Wednesday, January 13, 2010


          Communism was intended to be a society in which all individuals were equal, private property was abolished, and collective property was established. The equalitarian society offered all its citizens a job; moreover, it qualified them in order that they contribute to the common well-being, the common good of this society. However, the communist ideal proved to be impassable and the lack of political pluralism as well as placing the power in the hands of a single person soon led to dictatorship.
          The beginning of World War II would carry Romania on the altar of never-ending sufferance, leading to serious territorial losses.
          On August 23, 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Hitler-Stalin agreement, a pact which foresaw that the Romanian provinces 'Basarbia' and 'North Bucovina' be evacuated and surrendered to the Soviet Union. Besides these territories, 'Herta Province' was taken also. The Soviet Union carried on a ceaseless campaign for the elimination of the Romanians and their national spirit through mass deportations, imposing the use of Russian language, and the decimating of Romania’s cultural and traditional values.
          The systematic robbery of Romania continued in 1940 with the Vienna Dictate, Germany’s allies forced Romania to concede half of Transylvania to Hungary. On September 7, 1940, through the Craiova Dictate, "The quadrilater” was conceded to Bulgaria.
          On September 1940, Marshall Ion Antonescu was appointed as Prime Minister. One year later, under his command "Soldiers, I command you, cross Prut River”, the Romanian army freed Basarabia and North Bucovina, which were occupied by the Red Army. Unfortunately those territories were consequently re-occupied by the Soviet Union in 1944.

          On March 6, 1945, the Petru Groza government is established. It is under the Communist Party control and sustained by the Soviets. The elections of November 1946 are falsified so that results indicate an overwhelming victory for the Communist Party holding no less than 70% of the ballots. Fearing that the Monarchy could endanger the political totalitarianism, the communists forced King Mihai I of Romania to abdicate and to leave the country on December 30, 1947. On the very same day Romania was declared a Popular Republic. Namely, power is taken over by the communists and thus the liquidation of the democratic forces in Romania. Thus Romania enters into the sphere of Soviet influence, putting into practice the collectivization of the lands, the nationalization of the factories and properties, and introduces planned economy.
          The lands, the animals and the agricultural equipments are confiscated; many of the wealthy citizens are arrested. The "Agricultural Cooperatives of Production", belonging to the Communist Party, took possession of farms. Starting in the 1960’s, the Romanian Communist Party leads policies, which have an independent perspective of Moscow. Communist leader, Gheorghe Gheorghiu Dej, becomes the President of Romania in March 1961, and concedes to liver cancer in 1965. Some sources believe he had been irradiated, on the occasion of his last visit at Moscow, resulting consequences of his anti-Soviet orientations. At this time, Gheorghiu Dej establishes international relations with the U.S.A, with Romania becoming a "friendly" communist state during the cold war.
          Nicolae Ceausecu, becomes the General Secretary of the Communist Party in 1965, and in 1967 becomes the President of Romania.
          During the 70’s through loans obtained from the occidental banks, he succeeds in accelerating the pace of economical development for the country.
          He continues the policies of independence toward Moscow, rebuilding relations with the U.S.A, signing with them an economic protocol in 1970, and within 5 years obtaining the Most-favored-nation Clause. However, Ceausescu’s development project proved to be of exaggerated proportions, and doubled by the president’s will to liquidate any external debts.
          Romania begins a period of continuous industrial progression, including the development of the roads network, electrification, building of hydro-electric plants, barrages, industrial giants, and the building of the Danube-Black Sea Canal, numerous tourist resorts, large centers of residential buildings, for every citizen (Homelessness was non existent during the Ceausescu’s era.).  A series of mega structures were built, including the famous Parliament House, the second largest constructed facility to the Pentagon.
           At the same time, in order to put those projects into practice, Romania's exports had risen enormously. Those trends led to a long period of austerity during the 80’s, worsened by people’s isolation from the rest of the world, by political persecutions, propaganda and indoctrination using mass media, the cult of personality pushed to limits.
          Psychologically the impact had more to do with the lack of freedom of opinion, the extreme poverty being endured, and the total domination of a society to take absolute control. The impossibility of obtaining any necessary goods was extreme and following along with the decimation of cultural, traditional or religious values, all replaced by other so called "values", all being of communist origin.
          Amongst those new values counts a character named Frosty, sort of an undercover Santa Clause. Frosty would dress as Santa Claus, but had nothing to do with the birth of Jesus, and would come on New Year’s Eve, a maneuver meant to erase the Christian tradition held by the Romanian people, celebrating Christmas for centuries as with all in the Christian world, on December 25th. Although in some families, who had preserved their traditions, not thinking along the lines of communist ideology, Santa Clause faithfully came on Christmas day. The communist Santa, Frosty, seemed to enjoy patriotic poems to boost his ego. In the schools, including the youngest in kindergarten, had to take part in organized celebrations where they would recite, to Frosty, poems specifically dedicated to the communist party and its great achievements, as well dedicated to their beloved leaders, both Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena Ceausescu (the latter named without foundation as “World-Renowned Scientists”. In reality Elena was a simple uneducated country woman, with illegally obtained degrees.

