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|Romanian Civil War of 1989|
|Part of the Revolutions of 1989|
Demonstrators on the street
| Socialist Republic of Romania
Securitate and other loyalist forces
| Anti-CeauÅescu protesters
Dissident members of the Communist party
|Nicolae CeauÅescu*||Ion Iliescu and other various independent leaders|
|Casualties and losses|
The Romanian Revolution of 1989 was a week-long series of increasingly violent riots and fighting in late December 1989 that overthrew the government of the communist president Nicolae CeauÅescu. After a trial, CeauÅescu and his wife Elena were executed. Romania was the only Eastern Bloc country to overthrow its government forcefully or to execute its leaders.
Three major components provided reason for and provoked the Romanian Revolution:
As in neighboring countries, by 1989 the bulk of the Romanian population was dissatisfied with the Communist regime. Unlike the other Warsaw Pact leaders, CeauÅescu had not been slavishly pro-Soviet, but rather had pursued an "independent" foreign policy. While Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev spoke of reform, CeauÅescu maintained a hard political line and cult of personality.
The austerity program started in 1980 and because of the widespread poverty it introduced, made the communist regime very unpopular. By mid 1989, CeauÅescu achieved a significant political victory with Romania paying off its external debt of about US$11 billion several months before even he had expected. However, in the months following the announcement the austerity and the shortage of goods remained the same as before. December 1989 was the last act of an end that started in 1987, in BraÅov. The anti-communist riot in BraÅov on 15 November 1987 was the main political event that announced the imminent fall of communism in Romania. The revolt started at the enterprise of Trucks BraÅov, by a strike begun in the night of 14 November, on the night-shift, and continued the next morning with a march downtown, in front of the Council of the Romanian Communist Party. Of course, the Romanians had heard about this event through Radio Free Europe. Emil Hurezeanu tells: "I remember that Neculai Constantin Munteanu, the moderator of the show, started the broadcast: 'BraÅov! So BraÅov! Now it started!' This was the tone of the whole broadcast. We had interviews, information, interpretations of some political interpretations, older press articles announcing open street protests against CeauÅescu."[cite this quote] The reprisals against strikers were rapid. The workers were arrested, imprisoned and their families terrorized, but this act of courage on the part of the workers of BraÅov set the stage for future mass revolts. In this sense, from Radio Free Europe, Mr. Emil Hurezeanu says: "... All these have been turned into an offensive. The reaction of the regime was expected.. Very soon it was seen that the regime wants to hide it, to cancel it, practically not to respond to claims, not to take measures, to change anything, not to turn this protest into a public debate or even inside the party, in the Political Executive Committee. And then, the recipe of a street confrontations with the regime became the only...possible. It became the leitmotif of all the media analysis. [...] It was the beginning of an action against the system that comprises more items. It was a labor protest in a citadel of CeauÅescu, it was a antidictatorial message, it was a clear political context: the pressures of Moscow, CeauÅescu's refusal to accept the demands of Gorbachev, the breaking with the West, who changed the views towards the regime - all these have made us to believe that the beginning of the end was comingâ.[cite this quote] Protests in 1989, before the Revolution In March 1989, several leading activists of the PCR protested in a letter that criticized the economic policies of Nicolae CeauÅescu, but shortly thereafter CeauÅescu achieved a significant political victory: Romania paid off its external debt of about US$11 billion several months before the time that even the Romanian dictator expected. CeauÅescu was formally reelected secretary general of the Romanian Communist Partyâthe only political party of the Romanian Socialist Republicâon November 14 at the party's XIV Congress. On 11 November 1989, before the party congress, on Bucharest's Brezoianu Street and Kogalniceanu Boulevard, students from Cluj-Napoca and Bucharest demonstrated with placards âWe want Reforms against CeauÅescu government."[cite this quote] The studentsâParaschivescu Mihnea, Vulpe Gratian, the economist Dan Caprariu from Cluj and othersâwere arrested and investigated by the Securitate at the Rahova Penitentiary, accused of propaganda against the socialist society. They were released on 22 December 1989 at 14.00. There were other letters and other attempts to draw attention to the economic, cultural, and spiritual oppression of Romanians, but they served only to intensify the activity of the communist police and Securitate.
