Romania: A Kidnapped Revolution and the History of A Pseudo- Transition

Eras Journal – Ivanes, C: “Romania: A Kidnapped Revolution and the History of A Pseudo-Transition”

Romania: A Kidnapped Revolution and the History of A Pseudo- Transition
Chris D. Ivanes
(University of Memphis)

Stalin did everything a man in his position should have done Nicolae Ceausescu, August 1989

This article considers Adam Przeworski’s game theoretic model of democratic transitions in Eastern Europe, which allows a comparison across East European cases. I will show why Romania’s singularity prevented a pacted transition, as occurred in other ex-socialist countries. I will also argue that, unlike the People’s Republic of Hungary, the People’s Republic of Poland, the Socialist Republic of Czechoslovakia, and even the German Democratic Republic, Ceausescu’s regime in the Socialist Republic of Romania became increasingly sultanistic. It did not tolerate any autonomous social organisations outside the state’s sphere of control. Thus, the result was that no civil society could come to life. In addition, the regime was so harsh that no liberalising faction could ever develop within the regime. Consequently, no transition game was possible because no civil society and no liberalizers were there to play it. Instead, the Romanian reformers were hidden in the second and third echelon of the nomenklatura of theSecuritate and the Army, plotting against Ceausescu with a Soviet blessing. Their initial purpose was not a transition to democracy, but a kind of “socialism with a human face”. The article further explains how and why Ceausescu’s regime collapsed and how the plotters were able to capture the transition and divert it from the path to democratic consolidation. This occurred in three phases. These modifications to Przeworski’s game provide an explanation as to why the Romanian case was an exception.

What is known to have happened in Romania?

In Romania, the beginning of the end was a cold and rainy December day in Timisoara, 15 December 1989. TheSecuritate received the order to evict the Protestant ethnic Hungarian priest Laszlo Tokes from his home. He was accused of “indiscipline” and of “entering in contact with foreign radio and TV stations in order to denigrate and present in a tendentious way the realities of the country”. As Tokes refused to move, the case became famous through Radio Free Europe and people began to crowd around the priest’s house in order to support him. This was the beginning of what since then has been called “The Romanian Revolution”. At Ceausescu’s personal order, special troops of the Ministry of Interior and the Army attacked the demonstrators. In the following days, the city experienced a strange type of civil war between the unarmed population, on the one hand, and heavily armed Securitate troops and the regular Romanian Army on the other. The rational choice game theory was completely ignored by the people, who apparently had very little chance of winning and a huge probability of losing. They knew the regime would do anything to stop them and would not hesitate to order machine-gun fire against them. One of the most shocking slogans was “We will die and will be free”. The whole country listened to tape recordings from Timisoara, delivered by the Yugoslav consul, Petrovic, to RFE in Munich. 17 December was the bloodiest day ever experienced by that usually tranquil city. The regular Army opened fire against the crowd gathered on the Cathedral Plaza. It was a horrible massacre of innocent people. However, by 20 December the city was literally conquered by the demonstrators, and the Army, fraternizing with the demonstrators, withdrew its T-54 Soviet tanks and its troops from the streets. Nicolae Ceausescu, visiting Iran from 18 December to 20 December, had lost the first city. The Capital was preparing itself. Although the Romanian state media remained silent about the Timisoara massacre, everyone knew exactly what had happened from Radio Free Europe, the most popular radio station broadcasting in Romania. Despite the repressive regime, RFE was broadcasting not only anti-Ceausescu propaganda, but also pop music (very neglected by the official radio and television), and even the final games of the European or World soccer championships. Many people living close to the Hungarian border went to the hills near the cities with small portable televisions in order to “catch” Hungarian television and to see the soccer games.

Back from Iran, Ceausescu organized a mass meeting of support in Palace Square in Bucharest on 21 December. It is not known whose idea this really was. As usual, the meeting was broadcast live by state television. Those who had the patience to watch the meeting on the screen were amazed to hear chants of “Timisoara, Timisoara”. In that moment, the live transmission was interrupted and the country realized the end was very near. Mass disorders started not only in Bucharest but every major Romanian city. The regime responded with extreme violence, opening fire against the demonstrators, the majority of whom were students and young workers. In Bucharest, heavy tanks rolled over dead bodies and over the barricades established by the people. Still in the capital, after a night of bloody repression by Ministry of Interior troops and the regular Army, on 22 December a crucial moment came: the demonstrators succeeded in occupying the state television building, and at 10am they started to broadcast. Not many people saw that first “free” revolutionary program because the television usually only broadcasted from 7pm until 10pm.

What followed is not very clear. Another curious war began, this time between the Romanian Army (which eventually defected and joined the people on the morning of 22 December, except the Timisoara military units, which defected on 20 December, and groups of “terrorists”, or Ceausescu loyalists, who were apparently firing on unarmed civilians and on the Army from high roofs and hidden places. It has been speculated that some of these terrorists were Arabs, especially Palestinians and Libyans. Ratesh cites a Romania Libera reporter commenting on an alleged secret agreement Ceausescu had with Iran, Lybia, Syria, and the PLO. The agreement provided that each of them would come to the aid of the other with armed forces, in case of disturbances that would endanger the safety and the power of the other country’s ruling elite. The Romanian Army seemingly captured many of the “terrorists” after 22 December, and some of them were even shown on television. General Piotr Lushev, deputy chief of staff of the Warsaw Pact, to which Romania belonged at that time, declared on 23 December that Romania was under “foreign aggression”. The post-revolutionary Romanian government has always been extremely unwilling to clarify this matter.

In those moments of confusion and street fighting, a former member of the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party (RCP), Ion Iliescu, formed the National Salvation Front, a movement which replaced the defunct RCP. On television he addressed the people as “comrades”, and argued that the “bloody” dictator “smeared the noble ideals of socialism”.

As is widely known, Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, fled and were caught by the Army. They were tried, and executed on Christmas Day 1989.

Game Theory and the Transition to Democracy

Adam Przeworski posits an excellent theoretic model of the transition to democracy, which generally applies to the Eastern European post-Communist states.[5] For reasons I shall discuss below, this scheme does not fit the path Romania has taken after the collapse of the Communist dictatorship in December 1989. In order for the Przeworski model to work, there has to be a “game” played by the authoritarian/totalitarian state and semi-independent social organizations.

A common feature of dictatorships is that they do not tolerate autonomous and independent organizations. Unlike other Eastern European socialist states such as Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and even the German Democratic Republic, Ceausescu’s regime did not tolerate any social organizations outside the mobilising power of the party-state.[6] In no other European country have so many organizations been etatised, except maybe in Hoxa’s Albania. As Ovidiu Trasnea correctly points out in an interview with Alfred Stepan, “even small organizations with no intrinsic political character, like ‘organization of people concerned with bees’ were organized by the party-state” in Romania.[7] The system interfered deeply with almost every aspect of human life, and there was no space at all for any autonomous structure. In Przeworski’s view, liberalisation is a result of an interaction between parts of the authoritarian regime and the organisations of the civil society. The regime, he argues, is divided between Hardliners, who do not admit any reform, even when the ship is sinking, and Liberalisers. The intention of the Liberalisers, at least at the beginning of the “thaw”, is not to destroy the system or regime, but only to broaden its social base, by co-opting parts of the civil society. This relaxes social tension and strengthens their position, at the expense of the Hardliners.

