalism la
socialism i retur. O biografie ntre dou revoluii [From capitalism to socialism and
back. A biography between two revolutions]. Bucharest 1998.
221 His recollections of the controversy with Soviet historians on the significance of the
event of 23 August 1944, which was reinterpreted by Romanians as an internally driven
action instead of a Soviet backed one, are also of particular interest for historians. See
Niculescu-Mizil, Paul: O istorie trit [A lived history]. Bucharest 1997. Mizil even
felt the need to come up with a second book in which, he concentrates on the international debates concerning the right of each communist party to devise its own,
national path to communism and underlines, once again, that the major policy
directions traced by Dej remained unchanged under Ceauescu. See Idem: De la
Comintern la comunism naional [From Comintern to national-communism].
Bucharest 2001. As head of the Propaganda Section of the Central Committee, Mizils
account on the publication the so-called Notes on the Romanians by Karl Marx,
which contained the affirmation that the region between the rivers Prut and Dniester
was unjustly occupied by Tsarist Russia, is of prime value for the history of communist
222 Interestingly enough, none of the women who held relatively high positions within
the party hierarchy during the Dej or Ceauescu periods and their number is not
negligible wrote memoirs or gave oral history interviews.
223 Chelaru, Rodica: Culpe care nu se uit. Convorbiri cu Cornel Burtic [Sins one cannot forget. Conversations with Cornel Burtic]. Bucharest 2001. As far as communist
Romanias foreign policy is concerned, one should also mention the memoirs of Mihail Haeganu, a diplomat of the late Dej early Ceauescu periods. Vice-rector (19491955) and then rector (1955-1959) of the Academy of Commercial Studies (Academia
de Studii Economice, ASE) in Bucharest, Haeganu served as Romanias ambassador
to former Czechoslovakia (1959-1961) and to the United Nations (1961-1966). His recollections are worth mentioning for the details regarding the inception of communist
Romanias independent course in the late 1950s, and its relations with the COMECON
countries. See Haeganu, Mihail: n culisele diplomaiei. Memoriile unui ambasador



Silviu Curticeanu, Ceauescus presidential secretary who remained near him up

to the very end, addresses the dogmatism that dominated, and the centralism
that paralyzed, the process of decision making under communist rule. Moreover,
he states that, even in the eve of the Revolution of 1989, Ceauescu was afraid
not of a popular revolt, but of a coup initiated from within the party.224
Dumitru Popescu, the chief ideologue under Ceauescu, authored numerous
volumes of autobiographical inspiration. As the youngest member of CPEx of
the CC of PCR in 1968, he witnessed the discussions within the inner circle of
power during the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia by the armies of the
Warsaw Treaty Organization, so his interpretation of Ceauescus critical stance
is worth a glance.225 Some backstage information on Romanias political and
military relations with the Soviet Union and other WTO member states was
provided by Constantin Olteanu, former minister of national defense between
1980 and 1985.226 As for the high-ranking officers of the former Securitate, the
most prominent who decided to speak was general Nicolae Plei. An extremely controversial figure, Plei, gave a book-length interview in which he maintains that the secret police actually defended the Romanian national interest and
served the people.227 The recollections of the former officials of the Ceauescu
period are complemented by the memoirs authored by Mihaela M. Ceauescu,
daughter of Marin Ceauescu, one of Nicolae Ceauescus brothers. As niece of
the former supreme leader, she offers an insiders view on the private life of the
Ceauescu couple, as well as on the relations between Nicolae Ceauescu and his



[Diplomacy behind the scenes. Memoirs of an ambassador]. Bucharest [s.d.]. Another

diplomat of the Ceauescu period was Valentin Lipatti. Coming from a well-to-do
family his brother was the famous pianist Dinu Lipatti, who died in exile in Switzerland Lipattis memoirs provide details on Romanian diplomacy from the early
1960s to the early 1980s. See Lipatti, Valentin: Strada Povernei 23 [23 Povernei Street].
Bucharest 1993.
Curticeanu, Silviu: Mrturia unei istorii trite. Imagini suprapuse [Testimony of a
lived history. Overlapping images]. Bucharest 2000.
See Popescu, Dumitru: Elefanii de porelan. Scene i personagii n umbra Cortinei
de Fier Memorii transfigurate [The china elephants. Scenes and characters in Iron
Curtains shadow Transfigured memoirs]. Bucharest [s.d.], 45-60. See also Idem: Un
fost lider comunist se destinuie. Am fost i cioplitor de himere [A former communist leader confesses. I was also a carver of chimeras]. Bucharest [s.d.]; Idem: Cronos
autodevorndu-se. Memorii [Chronos devouring himself. Memoirs]. 4 vols. Bucharest
Olteanu, Constantin: Romnia, o voce distinct n Tratatul de la Varovia. Memorii
1980-1985 [Romania, a distinct voice within the Warsaw Treaty Organization. Memoirs 1980-1985]. Bucharest 1999.
Plei was the head of the Romanian Foreign Intelligence Service (Serviciul de
Informaii Externe) between 1980 and 1984. Regarding some of his debatable statements, see for instance Chapter 3 in the book, which is dedicated to Romanian dissidence. See Plei, Nicolae/Patrichi, Viorel: Ochii i urechile poporului. Convorbiri
cu generalul Nicolae Plei [Peoples eyes and ears. Conversations with general Nicolae Plei]. Bucharest 2001, esp. 55-65.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

relatives. Not surprisingly after all, her account tends to emphasize certain humane aspects of her family.228
Generally, the above-discussed nomenklatura members overemphasize the
achievements of the communist regime, such as spread of education and sanitation, the rapid pace of industrialization and urbanization, and above all the
independent stance towards the Soviet Union. None of them addresses seriously the Stalinist terror and the large number of victims it produced under
Gheorghiu-Dej in the 1950s, or the structural economic crisis and the endemic
shortages endured under Ceauescu during the 1980s. The image of the communist regime they proposed resonated in post-communist Romania only in
those who were nostalgic for the good old days, or possibly in those who were
turned into the losers of the transition to a market economy. Apart from these
former party officials, there were not many those who produced positive evaluations of the communist period. To sum up, from the four main themes discussed above, two histories of a mutually antagonistic nature could be discerned. Both representations resulted from a selective remembrance of the recent
past. The first, and by far the most powerful, vision offers a gloomy image of
communism, as if the period of Stalinist random terror spanned until the final
demise of the regime in December 1989. The first three themes analyzed above
concur in constructing such a vision of communism, i.e.: (1) Communism as
alien to the Romanian psyche and imposed by the Red Army; (2) Stalinist terror
in Romania as unparalleled in Sovietized Europe; and (3) Ceauescus communism as exceptionally repressive.
Such a vision was apparently consistent with the fresh memory of the depressing 1980s in Romania, but it overlooks the radical changes underwent by all
communist regimes in the post-Stalinist era. In fact, such a perspective on communism emerged from various private accounts on the sufferings in the Romanian Gulag, which resonated with the public interest in discovering and unmasking the perpetrators. Obviously, this way of remembering was initially
triggered by a legitimate quest to preserve the memory of the early victims of
communism, which was indeed an urgent task given the age of the few survivors.
Moreover, such a vision was quickly accepted since it absolved most of the
population of any collective guilt over the communist era. It was they the
nomenklatura, the party, and the Securitate, who did it to us the innocent
mass of victims. Furthermore, in a country where anti-communist opposition
before 1989 was among the weakest in the Soviet bloc, it was extremely convenient, especially for those who emerged as critiques of the former regime only
after its collapse, i.e., the post-communist anti-communists, to consider that the
228 See Ceauescu, Mihaela M.: Nu regret, nu m jelesc, nu strig [I do not regret, I do not
moan, I do not shout]. Bucharest 2005. The volume also contains numerous family
photos. Emil Brbulescu, a nephew of the last supreme leader of PCR, also wrote a
volume of recollections that contains mostly anecdotic notes from his life. See
Brbulescu, Emil: Nicolae Ceauescu a fost unchiul meu [Nicolae Ceauescu was my
uncle]. [s.l.] [s.d.].