On 16 December a protest broke out in TimiÅoara in response to an attempt by the government to evict a dissident, Hungarian Reformed pastor LÃ¡szlÃ³ TÅkÃ©s. TÅkÃ©s had recently made critical comments against the regime to the Hungarian media, and the government alleged that he was inciting ethnic hatred. At the behest of the government, his bishop removed him from his postâthereby depriving him of the right to use the apartment to which he was entitled as a pastorâand assigned him to be a pastor in the countryside. For some time, his parishioners gathered around his home to protect him from harassment and eviction. Many passers-by, including religious Romanian students, spontaneously joined in.
|History of Romania|
This article is part of a series
|Early Middle Ages|
|Origin of the Romanians|
|History of Transylvania|
|Foundation of Wallachia|
|Foundation of Moldavia|
|Early Modern Times|
|Principality of Transylvania|
|1848 Moldavian Revolution|
|1848 Wallachian Revolution|
|War of Independence|
|Kingdom of Romania|
|World War I|
|World War II|
|Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina|
|Romania since 1989|
As it became clear that the crowd would not disperse, the mayor, Petre MoÅ£, made remarks suggesting that he had overturned the decision to evict TÅkÃ©s. Meanwhile, the crowd had grown impatient, and when MoÅ£ declined to confirm his statement against the planned eviction in writing, the crowd started to chant anticommunist slogans. Subsequently, police and Securitate forces showed up at the scene. By 7:30 p.m., the protest had spread, and the original cause became largely irrelevant. Some of the protesters attempted to burn down the building that housed the District Committee of the Romanian Communist Party (PCR). The Securitate responded with tear gas and water jets, while the police beat up rioters and arrested many of them. Around 9:00 p.m., the rioters withdrew. They regrouped eventually around the Romanian Orthodox Cathedral and started a protest march around the city, but again they were confronted by the security forces.
Riots and protests resumed the following day, 17 December. The rioters broke into the District Committee building and threw Party documents, propaganda brochures, CeauÅescu's writings, and other symbols of communist power out the windows. Again, the protesters attempted to set the building on fire, but this time they were stopped by military units. Since Romania did not have a riot police (CeauÅescu, who believed the Romanian people loved him, never saw the need for the formation of one), the military were sent in to control the riots, since the situation was too large for the Securitate and police to handle. The significance of the army presence in the streets was an ominous one: it meant that they had received their orders from the highest level of the command chain, presumably from CeauÅescu himself. The army failed to establish order and chaos ensued with gunfire, fights, casualties, and burned cars. Transport Auto Blindat (TAB) armored personnel carriers and tanks were called in. After 8:00 p.m., from PiaÅ£a LibertäÅ£ii (Liberty Square) to the Opera there was wild shooting, including the area of Decebal bridge, Calea Lipovei (Lipovei Avenue), and Calea Girocului (Girocului Avenue). Tanks, trucks, and TABs blocked the accesses into the city while helicopters hovered overhead. After midnight the protests calmed down. Ion Coman, Ilie Matei, and Åžtefan GuÅä inspected the city, in which some areas looked like the aftermath of a war: destruction, ash, and blood.
The morning of 18 December the centre was being guarded by soldiers and Securitate-agents in plainclothes. Mayor MoÅ£ ordered a Party gathering to take place at the University, with the purpose of condemning the "vandalism" of the previous days. He also declared martial law, prohibiting people from going about in groups larger than two people. Defying the curfew, a group of 30 young men headed for the Orthodox Cathedral, where they stopped and waved a Romanian flag from which they had removed the Romanian Communist coat of arms. Expecting that they would be fired upon, they started to sing "DeÅteaptä-te, romÃ¢ne!" ("Awaken thee, Romanian"), an earlier national song that had been banned since 1947. They were, indeed, fired upon and some died, and others were seriously injured, while the lucky ones were able to escape.