Essentially, the author proposes the following transition scheme:

Figure 1

SDIC: “status quo dictatorship”, in which elements of civil society are co-opted without the regime having to grant democratic reforms.

BDIC: “broadened dictatorship”, in which the proto-Liberalisers issue signals indicating they are willing to tolerate some social organisations outside the power bloc. The latter decide to enter into the new organisational forms created by the regime (usually a Front of National Unity or similar). Liberalisation is successful.

NDIC: “narrow dictatorship”: if the civil society continues to organise autonomously, Liberalisers might want to back off and to repress, or to continue with transition to democracy. If repression is effective, the outcome is NDIC, in which Liberalisers are at the mercy of the executors of repression.

Insurrection : outcome if repression fails. Liberalisers attach the probability r to successful repression.

In a game of complete and perfect information, the only possible outcomes of this game are the status quo (which Liberalisers do not want) or the so-called “broadened dictatorship”, a dictatorship with an enlarged social basis. [8]The preference ordering of the Liberalisers is either:



Hence the Liberalisers never open, because, if society organises, they will have to turn into Reformers, which they do not want. What they want is simply to broaden the base of the regime by incorporating part of the civil society into the regime. Or:



The Liberalisers also assume that, if necessary, repression will succeed with a high probability [i.e., r >(1-r)].

In this scenario, the Liberalisers know they will use repression if society organises, but so does the civil society, so it accedes to the broader dictatorship because this outcome is still preferred to the status quo by both Liberalisers and civil society. In other words, transition will never occur under this set of preference orderings and complete and perfect information.

Nevertheless, the process can lead to transition in two ways. First, the Liberalisers may actually be proto-democratisers and, as Przeworski points out, “very good liars”. They give the impression to the Hardliners that they prefer



whereas in fact their true preference is:



The second way a transition can occur is if the preference ordering of the Liberalisers is:



Their estimate of successful repression is high, so their expected outcome is broadened dictatorship. In other words, they think they can liberalise without having to allow a democratic transition because they believe they can intimidate civil society into accepting what they offer. They also feel their coercive power is substantial and recognised by civil society as such, so the latter is expected to back down. On the other hand, society has a very low estimate of the state’s repressive capacity and believes that Liberalisers have the same perception. As civil society continues to organise, Liberalisers downgrade their perception of successful repression and eventually prefer transition. “Erich, we can’t beat up hundreds of thousands of people”, said STASI chief Mielke addressing Honecker in autumn 1989. [9]

There are two other possible outcomes. The first is sociological. As the leadership of civil society becomes known, and personal contacts are established, Liberalisers observe that the opposition is actually not as threatening as they thought. Thus, for example, Jaruzelski told Adam Michnik he had considered him a “particularly demonic personage”. The second explanation could be called psychological. Liberalisers may reach the conclusion that they do not have as much to lose from a democratic transition as they first thought. They begin to lose fear of democratisation because they believe, mistakenly in almost all cases, that, as the best organized political force in society, they will win competitive elections.[10] A third possibility is that the Liberalisers come to realise that they simply have no choice but transition, and they try to ‘put a good face on it’. The Romanian case is somewhere between these last two points.

Obviously, liberalisation does not always lead to transition and is not intended to do so. Tienanmen Square in Peking is a relevant example. As in the second case above, the Chinese case was a misunderstanding between Liberalisers and civil society, with the only relevant difference being that Chinese softliners knew they could repress successfully and they were right, while civil society tragically miscalculated the likelihood of repression. Generally, mass demonstrations undermine the position of Liberalisers and throw them into the hands of the Hardliners. The alternatives of the Liberalisers are either to incorporate a few groups into the system and repress the others, or to proceed towards transition. Thus, the liberalisation process is either reversed (normalisation), or goes on to democratisation.

Przeworski distinguishes four political actors: on the one hand Hardliners and Reformers in the authoritarian state, and on the other hand, Moderates and Radicals in the civil society. The Hardliners are the “repressive core” of the dictatorship. Reformers are usually recruited from the politicians of the regime. Or, for instance, they could come from sectors of the bourgeoisie under capitalism, and from managers of state-owned plants in socialist regimes. These people prefer reforms because it assures access to modern technology, greater management autonomy, and better prospects for their careers. Within civil society the difference between Moderates and Radicals is not so much in the goal, which often is the same, but fear of the Hardliners. Generally speaking, Moderates fear the Hardliners more. Graphically, the political and social scene can be depicted as follows:[11]

Figure 2

Extrication from authoritarianism can result only from an understanding between Reformers and Moderates. Extrication is possible if: a) Reformers and Moderates are able to reach an agreement and establish institutions under which the social forces they represent would have a significant presence in the democratic society; b) Reformers can either accomplish what the Hardliners want, or neutralise them; and c) Moderates are capable of controlling the radicals. There is a paradoxical phenomenon in the civil society: on the one hand, Moderates need Radicals in order to put pressure on Hardliners and to show them whom they could face if they do not ally with the moderates. On the other hand, however, moderates fear the radicals, because they might not accept negotiation with the Reformers. The latter have to make a choice between remaining in alliance with the Hardliners or seeking a more democratic alliance with the Moderates. Moderates, in turn, can try to destroy the whole system by allying with the Radicals, or they can negotiate with the Reformers.

  Moderates ally with Radicals Moderates ally with Reformers
Reformers ally withHardliners Authoritarian regime survives in old form: 2,1 Authoritarian regime holds, with concessions: 4,2
Reformers ally withModerates Democracy without guarantees: 1,4 Democracy with guarantees: 3,3

Table 1

The first number in each cell is the value of the outcome for the Reformers.
The second number represents the value of the outcome for the moderates. 4 is most preferred, 1 least.

The conclusion of this game is that Reformers are always better off in alliance with Hardliners. Without special guarantees, Reformers do badly in a democratic system and even with guarantees they prefer the protection of the Hardliners. In Poland, for instance, as a result of the Magdakenka talks of January 1989 (the so-called Round Table), the regime agreed, in order to stop Solidarity from boycotting the upcoming elections, that 35% of the seats of the Sejm would be open to free elections. This should have been a guarantee the Party could continue to stay in power. The Party, however, got so little electoral support that the legitimacy of the negotiated deal was heavily undermined. The Polish case shows best the classical transition misunderstanding game: if the regime had known what would happen, it would never have agreed to elections. However, if the opposition could have anticipated what would happen, it would probably not have made the concessions. [12] Let us suppose that Reformers think they are able to compete quite successfully in a democratic system if they are given certain guarantees.