Romanian regime was among the most repressive ones. In other words, any
conceivable attempt at rebelling before 1989 could not have ended otherwise but
by being brutally repressed. Such perspectives on the communist past fail to take
into account that it was in the nature of the communist regimes to enforce a
humiliating kind of collaboration, based on daily lies and tiny compromises, as
a bargain for a tolerable life. Consequently, the sharp distinctions between us,
the victims, and them, the perpetrators, were gradually blurred.
As the transition to democracy became if not increasingly problematic, at
least significantly traumatic, a second vision on the communist past emerged.
This was caused by a sort of nostalgia for the period when the paternalist partystate was able to secure jobs, guarantee decent wages and assure free education
or health care. In Romania, given the extreme forms of deprivation in the last
decade before the Revolution of 1989, communist nostalgia as expressed by
ordinary people is not as prominent as in other countries of the former Soviet
bloc. In fact, a reassessment of the communist period in terms of everyday life
barely exists in written form. Nevertheless, a Romanian perspective that tries to
recuperate the communist period could be associated with the attempts of the
former nomenklatura members to reevaluate the legacy of the Romanian communism in terms of its achievements in modernizing the country and ensuring
its alleged independence from Moscow. Such a vision is illustrated by the fourth
theme discussed above: (4) Communism as sheer progress and defender of national interest. As mentioned, this vision naturally overlooks the early period of
mass terror, since those who propose it sided with them, the former wrongdoers.
Both ways of remembering Romanian communism suffer not only from a
partial amnesia, but also from a strong emphasis on its exceptionalism: one with
regard to the extreme forms of repression, the other to the maverick position
within the communist bloc. Both look at a particular part of the communist
period, and ignore the rest. In short, both are unsuitable as basis for understanding the communist past. It is these authors opinion that a third perspective on
communism must be developed. Arguably, the two visions discussed above
should not be understood as mutually exclusive, one being documented by victims and the other by executioners, but as complementary. It is impossible to
understand the inner dynamics of the communist regimes, which lasted long
enough to transform themselves, without taking into account that the surviving
victims had to adapt themselves to a new political and social order. In other
words, when mass terror was no longer necessary, the former victims reemerged
not as opponents, but as silenced bystanders under a regime based on inertia and
the implicit approval of all the beneficiaries of a tacit deal. At the same time,
the regime continued to use until its very end types of control softer than brutal
imprisonment and torture, but able to produce the desired effects in a society
that lacked sound traditions of self-organization. Nevertheless, these methods of
control could not have been applied without the active support of a significant
number of Romanians who collaborated with the secret police and the passive


Cristina Petrescu and Drago Petrescu

The Piteti Syndrome: A Romanian Vergangenheitsbewltigung? . . . . . 502
Georgiy Kasianov
The Great Famine of 1932-1933 (Holodomor) and the Politics
of History in Contemporary Ukraine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 619
Autorenverzeichnis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 642

cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

stances by many who considered that the regime was able to offer them enough
in exchange for their compliance. The recollections of the communist past do
not cover such issues. Therefore, the dominant public representation of that
past, which is still tributary to the various forms of remembering as long as
historical writing is lagging behind, could not be different either. The question
is that such a representation of communism, although dominant, contributes to
the fulfillment of the process of reconciliation with that particular period of the
past. Thus, the recent past continues to be a presence in Romania, all the more
that the circumstances of the break with that past remain to this day veiled in
mystery. The following part analyzes the controversies over the collapse of communism in Romania.

The Contested End of Communism in Romania

Political Ambiguities and Unanswered Questions
None of the controversies stirred by issues related to the communist past were
able to equal even remotely the controversy over the nature of the 1989 events
in Romania. Due to the countless scenarios put forward by scholars and laypeople alike, Romanias exit from communism in December 1989 has emerged as a
separate topic, which tends to be disconnected from the narrative on communism. Beyond the particularities of the Romanian case, the events of 1989 that
provoked the breakdown of the communist regimes in East-Central Europe
triggered serious scholarly reflection. Ralf Dahrendorf, J. F. Brown, Gale Stokes,
Charles Tilly, Vladimir Tismneanu, Samuel N. Eisenstadt, Rudolf L. Tkes,
Jack A. Goldstone, Ivo Banac, Leslie Holmes and Ivan T. Berend, to name only
a few, have defined the events of 1989 as revolutions. Nonetheless, different
terms have been employed in order to describe the revolutions in Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria or Romania. Some authors have
characterized the Polish and Hungarian events as negotiated revolutions. Rudolf L. Tks, for example, has employed the concept of negotiated revolution
as both a descriptive label and a metaphor to call attention to the political
ambiguity of the outcome.229 Timothy Garton Ash has coined the famous term
refolutions to characterize the same 1989 events in Poland and Hungary.230

229 Tks, Rudolf L.: Hungarys Negotiated Revolution. Economic Reform, Social
Change, and Political Succession 1957-1990. Cambridge 1996, 439.
230 As Garton Ash puts it: It was in fact, a mixture of reform and revolution []. There was a strong and essential element of change from above led by an enlightened
minority in the still ruling communist parties. But there was also a vital element of
popular pressure from below. In Hungary, there was rather more of the former, in
Poland of the latter, yet in both countries the story was that of an interaction between
the two. The interaction was, however, largely mediated by negotiations between ru-



As far as Hungary was concerned, some authors have employed the notion
of lawful revolution in order to make sense of a series of events that occurred
peacefully within the constitutional framework of the state.231 Others simply
called those events a regime change.232 In the case of former Czechoslovakia,
many opted for the term velvet revolution,233 while in the case of East Germany the term put forward was that of spontaneous revolution, seen as an
event that occurred spontaneously and ensued nonviolently.234
What about the Romanian case? In order to have a better understanding of
the difficult questions of interpretation posed by the Romanian case, let us summarize briefly the unfolding of events during the period 15-25 December 1989.235
The Romanian Revolution began in Timioara, sparked by the silent protest of
a small group of believers gathered on 15 December around the house of reverend
Lszl Tks, who was in charge with the local parish of the Hungarian Reformed (Calvinist) Church since 1987. A rebellious character, Tks had been
very active during the 1980s in defending the rights of the Hungarian minority
in Romania and thus annoying the communist authorities in Bucharest. In order
to isolate and silence him, the bishop of Oradea, Lszl Papp, issued an order
to relocate Tks to Mineu, a small locality in Northern Transylvania. Conse-



ling and opposition elites. See Garton Ash, Timothy: The Magic Lantern. The Revolutions of 89 Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin and Prague. New York 1993,
Drawing on Istvn Deks concept of lawful revolution, applied to the Revolution
of 1848-49 in Hungary, Bla K. Kirly has argued that the Hungarian Revolution of
1989 can also be described as a lawful revolution. See Kirly, Bla K.: Soft Dictatorship, Lawful Revolution, and the Socialists Return to Power. In: Lawful Revolution
in Hungary 1989-94. Ed. by Idem. Boulder/Colorado 1995, 5.
See Kis, Jnos: Between Reform and Revolution. Three Hypotheses About the Nature
of the Regime Change. In: Kirly 1995 (cf. n. 231), 34.
Bradley, John F. N.: Czechoslovakias Velvet Revolution. A Political Analysis. Boulder/
Colorado 1992, 105.
See Opp, Karl-Dieter: Some Conditions for the Emergence of Spontaneous, Nonviolent Revolutions. In: Origins of a Spontaneous Revolution. East Germany 1989. Ed.
by Karl-Dieter Opp, Peter Voss and Christiane Gern. Ann Arbor 1995, 225.
A still controversial attempt at stirring a mass protest against the Ceauescu regime
was intended to take place in the city of Iai, the main cultural and economic center
in Eastern Romania, on 14 December 1989. The organizers intention was to call for
a mass rally in the main square of the city, the Unirii Square (Piaa Unirii), at 1600
hours and provoke an open protest against the regime. The details of the respective
action have not been clarified yet (some authors spoke of a provocation orchestrated
by the Securitate); what is clear is that nothing happened because the authorities managed to arrest the initiators the same day, i.e., 14 December 1989. For a collection of
newspaper articles and short interviews regarding that event see Spiridon, Cassian
Maria: Iai. 14 decembrie 1989, nceputul Revoluiei Romne [Iai. 14 December 1989,
the beginning of the Romanian Revolution]. Iai 1994.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

