Country Listing

Romania Table of Contents



There were few signs of widespread organized opposition to the Ceausescu regime in the late 1980s, but scattered and sporadic indications of social and political unrest were increasing. This opposition emanated from political and human rights activists, workers, religious believers, ethnic minority groups, and even former mid-level officials of the PCR. But the ubiquitous Securitate effectively suppressed dissidence because activists were few in number and isolated from one another and from their potential followers.

The Securitate had an effective overall strategy and varied tactics for suppressing dissidence. It relied primarily on extralegal reprisals against leading individual dissidents that ranged from petty harassment, threats, and intimidation to physical beatings at the hands of the plainclothes militia. Dissidents were often fired from their jobs and then prosecuted and imprisoned for "parasitism," even though they were frequently denied all opportunities to work. To isolate dissidents from one another and from Western diplomats and media representatives inside Romania who could bring them international attention, the state denied them residence permits that were required by law before they could live in major cities. The state either avoided prosecuting dissidents in open trials that would generate publicity for their causes or prosecuted them in secret trials before military courts (see Judicial System , this ch.).

Even if they avoided detention, some well-known dissidents had their telephone and mail service interrupted and were jailed without warning. Several lived under virtual house arrest and constant surveillance by plainclothes Securitate agents and the uniformed militia, who cordoned off their apartments and intimidated potential visitors. Dissidents were often vilified publicly in the media as traitors, imperialist spies, or servants of the ancien régime. When the cases of certain dissidents became known to international human rights organizations and the state was unable to act freely against them, the Securitate pressured these dissidents to emigrate by making their lives unbearable and granting them exit visas to leave the country. Once the dissidents were removed from the domestic political scene, the DIE acted against those who continued their criticism of the Ceausescu regime while in exile (see Department of External Information , this ch.).

Romania's industrial workers became an important source of unrest and a potential threat to the Ceausescu regime and future PCR rule in the 1970s. During the 1980s, the labor force's restiveness continued, primarily in reaction to the virtual collapse of the national economy and the deteriorating standard of living (see The Economy , ch. 3). The regime's economic austerity policy and attendant food, fuel, and power shortages hurt the working class in particular. But Ceausescu weathered spontaneous, short-lived labor protests with the support of the security forces and police, who prevented the development of a sustained, independent workers' movement in Romania that would be comparable to Poland's Solidarity. Although they never failed to subdue protestors, the Securitate and police appeared to be strained under the burden of monitoring restive workers throughout Romania in the late 1980s.

Data as of July 1989