Authoritarian regime survives in old form 2,1
(2 is the value of the outcome for the Reformers; 1 is the value of the outcome for the Moderates)
Authoritarian regime holds, with concessions 3,2
Democracy without guarantees 1,4
Democracy with guarantees 4,3

In this case the Reformers prefer democracy with guarantees to other alternatives. However, Moderates would opt for democracy without guarantees. Therefore, the Reformers analyse the situation in this way: they would prefer democracy with guarantees. If they ally with the Hardliners, the result will be the status quo, the second best outcome for them. But if they negotiate with the Moderates, the latter would ally with the Radicals, which is the worst result for the Reformers. So they will again stay with the regime.

Nevertheless, in Przeworski’s opinion there are two possible scenarios in which the equilibrium outcome is democracy. The first one is that Radicals cease to be Radicals. Once the democratic framework is established by an agreement between Moderates and Reformers, Radicals will metamorphose into Moderates and will eventually join the game. The other one is that Moderates will prefer democracy with guarantees (for Reformers) to an alliance with the Radicals.

Romania in 1989

Romania’s exceptionalism to Prezworski’s theory becomes evident when briefly comparing the kind of non-democratic regime that the country had in 1989 with other regimes of the Eastern Bloc. To use Linz and Stepan’s categories, Romania after 1972-73 became more and more sultanistic (the extreme form of patrimonialism). In sultanism there is no rule of law, no space for semi-opposition, and the level of institutionalisation is extremely low.[13] This type of regime leads to an elaborate kind of ideology, which is almost always named after the sultan himself. Meaningless rituals colour public life, and people are forced to participate in endless meetings, support demonstrations, congresses, and conferences, where neither the mobilisers nor the mobilised really believe in what they are saying or doing. This happens because support is based exclusively on rewards the sultan offers for loyalty, and the fear of his vengeance. Unlike the authoritarianism of post-totalitarianism, there is no “parallel society” or “second culture” (except atomised citizens who take refuge in their private lives) to make reference to the “living lie”. In fact, Romania was the only Warsaw Pact country in 1988 with no samizdat opposition journal. Still considering Linz and Stapan’s categories, Poland in the late 1980s could be understood as an authoritarian regime, while Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic, and Hungary, possibly even Bulgaria, fall into some sub-category of post-totalitarianism; early – Bulgaria, frozen – Czechoslovakia in the last fifteen years of the regime, and mature – Hungary between 1982 and 1988.[14] In frozen post-totalitarianism, even if the regime tolerates civil society critics, almost all other mechanisms of the party-state stay in place. In its mature stage, post-totalitarianism allows profound changes in all dimensions of public life, except the leading role of the party, which is still sacrosanct.

At this point it is important to stress that both mature post-totalitarian regimes and authoritarian ones are able to produce four player “pacted transition” games, negotiated between Reformers in the regime and Moderates in society. On one hand, there are Conservatives and Reformers in the regime, and on the other, Moderates and Radicals in civil society. Unlike Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia, sultanistic Romania did not have a pacted transition available, because the two Moderate players were absent. This is a fundamental aspect, because the implication of a sultanistic regime for “democracy-crafters” is that they must begin the construction of civil society, political institutions, constitutionalism, and rule of law from an extremely low base, if not from scratch. Therefore, transition may very well fail.[15]

There is common agreement that for communist regimes economic performance has been seen as the most important basis of their legitimation.[16] As White points out, a “social compact” existed in those regimes: consent to the regime in return for a high level of social welfare. As the regimes became more and more unable to deliver the basic necessities of life to the population, they tried to shift some of the burden of legitimation from economic performance to other bases: a certain degree of apparent choice in elections, political incorporation through membership in the Party, increased importance of established institutions to absorb more and more audacious demands, and letters of the “working people” to the Party, state, or press. This has certainly been an intriguing mechanism that delayed the collapse of authoritarian or post-totalitarian East European communist regimes. Ceausescu, however, did not need to search for alternative means of legitimation once material deprivation became acute. In sultanism, consent is extracted mainly through fear and terror, thus creating an atomised society of terrorised citizens seeking refuge in the microcosm of their homes, family and friends.

Revolution was still possible.[17] I argue that, unlike other East European countries, where a split in the Party structures between Reformers and Hardliners existed, Ceausescu had removed all the political alternatives to revolution by stifling reform and dissent inside and outside the party.[18] Skocpol and the structuralists, on the other hand, would argue that the Romanian revolution “happened” primarily because of the external forces that placed immense pressure on the regime. This is partially true, and the Gorbachev factor was of extreme importance. Ultimately, Ceausescu failed to mobilise the elites in support of his continued rule, and the autonomy of the state vis-à-vis the Securitate elites (and the military after 22 December 1989) was dramatically eroded. Unfortunately, structural theories miss the most important point: voluntarism. It is mistakenly assumed that the Revolution was determined by the state structures alone. However, the crucial peculiarity of the Romanian Revolution is that, because of the unbearable life conditions, because of hunger, frost, and the lack of any hope for the future, public opposition rose to the point where the internal cost of preference falsification (behaving publicly as if one supported the system) was higher than the external cost of getting into the streets and openly protesting against the regime. This is a revolutionary threshold, beyond which people in Romania decided to risk their lives by engaging in spontaneous collective action, having little to lose and everything to win.[19] Lichbach suggests that people protest when the gains from protest outweigh the costs.[20] In a society where almost everybody forgot the meaning of “hope”, and where the horizon was first red and then black, life per se lost value to the point where hundreds of thousands of people were willing to sacrifice their lives in order to win.