quently, he was supposed to be forcefully evacuated from Timioara.236 In order

to prevent his removal, a group of believers belonging to the Hungarian minority gathered in front of his house in the evening of 15 December. However, beginning with 16 December, the demonstration of solidarity with Tks turned
gradually into a demonstration against the regime that was increasingly joined
by Romanians as well. In spite of the savage repression of 17 December,
Timioaras bloody Sunday237, the protest continued and the city virtually fell
in the hands of protesters by 20 December. At the same time, news about the
Timioara uprising reached the Western capitals from the night of 17-18 December onwards.
In the midst of an acute crisis, Nicolae Ceauescu decided to pay an official
visit to Iran (18-20 December), as originally scheduled. Once returned home on
21 December, Ceauescu called for a mass meeting in Bucharest. He imagined
perhaps that he would be able to reenact the famous balcony scene of 21 August
1968, when he condemned the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet-led
troops of the Warsaw Treaty Organization and secured widespread popular support for his regime. During the Bucharest meeting that took place in front of
the building of CC of PCR, the crowd started to shout, possibly due to a provocation. A few minutes later, the mass rally that was intended to support
Ceauescus rule turned into an anti-Ceauescu demonstration.
Gathered in the University Square in Bucharest, a group of demonstrators
erected a barricade and continued their protest during the night of 21 to 22
December. As for the communist authorities, the first measure they took was to
block the access towards the building of the CC of PCR. Army units backed by
armored vehicles were called to reinforce the already existing units in the area.
Like in Timioara, the troops called to repress the protesters comprised the army,
the militia, the riot police and the Securitate. In addition, six fire engines were
brought to back the riot police at the nearby Intercontinental Hotel. At about
2230 hours the protesters erected a barricade across the Nicolae Blcescu Boulevard. The barricade, which was subsequently set on fire by the revolutionaries,
was only dismantled with the help of the tanks around 2330 hours on 21 December. The shooting started at about 2300 hours on 21 December and lasted until
0300 hours on 22 December.238 Then, the authorities tried to wipe out the
236 For more on the Tks case see Mioc, Marius (ed.): Revoluia, fr mistere. Cazul
Lszl Tks Documente din arhiva Judectoriei Timiora. Documente din arhiva
parohiei reformate Timioara. Mrturii [The revolution, void of mysteries. The Lszl Tks case Documents from the archive of the Timioara Court of Justice. Documents from the archive of the Timioara Reformed Parish Church. Testimonies].
Timioara 2002. See also Idem: The Anticommunist Romanian Revolution of 1989
Written for people with little knowledge about Romania. Timioara 2004, esp. 19-24.
237 The term was first used by Mioc. See Mioc 2004 (cf. n. 236), 28.
238 Tnase, Stelian: Solstiiu nsngerat la Bucureti [Bloody solstice in Bucharest]. In:
ocuri i crize [Shocks and crises]. Bucharest 1993, 14-15. See also Codrescu, Costache
(ed.): Armata Romn n revoluia din decembrie 1989 [The Romanian army in the
Revolution of December 1989]. Bucharest [21998], 112.



traces of the repression in the University Square: the pavement was washed, the
debris collected.
However, in the morning of 22 December 1989, large crowds poured into the
streets of Bucharest and assaulted the building of CC of PCR. Nicolae Ceauescu
and his wife, Elena, fled the building by helicopter. The presidential helicopter
took off from the upper platform of the building at exactly 1208 hours on 22December 1989 and the very same day the Ceauescu couple was arrested. On
25December, the revolutionary regime issued an official statement announcing
that Nicolae Ceauescu and his wife had been put on trial, found guilty of
genocide among others and executed. Nonetheless, the very fact that the
newly established National Salvation Front comprised many former communist
officials raised the question if Romania has witnessed a true revolution or only
a revolution, namely a disguised coup dtat.
In light of the above, it may be argued that the 1989 regime change in Romania was the most controversial of all the regime changes in East-Central Europe.
First and foremost, the events in that country contradicted the non-violent,
peaceful, post-modern character of the other Revolutions of 1989. As J. F.
Brown put it, the Romanian revolution added to the East-Central European
revolutions the missing elements of a classic revolution: violence, bloodshed
and tyrannicide.239 If violence is an essential element of a revolution, can one
then characterize the 1989 events in East-Central Europe with the notable
exception of Romania as revolutions? Paradoxically, in spite of their violent
character, the revolutionary nature of the 1989 events in Romania was highly
contested shortly afterwards both at home and abroad. Timothy Garton Ash,
who did not witness the 1989 events Romania, but only those in Poland, Hungary the former GDR and Czechoslovakia, wrote in 1990, obviously impressed
by what happened in Bucharest in December 1989: Nobody hesitated to call
what happened in Romania a revolution. After all, it really looked like one:
angry crowds on the streets, tanks, government buildings in flames, the dictator
put up against a wall and shot.240 In 1999, heavily influenced by what happened afterwards, he commented in a volume celebrating ten years after the
Revolutions of 1989: Curiously enough the moment when people in the West
finally thought there was a revolution was when they saw television pictures of
Romania: crowds, tanks, shooting, blood in the streets. They said: That we
know that is a revolution, and of course the joke is that it was the only one that
wasnt.241 In short, while the non-violent, non-ideological, negotiated, spontaneous or velvet Central European revolutions looked like genuine regime
changes, the Romanian revolution was perceived as a mockery meant to disguise
239 Brown, James F.: Surge to Freedom. The End of Communist Rule in Eastern Europe.
Durham 1991, 1.
240 Garton Ash 1993 (cf. n. 230), 20.
241 Garton Ash, Timothy: Conclusions. In: Between Past and Future. The Revolutions
of 1989 and Their Aftermath. Ed. by Sorin Antohi and Vladimir Tismneanu. Budapest 2000, 395.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

an incomplete break with communism. As a consequence, numerous foreign

and local authors, disillusioned with the slow pace of the post-1989 transition to
democracy, have expressed the idea of a questionable revolution in Romania.
Some used the word revolution in quotation marks, in order to emphasize its
ambiguities, while others went even further and stated openly that in December
1989 Romania witnessed a coup dtat. Hence, the Romanian Revolution was
defined as doubtful, entangled, unfinished, gunned down, stolen or
diverted. Revolutions do occur unexpectedly, but the Romanian Revolution
was much more of an unexpected revolution than any of the other revolutions
in 1989.242

The Afterlife of the Romanian Revolution

The collapse of communism in East-Central Europe was determined by an intricate interplay of a variety of factors, and Romania was no exception. Academics and scholars, historians, social scientists, politicians, journalists, as well as
laypeople have tried to offer a viable explanation of the sudden demise of communism in that country. As already mentioned, Romania did not have a strong
tradition of public protest. No opposition from below, on the model of the
Polish Solidarity, or from above, on the model of the Czechoslovak Prague
Spring, not to speak of a revolt from below and from above on the model of the
Hungarian Revolution of 1956 emerged under the communist rule. Thus, it was
even more difficult to interpret the unexpected outbreak of mass protest of
December 1989. Furthermore, the very nature of those events became a matter
of concern for an overwhelming majority of the population immediately after
the regime change.
Crucial questions concerning the causes, unfolding and outcome of the 1989
events in Romania were waiting for an answer. For instance: Was it a revolution
or a more or less disguised coup dtat? If it was a revolution, why it started in
Timioara, and why exactly in December 1989? Why violence and bloodshed
instead of a negotiated solution? What made an apparently monolithic partystate simply collapse and disappear, suddenly and unexpectedly? Moreover, it
was by no means enough to analyze the causes of the sudden demise of the regime on 22 December 1989 at noon. The revolution continued and blood was
also spilled after 22 December. Thus, what happened after 1208 hours on 22December 1989 represents an equally intriguing and intricate story. The period
22-25 December 1989, that is, the period inaugurated by the flight of the
Ceauescu couple from the building of the Central Committee and their hasten
execution after a mock trial made things only more complicated. Of the total
242 Paul Kecskemeti inspiredly employed this term to define the Hungarian Revolution
of 1956. See Kecskemeti, Paul: The Unexpected Revolution. Social Forces in the Hungarian Uprising. Stanford 1961.



