Romania Table of Contents
Postwar Romania had less labor unrest and fewer overt acts of antigovernment defiance than any other East European country. During the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the Gheorghiu-Dej regime feared the unrest might spill over into Romania. But even though there was student unrest and tension among the Hungarian population of Transylvania, the regime was not seriously threatened. The gradual deterioration of the economy as well as poor and dangerous working conditions led to significant unrest during the late 1970s, however. In 1977 a prolonged strike by coal miners in the Jiu Valley climaxed in the miners holding the prime minister captive in a mine shaft for two days. As a result of this incident, the Securitate (see Glossary) still maintained constant surveillance over the region more than a decade later. Despite further deterioration of the economy, the severe food shortages, and energy and fuel restrictions during the 1980s, only limited signs of unrest were observed, thanks to the strict surveillance and repressive measures of the internal security forces. But in November 1987, a massive protest occurred in the city of Brasov. Some 30,000 workers staged a violent protest against harsh living conditions and the prospect of another winter of food and energy shortages. The spontaneous demonstration began at a tractor and truck plant and spread into the streets. Joined by onlookers, the workers chanting anti-Ceausescu slogans marched on the city hall and ransacked the mayor's office. The protest was broken up by militia and the Securitate, and a number of workers were arrested. Though it was crushed, the Brasov protest represented a rallying point for the possible emergence of an organized opposition.
In March 1989, a letter addressed to Ceausescu criticizing his dictatorial policy reached the West. Written by a group of retired senior communist officials, it accused Ceausescu of violating international human rights agreements, including the 1975 Helsinki Final Act (Helsinki Accords); ignoring the constitutional rights of citizens; mismanaging the economy; and alienating Romania's allies. The signatories called for a halt to the systematization program of destroying rural villages and forcibly relocating peasant families (see Land , ch.3). The letter was signed by former General Secretary Gheorghe Apostol; former Politburo member and Deputy Prime Minister Alexandru Birladeanu; Constantin Pirvulescu, a co-founder of the PCR; Corneliu Manescu, a former Romanian foreign minister and onetime president of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly; and Grigore Raceanu, a veteran party member. Many analysts considered the letter the most serious challenge to Ceausescu's rule to date. The regime relocated and isolated all signatories and reportedly subjected them to other repressive measures. The United States expressed official concern for their safety, and several other Western governments subsequently limited their relations with Romania.
Data as of July 1989