Game theory revisited as plot theory

Unlike other Eastern European countries, and especially Poland and Hungary, where Party Liberalisers had a crucial role to play in the initiation of the transition process, in Romania the personal dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu was so harsh and cruel that no inner circle opposition could ever come to life. As we saw, pacted transitions are four player games, and there are two structural preconditions of such pacted transitions: the existence of organised democratic groups in civil society, and the existence of Liberalisers in the regime, willing to negotiate the pact. In late 1989 Romania lacked both players. Neither of the necessary preconditions was possible in a sultanistic and totalitarian regime like Ceausescu’s, where no civil society could (or was allowed to) develop and where the Party, unlike the Parties in other socialist countries, was the property of a tyrannical General Secretary. [21] Bernhard points out that “a civil society confronted by a strong state holds out the possibility for quasi-dictatorship (democratura, dictatorship with democratic facade), where elements linked to the state are able to rule in their own interest, autonomously from civil society”.[22] However, in a very “Romanian” way, opposition to the Party’s hardline did exist, but only outside its structures, in sections of the Army and the Securitate . What seems to have happened in Romania, in that fateful December of 1989, is a double event. On one hand, a group of second and third tiernomenklatura members, in cooperation with some retired Army generals and Securitate officers, who too were for some time plotting against Ceausescu, seized the moment of what, on the other hand, was a spontaneous, popular uprising that originated in Timisoara. The regular Army and, to a lesser extent, the Securitate repressed contre-ceur to the point where they realised the regime could not be saved.[23] Little is known now about the anti-Ceausescu conspiracy and even less about who was part of it.[24] One of the most serious attempts to disentangle what really happened is a book by Ratesh, published almost two years after the collapse of the regime.[25] It is quite clear to him that beginning in 1974 General Nicolae Militaru met Prime Minister Ion Gheorghe far (but not far enough) from theSecuritate’s bugs in order to build a strategy to topple Ceausescu from power. In an interview with the French magazine Le Nouvelle Observateur, General Militaru, Minister of Defense in the post-revolutionary government, admitted that “they” had been preparing the coup over the years, and that everything was to be ready by spring 1990.[26] He claimed that the uprising in December took “them” by surprise and “they joined it”. According to him, the other members of the conspiracy were Defence Minister Ion lonita, Securitate official Virgil Magureanu, an individual with a dubious past, who became after 1989 the head of the Romanian Information Service, Ion Iliescu, ex-First Secretary of the Union of Communist Youth and Chief of the Propaganda Section of the Central Committee, and a few others. Apparently, the ideologue of the underground movement was Silviu Brucan, a very complex personage, editor-in-chief of the Party daily Scanteia in the 1950s, ambassador to Washington (1956-1959) and then Romania’s permanent representative to the United Nations (1959-1961).

It appears that Brucan was one of the key actors, if not the pillar of the anti-Ceausescu plot. He instigated a letter to the Romanian dictator, signed by other Communist veterans, accusing him of discrediting the very idea of socialism, for which they “have fought”.[27] In his book, Brucan states that the first attempt to stage a military coup occurred in 1976, and that the idea came from the Defence Minister General Ion lonita, and from the chief of staff, General Ion Gheorghe. The movement continued and in 1984 something decisive should have happened, but in late September the main military unit of the Bucharest garrison, which should have been one of the main players, was despatched to harvest corn. Information had leaked out. General Costyal (another Army member of the plot) was arrested, and Militaru and lonita had serious problems. Indeed, three years later General lonita died of cancer, after telling Brucan in a crowded bus that he felt a sting in his back. General Militaru also died of cancer after the collapse of the regime.[28] It would appear that the 1984 conspiracy was the most serious attempt to overthrow Ceausescu. Although the coup failed even before taking place, its main actors would surface in the events of December 1989. [29] In a long discussion with Edward Behr [30], General Costyal, one of the plotters, argued that the Securitate part of the plot was coordinated by Virgil Magureanu (who later became head of the Romanian Information Service,Securitate’s heir), but he states that he played a double game, informing the regime of their activities. It is hard to know what importance Ceausescu himself attached to this entire affair, though it is likely that he underestimated the strength of the movement and its real ramifications. And in “normal” conditions he even did not have to worry about it, because without the Timisoara revolt and its spread over the country, the plotters would not have been able to threaten his position at all.

The country of strange facts

Silviu Brucan, who the regime gave a passport to in the hope that he would leave and never come back again, left Romania in June 1988. He flew to Washington, where, according to his own accounts, he met the assistant undersecretary for Eastern Europe, Thomas Simmons, and “the officers in charge of the Romanian desk in the State department”. [31] It is likely that he met other officials, too. After Washington, Brucan went to London, where he lectured at various Universities, visited the Foreign Office, and had a “long” talk with William Waldegrave, Minister of State, followed by a meeting with Martin Nicholson, Mrs. Thatcher’s adviser on Eastern European affairs. Brucan claims to have received “support for their plans” both in Washington and in London, which was the letter to Ceausescu. Incredibly enough, in November of the same year, Brucan flew from London to Moscow, where, according to some sources, he was not received by any high-ranking official.[32] Nevertheless, according to him, Anatoly Dobrinin, Moscow’s former ambassador to Washington and foreign policy adviser of the Soviet leader, “arranged” a meeting with Gorbachev,[33] provided the talks should remain secret. How “secret” they remained is now observable even in this study. According to Brucan, Gorbachev stated his agreement with a well-conceived scenario to topple the Romanian dictator, with the condition that it be carried out so as to maintain the Communist Party as the main political force. Gorbachev repeated in the conversation with Brucan that “the Party must remain upright, otherwise there will be chaos”.[34] By the same token, the Soviet General Secretary did not express, at least according to Brucan, any intention to interfere in the “process”, but it is likely that he did not tell the whole truth, given that the “new” Romanian leadership asked for military help from Soviet troops to “crush the armed resistance” of the Securitate (the “terrorists”). According to Dumitru Mazilu, vice-chairman of the National Salvation Front, this request explains why the Soviets prepared helicopters and had informed the Romanian Army in Moldavia (at the border with the USSR ) of the intention to fly them toward Bucharest ” at the request of the National Salvation Front’s command”. [35] The helpful Soviets never arrived, due to the strong opposition of General Stefan Guse, Chief of Staff of the Romanian Army. Strangely enough, the new leaders have since rejected the idea that they had requested Soviet help, forgetting that an announcement in this respect had been made on Romanian television during the days of the Revolution, in front of the amazed eyes of the entire nation.

The debate over the “terrorists” is as old as the Revolution itself. The only thing known for sure is that not one of them was tried or sentenced after the “events”. No one knows exactly whether they were members of the Anti-Terrorist Unit of the Securitate – USLA (affiliated with Securitate’s Fifth Directorate), of the Information Directorate of the Army – DIA, foreign mercenaries, or some combination of those three.[36]

Who were those people and what did they want?

Former Intelligence Chief, General Ion Mihai Pacepa, who defected to the USA in 1978, states that General Militaru was a Soviet spy in the 1970s.[37] Obviously, this is very difficult to prove. What is certainly known is that General Militaru, General lonita and General Costyal were classmates at the Voroshilov Military Academy in Moscow from 1956 to 1958.[38] Iliescu was an old nomenklatura member, who had fallen into disgrace in the early seventies for his soft positions. He had studied in Moscow at one of its engineering institutes, where he apparently socialised with Gorbachev, who was at that time a Komsomol leader while studying Law at Moscow State University.[39] Besides Iliescu, others among the initial group of authority were said to have studied in Moscow. Pacepa states in Ziua that he had been aware of a Moscow-guided intent of a coup from the time he was chief of the DIE (External Information Directorate, part of the Securitate in charge of external espionage). According to him, the “Dnestr” plan was to replace Ceausescu with a General Secretary more loyal to the Soviets. Ceausescu was aware of this, having received information from the 0920/A military base, a special unit for counterintelligence for “socialist countries”, which Pacepa coordinated. The ex-DIE chief also claimed in Ziua that he personally knew about who was to execute the plan: General Militaru and Iliescu.[40]