On 19 December, Radu Bälan and Åžtefan GuÅä visited the workers in the cityâs factories, but failed to get them to resume work. On 20 December massive columns of workers were entering the city. About 100,000 protesters occupied PiaÅ£a Operei (Opera Square â today PiaÅ£a Victoriei, Victory Square) and started to chant anti-government protests: "Noi suntem poporul!" ("We are the people!"), "Armata e cu noi!" ("The army is on our side!"), "Nu vä fie fricä, CeauÅescu picä!" ("Have no fear, CeauÅescu will fall"). Meanwhile, Emil Bobu and Constantin Däscälescu were sent by Elena CeauÅescu (Nicolae CeauÅescu being at that time in Iran), to solve the situation. They met with a delegation of the protesters and accepted freeing the majority of the arrested protesters. However, they refused to comply with the protestersâ main demand (resignation of CeauÅescu), and the situation remained essentially unchanged. The next day, trains loaded with workers originating from factories in Oltenia arrived in TimiÅoara. The regime was attempting to use them to repress the mass protests, but they finally ended up joining the protests. One worker explained: "Yesterday, our factory boss and a Party official rounded us up in the yard, handed us wooden clubs and told us that Hungarians and âhooligansâ were devastating TimiÅoara and that it is our duty to go there and help crush the riots. But I realized that wasn't the truth."
On 18 December 1989 CeauÅescu had departed for a visit to Iran, leaving the duty of crushing the TimiÅoara revolt to his subordinates and his wife. Upon his return on the evening of December 20, the situation became even more tense, and he gave a televised speech from the TV studio inside the Central Committee Building (CC Building), in which he spoke about the events at TimiÅoara in terms of an "interference of foreign forces in Romania's internal affairs" and an "external aggression on Romania's sovereignty." The country, which had no information of the TimiÅoara events from the national media, heard about the TimiÅoara revolt from Western radio stations like Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, and by word of mouth. A mass meeting was staged for the next day, December 21, which, according to the official media, was presented as a "spontaneous movement of support for CeauÅescu," emulating the 1968 meeting in which CeauÅescu had spoken against the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact forces.
On the morning of 21 December CeauÅescu addressed an assembly of approximately 100,000 people, to condemn the uprising in TimiÅoara. However, CeauÅescu was out of touch with his people and completely misread the crowd's mood. Starting his speech in the usual "wooden language", spurting out pro-socialist and Communist Party rhetoric, CeauÅescu delivered a litany of the achievements of the "socialist revolution" and Romanian "multi-laterally developed socialist society". The people, however, remained apathetic, and only the front rows supported CeauÅescu with cheers and applause. As the speech went on, some in the crowd actually began to jeer and boo and utter insults at him. CeauÅescu's lack of understanding of the recent events and his incapacity to handle the situation were further demonstrated when he offered, as an act of desperation, to raise workers' salaries by 100 lei per month (about 9 US dollars at the time, yet a 5-10% raise for a modest salary) and student scholarship from 100 to 110 lei while continuing to praise the achievements of the Socialist Revolution, unable to realize that a revolution was brewing right in front of his eyes.
As he was addressing the crowd from the balcony of the Central Committee building, sudden movement came from the outskirts of the massed assembly, as did the sound of (what various sources have reported as) fireworks, bombs, or guns, which together caused the assembly to break into chaos. Initially frightened, the crowds tried to disperse. Bullhorns then began to spread the news that the Securitate was firing on the crowd and that a "revolution" was unfolding. This persuaded people in the assembly to join in. The rally turned into a protest demonstration.
The entire speech was being broadcast live around Romania, and it is estimated that perhaps 76% of the nation was watching. Censors attempted to cut the live video feed, and replace it with communist propaganda songs and video praising the CeauÅescu regime, but parts of the riots had already been broadcast and most of the Romanian people realized that something unusual was in progress.
