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National Exhibit
National Exhibit
Unflinching Stalinism: Communism in Romania

In order to understand the dynamics of the communist regime, one should note that three centers functioned within the RCP during World War II. The first was the official central committee, headed by Stefan Foriş. One significant personality of this underground faction was Marxist intellectual Lucretiu Pătrăşcanu.

The second was headed by Romanian worker Gheorghiu-Dej and brought together those communists members who spent most of the 1930s and early 1940s in prison, in Romania. Dej was a Stalinist who, by means of Machiavellian intrigues, played a bloody game for power in order to become a unchallenged leader of an equally fanatical and cynical political sect.

The third center was the Romanian Émigré Bureau in Moscow led by Ana Pauker, lionized by Comintern propaganda as the Balkan Passionaria. She derived authority from her privileged contacts with Comintern headquarters where she worked since arriving to Moscow in the fall of 1940.

In 1948, at the beginning of Romania’s full-fledged Stalinization, the RCP’s elite included heterogeneous, mutually suspicious groups with different life experiences. They were all, however, ready to endorse Soviet internationalism. The conflicts between the three centers primarily arose from personal rivalries.

The assassination of Foriş (1946), the arrest of his closest collaborators, and the elimination of Patrascanu as a “nationalist deviator” (arrested in 1948, executed in 1954) laid the basis for the provisional, uneasy alliance between Gheorghiu-Dej and his group, on the one hand, and the “Muscovites” assembled around Pauker. The purge of the Pauker-Luca-Georgescu group was carefully undertaken during a period of three years (1950-53). In the intricate schemes that devoured the Romanian communist elite, the early unwavering servility to Soviet imperialism professed as proletarian internationalism was gradually replaced by a cynical, pragmatic position that included nationalist, even xenophobic motifs.

In the aftermath of Nikita Khrushchev’s secret speech (February 1956), Romanian communists were confused, traumatized, and outraged. Their former idol, Stalin, had been attacked as a criminal, paranoid monster and a military nonentity. From that moment on, Gheorghiu -Dej, the undisputed leader of the party, deeply distrusted the Soviet first secretary. He succeeded in silencing any internal opposition and blocked any de-Stalinizing endeavors.

The emphasis was put on the Romanian party’s early rejection of the “excesses” of the vilified “Muscovites”. Simultaneously, any consistent thaw within intellectual life was pre-empted by means of demagogy and nationalist posturing. Several important figures of Romanian national culture (e.g., the poet Tudor Arghezi and the novelist Liviu Rebreanu) were rehabilitated. The iron discipline of the party ranks combined with a public excitement for a fake de-Stalinization laid the foundations of national Stalinism in Romania.

The first example of intrabloc autonomy by the RCP since coming into power originated in its enthusiastic support for the Soviet intervention in Hungary in 1956. Gheorghiu-Dej offered direct political assistance as Imre Nagy and his collaborators were placed under house arrest in two small Romanian towns, Snagov and Otopeni. Additionally, the Dej leadership unleashed ruthless purges of the Bucharest, Cluj and Timişoara universities, hotbeds of unrest and solidarity in the context of the Hungarian events. Thousands were arrested and hundreds were expelled.

The repression of 1956 set the stage for another wave of terror from 1958 until 1961. The targets were intellectuals who, in the late 1940s were not arrested, but had been only marginalized. This social cleansing accompanied a new offensive toward completing the process of collectivization.

Gheorghiu-Dej officially claimed final victory in establishing party control over Romanian society in April 1962. He then declared completed the construction of the material base of the new order and the transition to the fulfillment of socialist construction. The most significant prize for his actions was the retreat from Romania, in 1958, of the Soviet troops. It was a token of Khrushchev’s trust in the stability of the regime. Ironically, after the second anti-Stalin campaign, in 1961, Gheorghiu-Dej challenged and surprised the Kremlin. In less than five years, Romania, once the Soviet Union’s most loyal satellite, became a maverick, ever irritating, ally.

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