The Eradication of Opposition to Communist Rule

  • Dennis Deletant


Romanian history is composed of many layers of tragedy but one of the most significant is the imposition of Communist rule. The new dominant force in Romanian politics after the 23 August coup was the Communist Party. Its leaders set out under Soviet direction to effect a Communist revolution, in furtherance of which they were driven by ideology to purge institutions of those who had served not only the Antonescu regime, but also those of the pre-war governments.


Communist Party Foreign Minister Opposition Parti Agrarian Reform Deputy Minister 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    The inspiration for this view is Hugh Seton-Watson’s The East European Revolution (London: Methuen, 1950); see especially Chapter 8.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See, for example Norman Naimark and Leonid Gibianskii (1997), ‘Introduction’, in N. Naimark and L. Gibianskii (eds), The Establishment of Communist Regimes, 1944–1949 (Boulder, CO: Westview Press)Google Scholar
  3. and Liesbeth van der Grift (2012), Securing the Communist State: The Reconstructions of Coercive Institutions in the Soviet Zone of Germany and Romania (1944–1948) (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books).Google Scholar
  4. 12.
    Winston. S. Churchill (1985), The Second World War. Volume VI: Triumph and Tragedy (London: Penguin), p. 202. See also Barker (1976), p. 145.Google Scholar
  5. 13.
    Pearton (1971), p. 265. For the wider pressures on Churchill at the time see Maurice Pearton (1998), ‘Puzzles about Percentages’, in Dennis Deletant and Maurice Pearton (eds), Romania Observed (Bucharest: Editura Enciclopedică), pp. 119–28.Google Scholar
  6. 17.
    One of the advantages of a class theory of politics is that it legitimates casual murder. The Guards’ victims, who were killed or later died of their injuries, have yet to be counted. Apart from their role as ‘shock troops’, the Guards (known in Romanian as Formaţiunile de Luptă Patriotice) also played an intelligence role and infiltrated the SSI and Romanian Military Intelligence (Section II of the Romanian General Staff). These FLP agents went on to occupy senior positions in the Communist Securitate and militia: see Claudiu Secaşiu (1995), ‘Serviciul de Informaţii al PCR; Secţia a II-a Informaţii şi Contrainformaţii din cadrul Comandamentului Formaţiunilor de Luptă Patriotice (FLP) — Penetrarea Serviciilor Oficiale de Informaţii (23 August 1944–6 Martie 1945)’, 6 martie 1945. începuturile Comunizării României (Bucharest: Editura Enciclopedică), pp. 146–57.Google Scholar
  7. 25.
    Dinu C. Giurescu (1994), Romania’s Communist Takeover: The Rădescu Government (Boulder, CO: East European Monographs), p. 135. Pătrăşcanu, in conversation with the Tass Russian news agency correspondent in late December 1944, considered that the Communist Party had made a mistake in provoking the fall of the Sănătescu government since the more energetic Rădescu had replaced him: ‘If before we had a prime minister whom the NDF had in its pocket, now we have a prime minister who is in someone else’s pocket.’ When asked to explain what he meant by this, Pătrăşcanu declared that hostile internal and external forces were behind Rădescu: ‘He meant the British’, the Tass correspondent told Moscow (Florin Constantiniu, Alesandru Duţu and Mihai Retegan (1995), România în război, 1941–1945 (Bucharest: Editura Militară), p. 285).Google Scholar
  8. 28.
    Gheorghi Dimitrov (1997), Dnevnik (9 marta 1933–6 februari 1949) (Sofia: Universitetsko izdatelstvo ‘Sv. Kliment Ohridski’), p. 458Google Scholar
  9. quoted from Dan Cătănuş and Vasile Buga (2012) (eds), Gh. Gheorghiu-Dej la Stalin. Stenograme, Note de Convorbire, Memorii, 1944–1952 (Bucharest: Institutul Naţional pentru Studiul Totalitarismului), pp. 27–9. Doubts about Dej meeting Stalin during his visit to Moscow are conveyed in a telegram from the Earl of Halilax, British ambassador in Washington, to the Foreign Office, dated 3 February 1945. Burton Berry, the senior American political representative on the Allied Control Commission in Romania, had reported on 30 January a conversation with the Marshal of the Court in which the latter stated that King Michael ‘had talked with Gheorghiu-Dej who confessed that he had not (repeat not) had interviews with Soviet leaders but had “gained the general impression” that the Romanians’ position vis-à-vis the Russians would be improved il a Communist government were installed’. Commenting on the telegram, a Foreign Office hand notes, ‘Dej’s confession suggests that he and Pauker have claimed Russian support for their programme without having really received it’ (TNA, FO 371/48547, R2516/28/37).Google Scholar
  10. 33.