CeauÅescu and his wife, as well as other officials and CPEx members, panicked, and CeauÅescu went into hiding inside the building.
The reaction of the CeauÅescu couple on the balcony is memorable: They staged futile attempts to regain control over the uprising crowd using phone conversation formulas such as "Alo, Alo" ("Hello, Hello"), CeauÅescu's wife "advised" him how to contain the situation "VorbeÅte-le, vorbeÅte-le" ("Talk to them, talk to them"), and they urged the crowd "StaÅ£i liniÅtiÅ£i la locurile voastre" ("Stay quiet in your places"). In the end CeauÅescu allowed himself to be directed into the Central Committee building by his underlings.
The jeers and whistles soon erupted into riot; the crowd took to the streets, placing the capital, like TimiÅoara, in turmoil. Members of the crowd spontaneously began shouting anti-communist and anti-CeauÅescu slogans, which spread and became chants: "Jos dictatorul!" ("Down with the dictator"), "Moarte criminalului!" ("Death to the murderer"), "Noi suntem poporul, jos cu dictatorul!" ("We are the People, down with the dictator"), "CeauÅescu cine eÅti?/Criminal din ScorniceÅti" ("CeauÅescu, who are you? A murderer from ScorniceÅti"). Protesters eventually flooded the downtown area, from PiaÅ£a Kogälniceanu to PiaÅ£a Unirii, PiaÅ£a Rosetti, and PiaÅ£a Romanä. In one notable scene from the event, a young man waved a tricolour with the Communist coat of arms torn out of its center, while perched on the statue of Mihai Viteazul on Boulevard Mihail Kogälniceanu in the University Square.
As the hours passed, many more people took to the streets. Soon the protesters â unarmed and unorganized â were confronted by soldiers, tanks, TABs, USLA troops (Unitatea Specialä pentru Lupta Antiteroristä, anti-terrorist special squads), and armed plain-clothes Securitate officers. The crowd was soon being shot at from various buildings, side streets, and tanks. There were many casualties, including deaths, as victims were shot, clubbed to death, stabbed, and crushed by armored vehicles (one TAB drove into the crowd around the InterContinental Hotel, crushing people â a French journalist, Jean Louis Calderon, was killed; a street near University Square was later named after him, as well as a high school in TimiÅoara). Firefighters hit the demonstrators with powerful water jets and the police continued to beat and arrest people. Protesters managed to build a defensible barricade in front of Dunärea ("Danube") restaurant, which stood until after midnight, but was finally torn apart by government forces. Intense continuous shooting continued until after 3:00 a.m., by which time the survivors had fled the streets.
Records of the fighting that day include footage shot from helicopters â sent to raid the area and to record evidence for eventual reprisals â as well as by tourists in the high tower of the centrally located InterContinental Hotel, next to the National Theater and across the street from the University.
It is likely that in the small hours of 22 December the CeauÅescus made their second mistake of the day: Instead of fleeing the city under cover of night, they decided to wait until morning to leave. CeauÅescu must have thought that his desperate attempts to crush the protests had succeeded, because he apparently called another meeting for the next morning. However, before 7:00 a.m., his wife Elena received the news that large columns of workers from many industrial platforms (large communist-era factories or groups of factories concentrated into industrial zones) were heading towards downtown Bucharest to join the protests. The police barricades that were meant to block access to PiaÅ£a UniversitäÅ£ii (University Square) and PiaÅ£a Palatului (Palace Square, now PiaÅ£a RevoluÅ£iei â Revolution Square) proved useless. By 9:30 a.m., University Square was jammed with protesters. Security forces (army, police and others) re-entered the area, only to join with the protesters.
