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A hybrid war against its own people

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The key moments in the recent history of post-communist Romania are unclear. The files of the Revolution, of miners’ raids and the conflict in Târgu Mureș have been classified and reopened periodically. The files have been moved from the military to the civil prosecutor's offices, and the other way round, evidence has disappeared, witnesses have died (some under suspicious conditions) or left the country. Media's efforts to investigate these events have always been marred by monstruous disinformation.

The narratives developed to explain these moments have some things in common: the external enemy (Hungarians, Soviets) and the call for unity in the face of external "provocation", symptoms of the "besieged city" diversion created by any authoritarian regime. But what was at stake and who was behind the events? Probably exactly those who are behind today's disinformation campaigns, because the meta-narrative of the last 27 years has been the same, except for some necessary conjunctural adjustments: Romania risks turning into a colony (Soviet then, European now), foreigners have stolen everything, life during the Ceausescu regime was better than it is today, traditional values ​​are in danger, the international "occult" decides the future of the country.

The Timișoara revolution was confiscated by the communist nomenclature and by the Securitate (the communist political police) through a counter-revolution, a real hybrid war against its own people. The intelligence services were established in February-March 1990, overwhelmingly populated with former Securitate officers, all potential protests being anticipated and annihilated by means of the diversion staged in Târgu Mureș. Miners’ raids strengthened the position of the ruling neo-communist hard line, taking Romania away from the European option and sympathy. The fact that the September 1991 miners’ raid took place shortly after the Moscow coup was no accident.

The Securitate gained power, built the "original capitalism" and placed people easy to blackmail in key positions in the state hierarchy. But now they want more – they want history to record that the Securitate was on the side of the People, that it stood for the Good. And that's the biggest stake. Executioners have a soft spot for history.

A fake revolution?

“Even if I had only three more days left to live, I’d still want to know that the world has cleared up," said Elisabeta Rizea, the woman who preferred to go to prison rather than betray the truth she believed in. In her house, in 1949, the Arnăuțoiu partisan group had taken the oath. After 13 years in prison, she was supervised by the Securitate until December 1989. Mother Rizea, or Aunt Tuța, as her neighbors called her, died at the age of 91, because she could no longer wait for the never ending to end. In May 2001, when she was visited by King Michael I and Queen Anne, they baked corn and told riddles. "I will love him like the apple of my eye, until the day I die. I want him to be the king of Romania, to always be in the country”. They were the Romanians of another Romania. In 2003, she was buried wearing a wig - the Securitate guards had pulled her hair out in prison.

In the first years after the Revolution, the villagers of Nucșoara opposed the erection of a triptych in memory of the partisans killed by the Securitate and would still give Aunt Tuţa the evil eye. She reminded them of their own cowardness. Romanians did not build a monument for Elizabeta Rizea either – it would have been a monument of Truth. But do we really know the truth, the one that will set us free?

What we call today the "1989 Revolution" is a confiscated revolution to some, a coup d’état, a set-up masterminded by some secret services or a counter-revolution to others. As Lucian Boia has put it, lying, not sacrifice, has become the founding myth of modern Romania.

Were there any terrorists at all? Were agents of foreign intelligence services present on the Romanian territory in 1989 and 1990? Were the Soviets involved? Who gave the order to shoot on December 22, 1989? Who ordered the radio-electronic war? Who orchestrated the extensive process of disinformation and fake news back then?

They said it was the first "televised" revolution. It was rather the first revolution staged with the help of the television, by coordinating "insurgents", disinformation and fake news. What actually happened after the Ceausescus’ famous attempt to escape by helicopter?

For 25 years, the Revolution File, registered as 97 / P / 1990, was circulated from the civil prosecutor's offices to the military ones, each one declining jurisdiction, one after the other. No criminal investigation was carried out between September 1998 and December 2004. In 2015, the Prosecutor's Office of the High Court of Cassation and Justice (PICCJ) closed the case in which investigations had been carried out into the deaths of 709 people and the injury of another 2,198. [1] In the nolle prosequi, PICCJ wrote that, "against the background of a state of fatigue and stress", gunfire was fired between the military. The December 22-31, 1989 period was characterized by "power vacuum, confusion, panic and chaos." After the "general euphoria over the victory of the revolution" there followed "a state of fear" of a potential return of Nicolae Ceausescu to the leadership of the country, "with the help of faithful forces". A "joint action followed, targeting, according to the created perception, some counter-revolutionary elements, which were acting against the will of the entire population", the PICCJ military prosecutors also said. [2]

In April 2016, the case was reopened, becoming 11 / P / 2014, and got extended in November 2016, to include crimes against humanity. The General Prosecutor's Office announced that all the injured persons would be re-heard. On December 18, 2017, the Public Ministry issued a bomb statement. [3] Based on the evidence analyzed, the prosecutors established the “extremely complex international situation existing at the end of 1989”, “the internal situation in the period preceding the events in Timișoara and during their unfolding”, “the context of people’s rally of December 21, 1989, summoned by the former president Nicolae Ceaușescu”, “the clear succession of the politico-military events in the afternoon and evening of December 21, 1989”, “the source of the sound with panic effect ( on December 21, 1989, during Nicolae Ceaușescu's speech ) which contributed, together with other elements, to the disorganization of the rally in the Palace Square and the outbreak of protests in Bucharest "," the sequence of particularly important events on the night of December 21/22, 1989 "," the circumstances related to the escape of the presidential couple from the headquarters of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, the route followed and the behavior of the military forces before, during and after the revolutionaries’ entering the headquarters of the Central Committee ”and“ the membership of the political-military command group which took over, in a very short time, after president’s flee, the full power in Romania ”.

