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Monday, February 28, 2011

A Few Words about the Revolution in Romania

...I loved that guy,he came all the way from the far south of Egypt,came up to us,asking us,as the youth,about what we think of this and that,and then he went on and on,telling us amazing tales of the revolution in his city back in the south!---Magical moments--- (Amor Eletrebi)

A Facebook friend asked me to say a few words about the Revolution in Romania. My friend is one of those in the photo above, surrounded by guys of his age, living the magic of the Egyptian Revolution.

Many things that happened in the Tahrir Square in Cairo reminded me of what was in Bucharest, in December 1989, and what followed in January - June 1990. There are of course also many differences.

I will not try here to give a complete account of the events. I am not a historian, and many things that happened then are not fully explained yet. So I will give here just some glimpses.

Mubarak was much more skillful than Ceausescu in dealing with the revolution. The Revolution in Romania started mid December in Timisoara, a city in the west of the country, the army was ordered to use fire against the demonstrators, Ceausescu decided to organize a huge meeting in the capital, Bucharest, hoping to get popular support, he started to talk there about foreign agents behind the riots, the meeting became quickly a huge mass of revolted people, the next day the army fraternized with the people, and Ceausescu was put down. He tried to run, they caught him, he was summarily judged and executed by a fire squad.

There were of course various groups inside the leadership, and they immediately started to fight each other, so the first days were of shooting here and there, a lot of rumors, a lot of panic, rumors about mercenaries, while the Revolutionaries were trying to organize themselves and to face all this, in a climate of general confusion and reciprocal suspicion. All this ended in a week or so, and still there is no official explanation for what happened.

Romania had only one political party, the Communists, there wasn't any kind of organized force of opposition. If Ceausescu hadn't been able to deal with the events, the structures at large did. First of all, a huge Front of National Salvation was created on the spot, controlled by a faction inside the Communist party who had been hostile to the old leadership. This Front aimed to be a mass organization of all people of good faith (while the Communist party had also aimed to be a mass organization and to control this way the whole society). The Front created his cells in every factory, every university, etc, looking everywhere for second-rank guys: people who had not been at the center of the stage, while they could be considered loyal.

The historical political parties (destroyed by the Communist regime long time ago) resurfaced, with people who had been in the emigration, or people who had long years of political prison: these guys were all very old, so they started to look actively for adherents: and of course they were flooded by people belonging actually to the Communist structures.

The Revolutionaries were not at all content with the evolution of the events and by April a huge demonstration started in the Piata Universitatii (University Square), the very center of Bucharest. It was a marathon demonstration, that lasted till June, with the square occupied by the demonstrators, and all auto traffic blocked.

Soon the society became split. I am speaking about the whole society at country level. Of course you could not expect the same level of political awareness from downtown Bucharest to the last small town or village. And the propaganda of the Front was masterfully working, warning against the guys who had come from abroad (look, they did not live here, they did not share our difficulties, now they come to give us advice, but we are not stupid to be taught, isn't it).

Finally a huge mass of miners came to Bucharest in mid June and started to beat the demonstrators and beat everyone looking suspicious (it means everyone looking like a student or like an intellectual). There were a couple of awful days, after that the miners left. and the image of Romania remained seriously damaged.

What happened after that? Firstly the Front split between the guys wanting at most a cosmetic change and the guys wanting at least a cosmetic change. The forces of opposition became more mature. The society at large became slowly more mature, understanding the realities and challenges of a democracy.

(Zoon Politikon)


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