By 10 A.M., as the radio broadcast was announcing the introduction of martial law and of a ban on groups larger than five persons, yet hundreds of thousands of people were gathering for the first time, spontaneously, in central Bucharest (the previous day's crowd had come together at CeauÅescu's orders). CeauÅescu attempted to address the crowd from the balcony of the Central Committee of the Communist Party building, but his attempt was met with a wave of disapproval and anger. Helicopters spread manifestos (which did not reach the crowd, due to unfavourable winds) instructing people not to fall victim to the latest "diversion attempts," but to go home instead and enjoy the Christmas feast. This order, which drew unfavorable comparisons to Marie Antoinette's haughty (but apocryphal) "Let them eat cake", further infuriated the people who did read the manifestos; many people at that time had trouble procuring such basic foodstuffs as cooking oil.
On the morning of 22 December sometime around 9:30 a.m., Vasile Milea, CeauÅescu's minister of defense, died under suspicious circumstances. A communiquÃ© by CeauÅescu stated that Milea had been found to be a traitor and that he had committed suicide after his treason was revealed. The most widespread opinion at the time was that Milea had been assassinated because of his refusal to follow CeauÅescu's orders. In 2005 an investigation concluded that the minister killed himself by shooting at his heart, but the bullet missed the heart, hit an artery nearby, and he died soon afterward.
Upon learning of Milea's apparent suicide, CeauÅescu appointed Victor Stänculescu as minister of defense. He accepted after a brief hesitation. Stänculescu, however, ordered the troops back to their quarters without CeauÅescu's knowledge, and moreover persuaded CeauÅescu to leave by helicopter, thus making the dictator a fugitive. At that same moment, angry protesters began storming the Communist Party headquarters; Stanculescu and the soldiers under his command did not oppose them.
By refusing to carry out CeauÅescu's orders (he was still technically commander-in-chief of the army), Stänculescu played a central role in the overthrow of the dictatorship. "I had the prospect of two execution squads: CeauÅescu's and the revolutionary one!" confessed Stänculescu later. In the afternoon, Stänculescu "chose" Iliescu's political group from among others that were striving for power in the aftermath of the recent events.
At 11:20 on 22 December 1989, the commander of CeauÅescu's flight, Lieutenant-Colonel Vasile Malutan, received instructions from Lieutenant-General Opruta to proceed to Palace Square to pick up the president. As he flew over Palace Square, he saw it was impossible to land there. Malutan landed his white Dauphin, no. 203, on the terrace at 11:44. A man brandishing a white net curtain from one of the windows waved him down. Malutan said, "Then Stelica, the co-pilot, came to me and said that there were demonstrators coming to the terrace. Then the CeauÅescus came out, both practically carried by their bodyguards ... They look as if they were fainting. They were white with terror. Manea Mänescu (one of the vice-presidents) and Emil Bobu (Secretary to the Central Committee) were running behind them. Mänescu, Bobu, Neagoe and another Securitate officer scrambled to the four seats in the back ... As I pulled CeauÅescu in, I saw the demonstrators running across the terrace ... There wasn't enough space, Elena CeauÅescu and I were squeezed in between the chairs and the door .. We were only supposed to carry four passengers .. We had six."  According to Malutan, it was 12:08 when they left for Snagov. After they arrived there, CeauÅescu took Malutan into the presidential suite and ordered him to get two helicopters filled with soldiers for an armed guard, and a further Dauphin to come to Snagov. Malutan's unit commander replied on the phone, "There has been a revolution .. You are on your own ... Good luck!". Malutan then said to CeauÅescu that the second motor was now warmed up and they need to leave soon, but he could only take four people not six. Manescu and Bobu stayed behind. CeauÅescu ordered Malutan to head for Titu. Near Titu, Malutan says that he made the helicopter dip up and down. He lied to CeauÅescu, saying that this was to avoid anti-aircraft fire, since they would now be in range. The dictator panicked and told him to land.