number of victims officially registered that is, 1,104 dead and 3,321 wounded,
944 died and 2,214 were wounded after 22 December. 243 In the conditions in
which power was seized in post-communism by former party apparatchiks, the
emerging opposition adopted anti-communism as a political marker, as illustrated above, and argued that the anti-communist character of the revolution
was diverted. To sum up, the controversies concerning the outburst, character
and aftermath of the Romanian Revolution of 1989 fuelled to this day the most
heated public polemics of post-communism. Briefly put, disagreement exists
with regard to three crucial questions concerning the 1989 events in Romania:
Who started them? Why did they claim so many lives? and Was it, what happened in December 1989, a true revolution or not?244 These controversies developed and evolved, mostly but not entirely, along the political and societal cleavages post-communist anti-communists vs. neo-communists. From these debates,
three major interpretations of the events of 1989 in Romania emerged: (1) authentic revolution, (2) confiscated revolution, and (3) international conspiracy.245 The three categories proposed by the authors of this study are presented in
the order of their plausibility from the viewpoint of a causal explanation based
on a historical reconstruction of the events, considering an entire set of long- and
short-term political, social, economic and cultural causes and taking into consideration the contingency aspect. Otherwise, the most popular up to the
point of representing the common place about the Romanian Revolution is
the second interpretation, which supports the thesis that in 1989 the popular
243 Codrescu 1998 (cf. n. 238), 462.
244 Three internationally acclaimed post-communist Romanian movies, all released in the
same year 2006, deal with these three crucial questions related to the Revolution of
1989. Cum mi-am petrecut sfritul lumii [The way I spent the end of the world] by
Ctlin Mitulescu explores the premises of the unexpected Romanian revolution
and advanced the ironic idea that the revolt was sparkled by a child. Hrtia va fi
albastr [Paper will be blue] by Radu Muntean depicts the general confusion that
characterized the days of the revolution, and led to many useless killings. A fost sau
n-a fost? [Was it, or was it not?] by Corneliu Porumboiu internationally released
under the title 12:08 East of Bucharest is constructed around the fundamental question: was it or was it not a revolution what happened in 1989? A highly ironical debate takes place among the inhabitants of a small city in Moldova, where most individuals watched the revolution on TV, but some indeed poured into the central square
on 22 December. Accordingly, the key question on the nature of the events of 1989 is
reduced to the establishment of the exact time when they had actually expressed their
revolt: before 1208 hours, when Ceauescu left the headquarters of the CC of PCR,
or after.
245 A more detailed taxonomy of the discourses on the 1989 events, written from the
perspective of literary studies, has been authored by Ruxandra Cesereanu. The aforementioned author classifies the discourses on the Revolution of 1989 as follows: (1)
The purists: 1.1 Those in power; 1.2 Those outside the power circle; and 1.3 Other
voices; (2) The conspiracy theory: 2.1 The external plot; 2.2 The internal plot; and (3)
The thesis of a revolution hybridized with a coup dtat. See Cesereanu, Ruxandra:
Decembrie 89. Deconstrucia unei revoluii [December 1989. The deconstruction of
a revolution]. Iai 2004, 63-180.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

uprising was diverted by a coup dtat that hampered a genuine regime change.
One should also note that a majority of the discourses on the revolution are not
present in a pure state, but rather in a blended form, especially those supporting
the international conspiracy thesis.
(1) 1989 An Authentic Revolution. This interpretation maintains that there
was a spontaneous mass revolt of the population in Timioara, followed by a
second revolt in Bucharest, which led to Ceauescus flight. In short, the events
of 1989 represented a genuine revolution that put an end to the communist regime in Romania. Such a view has been shared since December 1989 by numerous representatives of the newly established National Salvation Front, as well as
by a major part of the authentic revolutionaries, that is, those laypeople who
actually protested in the streets prior to 22 December. Prominent members of
FSN, many of whom built nice careers under the communist regime, saw in the
revolution the only legitimizing element for continuing an equally promising
career well into the post-communist period. For them, a revolution meant a new
beginning that obscured their unusable communist past. By contrast, most of
the genuine revolutionaries, many of whom were wounded and saw their friends
or relatives dying during the events in December 1989, were the true believers in
the revolutionary idea. After all, they were the real heroes, who decided to risk
their lives in order to provoke the fall of the Ceauescu regime.
Arguments in favor of such an interpretation are provided in numerous works
by high-ranking members of the first post-communist regime. Ion Iliescu, the
leader of FSN and the first post-communist president of Romania, provided his
version of the events. According to Iliescu, the Romanian Revolution did not
represent the peak of cumulative efforts directed towards the regime change like
in other countries. In Romania, it was the lack of reforms that provoked a social
explosion, which overthrew the Ceauescu regime.246 The first post-communist
prime minister, Petre Roman, wrote about his involvement in the popular revolt
in an autobiographical work and formulated the following argument: the Romanian Revolution of 1989 was characterized by so many ambiguities, hesitations and uncertainties because it was sparked by a spontaneous uprising.247
Sergiu Nicolaescu, a successful film director under the Ceauescu regime and a
post-1989 politician close to Ion Iliescu, also authored an account on the revolution and its causes.248 Witness accounts and testimonies by the participants to
the revolution constitute an important source in the attempt at a historical reconstruction of the events.249 Not surprisingly, the brutally repressed revolt in
246 Iliescu, Ion: Revoluie i reform [Revolution and reform]. Bucharest 1994; and Idem:
Revoluia trit [A lived revolution]. Bucharest 1995.
247 Roman, Petre: Libertatea ca datorie [Freedom as duty]. Cluj 1994, esp. 103-126.
248 Nicolaescu, Sergiu: Revoluia nceputul adevrului. Un raport personal [The revolution The beginning of the truth. A personal report]. Bucharest 1995.
249 For the events in Bucharest see Stan, Apostol: Revoluia romn vzut din strad,
decembrie 1989-iunie 1990 [The Romanian revolution seen from the street, December
1989-June 1990]. Bucharest 2007. For the events in Braov see Petracu, Marius et. al.:



Timioara was not only remembered by direct participants,250 but also turned into
an object of research by some of them.251 The growing corpus of eyewitness accounts however did not bring clarity in interpreting the events of December 1989.
Direct participants transmit one certitude: they had indeed manifested against the
regime at the time when this was still in power. Otherwise, the multitude of details
actually increases the confusion that anyway surrounds the revolution and contributes by default to the public disbelief in this interpretation.
(2) 1989 A Confiscated Revolution. Disenchanted critical intellectuals and
scholars, from Romania and abroad, have been at the origin of the second major
interpretation of the 1989 events that reads as follows: The revolution initiated
by the population in Timioara was confiscated in Bucharest. According to this
interpretation, the second- and third-rank nomenklatura members benefiting
mainly from Soviet support deviated the anti-communist goal of the revolution.
Thus, this version considers that the events unfolded in two phases: a genuine
revolution that originated in Timioara and a coup dtat that took place in BuUn pas spre libertate. Braov, decembrie 1989 [A step towards liberty. Braov, December 1989]. Braov [s.d.]. Regarding the role the Romanian Television played during the
period 22-25 December 1989, the coordinator of programs Teodor Brate, who witnessed the first announcement made by the revolutionaries regarding the fall of
Ceauescu and stayed in charge with broadcasting the news for the next 70 hours
after this historical moment, provided a personal account in Brate, Teodor: Explozia
unei clipe. 22 decembrie 1989 O zi n Studioul 4 [The explosion of an instant: 22
December 1989 One day in Studio no. 4]. Bucharest 1992. In addition, precious
information is offered by a volume edited by the Romanian Radio Broadcasting Society, which contains a selection of the programs broadcast during the period 17-25
December 1989. Societatea Romn de Radiodifuziune [Romanian Radio Broadcasting Society]: E un nceput n tot sfritul[There is a beginning in the whole end].
Bucharest 1998.
250 A first volume that focuses on the experiences of the revolutionaries in Timioara,
which gathers valuable testimonies by participants to the events, is: Timioara 16-22
decembrie 1989 [Timioara 16-22 December 1989]. Timioara 1990. Another volume
heavily based on oral history interviews with direct participants is: Milin, Miodrag:
Timioara n revoluie i dup [Timioara in revolution and after]. Timioara 1997.
251 A direct participant to the 1989 events, Marius Mioc has been extremely active in researching and disseminating firsthand information about the revolution in Timioara.
Long accounts by revolutionaries in Timioara are to be found in Mioc, Marius:
Revoluia din Timioara i falsificatorii istoriei [The revolution in Timioara and the
falsifiers of history]. Timioara 1999. See also Idem: The Anticommunist Romanian
Revolution (cf. n. 236); and Idem: Revoluia din 1989 i minciunile din Jurnalul
Naional. Mitul agenturilor strine, Mitul Securitii atotputernice [The Revolution
of 1989 and lies of [newspaper] Jurnalul Naional. The myth of foreign agencies and
the myth of the almighty Securitate]. Timioara 2005; as well as Idem 2002 (cf. n. 236);
and Idem: Trials of the Revolution in Timioara (cf. n. 60). A volume edited by Miodrag Milin, which is based on documents from the archives of Radio Free Europe,
reconstructs the flux of information that nurtured the revolts in the other parts of the
country. See Milin, Miodrag (ed.): Timioara n arhivele Europei Libere 17-20 Decembrie 1989 [Timioara in the archives of the Radio Free Europe 17-20 December
1989]. Bucharest 1999.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

charest. This view on December 1989 became more articulated after the victory
of FSN, led by Ion Iliescu, in the first post-communist elections of 20 May 1990,
and the above-mentioned repression of the protesters in the University Square
in Bucharest on 13-15 June the same year. Such an interpretation is also supported by participants to the events and journalists, as well as by segments of the
general public, especially by those bystanders who had only a mediated experience of December 1989. Furthermore, TV programs have focused time and
again on such scenarios that proved to be extremely popular with large audi
ences.252 Such an idea about the events of 1989 was formulated and reiterated by
individuals with very diverse backgrounds. For instance, Dorin Tudoran, a
former anticommunist dissident who was forced to leave the country and settled
eventually in the United States, affirmed that a coup dtat hindered the popular
uprising in becoming a revolution.253 Dumitru Mazilu, a second-rank nomenklatura member who became critical of Ceauescus human rights violations in
the late 1980s, argued that the revolution was stolen.254 A gifted migr analyst
of the communist power in Romania, Victor Frunz developed a more refined
argument, but along the same lines: the second echelon of the nomenklatura
confiscated a revolution carried out mainly by the anti-communist young generations.255 More generally, the idea of a diverted revolution has been expressed
by a majority of the authors by using the term revolution in quotation marks.256
Implicitly supported by the persistence of so many enigmas, this interpretation
has become mainstream in the long run.
(3) 1989 An international conspiracy. A third interpretation sees the events
of 1989 as being the direct result of a joint effort conducted from abroad by the
intelligence agencies of the two superpowers, the KGB and the CIA, with the
252 The series of fifteen TV roundtables dedicated by journalist Vartan Arachelian to the
mysteries of the 1989 revolution appeared also in written version as Arachelian, Vartan:
n faa dumneavoastr. Revoluia i personajele sale [In front of you. The revolution
and its characters]. Bucharest 1998. During a roundtable, journalist Sorin RocaStnescu has summarized the interpretation discussed in this section as follows: A
revolution that started in Timioara was killed by a coup dtat. See Ibid., 243.
253 Tudoran, Dorin: Kakistocraia [Kakistocracy]. Chiinu 1998, 519.
254 Mazilu, Dumitru: Revoluia furat. De la totalitarism spre libertate Memoriu pentru ara mea [The stolen revolution. From totalitarianism to freedom A memoir for
my country]. Bucharest 1991. On 22 December 1989, after the fall of Ceauescu, Mazilu was co-opted to the leadership of FSN, but on 25 January 1990 he resigned from
his position and distanced himself from Ion Iliescu.
255 Frunz, Victor: Revoluia mpucat sau P.C.R. dup 22 decembrie 1989 [The gunned
down revolution or the Romanian Communist Party after 22 December 1989]. Bucharest 1994, esp. 7-14 and 23-25.
256 Among the first to do so were Katherine Verdery and Gail Kligman. See Verdery/
Kligman 1992 (cf. n. 33), 117. See also Gillet, Olivier: Religion et nationalisme.
LIdeologie de lEglise othodoxe roumaine sous le regime communiste. Bruxelles 1997,
132. From among the Romanian prominent authors that employed a similar approach
see for instance Marino, Adrian: Triptic [Triptych]. In: Momentul adevrului [The
moment of truth]. Ed. by Iordan Chimet. Cluj 1996, 312.



complicity of some local groups from the party, the secret police and the mi
litary. A majority of those who support this interpretation claim, very much alike
the proponents of the confiscated revolution version of the events in December 1989, that the Soviet involvement was the most significant. These conspiracy theories and absurd scenarios filled the pages of the newly established newspapers, journals and magazines, especially in the early 1990s. However, apart
from a few coherent accounts, the media only conveyed a large quantity of rumors and hearsay. It should be mentioned that no serious scholar has provided
strong arguments to support such an interpretation. Instead, this version of the
events has been supported mainly by journalists or by former members of the
secret police and the military turned writers after 1989.257
Filip Teodorescu, a former deputy of the head of the counterintelligence section of the secret police, who was sent to the court in the above-mentioned
Trial of the Twenty-Five for his involvement in the repression in Timiora,
claimed that the violent events of December 1989 were stirred from outside the
country, following an agreement between West and East, i.e., between the
United States and the Soviet Union.258 Niculae Mavru, the former head of the
Surveillance and Investigation Section of the Timioara branch of the Securitate,
supported a similar point of view, but insisted more on the Soviet involvement.
In his book, he affirmed that, from the second half of November 1989, Soviet
male citizens riding Lada cars with successive registration numbers appeared in
the Timioara region. Furthermore, he stated that in December 1989 around
2,000 Soviet tourists could be found in the city of Timioara and its vicinity.259
Besides such high-ranking officers of the secret police, some witness accounts by
participants to the revolution in smaller cities have supported such views.260
257 A brief survey of the conspiracy theories put forward immediately after the fall of the
Ceauescu regime is made in Perva, Aurel/Roman, Carol: Misterele revoluiei romne.
Revenire dup ani [The mysteries of the Romanian Revolution. A comeback after
years]. Bucharest 1991.
258 Teodorescu, Filip: Un risc asumat. Timioara, decembrie 1989 [An undertaken risk.
Timioara, December 1989]. Bucharest 1992, esp. 43-51. The idea that an international
conspiracy led by the CIA and the KGB provoked the fall of Nicolae Ceauescu in
December 1989 is also put forward in Armean, Cornel: De ce a fost ucis? Ar fi mplinit 75 de ani [Why was he killed? He would have turned 75]. [s.l.] 1993, esp. 164165.
259 Mavru, Niculae: Revoluia din strad. Amintirile fostului ef al Serviciului de Filaj i
Investigaie de la Timioara [The revolution in the street. Memoirs of the former head
of the Timioara Surveillance and Investigation section]. Bucharest 2004, 60-64. Valentin Raiha also authored a book with very telling title that denounced the 1989
events as a coup dtat organized by the military with the support of the Soviet Union.
See Raiha, Valentin: n decembrie 89 KGB a aruncat n aer Romnia cu complicitatea unui grup de militari [In December 89 KGB blew Romania up with the complicity of a group of militaries]. Bucharest 1995.
260 For instance, Constantin Vasiles book, which focuses on the unfolding of events in
the city of Sibiu, concludes that Romania witnessed in 1989 a coup dtat organized by
the military. See Vasile, Constantin: Noi am fost teroritii?! [Have we been the terro-


