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National Exhibit
National Exhibit
Unflinching Stalinism: Communism in Romania

Author:  Vladimir Tismaneanu Vladimir Tismaneanu is a professor of politics at University of Maryland (College Park). He is also President of the Presidential Commission for the Analysis of the Communist Dictatorship in Romania. Author of "Stalinism for All Seasons: a Political History of Romanian Communism" (University of California Press, 2003). Tismaneanu is editor of the forthcoming volume "Stalinism Revisited: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe" (2009, CEU Press). He is currently working on a book on democracy, memory, and moral justice.

The communist regime in Romania was a totalitarian system founded upon a continuous violation of human rights. It relied upon on the supremacy of an ideology hostile to open society, Leninism, which expounded the power monopoly of a small group of individuals pretending to be the exponents of the national will and interests. The Romanian Communist Party (RCP) evolved from a marginal underground Leninist sect, made up of no more than 1,000 members, into a mass party and eventually became the vehicle for the establishment of Nicolae Ceauşescu’s personal dictatorship based on ultra-nationalist ideology, combined with some residual, even perfunctory, elements of Marxism.

Romanian communism developed a peculiar political culture with characteristics deriving both from the national and the international Leninist tradition: suspiciousness, a deep inferiority complex, a sense of illegitimacy, political narcissism, sectarianism, anti- intellectualism, and an obsession with political and social “transformism” (Robert C. Tucker).

What is particularly notable in the history of the communist experience in Romania is the absence of any well-structured reform- oriented group at the top and within society. In Romania, whether under Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej or Ceauşescu, the legacy of radical Stalinism was never thoroughly questioned – and could therefore not be abandoned. The Romanian communist regime did not experience a process of genuine de-Stalinization.

During the communist period, Romania suffered from the unwavering application of Leninist dogmas: forced industrialization, based upon an outdated model of economic development; the elimination of private property both in urban and rural areas combined with a merciless policy of collectivization of agriculture; the methodic and the ever more intrusive control of the social space and the citizens’ private lives (particularly Ceauşescu’s 1966 to 1989 Draconian anti-abortion policies).

At the same time, Romanian culture and intellectuals were permanently disciplined and controlled through censorship and propaganda devised by such ideologues as Leonte Răutu and Dumitru Popescu. The RCP implemented politics of social exterminism guided by the idea of class struggle or artificially defined national interests.

The Final Report of the Presidential Commission for the Analysis of the Communist Dictatorship in Romania (PCACDR) estimated that the regime’s human toll varies from 500,000 to 2,000,000 victims. This rather wide approximation originates in the systematic obstruction of the archives of the Securitate (secret police), the district attorney’s office, the militia, the border guards, the Minister of Internal Affairs, and other repressive institutions. Therefore, information on the fate of the victims is still scarce. What is now clear is the fact that they were selected on more than class bases: by occupation, ethnicity, religion, and gender.

Founded in 1921, the RCP emerged from the underground in 1944 and managed, after 1945, through deception, mobilization, and manipulation behind the protective shield of the Red Army, to become increasingly hegemonic. A coup on August 23, 1944, overthrew the pro-Nazi dictatorship of Marshal Ion Antonescu and brought Romania into the antifascist coalition.

Under the leadership of Teohari Georgescu, the communist minister of internal affairs, the elections of November 1946 were rigged, an enormous electoral fraud that permitted the RCP and its allies to take a major step toward the monopoly of power. The next step toward the “dictatorship of the proletariat” was taken when the democratic formations, the National Peasant and the National Liberal Parties, were dissolved in August 1947.

The last blow came on December 30, 1947, as King Michael was forced to abdicate. The creation of the Romanian People’s Republic was announced the same day. The 1948 forced merger of the RCP. and the Romanian Social Democratic Party into a new political formation, the Romanian Workers’ Party, concluded the process that had started in 1944 when Soviet troops occupied the country.

Click for sources of the victims of communism

Location:  Eastern Europe
Capital:  Bucharest
Communist Rule:  1947 – 1989
Status:  Fall of Ceausescu - 22.12.1989
Victims of Communism:
435 000