    N. Tampa (1995), ‘Starea de spirit din România la începutul anului 1945’ [‘The Atmosphere in Romania at the Beginning of 1945’], 6 martie 1945. Începuturile Comunizării României (Bucharest: Editura Enciclopedică), pp. 312–18.Google Scholar
  11. 36.
    Roberts (1951), p. 263, note 29. Rear-Admiral L. Bogdenko, Vice-Chairman of the Allied Control Commission, wrote in a report sent to Moscow that ‘Romanian troops who were guarding the Ministry of the Interior opened fire. Some of the demonstrators responded with fire. Simultaneously, shooting started from the building of the prefecture in Bucharest.’ At 1700 hours Bogdenko demanded that Prime Minister Rădescu order all troops, gendarmes and police to cease firing from their side. The same ultimatum was given to the Romanian military commander as well as to the head of the gendarmerie. It was accepted (see Tatiana Andreevna Pokivailova (1995), ‘A. Y. Vyshinski, first deputy Commissar for Foreign Allairs of the USSR and the Establishment of the Groza Government’, in 6 martie 1945. Începuturile Comunizării României (Bucharest: Editura Enciclopedică), pp. 53–4.Google Scholar
  12. 42.
    Susaikov gave this explanation at the end of October 1945, asking Stevenson and Schuyler whether they would have done otherwise. They agreed that they would not, but thought that it was a pity that this had not been explained before (Harry Hanak (1998), ‘The Politics of Impotence: The British Observe Romania, 6 March 1945 to 30 December 1947’, in Ion Agrigoroaie, Ghrorghe Buzatu and Vasile Cristian (eds), Românii în istoria universală, Vol. III/1 (Iaşi: Institutul de Istorie ‘A. D. Xenopol’), p. 433). Soviet sensitivity to disorder behind their lines had been conveyed to Schuyler at the time by A. Pavlov, the Soviet Political Representative. At a meeting of the Allied Control Commission on 14 February 1945, Pavlov had told Schuyler that ‘no disorder can be permitted to occur in the rear of the Soviet armies … nor can any Fascist activities within the state of Romania be permitted’ (Giurescu (1994), p. 67). Soviet unease about the possibility of a Romanian uprising had been fuelled by the infiltration of German agents and German-held Romanian prisoners of war into Romanian units in order to instigate mutinies. Roland Gunne, an SD officer from Transylvania, had wormed his way onto the staff of the Romanian Fourth Army which was fighting in Hungary. The commander of the Fourth Army was General Gheorghe Avramescu who, before the 23 August coup, had fought against the Russians in the Crimea and whose son-in-law, Ilie Vlad Sturdza, was the son of the foreign minister of the Iron Guard government in exile set up in Vienna on 10 December 1944.Google Scholar
  13. Avramescu’s anti-Russian sentiments made him a prime candidate for German manipulation and Gunne and Iron Guard sympathisers persuaded the General to defect with his forces to the German side in the event of a successful German counter-offensive (Perry Biddiscombe (1993), ‘Prodding the Russian Bear: Pro-German Resistance in Romania, 1944–5’, European History Quarterly, Vol. 23(2) (April): 205–12,CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. and Gunter Klein (1995), ‘Începuturile rezistenţei antisovietice în România (23 august 1944–6 martie 1945)’, in 6 martie 1945. Începuturile Comunizării României (Bucharest: Editura Enciclopedică), pp. 295–311. On 3 March 1945 Avramescu and his chief-of-staff, General Nicolae Dragomir, were arrested at the command post of the Second Ukrainian Front at Divin in Czechoslovakia, on the orders of Marshal Malinovski, by Soviet counter-espionage officers. Avramescu’s fate is unclear. According to a report presented to Stalin by Beria and his deputy Abamukov, he was killed in a German air attack on Budapest (Klein (1995), p. 309). This is confirmed by a reply sent in summer 1963 by the USSR Supreme Court to a request from the Romanian Ministry of Justice for information about Avramescu’s fate.Google Scholar