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

Furthermore, those institutions that were directly involved in the repression of

the protesters until 22 December and shifted sides afterwards have published
reports revealing diversionary activities by foreign organizations that misled
their troops during the revolution and thus provoked confusion and eventually
bloodshed. The official viewpoint of the military was included in a volume
based not only on documents (generally inaccessible to a civilian researcher), but
also on the testimonies of the officers and soldiers implicated in the events. In
addition, several high-ranking officers in the army provided personal perspectives on the role of the military in the respective events, which tend to justify
the actions undertaken by this institution.261 Finally, the Ministry of Internal
Affairs provided its own version on the involvement of its troops in a work of
modest dimensions, which refers even more substantially to the alleged involvement of unknown individuals, most likely foreigners.262 To sum up, the uncertainties regarding the unfolding of the events in December 1989 fuel the scenario of a foreign intervention that stirred the Romanian Revolution.
Is there something that the Romanians know twenty years after? In spite of
the large number of monographs, memoirs, chronologies, witness accounts and
documents published until now, ambiguities and controversies abound.263 In
rists?!]. Sibiu 1995.
261 Codrescu 1998 (cf. n. 238). See personal reflections on those events in Urdreanu,
Tiberiu: 1989 Martor i participant [1989 Witness and participant]. Bucharest
1996; Sava, Constantin/Monac, Constantin: Adevr despre decembrie 1989.
Conspiraie, diversiune, revoluie [Truth about December 1989. Conspiracy, diversion, revolution]. Bucharest 1999. Of particular interest is the volume gathering the
interviews and witness accounts given by general tefan Gu (1940-1994), who played
a key role during the 1989 events both in Timioara (17-22 December) and in Bucharest (22-28 December). The volume was published posthumously under the care of his
daughter. See Gu de Drgan, Daniela Veronica (ed.): Condamnat la adevr. General
tefan Gu [Condemned to truthfulness. General tefan Gu]. Bucharest 2004, esp.
262 Pitulescu, Ion (ed.): ase zile care au zguduit Romnia: Ministerul de interne n decembrie 1989 [Six days that shook Romania. The Ministry of Internal Affairs in December 1989]. Bucharest 1995. With regard to a series of ambiguities contained by the
volume see Arachelian 1998 (cf. n. 252), 256. Apart from this official point of view,
general Ionel Gal, former deputy to the minister of internal affairs and former head
of the Romanian State Archives, also presented his interpretation of the 1989 events.
See Gal, Ionel: Raiune i represiune n Ministerul de Interne 1965-1989 [Rationale
and repression within the Ministry of Internal Affairs 1965-1989] 2 vols. Bucharest
263 Another controversial issue is related to Ceauescus own understanding of the preceeding events in East-Central Europe. His resolute determination to repress the revolution would indicate that he was misinformed. A volume reproducing the reports sent
home by the Romanian diplomats from the communist East-Central European countries indicated that the personnel of the Romanian embassies in Warsaw, Budapest,
Berlin, Prague, and Sofia covered timely and comprehensively the rapidly unfolding
events they were witnessing. The present day reader is really amazed by the accuracy
of those reports, which also specify the names of the recipients of such classified in-



fact, no thorough historical reconstructions of the 1989 events have been published so far. Actually, it is easier to analyze the various discourses on the 1989
events from the perspective of literary or cultural studies, rather than provide
causal explanations for what happened, which implies a thorough understanding of the whole communist period in Romania. As far as these authors are
concerned, the analysis of the 1989 events has to be developed along two lines
of inquiry. (1) Firstly, one should analyze the sudden and unexpected collapse of
the communist regime in Romania. Such an analysis should consider both longand short-term processes and concentrate on path-dependency, agency and contingency. This would also imply an inter- and trans-disciplinary approach to
Romanian communism in an East-Central European context. Furthermore,
such an approach should address, from a historical perspective, issues related to
the entire communist period, from regimes inception to its demise.264 (2) Secondly, one should focus on the revolutionary aspect of the events. In December
1989, Romania witnessed a revolution very much alike the revolutions in EastCentral Europe, but its specificity resides in the fact that it was violent: in Romania, 1,104 people were killed and 3,321 injured. Such an analysis would also
incur a thorough, event-centered historical reconstruction of the days of the
Revolution. When events unfold so rapidly, like in December 1989, it becomes
of prime importance to establish if one event occurred before or after another.
Who did what, when, where and why are questions of paramount significance.
The analysis of the Romanian Revolution is however much more difficult because of the limited access to archives and, equally important, due to the unwillingness of many of those involved to disclose relevant information.
As a preliminary conclusion, one can argue that the communist regime in
Romania collapsed on 22 December 1989 at 1208 hours, while the Revolution of
1989 is not yet over. Thus, these authors argue that the widespread perception
in the Romanian society according to which the Revolution of 1989 did not
formation. It is though unclear if Ceauescu was not able, or not willing, to grasp the
true meaning of the events that took place in East-Central Europe that autumn of
1989, but it is certain that the party and the major institutions of the state were accurately informed about it. See Preda, Dumitru/Retegan, Mihai (eds.): 1989 Principiul
dominoului. Prbuirea regimurilor comuniste europene [1989 The domino principle. The breakdown of the European communist regimes]. Bucharest 2000. Many authors blamed Elena Ceauescu for censoring the unpleasant information received
from abroad and providing his husband only with doctored evidence. A former Romanian ambassador under the Ceauescu and Iliescu regimes who wished to remain
anonymous argued, in a discussion with these authors, that the information that
reached Ceauescu was usually filtered twice: by Emil Bobu, secretary of CC of PCR,
and by Elena Ceauescu. It is therefore reasonable to argue that, apart from his ideological orthodoxy, Ceauescu himself was also misinformed on the real proportions of
the snowball effect.
264 For more on this see Petrescu, Drago: The 1989 Revolutions in Hungary and Romania. Comparative Perspectives. In: Studia Politica, vol. 3, 1(2003), 22-55; and Idem:
Nurturing Unrest. International Media and the Demise of Ceauescuism. In: Studia
Politica, vol. 5, 2(2005), 409-426.


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

lead to a genuine break with the communist past and thus to a moral regeneration of society has triggered the following responses: (1) retribution for the
past wrongdoings has become synonymous with the moral regeneration of society; (2) remembering the past sufferings has become a surrogate for the neverfulfilled transitional justice; and (3) a hegemonic public representation of communism centered on prisons, surveillance and shortages emerged, and has
become an expression of anti-communism and a surrogate break with the nondemocratic past. Briefly put, as long as the Revolution of 1989 is still considered
unfinished, the fundamentally anti-communist representation of the communist past is reiterated by all those who want to distance themselves in this way
from their own past.

