Romania: Breaking the Silence

Paris—The dramatic, even hysterical, physical construction, reconstruction, and destruction that has gone on in Romania at the will or whim of Nicolae Ceausescu has conveyed an intimation of the end—an end that may now be approaching. The open letter of protest published below was addressed to the Romanian dictator on March 10 by six senior figures in the Romanian Communist party, including one of the Party’s founders, ninety-four-year-old Constantin Pirvulescu. It is certain to have serious backing elsewhere in the Party and government.

It is virtually certain, as well, to enjoy support from the Soviet Union, although the ability of the Soviet authorities to intervene in Romania’s internal situation or to protect the six is by no means assured. The statement by the six that they are “risking [their] liberty and even [their] lives,” is thus certainly the truth. One of the signers, Silviu Brucan, former ambassador to the United Nations and former editor of the Communist party newspaper, was taken into custody for questioning the day after the letter was released, as was, later, another of the signers, Alexandru Birladeanu. Both subsequently were released. Diplomatic sources in Bucharest say that all the signers and their families continue to suffer harassment and measures of retaliation.

Most at risk at this moment appears to be Mircea Raceanu, stepson of Grigore Raceanu, another of the signers, who was arrested earlier this year on espionage allegations and, following publication of this open letter, was charged with treason. He is a former first secretary of the Romanian Embassy in Washington (1969–1978) and was head of the US desk of the Romanian Foreign Ministry at the time of his arrest. His father, Andor Bernath, was executed during the war for anti-Fascist activities. A manipulated letter-writing campaign in the Romanian press has called for the “harshest punishment” to be inflicted on him. The same diplomatic sources say that as of March 23, they are aware of no change in his situation since his arrest was made known. Other people currently at risk are three journalists, Petre Mihai Bacanu, Anton Uncu, and Mihai Creanga, and a typographer, Alexandru Chivoiu, on trial for having prepared a manifesto critical of the regime.

The initiative of the six Communist patriarchs brings the internal Romanian crisis into the open; until now it has been stifled by police repression and obscured by Nicolae Ceausescu’s program of national monument building. He has all but completely substituted for Marxism in “socialist” Romania a grotesquely triumphalist nationalism, by which Romania’s national progression is portrayed as having found its culmination in the era of Ceausescu. Sumptuous avenues and public buildings (including the immense “House of the Nation,” formerly the “House of the People”) have been under night-and-day construction as expressions of the grandeur of the Romanian nation while the Romanian people have groaned in cold and winter darkness, trekking from shop to market in the daily search for something to eat.

The six say in their letter: “Why urbanize …

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