  15. The letter stated that the General had died on 3 March 1945 near the town of Iasbereni following a German air attack and was buried in Soshalom, a district of Budapest (Alesandru Duţu and Florica Dobre (1997), ‘S-a mai dezlegat o enigmă în cazul Avramescu?’, Magazin Istoric, Vol. 31(5) (May): 7–8). No mention was ever made by the Soviet authorities of his arrest. His wife and daughter were arrested on the same day.Google Scholar
  16. The daughter committed suicide three days later, and Avramescu’s wife spent eleven years in Soviet labour camps before being allowed to return to Romania (Johann Urwich-Ferry (1997), Fără Paşaport prin URSS [In the USSR without a Passport], Vol. II (Munich: Iskra), pp. 51–7). Dragomir was taken straight to the Soviet Union where he was tried and sentenced to eight years’ hard labour. After completing his sentence, he was sent on 4 April 1953 to work as a veterinary assistant on a state farm in the region of Kustanai. He requested repatriation to Romania and was returned on 10 January 1956.Google Scholar
  17. On 11 January 1957 he was re-arrested in Bucharest for no apparent reason. He appealed unsuccessfully against his arrest on numerous occasions and was held in various prisons until his release on 27 July 1964. He died in 1981, aged 83 (Alesandru Duţu and Florica Dobre (1996), ‘Opt ani muncă silnică pentru un post de felcer veterinar’, Magazin Istoric, Vol. 30(6) (June): 47–52).Google Scholar
  18. 45.
    ‘Meeting of the NDF Council, 26 February 1945’, MAE, Central Archive of the Institute of Party History of the Central Committee of the Romanian Workers’ Party, Fond 80, Inventory 1, File No. 16, pp. 7–8 and 11. Gheorghiu-Dej was to claim later, at a plenary meeting of the Central Committee held on 9–10 June 1958, that ‘he alone worked’ for a limited coalition with Tătărescu while Pauker, Pătrăşcanu and Soviet officials on the Allied Control Commission argued ‘that we should continue with the National Peasants and the National Liberals’ (Robert Levy (1995), ‘Power Struggles in the Romanian Communist Party Leadership during the Period of the Formation of the Groza Regime’, in 6 martie 1945. Începuturile Comunizării României (Bucharest: Editura Enciclopedică), p. 88). Gheorghiu-Dej’s words may have been a retrospective attempt to show that he had acted independently of the Soviet Union and the so-called ‘Muscovite faction’ of Pauker and Luca, and in doing so omitted any mention of Vyshinski’s decisive role.Google Scholar
  19. 55.
    The number of officers in the Corps of Detectives was, according to the available documents, halved from 221 in March 1945 to 101 in January 1947. Enrolled in the Corps after March 1945 were a number of Romanian-speaking Soviet agents, most of whom, like Nicolski, had been captured by the Romanian authorities and subsequently released from jail after 23 August. Among these agents were Andrei Gluvakov, Vladimir Gribici, Mişa Protopopov, Vanea Didenko, Iaşka Alexeev, Mihail Postanski (Posteucă), MiÎa Petruc, Alexandru Şişman and Pyotr Gonciaruc (P. Ştefănescu (1994), Istoria Serviciilor Secrete Româneşti (Bucharest: Divers Press), p. 163). A serialized biography of Nicolski was published in the Romanian weekly Cuvântul (April and May 1992) by Marius Oprea. In October 1944 he joined the police and after the imposition of the Groza government was named head of the Corps of Detectives.Google Scholar
  20. On 17 April 1947 he was appointed Inspector General of the security police and when the Securitate was established on 30 August 1948, he was named as one of the two deputy directors. For further details see Dennis Deletant (1993), ‘The Securitate and the Police State in Romania, 1948–64’, Intelligence and National Security, Vol. 8(4) (October): 13–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 71.
    Mark Percival (1995), ‘British Attitudes towards the Romanian Historic Parties and the Monarchy, 1944–47’, Occasional Papers in Romanian Studies, No. 1, Dennis Deletant (ed.) (London: School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London), p. 19.Google Scholar
  22. 81.
    Ghita Ionescu (1964), Communism in Rumania, 1944–1962 (London: Oxford University Press), p. 142.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Dennis Deletant 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dennis Deletant
    • 1
  1. 1.Georgetown UniversityUSA

Personalised recommendations