Looking Backwards Twenty Years After

An Assessment of the Romanian Vergangenheitsbewltigung
Two decades after the Revolution of 1989, the communist past becomes increa
singly another country for Romanians. The political detour enforced upon the
country after the Second World War came symbolically to an end with the admission into the European Union in 2007. Nonetheless, the communist period
has not been properly understood and assumed by those who lived through it,
to say nothing of the younger generation who has no direct memories of that
epoch. Important steps have been taken towards uncovering hitherto suppressed
memories and for revealing the crimes committed by the former regime. The
post-communist conventional knowledge on the recent past is based on touching
personal stories of suffering, testimonies of resistance to the imposition of a
regime considered illegitimate, and discourses on the repressive nature of that
regime. Through the aggregation of the publicly expressed private versions of
that past, a coherent public representation of communism emerged and gradually imposed itself as dominant. Such oral history sources have been far more
influential in articulating this representation than professional reconstructions,
which however did not dissent from the hegemonic narrative. According to this
vision, Romanians were from the very beginning against the communist rule,
which was eventually imposed only by force and maintained only by means of
sheer terror. To achieve the goal of submitting and controlling the population,
the party-state relied upon the Securitate. In short, the small clique of individuals that supported the communist regime inflicted unbearable sufferings upon
large strata of an overwhelmingly innocent nation.
Two groups have been instrumental in the articulation of this representation:
the former political prisoners, who publicly expressed their personal traumatic
memories from the Romanian Gulag, and the public intellectuals, who emerged
as very active carriers of this type memory, arrested by the former regime and,
in the absence of an autonomous public sphere, preserved only in private circles


until 1989. These two groups correspond to two generations: those who were
already mature at the time of the communist takeover, so that they had enough
time to socialize under a different political order before experiencing communism, and those were born after the war or, more generally, those who were exclusively socialized under communism. The first age group experienced directly
the period of sheer terror and repression, and some indeed attempted at opposing the new, communist order. The second age group experienced only the fear
of the ubiquitous Securitate and from among them a few did criticize the regime,
while the majority learned to live with communism. After 1989, their first and
foremost goal was to make public the crimes perpetrated under the communist
regime by the infamous institution of the secret police.
As compared to other former communist countries, Romania has achieved
much in documenting the atrocities and human rights violations committed in
the name of a utopian dream. The Memorial of Sighet, which established itself
as an important European lieux de mmoire, is a museum that commemorates
the innocent victims of, and venerates the few heroes that fought against, the
communist dictatorship. Moreover, the establishment of numerous local places
of remembrance that remind of the sufferings imposed under communism on
numerous individuals and groups represented a societal obligation. In addition,
the official act of the Romanian state that, on the brink of entering the European Union, declared the communist regime illegal and criminal offered
moral reparation to the survivors of the Romanian Gulag. A living proof of the
wrondoings of the defunct regime, such persons found otherwise little comfort
in the meager financial compensation provided under the existing legislation or
in the mistrials of the former perpetrators. A society that seeks to leave behind
its dictatorial past must preserve the memory of the crimes perpetrated, pay the
due respect to the victims and praise the heroic acts. Such an attitude towards
the past does reflect a morally correct societal stance; the opposite would be
simply unspeakable. However, such an attitude alone cannot be a substitute for
the process of coming to terms with the communist past, which requires not
only to uncover past wrongdoings, but also to assume past responsibilities. Such
a goal cannot be achieved without a proper understanding of the dictatorial past.
The current hegemonic representation of communism does not serve such a
purpose; its articulation corresponds to the priorities of the early transition from
Obviously, the assessment of the communist experiment in Romania cannot
be but negative. Repression touched indeed a large number of persons after the
communist takeover, and the secret police was efficient in controlling the population up to the end of the regime. Moreover, unlike in other countries in the
Soviet bloc, the welfare project of the former regime, which generates nostalgic
thoughts elsewhere, utterly failed in Romania in the early 1980s. All the above
explain the emergence of a somber public representation of the communist past,
but not its hegemony and persistence for twenty years. Such public consensus
over the past cannot be understood without looking at Romanias break with the

cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

communist past in the longue dure. This country that was unable to produce
something similar to the Hungarian Revolution, the Prague Spring or the Solidarity movement, in short, it was incapable of structuring an opposition to the
communist regime either from within PCR or from the midst of civil society
prior to the Revolution of 1989. Because alternative elites emerged only after the
breakdown, the electoral preferences of the Romanians went to former apparatchiks, and not to former political prisoners. While the second group surfaced
from anonymity carrying values and beliefs that seemed alien to most Romanians, the first was speaking a language familiar to all those who never knew any
other regime apart from the communist one. The Revolution of 1989 put an end
to the communist rule, but allowed the neo-communists to take over the political power. To sum up, the ambiguous way in which communism collapsed in
Romania as well as the sinuous road to democracy pursued by this country led
to the idea that the rupture with the past was incomplete.
Consequently, all those who felt responsible for the democratic future of the
country considered that the removal of the human remnants of the former regime was not only a political task, but also a civic duty. Lustration of the public
sector was considered synonymous with the moral regeneration of society and a
top priority as long as the revolution did not accomplish its anti-communist
goals. Because such a process was first delayed and then only partially implemented, the raising of public awareness on the crimes of the past regime became
a substitute for transitional justice, and it was promoted as such by all those who
wanted to wholeheartedly support the building of a truly democratic Romania.
This operation was regarded by its proponents, the above discussed vectors of
memory, as a far-reaching struggle against all those patterns of thought and
behavior induced by communism. The former regime their argument reads
had transformed Romania into a huge prison within whose confines a vast
process of reeducation took place. The enduring consequences of such a process
were revealed by the very fact that after coming out of communism, Romanians
were unable to recognize in the neo-communists the former perpetrators and
freely voted for maintaining them in power. The reconstruction of the past based
on the memory of the groups that suffered the most under communism and
desperately tried to resist the system emerged from the need of fulfilling the
anti-communist objectives of the Revolution of 1989. It corresponded to a politically attached and civically militant project of supporting the transition from
communism. To sum up, the above-discussed hegemonic and persistent public
representation of the recent past represented an expression of the post-communist anti-communism, which was institutionalized as a powerful and enduring
public discourse meant to assist the making of Romanian democracy.265
265 It is interesting to note that a differently conceptualized representation of the past
emerged gradually in TV commercials shortly before Romanias entry into the European Union, at a time when the democratic consolidation was no longer in danger.
Almost simultaneously, several newspapers, TV channels and museums initiated similar campaigns of collecting memories and photographs from the so-called Golden



Anti-communism, to the extent it was expressed only in post-communism,

represented a manifestation of what these authors called the Piteti syndrome,
and an evidence of a problematic relation with the past. Not all those who promoted the representation of communism centered on terror, crimes and repression suffered from this syndrome. The surviving victims of the regime also contributed to the articulation of this public representation. They were driven by a
natural desire to do justice for the personal past injustice and sufferings endured
under communism. However, the largest majority of the proponents of this
representation have been neither victims nor freedom fighters before 1989. Thus,
their public engagement is of a different nature. Such individuals certainly refrained from supporting the communist regime, but did not dare to criticize it
openly. In order to justify why they passively accepted the miseries of the regime,
they had to constantly convey the idea that the dictatorship was so harsh that
nothing could have been done against it. Unable to clearly dissociate themselves
from the former regime while it was still in power, they felt the need to be
critical at least after its collapse. The incessant references to the terror, crimes
and repression perpetrated by the former regime were meant to obscure their
not so heroic past. According to their organization of memory, the traumatic
past has been over-remembered, while forgetfulness has been implicitly imposed
upon the failure to develop a more powerful anti-communist opposition before
1989. The production, as well as the reproduction, of the above-discussed representation of communism helped such individuals to establish a break with their
personal and problematic past. In this sense, it epitomizes the Piteti syndrome.
The auto-imposed suppression of any nostalgic memory, in spite of the high
social price paid during the transition to democracy in Romania, also represents
a manifestation of this syndrome. It illustrates that the largest majority of those
able and willing to express themselves publicly remember the past only selectively. One might argue that it was rather the profound crisis of the 1980s, which
those who survived Romanian communism can still vividly remember, that actually explains the non-existence of nostalgia in the public sphere. However,
economic prosperity touched only a few in post-communism, and yet the idea
that the sheltered existence under communism was preferable to the uncertainties of the never-ending transition to democracy was never expressed openly.266
Epoch, as the period of Ceauescus rule was officially referred to before 1989. From
among the newspapers and TV channels that launched on their websites memory
campaigns, see,,,,, 30 January 2010. The National History Museum of Romania has also its own site made in the same vein by a new generation of historians,
available on, 30 January 2010. Finally, the commercialization of memorabilia that remind one of communism is also emerging in
Romania, for the moment only in the virtual space, see,
30 January 2010.
266 It is illustrative that even volumes explicitly dealing with everyday life concentrate
overwhelmingly on life after the prison experience, forms of surveillance or difficulties
of the daily life during the 1980s. See Nicolau, Adrian (ed.): Viaa cotidian n comu-


cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

For twenty years though positive assessments of the communist past were formulated only by the already compromised members of the former nomenklatura that went out of politics in 1989. Such individuals argued that the former
regime made substantial achievements in modernizing the country and in asserting an active international role for Romania after displaying its independence
from the Soviet Union. Their view was not supported by any other social group.
Indeed, put aside the revelations about the crimes committed under communism, any nostalgic thought about the recent past seemed not only indecent, but
also harmful for the feeble democracy.267
A selective reconstruction of the past, although it might seem to serve a
higher purpose, cannot though constitute a solid basis for the process of coming
to terms with the past. The greatest downfall of the hegemonic representation
of the past is the externalization of guilt. Although based mostly on the painful
experiences of the generation that endured the Stalinist terror, this representation transcended the originating groups and became gradually associated with
the entire nation. What is more, it was projected on the communist past as a
whole, obscuring by default the subsequent transformations of the former regime in post-Stalinism. In short, it conveniently transformed the Romanians
into a nation of innocent anti-communists, while numerous questions regarding
cooptation by, and collaboration with, the old regime remained unanswered. As
illustrated above, in the hegemonic representation of the communist past there
is place for only two mutually exclusive groups: us the large group of victims,
and them the rather small group of wrongdoers, first and foremost former
officers and collaborators of the Securitate. Such black-and-white picture is obviously inadequate to express the complexities of late communism. What is more,
nism [Everyday life under communism]. Iai 2004. The project initiated by the Museum of the Romanian Peasant is the only one that made a step further and tried to
recuperate the absurd of daily existence during the 1980s. See Martor [Witness],
267 Very telling is that the first and it must be underlined spontaneous reaction to this
long-lasting and hegemonic representation, which overemphasized the earlier period
of terror and resistance, emerged in the latest years quietly bypassing the debates in
traditional media. This different vision on the communist past, centered on the later
and more ambiguous period of communism, found its way to the public in the virtual space of the Internet, a perfect venue for expressing those private memories suppressed in the above-mentioned representation of the past. This vision is though promoted by a younger generation, which experienced communism only in pre-adulthood.
Such individuals do not suffer from the Piteti syndrome, as they were too young while
communism was in power to assume any responsibilities. Several websites offer now
space to all those who wanted to remember their pre-1989 personal experiences; some
became extremely popular. Memories from childhood, artifacts long gone from use
and photographs bearing witness of a bygone material world were conveying a new
perspective on the past than that hitherto publicly revealed. These memories were
generated by a spontaneous will to remember and not by a rational process of selecting
what is worthy of remembering from the past. Perhaps the most successful weblog in
terms of popularity is, 30 January 2010.



this alleged societal gap seemed to have reproduced itself in post-communism:

the anti-communists and proponents of democracy, on the one side, and the
people of the former regime, on the other.
It was the opening of the Securitate files that challenged for the first time this
representation. If so far such sources for the study of the communism did not
fulfill the high societal expectations regarding the lustration of the human remnants of the former regime, it did though contradict many post-communist
common places about the recent past. First, these documents have shaken a
rather widespread opinion in Romania, according to which collaboration could
not be refused. Instead, the files of the secret police revealed that those approached to be recruited could have said no without suffering harsh consequences. In short, collaboration was not compulsory. Second, these documents
demonstrated that the intrusion of this institution in the daily lives of the Romanians was not only more extensive than it was previously believed, but also
more perverse. The Securitate worked effectively to suppress the attempts at revolting against the regime, but it did that by irreversibly blurring the line between the victims and the perpetrators, i.e., by coercing or co-opting the former
into collaboration with the latter. Third, these documents illustrate that some of
the most fervent advocates of democracy in post-communism had been once
willing supporters of the communist regime. To the great general surprise, a
number of unsuspected former political prisoners and public intellectuals have
been exposed as former officers or collaborators of the communist secret police.
In short, the files of the Securitate revealed that individuals who declared themselves after 1989 staunch anti-communists, those from the good camp of us,
were actually part of them. Such revelations only support the argument of this
study that the current dominant representation of communism is at least partially generated by the Piteti syndrome, or in other words, by a problematic relationship with the past.
To conclude, the narrative on communism presented above served perfectly
the purpose of revealing the crimes of the former dictatorship, but cannot explain adequately the mechanisms that maintained the communist system in
power until 1989. Instead of representing a basis for assuming past responsibilities, it stands for the opposite purpose of externalizing guilt. Few of those accountable for the crimes committed under communism are still alive today. Not
many are also the survivors of the Romanian Gulag or the heroes of the anticommunist resistance. The largest majority of those who outlived communism
in this country were once only very small cogwheels that made the big machine
function. In other words, most Romanians neither opposed the dictatorship,
nor supported it openly: they simply coped with the system and manifested
their overt anti-communism only after its collapse. The current public representation of the past does not include their past as well. Such a representation is
certainly morally correct, but historically fallacious. Romanians who went out
of communism are not a mass of innocent victims, but individuals whose patterns of thought and behavior were definitely perverted. Such habits of the heart

cristina petrescu/drago petrescu

and mind could be easily reproduced, all the more that the past is another
country for the generations born after 1989. Thus, the past must be assumed in
its entirety, not remembered selectively. In short, a more reflexive attitude towards the communist past, relieved of the frustration that generated the Piteti
syndrome, is needed. 268 It is in this way that the communist past would finally
become one day only history.

268 Most recently, a younger generation although obviously marked deeply by the experience of the 1980s has been though able to recuperate the humor so characteristic
to those years. It was self-mockery that at that time helped individuals to cope better
with the daily miseries of late communism in Romania. After 1989, once crimes of
communism were revealed by the memoirs of the Gulag survivors, any ironical attitude towards this recent past was thrown to the garbage bin of history, as it seemed
indeed indecent when confronted to the horrors suffered by Romanians in earlier
periods. Almost two decades later, the generation that had barely reached maturity in
1989 has begun to depict the past without wrath, rediscovering the long-forgotten wit
of those times. This trend is best illustrated by the recent successful release of cinematic narratives based on several urban legends of the 1980s. Authored by five young
directors, Cristian Mungiu, Ioana Uricaru, Hanno Hoefer, Constantin Popescu and
Rzvan Mrculescu, Amintiri din Epoca de Aur [Memories from the Golden Epoch]
was released in two parts: the first, Tovari, viaa e frumoas! [Comrades, life is
beautiful!], was launched in Romanian cinemas on 25 September 2009; the second,
Dragoste n timpul liber [Love in the spare time], on 23 October 2009. Overall, this
movie includes seven most popular urban legends of the 1980s, and represents the first
attempt to create a comical narrative of Romanian communism. The titles of the seven
parts give one a first idea about their content as well as the mode in which the stories
were cast: The legend of the party activist in inspection; The legend of the official
photographer; The legend of the zealous apparatchik; The legend of the greedy militiaman; The legend of the sellers of air; The legend of the chicken driver; The legend
of the flying turkey. The premiere of this cinematic narrative gave momentum to other
initiatives; through newspapers a contest for the most interesting urban legend of
the 1980s was launched,, 31 October 2009.


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