          Other ghosts from my past keep crossing my mind, all there, connected with the past I will never forget.
          Thoughts bring back the lineups I witnessed, never ending lineups for "Chicken Sets". Chicken Sets were in fact the part of the chicken that was given to the population, the claws, the wings, the throats. The lack of heating in people’s houses was another problem faced.
          During the last years of communism Television consisted of one Program, broadcast on one channel, for two hours, and dedicated specifically   and    entirely  to    communist   propaganda and eulogies
dedicated to Dictator Ceausescu.
          Some Romanians showed their discontent with the regime and being "less obedient" than the rest of the population, listened in the quiet to international radio stations such as Radio Free Europe and The Voice of America. I remember the famous radio sets named “Glory”. Called as such, because all that was created through communism was glorious, grand, imposing.
          Others will also remain imprinted in my mind forever, hearing the language, ceaselessly circulating through all mass media of the time: ardency, grandiose foundations, the gold age, steersman, working enthusiasm etc. The middle class population, made up of workers, was the target audience for implementing the strategies of communist ideology.
          The unanimous desire of the people was to identify with the Communist Party. The president was perceived as "father” of the nation, the almighty man, and brave man, a man who was protecting and guiding the people step by step. All propaganda around the president came in the words of contentedness, obligation, praise, glory, and of course, obedience. "Party" was a word of honor, identified with the country and each citizen separately; there was a communist in every citizen.
          These are realities that people born in the namely "free world" know very little about. However there were ways to, virtually, leave this locked up world. People could buy VCR’s, where they could watch movies or TV shows from the free world. Also, German catalogues such as Nekermann or Otto would circulate, not to purchase anything, just so we could see what new products were there, in the free world markets.
          The Communist Utopia envisioned the equality to rights and life standards for all citizens. However there were people that were visibly living much better, such as the Nomenclature clerks and physicians. In stores a large part of goods were sold conditioned by the purchasing of other products, (for instance if you had bought a color film you would have bought a plastic necklace, some alimentary products were conditioned by the purchasing of some shrimp bags.)
          Those that wanted to buy milk or yogurt had to wake very early around 5:00AM and be in front of the market place, where waiting lists were drawn up. The groceries were empty, only tinned fish were in abundance, but in reality, no one was starving, because every so often, the stores were supplied and the people would buy in large quantities, to stock up for awhile, but they waited in long lines for what they got.
          Sugar and oil were also rationed; each person was allowed a fixed quantity of the two products per month.
          Sweets were rare and bad quality anyway, except candies which were in abundance, every shape and flavor. In some areas of the country even the bread was rationed or sold fractioned, one loaf and a half, loaf and quarter, etc. Out at the country side, the farmers were not independent anymore; they were forced to associate, to work in collectives. Under the form of a tax owed to the state, they had to donate a part of their crops and of the animals in their farms to those Agricultural Cooperatives of Production.