He did so in a field next to the old road that led to PiteÅti. Malutan then told his four passengers that he could do nothing more. The Securitate men ran to the roadside and began to flag down passing cars. Two cars were flagged down, one of a forestry official and one a red Dacia of a local doctor. However, the local doctor was keen not to get involved and after a short time driving the CeauÅescus faked engine trouble. A car of a bicycle repair man was then flagged down and he took them to TÃ¢rgoviÅte. The driver of the car, Nicolae PetriÅor, convinced them that they could hide successfully in an agricultural technical institute on the edge of town. When they arrived, the director guided the CeauÅescus into a room and then locked them in. They were arrested by the local police at about 3:30 p.m., then after some wandering around transported to the TÃ¢rgoviÅte garrison's military compound, and held captive for several days, until their trial. On 24 December, Ion Iliescu, head of the newly formed Council of the Front of National Salvation signed a Decree on the establishment of the Extraordinary Military Tribunal. The trial was held on December 25, lasted for about 2 hours, and delivered death sentences to the couple. The execution followed immediately, on the spot, being carried out by three paratroopers with their service guns.
Footage of the trial and of the executed CeauÅescus was promptly released in Romania and to the rest of the world. The actual moment of execution was not filmed since the cameraman was too slow, and he managed to get into the courtyard just as the shooting ended.
Huge controversy surrounds the abnormally brief trial put together in very inappropriate circumstances for the Ceausescu couple. Many Romanians thought the former dictator and his spouse were unjustly prosecuted and in fact murdered--and not executed as it was claimed by Iliescu's National Salvation Front--in a rush to cover beforehand potential trouble stemming from a Ceausescu previously aware of a coup d'Ã©tat attempt against himself and his regime. In footage of the trial, Ceausescu is seen answering the "tribunal" judging him and referring to some of its members--among them Army General Victor Atanasie Stanculescu and future Romanian Secret Service head Virgil Magureanu--as "traitors". In this same video Ceausescu dismisses the "tribunal" as illegitimate and demands his Constitutional rights to answer to charges in front of a legitimate tribunal. While most Romanians shared a lot of anger against Ceausescu's regime, they recognize their former Dictator's trial as a brief, totally inappropriate one that can only be linked to an urgent desire of the alleged coup d'Ã©tat perpetrators to get rid of Ceausescu.
After CeauÅescu left, the crowds in Palace Square entered a celebratory mood, perhaps even more intense than in the other former Eastern Bloc countries because of the recent violence. People cried, shouted, and gave each other gifts. The occupation of the Central Committee building continued. People threw CeauÅescu's writings, official portraits, and propaganda books out the windows, intending to burn them. They also promptly ripped off the giant letters from the roof making up the word "comunist" ("communist") in the slogan: "Träiascä Partidul Comunist RomÃ¢n!" ("Long live the Communist Party of Romania!"). A young woman appeared on the rooftop and waved a flag with the coat of arms torn or cut out.
At that time, fierce fights were underway at Bucharest Otopeni International Airport between troops sent against each other under claims that they were going to confront terrorists. According to a book by CeauÅescu's bodyguard, Securitate Lieutenant Colonel Dumitru Burlan, the generals who were part of the conspiracy led by General Stänculescu were trying to create fictional terrorism scenarios in order to induce fear and to push the army onto the side of the plotters.
However, the seizure of power by the new political structure National Salvation Front (FSN), which "emanated" from the second tier of the Communist Party leadership with help of the plotting generals, was not yet complete. Forces considered to be loyal to the old regime (spontaneously nicknamed "terrorists") opened fire on the crowd and attacked vital points of socio-political life: the television, radio, and telephone buildings, as well as Casa ScÃ¢nteii (the center of the nation's print media, which serves a similar role today under the name Casa Presei Libere, "House of the Free Press") and the post office in the district of Drumul Taberei; PiaÅ£a Palatului (site of the Central Committee building, but also of the central university library, the national art museum, and the Ateneul RomÃ¢n, Bucharest's leading concert hall); the university and the adjoining PiaÅ£a UniversitäÅ£ii (one of the city's main intersections); Otopeni and Bäneasa airports; hospitals, and the Ministry of Defence.