If Brucan’s statement is true, Gorbachev encouraged the group to act and gave his blessing, refusing, however, to directly involve the Soviet Union in the coup. In their joint interview in Adevarul, Brucan and Militaru (Minister of Defence in the post-revolutionary government) acknowledged that sections of the Army and Securitate had been already won over by the time of the revolt. They admitted that the plot and the popular revolt developed separately, although back in 4 January of the same year, Brucan denied the idea of a plot altogether.[41] Put together, these pieces of information lead one to conclude that Brucan, like Iliescu,is very likely to have lied by denying the plot. The reason for this is that the purpose of the plotters was not the same as that of the crowd in the streets, whose desire was the total abolition of the Communist system. Being Moscow educated and trained military men andnomenklatura members, their goal was the one expressed by Gorbachev in his meeting with Brucan at the Kremlin in November 1988: let the Party rule, in some way. In an interview with Radio Free Europe in September 1988, Brucan was worried about what he called “the fate of socialism”, which he thought was “hanging in the balance”. According to Ratesh, he was convinced the socialist countries would overcome “the present impasse”. [42]

It is not accidental that the Soviet press viewed the events as a purely anti-Ceausescu revolt and no more, because “no verbal juggling can ever place the sign of equality between the socialist idea and the dead thousands of workers and peasants, in whose name Ceausescu pontificated for a quarter of century”.[43] Indeed, Iliescu himself showed up live on television on 22 December 1989 and accused Ceausescu of “betrayal of the noble principles of Communism”. What they wanted seems now quite obvious: a socialist regime with a human face, a’ laglasnost andperestroika of Mikhail Gorbachev.[44] After seizing power, they immediately created the National Salvation Front, which Brucan describes as “a pluralistic organization consisting of people of diverse political and religious views … it represents a broad political organization of a left orientation”.[45] What they did not expect, and this would seem an inexplicable miscalculation, was the anti-Communist character of the spontaneous popular movement. In practice, they took advantage, as planned, of the uprising to fill the political vacuum left by the collapse of the Ceausescu regime, in order to reform the system. The fact that they called on elections for spring 1990 must not mislead anyone. They knew their popularity was so substantial that the Front would win an overwhelming majority, which would allow it to implement whatever policy its leaders wanted.

Differences in the scheme

There are fundamental differences that make the Romanian case peculiar compared to the other Eastern European countries, where Przeworski’s transition scheme does apply. First of all, in Romania the “Liberalisers” were both military Securitate men and second and third tier ex-nomenklatura members with uncertain foreign connections, finding themselves outside the regime (because of the intolerance of inner circle opposition promoted by Ceausescu). All the information available shows that these men planned a military coup against Ceausescu, and the fact that the Army and a big part of the Securitate defected on the morning of 22 December 1989 could be proof of Brucan’s claim that, if the military and Securitate were not involved in the plot, a bloodbath could not have been avoided. It is clear by now, however, that the repressive forces (especially the military) defected only at the moment they felt the spontaneous uprising would be victorious (and after having tried to repress it days before). These men were Romania’s Liberalisers, situated outside the regime, and were not able to play any game with the civil society, where even soft opposition was suppressed before coming to life.[46] Unexpectedly, the mass society simply exploded (and that was good, according to the plan), but most unexpectedly for them, the demonstrators’ demands went far beyond their initial intentions, which were to establish a perestroika kind of society. Unlike Przeworski’s scheme, in which organised forces of society enter the game in the very first stage of the transition process, the Romanian Liberalisers did not have anyone to play it with. And, at a more serious and careful level of analysis, they did not even need to. What is remarkable is that the mass society exploded without even being aware of the split within the elite.[47]

How it came to “transition”

Very soon the Front leaders realised their miscalculation, but their political astuteness made them understand something that today seems elementary: even in a pluralist society they could successfully compete in free elections and win them comfortably, thanks to the perception that the Front had been the one to fight with the dictator and to prevail. This must have been the moment that they had a political revelation: actually the slight change of plan (from “socialism with a human face” initially desired after Ceausescu’s replacement to democratic transition) need not be so disadvantageous after all, because: a) they could easily win free elections, and by implication b) they would be able in this way to extract incalculable profit from the privatisation process. This necessarily should be managed by them and be as slow as possible, in order to: 1) keep the social discontent rate low by avoiding the inevitable unemployment phenomenon and thus win again, and 2) use the collapsing state-owned industry as a moneymaker from official subsidies, which went from the state budget into the “right” pockets. In other words, the initially conspiring Liberalisers found out that a slow transition to nowhere might be of much more profit and benefit to them than respecting stricto sensu the initial plan. Thus, the Romanian system begun to function, after 20 May 1990, acting largely like a self-sustaining organism, whose most important concern was its own preservation and enrichment. [48] The President’s party (National Salvation Front) continued to remain an amorphous political entity, an assemblage of political actors and power brokers, kept together by their mutual interest in maintaining Iliescu’s leadership and, by implication, power and ties to the “old” power structure. [49] What seems to have happened is that the government directly or indirectly generously allowed ex-Securitate members and ex-nomenklatura apparatchiks(who very often were the same people) to involve themselves not only in dubious privatisations, but in creating artificial financial empires. [50]

Thus, for example, directors of state-owned industries (many of them appointed by the Communist authorities in the eighties) created private annex-firms, led by their wives or close relatives, and slowly transferred machines, raw materials, workers and specialists, not to mention contracts, connections, markets, and credits guaranteed by the state. Obviously, soon the state-owned firm collapsed, while the “private” firm took over the business and prospered.[51] This was the way in which countless state-owned plants were “privatised”. This system and others were conceived and elaborated from above as a big omnipresent structure, in order to repay the part of the Securitateadherents to the plot by granting economic control and the opportunity for power and enrichment. By the same token, it seems that the Iliescu regime opposed the trial of the Army officials who participated in the repression of the uprising. This was because of a sense of obligation to the military institution as a whole, shown by the fact that the it eventually turned its back on the dictator on the morning of 22 December and protected the new regime.