          The first page of the textbooks showed the Presidents picture, and his portrait was customarily hung over the blackboard in each room. Classrooms were organized in sections, in detachments led by a commander, who was always the best student, and had in charge of three other group commanders.
          In schools there were two types of uniforms, one was worn on regular days, the other one was the celebratory uniform, worn only on certain days of the week or during special organized festivities. Both uniforms had one special piece, the red tie, for students that were Pioneers (the students with best learning results). One of the most humiliating punishments a student could endure for lack of discipline or bad testing results was to take away the red tie; this considered a shame amongst other students.
          Customary with the girls’ uniform was a white band, an elastic band worn as not to allow the student’s hair from falling on face. Not wearing the white band during class could bring many types of punishment including the withdrawal of the red pioneer tie, lowering the girls’ demeanor amongst classmates. Another part of the Scholars uniform was an administrative number. This number was sewn on a label which was both on inside uniform and outside clothes as well. On it was that number that corresponded to each student.
          It should also be noted that teachers were given full rain as to what punishment to give the child, corporal punishment beating the child’s palms with a plastic ruler, slapping, warming the ears or the student standing in the corner with his or her hands above there head for the entire class. Students, upon turning 14, and finishing school, and depending on their School test results, had to become members of the YCU (Young Communists Union).
          Saturdays were not free for students, as well as for the rest of the employed population, the latter used to profit by the „reduced working week”, which meant that a Saturday a week was free.
          There were a series of extra curricular activities, which students were obligated to take, included such things as breeding silk worms, tea picking, and recycling as well.
          Students, as with the soldiers of the national army, were 'voluntarily' given the job of working with the agricultural works, transported in organized groups to the fields where they harvested their crops, corn, potatoes, grapes etc.
          Another obligatory activity for school children was their participation in various parades and festivities, all organized for the anniversary of National Day, The First of May or in order to meet the president on his visits throughout the country. The children had to participate in other choreographed shows, all in the honor of the President, sometimes broadcast on TV (an example would be a weekly show entitled 'Romania’s song of praise').
          In the absence of TV programs or any other means of entertainment, children were forced to read more, a good thing otherwise. It is uncontestable the fact that children raised during the communist era subscribed to a greater degree of culture. The children were constrained to subscribe and read a number of magazines, characters meant to instruct the children in the spirit of the party. Some included were 'Country Falcons', this for pre-scholars, another named 'Daring Children', this for elementary and students, 'Youth Spark' for teenagers and young people.

          Obviously most pages were populated with communist propaganda and eulogies to the President, with reports of activities organized by the children and youth, controlled by the party. On the last pages there were games and comics. Among the foreign publications for children, that entered the country secretly there were the magazines Piff and Rahan, though there were lucky the children who were able to get them. The cartoons in the last years of dictatorship were broadcast only on Sundays and never more than two episodes. The grownups benefited by magazines such as 'The Magazine' (centered around articles on health, science, curiosities, UFO’s), 'Science and Techniques' or 'Tehnium' geared towards biochemistry and microelectronics. 'Stinging Nettle' was humorous, satirical, and contained cartoon pictures also very satirical. For the sports lovers there was the 'Sports Magazine', and the rest of the publications, either newspapers or magazines, such as 'Spark' and 'Free Romania' were at least 90% occupied by party propaganda and praise to comrade Ceausescu.
           At this point I would like to note that the nouns 'Sir, Mr., Mrs., Miss' were forbidden. Starting in kindergarten, the children were taught to address all grownups with 'Comrade'. For women 'Comrades', there was a magazine called 'The Woman' which showed the new trends in fashion. Among these magazines were ones of leisure such as 'Cinema'. It should be noted that a large part of these periodical publications issued almanacs as well.
           Neither Radio nor Television could broadcast foreign music, and especially Anglo-Saxon music. Only on some special occasions, such as New Year’s Eve, but even then only a small amount
          There were no private businesses, except for the small craftsmen who carried on their own activities such as boot making, tailoring, upholstery or watch making, etc. All the other commercial activities belonged to the state.
          Informants infiltrated all organizations and collectives: schools, universities, factories and although their presence was known, no one knew who they were. People feared talking amongst themselves maybe saying something not supposed of them. Even in their own homes, discontentment ran deep, and was expressed in whispers; there was a fear of revealing anything that could come against the regime.
          The owners of typewriters were forced to give annually, their fingerprints to the Militia. Every conversation with a foreign citizen was to be obligatorily reported to Militia as well. Travels outside the country were not permitted, except for ones in other communist countries, even then a lot of difficult applications had to be filled and required.
          Raising private new buildings was not permitted, and the tragedy was the forced demolition of houses in urban areas, the owners being forced to live in blocks of flats.
          Abortions were forbidden, except for some special cases, women being often forced to appeal to different methods of curettage, either at home or helped by some people that in most cases were not specialized. There are reports that indicate a number of over 9,000 women who died as a result of failed abortion. Contraceptives were legal but they could not be found in drug stores, but condoms were in abundance, especially in small stores.
          All these problems, against the background of the crash of communist regimes in Eastern Europe led to the forced removal of the Dictator in December 1989, as a result of the popular rebellions in the main cities of the country. Ceausescu was arrested by a temporary government and executed on Christmas day, a thing that no Romanian is proud of, being considered by many as a sin to commit murder, and at a completely improper time.
         It’s been 20 years since the communist regime and Ceausescu’s dictatorship were overthrown, there is not yet known the mystery of the Revolution of 1989, and the Romanians still live with the desire of finding the truth about those events.

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