During the night of December 22âDecember 23, Bucharest residents remained on the streets, especially in the attacked zones, fighting (and ultimately winning, even at the cost of many lives) a battle with an elusive and dangerous enemy. With the military confused by contradictory orders, true battles ensued, with many real casualties. At 9:00 p.m. on December 23, tanks and a few paramilitary units arrived to protect the Palace of the Republic.
Meanwhile, messages of support were flooding in from all over the world: France (President FranÃ§ois Mitterrand) ; the Soviet (President Mikhail Gorbachev); Hungary (the Hungarian Socialist Party); the new East German government (at that time the two German states were not yet formally reunited); Bulgaria (Petar Mladenov, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Bulgaria); Czechoslovakia (Ladislav Adamec, leader of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, and VÃ¡clav Havel, the dissident writer, revolution leader and future president of the Republic); China (the Minister of Foreign Affairs); the United States (President George H. W. Bush) ; West Germany (Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher); NATO (Secretary General Manfred WÃ¶rner); the United Kingdom (Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher); Spain; Austria; the Netherlands; Italy; Portugal; Japan (the Japanese Communist Party); and the Moldavian SSR.
In the following days, moral support was followed by material support. Large quantities of food, medicine, clothing, medical equipment, etc., were sent to Romania. Around the world, the press dedicated entire pages and sometimes even complete issues to the Romanian revolution and its leaders.
On December 24, Bucharest was a city at war. Tanks, APCs, and trucks continued to go on patrol around the city and to surround trouble spots in order to protect them. At intersections near strategic objectives, roadblocks were built; automatic gunfire continued in and around PiaÅ£a UniversitäÅ£ii, the Gara de Nord (the city's main railroad station), and PiaÅ£a Palatului. Yet amid the chaos, some people were seen to be clutching makeshift Christmas trees. "Terrorist activities" continued until December 27, when they abruptly stopped. Nobody ever found who conducted them, or who ordered their termination.
The total number of deaths in the Romanian Revolution was 1,104, of which 162 were in the protests that led to the overthrow of Nicolae CeauÅescu (December 16â22, 1989) and 942 in the fighting that occurred after the seizure of power by the new political structure National Salvation Front (FSN). The number of wounded was 3,352, of which 1,107 occurred while CeauÅescu was still in power and 2,245 after the FSN took power.
The Revolution brought Romania vast attention from the outside world. Initially, much of the world's sympathy inevitably went to the National Salvation Front government under Ion Iliescu, a former member of the Communist Party leadership and a CeauÅescu ally prior to falling into the dictator's disgrace in the early 1980s. The National Salvation Front, composed mainly of former members of the second echelon of the Communist Party, immediately assumed control over the state institutions, including the main media outlets, such as the national radio and television networks. They used their control of the media in order to launch virulent propaganda-style attacks against their new political opponents, the traditional democratic parties, which re-emerged after more than 50 years of underground activity.
Much of that sympathy was squandered during the Mineriad of January 1990 when miners and police, responding to Iliescu's appeals, invaded Bucharest and brutalized students and intellectuals who protested what they described as the hijacking of the Romanian Revolution by former members of the communist leadership under the auspices of the National Salvation Front, in an attempt to suppress any genuine political opposition.
In May 1990, partly due to the National Salvation Front's use of the media and of the partly preserved Communist Party infrastructure to silence the democratic opposition, Iliescu became Romania's first elected president after the revolution, with a majority of 85%. These elections have been condemned as undemocratic by both Romanian traditional parties and by the Western media.
Iliescu remained the central figure in Romanian politics for more than a decade, being re-elected for the third time in 2000, after a term out of power between 1996â2000. The survival of CeauÅescuâs former ally demonstrated the ambiguity of the Romanian revolution, at once the most violent in 1989 and yet one that, according to some did not entirely replace the former regime.
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