Although Linz and Stepan [52] correctly observe that Ceausescu treated Romania as his personal domain with a kind of “patrimonialistic sultanism”, they mistakenly state that “understanding the combination of totalitarian tendencies in Ceausescu’s Romania clarifies much more that is distinctive in Romania’s past, present, and foreseeable future than the framework of a Communist plot or a captured revolution”. [53] The sultanistic aspect of the Ceausescu dictatorship only indirectly caused the events after 22 December 1989. It is true that this particular type of neo-patrimonial regime eliminated the possibility of a pacted transition, because of the four players, initially three were missing: there was no active civil society (therefore no Moderates and no Radicals, until the radical mob demanded the abolition of Communism itself), and the Liberalisers were outside the regime and planned change not through the game with society, but through a coup, having the final blessing of the Soviet Union. This is the crucial event which differentiates the Romanian case from the others and which allows us to talk about the Romanian exceptionalism. Unfortunately Linz and Stepan completely underestimate (or ignore) these facts, although they correctly observe: “the personalistic nature of the regime allows new leaders, even if they had close links to the regime, to advance the claim that the sultan was responsible for all the evil in the country”.[54]

Once in power, they realised they had to change route from “socialism with a human face” to transition. The Liberalisers, in contrast with sultanism, created a kind of new feudalism, a structure, composed of old party bureaucrats and Securitate members, who soon controlled (or, better, continued to exercise control) over industry, banking and finances, and the country’s major resources. Actually, the “Liberalisers” became political entrepreneurs of a sort, who considered the country their own feudal domain. They used politics and popular consensus to implement a kleptocratic system by ruining the official, real economy, and by creating an impressive underground, parallel economy, caused huge sufferings to the people, whose living standards had greatly worsened over the last ten years or so. The structure has been in strong control of what remained of the official economy, both private and state-owned, not to mention the parallel one, which, according to the Romanian independent press, reached something between 60% and 70% of the whole system. In fact, the whole country is run by the structure, whose members are in every key position.[55] Unlike in sultanism, the structure does not derive power from office, but from the essential positions of its members in the state administration, economy, and the whole political spectrum. It became irrelevant who won free elections, because the system was penetrated from one edge to the other by this entangled, though perfectly organised network, which derived power from highly dubious business and from a southern-Italian style of personal “connections”.

It is rational to explain the proliferation of ex-Securitate officers in the economic and state apparatus by the fact that the “new” regime blamed Ceausescu, the Political Executive Committee of the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party, and the Securitate, although the latter had much less responsibility in the attempt to repress the popular uprising than the Army.[56] Therefore, the regime generously rewarded the Securitate members, especially with positions in the economy and in the state administration, giving them the opportunity to effectively run the country. A posteriori, it is possible to suppose that the Securitate adhered more closely to the conspiracy than the Army and that there was a substantial lack of coordination between the Army and the Securitate after they decided to defect, in the morning of 22 December 1989. The reasons are still to be found.

The game of the big misunderstanding

As usual in the transition game theory, the cause of transition in Romania was a founding misunderstanding on the part of the Liberalisers (Reformers), who mistakenly thought the masses would be satisfied with their first preference, namely a system of socialism with a human face, a kind of Przeworskian BDIC (broadened dictatorship). Very soon, however, they discovered that either there was no choice or that, in the end, they did not have so much to lose in transition as they initially thought, or, perhaps, both. They actually become pseudo-Reformers.

Hence, the new apportioned scheme is one in three phases:

Figure 3

The Liberalisers (Communists with a “human face”) act underground and have no players to play any game with anyway. Civil society is non-existent as no opposition is tolerated inside the society or in the Party inner circle. In this case, the Liberalisers, in their desire to broaden the dictatorship, had been planning a coup against the Ceausescu-regime for some time, conspiring with the Securitate and the Army which seemingly oscillated between adherence and noncompliance.

Figure 4

Mistakenly, the “Communists with a human face” think a broadened
dictatorship is the preference of society. This is the crucial
misunderstanding in the Romanian events.

Unexpectedly, what could be labeled as mass society became radical revolutionaries. Mistakenly, the “human face” Communists imagined that mass society would support them in their attempt to topple Ceausescu. They did not anticipate that they would have to deal with Radicals and a revolutionary situation.

Figure 5

While the popular uprising is already underway, the Liberalisers transform into “Reformers” and change their preferences from BDIC (broadened dictatorship) to “transition” (which was better than a broadened dictatorship), for two main reasons: they do not have much choice and/or they realise that transition is not as disadvantageous for them as they had thought. Their conviction (and they were right, this time) was that they would win multi-party elections and, therefore, control the privatisation process. This is the reason why the National Salvation Front suddenly decided (under Brucan’s influence) to participate in the May 1990 founding elections, although it had announced it would not. However, their intention was not to participate in the building of a truly democratic society, but to offer the structures that cooperated in the plot (Securitate and Army), strategic positions in the state, by creating a sort of neo-feudal system, in which they could behave like landlords, giving life to a big structure which de facto runs the country.


Unlike other Eastern European countries (with the exception of Albania), Ceausescu’s Romania experienced the most merciless totalitarian regime which did not tolerate any social organisation outside its strict control. The system assiduously tried and succeeded, through countless indoctrination techniques, in penetrating people’s minds, and there was no space for any autonomous structure whatsoever. In order for Przeworski’s transition model to work, four players are required: Radicals and Moderates in civil society on the one hand, and Liberalisers and Hardliners in the state on the other hand. Their interaction can eventually lead to democratic transition. Romania lacked both Moderates in society and Liberalisers in the state. Liberalisers were hidden in the second and third echelons of thenomenklatura , in the Securitate and partially in the Army, plotting against Ceausescu. Their goal was not democratic transition, but a coup d’etat (with explicit and implicit Soviet blessings) that would lead to a glasnost-perestroika -style socialism, or, using their jargon,”socialism with a human face”. Surprisingly, what they did not take into account was the anti-Communist popular uprising, which managed to topple the regime, even at huge human cost. On the crest of the wave, they filled the power vacuum by seizing the state. To placate the demonstrators, they switched their preference from “socialism with a human face” to democratic transition Romanian style. Having no other choice, they realised that competitive elections were not dangerous at all (due to their popularity and to the false perception that they had killed the monster), and that a transition could benefit them materially as they would control the privatisation and economic reform process. Nevertheless, the true intentions of the Romanian pseudo-Reformers were not to build a truly democratic society, but to repay the structures that were part of their plot. A kleptocratic system came to life, and admirers of soft socialism soon discovered a taste for modelling the pseudo-capitalist, free market economy to their own advantage, selling the economic facilities to themselves and/or to their political clients. The purpose was to squeeze as much as possible of the country’s wealth into their own overseas accounts, thus creating a kind of neo-feudal system. As landlords, they would create an immense structure that ran the country regardless of electoral results.

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[1] Explanation by Laszlo Papp, Protestant Bishop of Oradea, Agerpress (Romanian Press Agency), December 21, 1989, in Nestor Ratesh, Romania: The Entangled Revolution, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, 1991, p. 20.

[2] According to a survey of EEAOR (East European Area Audience and Opinion Research) done before the Revolution, 63% of the adult Romanian population listened to Radio Free Europe, Voice of America (in Romanian) – 31%, BBC (in Romanian) – 25%, Deutsche Welle (in Romanian) – 16%. EEAOR, Listening to Western Radio in Eastern Europe – July 1989

[3] Nestor Ratesh, Romania, p. 67

[4] Le Nouvelle Observateur, 17-23 May 1990.

[5] Adam Przeworski, Democracy and the Market. Political and Economic Reforms in Eastern Europe and Latin America, Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 37 ff.

[6] See Vladimir Tismaneanu, “Personal Power and Political Crisis in Romania”, Government and Opposition, Vol. 24, No. 2, Spring 1989, especially pp. 190-193.

[7] Cited in: Juan J. Linz & Alfred Stepan,”The Effects of Totalitarianism-cum-Sultanism on Democratic Transition: Romania”, in Juan J. Linz & Alfred Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transitions and Consolidation , John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London, 1996, p. 355.

[8] In game theory, complete and perfect information means that all players know what all possible sequences of moves are and they know what all players’ preference ordering is for the outcomes, and they know that all the other players know this as well.

[9] Adam Przeworski, Democracy and the Market, p. 64.

[10] This was especially the Hungarian case. See Michael Bernhard, “Civil Society and Democratic Transition in East Central Europe”, Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 108, No. 2, November 1993, pp.318-321.

[11] Adam Przeworski, Democracy and the Market, p. 65 ff.

[12] See Juan J. Linz, Alfred Stepan,”Authoritarian Communism, Ethical Civil Society, and Ambivalent Political Society: Poland”, in Juan J. Linz & Alfred Stephan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation, p.167. Also Adam Przeworski,Democracy and the Market, p. 54, 79.

[13] See Juan J. Linz & Alfred Stepan,”Modern Nondemocratic Regimes”, in Juan J. Linz & Alfred Stepan,Problems of Democratic Transitions and Consolidation, p. 52 ff.

[14] Juan J. Linz & Alfred Stepan, “Modern Nondemocratic Regimes”, in Juan J. Linz & Alfred Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transitions and Consolidation, p. 42.

[15] Samuel Huntington proposes three categories for understanding “how countries democratize”. In “transformations” the regime takes the lead in ending its power and changing it into a democratic system (Hungary, Soviet Union). “Replacements” on the other hand involve processes where Reformers are weak or non-existent, and hardliners are the dominant element in the regime. Democratisation results from the opposition gaining strength and the regime losing control until its collapse or overthrow. Huntington considers that Erich Honecker’s GDR and Nicolae Ceausescu’s Romania fall into this category. Finally, in “transplacements” democratisation is produced by the combined action of government and opposition (Poland and Czechoslovakia). In this case negotiations take place between civil society and the regime, both driven by wrong assumptions: each side thought it was too weak to go ahead without engaging in negotiations with the other side. See Samuel P. Huntington, “How Countries Democratize”, Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 106, No. 4, Winter 1991-Winter 1992, pp. 583, 590-591, 602, 608-609.

[16] Stephen White, “Economic Performance and Communist Legitimacy”, World Politics , Vol. 38, No. 3, 1986, p. 463.

[17] Chris D. Ivanes, “Streets And Crowds in (Post)Communist Romania. Opportunity, Collective Action and Human Emotions”, unpublished paper presented at the Southwest Social Science Association Annual Meeting, Fort Worth, Texas, March 2001.

[18] Adam Przevorski, Democracy and the Market, pp. 51-99.

[19] Timur Kuran, “Now Out of Never. The Element of Surprise in the East European Revolution of 1989”, World Politics, Vol. 44, No. 1, pp. 16-25.

[20] M.I. Lichbach, The Rebel’s Dilemma, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1995, p. 7.

[21] Juan J. Linz & Alfred Stepan, “The Effects of Totalitarianism-cum-Sultanism on Democratic Transition: Romania”, in Juan J. Linz & Alfred Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation , p.356.

[22] Michael Bernhard, “First Transition. Dilemmas of Post-Communist Democratization in Poland and Beyond”,Communist and Post-Communist Studies, Vol. 29, No. 3, 1996, p. 327.

[23] During one of the three meetings of the Political Executive Committee (the Romanian version of the Politburo) held on 17 December in Bucharest, Ceausescu reproached Defence Minster Vasile Milea, Interior Minister Tudor Postelnicu, and Securitate Chief Iulian Vlad, over the escalation of the protests of Timisoara into a riot. He accused them of not having respected his order that the armed forces be armed immediately with live ammunition So far the regular Army had limited itself to a show of strength in the centre of the city, and the Interior Ministry troops were also not armed with live ammunition. If until 17 December, the regular Army hesitated to shoot (seemingly against Ceausescu’s orders), after 20 December in Timisoara the Army spontaneously fraternised with the people it had tried to repress in the days before. In fact, the massacre in Timisoara began on 17 December, and lasted until continuing repression would have meant total war against the unarmed populace. This moment came three days later in Timisoara, when soldiers allied with demonstrators and the Army were given the order by Defence Minister Vasile Milea to withdraw to barracks. Unfortunately, the day after, 21 December, other Army units received the order to open fire in other Romanian cities, including Bucharest, and they repressed civilians until Ceausescu fled by helicopter from the roof of the Central Committee building on 22 December. Although Timisoara was lost, the repression would have continued if the people had not stormed the Central Committee building and forced Cesusescu to flee. That was the moment the Army and Securitate realised the dictator could not come back to power. If it were not for this fear of the plotters’, many innocent lives could have been saved. However, Brucan, a major actor in the events, correctly argues that without the Army and Securitate involved in the plot, the massacre would have reached apocalyptical proportions. A valid transcript of the Political Executive Committee was published by Romania Libera, 10 January 1990.

[24] The first to reveal the coup liaison were the French, even if somewhat inaccurately. Two books were published in France in the early 1990s, one by a France Press journalist who covered the street fighting in Bucharest, Michel Castex, A Lie as Big as the Century: Romania, The History of a Manipulation, Albin Michel, Paris, 1990, and the other by a journalist of Romanian descent, Radu Portocala, Autopsy of the Romanian Coup d’etat: In the Country of the Triumphant Lie, Calman-Levy, Paris, 1990. See also Oliver Weber and Radu Portocala, “Romania: Revelations about a Plot”, Le Point (Paris), 21 May 1990, pp. 42-49.

[25] Nestor Ratesh, Romania, especially Chapter 4. Mr. Ratesh is the director of the Romanian Department of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

[26] Le Nouvelle Observateur, May 17-23 1990, International edition.

[27] Silviu Brucan, The Wasted Generation, Westview Press, 1993, p. 153.

[28] The Ziua daily newspaper produces important documents written by witnesses. From such documents it appears that General Militaru was an agent of the GRU, the Soviet Military Intelligence. See the 1996 collection of Ziua, and especially the 22 June 1996 issue. This point of view is also expressed by General Ion Mihai Pacepa, ex-chief of the DIA (Foreign Intelligence Section of the Securitate ), who defected to the United States in 1978.

[29] Silviu Brucan, The Wasted Generation, p. 134.

[30] Edward Behr, Kiss the Hand You Cannot Bite, Villard Books, New York, 1991, p. 265.ff.

[31] Silviu Brucan, The Wasted Generation, p.144.

[32] See Michael Shafir, “Ceausescu’s Overthrow: Popular Uprising or Moscow-guided Conspiracy?”, Report on Eastern Europe , Vol. 1, No. 1, 1990, pp. 15-19. However, in his joint interview with General Militaru in Adevarul (23 August 1990), Brucan disclosed he had talks “at the Kremlin”.

[33] Silviu Brucan, The Wasted Generation, p. 150 ff.

[34] Silviu Brucan, The Wasted Generation, p. 152.

[35] See Lumea Libera (New York), No. 127, 9 March 1991.

[36] In an exceptionally well documented article (“The Uses of Absurdity: The Staged War Theory and the Romanian Revolution of December 1989”, East European Politics and Societies, Vol. 13, No. 3, Fall 1999), Richard Andrew Hall advocates the USLA hypothesis, criticising the “revisionist” understandings of the events, stating that Securitate was unjustly accused of terrorist activity after Ceausescu’s escape on 22 December 1989, activity that went on for approximately two weeks (221 military men died in the fights, as well as over 900 civilians). The revisionists claim that the real death disseminators during the Romanian urban guerrilla fights were either DIA troops, or foreign mercenaries, or the fact that the troops simply shot, out of panic and disorganisation, against each other. After ten years of analysis of the facts, I suggest the hypothesis that the plotters infiltrated the Securitate and Army sufficiently to be sure that, once Ceausescu was toppled, they would support them, but intentionally allowed some units to create diversions and generate terroristic acts. Moreover, neither the Central Committee building (from where the new leaders spoke on the balcony in the evening of 22 December while the Army was fighting invisible terrorists and people were dying in the square beneath) nor the TV bulding, headquarters of the Revolution, were hit. The purpose was to eventually be gloriously “victorious” over the monster by fabricating a national tragedy of terrifying proportions, “victory” that would legitimise their claim to power. Asking for Soviet military intervention on the evening of 23 December, the new government intended to create an atmosphere of panic, not concern for how legitimate the power held by the new elite was.

[37] See Ion Mihai Pacepa, Red Horizons: Chronicles of a Communist Spy Chief , Regnery Gateway, Washington D.C., 1987.

[38] At least this is the information provided by Brucan, The Wasted Generation, p. 132.

[39] Vladimir Tismaneanu, “New Masks, Old Faces”, The New Republic , Vol. 202, No. 6, February 5, 1990, p. 17.

[40] Ziua , 24 January 1997.

[41] See Michael Shafir, “Ceausescu’s Overthrow: Popular Uprising or Moscow-guided Conspiracy?”, Report on Eastern Europe, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1990, pp. 15-19.

[42] Nestor Ratesh, Romania, p. 100.

[43] Marina Pavlova-Silvanskaya, “The Collapse of the Great Conducator”, New Times (Moscow), 1-6 January, 1990, p.6. Other correspondents of the Soviet weekly (Pogorzhelsky and Svirin) wrote from Bucharest in the 23-29 January issue that “the drama of the situation is that the notion of a Communist is identified by most Romanians with the notion of a Ceausist“, p. 12. The 9-15 January 1990 issue of the same Soviet weekly publishes an interview with the editor-in-chief of the Romanian world affairs weekly Lumea, Radu Pascale, who observed that “for decades the Romanian Communist Party was associated with the name of one man, who in effect had no right to call himself a Communist. How did this come about? That is a question that Romania’s Communists, indeed all our society, must answer today… The traditional ties [sic] between Romania and the USSR will continue to develop in the interest of the successful implementation of the processes of renovation that are taking place in both our countries…” The statements above were released in the early days of the Revolution, in the moments when the NSF felt forced by public opinion to change route from the “renovation process”, Soviet style, to democracy, Romanian style.

[44] The Party’s daily newspaper Scanteia (The Spark) was printed in two editions on 22 December 1989. The morning edition, printed before Ceausescu’s escape from Bucharest at noon, was the same wooden language that nobody had the patience to read. Several hours later, it changed its name to Scanteia Poporului (People’s Spark). Anghel Paraschiv, the former deputy editor-in-chief, tried to persuade his readers that the December “events” were seeking only to remedy the “distortions of socialism”, and not to replace the existing order.

[45] Interview with New Times (Moscow), 16-22 January, 1990, pp. 6-7.

[46] Ceausescu’s son, Nicu Ceausescu, himself First Secretary of the Sibiu district, interrogated in 22 March 1994 by the senatorial commission in charge with the clearing up of the December 1989 events, declared that Iliescu was preparing to take over through a coup, with the help of the Army and “those from the Inner Affairs”(Securitate ), on the background of a “popular revolt”. He also declared he did not expect the new leadership to change the system, only make a “generational change in it”, and he even thought he could serve again. See record of the interrogation in Ziua, 1 October 1996. Relevant is also his interview with Zig Zag, 21-27 August 1990.

[47] According to a CURS survey realised in October 1999 on 2019 persons, 41% of those who answered thought that in December 1989 a revolution took place, 36% a coup, 19% don’t know. 62% considered the Revolution succeeded, 27% were convinced it had failed. See Romania Libera, 16 November 1999. In its own survey (online), the above newspaper publishes these questions and answers: What took place on 22 December 1989? Revolution – 8%, Coup – 45%, Both – 45%. –Romania Libera, 17 November, 1999, online version.

[48] Ion Iliescu was elected president with 85% of the votes. The National Salvation Front was given no less than 66% of the seats of the Assembly of Deputies, and 67% of those in the Senate. See Katherine Verdery, Gail Kligman, “Romania After Ceausescu: Post-Communist Communism?” in Ivo Banac, Eastern Europe in Revolution, Ithaca and London, 1992, p. 122.

[49] See one of the few studies which touches the real phenomena in post-1989 Romania, Thomas Carothers, “Romania: Projecting the Positive”, Current History , Vol. 95, No. 599, March 1996, p. 120 ff.

[50] Vladimir Tismaneanu, “The Quasi-Revolution and Its Discontents: Emerging Political Pluralism in Post- Ceausescu Romania”,East European Politics and Societies, Vol. 7, No. 2, Spring 1993, pp. 326-327.

[51] See Silviu Brucan, “From Party Hacks to the Nouveaux Riches -Social Change in Russia and Eastern Europe”,Sfera Politicii, No. 59, April 1998.

[52] See Juan J. Linz, Alfred Stepan, “The Effects of Totalitarianism-cum-Sultanism on Democratic Transition: Romania”, pp. 346 ff.

[53] Juan J. Linz, Alfred Stepan, “The Effects of Totalitarianism-cum-Sultanism on Democratic Transition: Romania”, p. 347.

[54] Juan J. Linz, Alfred Stepan, “The Effects of Totalitarianism-cum-Sultanism on Democratic Transition: Romania”, pp. 358-359.

[55] The Iliescu regime created in the early 1990s the State Property Fund, an amorphous and ambiguous institution, which should have administered and, when appropriate, sold, as part of the privatisation process, the state-owned plants and industries. Its corruption and subordination to everything other than the national interest became notorious.

[56] See Sorin Rosca Stanescu, “Conviction or Revenge?”, Ziua, 21 July 1999.

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