Here is the most interesting statement in the document: "in December 1989 there was no power vacuum." What could this mean? That the Romanian Communist Party had not lost power? That the Securitate, the instrument of repression and terror of the Communist Party, had not disappeared? That the power enforcement structures continued to be subordinated to the old power, which remained in power? The statement was extremely important. Let's go through the Public Ministry document to the end, and then return to the "power vacuum" situation.

As regards diversions, they "existed, being the main cause of numerous deaths, injuries and damage", launched "through the public television, radio and military means of communication", thus establishing at national level the “well-known terrorist psychosis”. The diversionist phenomenon is "unique in the history of Romania in terms of complexity and scope" not only from the point of view of "concrete action mechanisms" but also of "the people who led this phenomenon." Prosecutors also documented "the request for foreign (Soviet) military aid." The end of the communique reads that "important evidence, likely to establish the truth about the Revolution, has been destroyed or altered" but the criminal investigation will continue "quickly and efficiently".

How can the radical change in the handling of evidence be explained? For 25 years, neither military nor civilian prosecutors were able to reach firm conclusions in the Revolution case. Meanwhile, witnesses and defendants died, evidence disappeared. After the case is classified by the PICCJ, the mystery is largely solved in just two years.

Romanian society has developed at least four main narratives about the events of December 1989. They all try to answer the question "Who fired at us?". The question is legitimate, especially since after Ceausescu's escape on December 22, 1989, all power structures had been subordinated to Ion Iliescu, the head of the National Salvation Front, a provisional body of state power, at the meeting held at the Ministry of Defense, at 4 p.m. The logic of power leads us to believe that those who ordered and coordinated the genocide and that huge disinformation could be the very ones who benefited from the consequences, i.e. those who got the power. But there was no evidence, or prosecutors claimed they had no evidence to support that assumption, until December 2017, when they made public the fact that "in December 1989 there was no power vacuum.”

In the first narrative, supported by the former Securitate officers, the Army must be blamed for the crimes committed after December 22, 1989. They did it to hide their own guilt regarding the crackdown in Timisoara. The terrorist story was invented by the Army (which had seized power on December 22 at 13.30) as a diversion, to cover the revenge against the Securitate. The proof, former Securitate agents say, is that the information that "terrorists will come at 6 p.m." was purportedly transmitted to the army as early as noon on December 22. This explains the assassination of the crew led by Gheorghe Trosca, the chief of staff of the Special Unit for Combating Terrorism (USLA), killed and beheaded by the army commanded by Nicolae Militaru because he had uncovered the latter as a GRU agent. It was not a revolution, not even in Timisoara, it was a military coup, prepared long before the Soviets and accepted by the other great powers, as evidenced by the presence at the top of the most important power structures of Generals Nicolae Militaru, Vasile Ionel and Marin Pancea, all GRU agents. In this scenario, the power group settled on December 22 - Iliescu, Roman, Militaru - is guilty of the diversion that followed, resulting in 949 deaths and the assassination of the Ceausescu couple. [4]

In the second narrative, supported by Romanian Army officers, the Securitate is responsible for the diversions created back then, starting with the December 21 rally in front of the Central Committee. The goal was to seize power, even though, officially, the Securitate troops withdrew to the barracks and immediately subordinated themselves to the army. The story of the so-called terrorists was invented by the Securitate to justify their fight against the army. As for Trosca, he was a Securitate officer and nothing more, and that was proved in 2011 when his title of "hero-martyr of the Romanian Revolution" was withdrawn. [5] The intervention of foreign powers (publicly requested, on public television) was a disinformation generated by the Securitate, to justify the bloodbath that followed.

According to the third narrative, supported by some historians and journalists, the said diversions were created by the "246" network [6], subordinated to the Army Intelligence Directorate (DIA) and aimed at keeping the Romanian Communist Party in power, preventing the return of King Michael (this explains the destruction of the Central University Library, a symbol of royalty) and the rise to power of historical parties. They were in fact the "terrorists". The coup was masterminded by General Victor Stanculescu, when he decided not to comply with the battle order given by Ceausescu on December 22, ordering the withdrawal of the army to the barracks at 01.30.p.m.

The fourth, “official”, narrative, is the one according to which the events before and after December 22 must be reviewed in the same context and as part of the same "scenario". After December 22, the army and the Securitate were on the side of the people, the terrorists existed but none could be brought before the court and the NSF was an "emanation of the Revolution". "As for the doubt whether or not there was a revolution in December 1989, it is now superfluous; it relapses only when there is bad faith and lack of political culture. (…) A revolution can be triggered in different ways, even by means of a coup or uprising, but they do not change the nature of the phenomenon, at most they enhance its specificity", Ion Iliescu writes in The Lived Revolution. [7]

To support the same theory, Dumitru Mazilu cites Larousse, where revolution is defined as "the revolt of the population against the ruling authorities, leading to the removal of the latter and the establishment of a new power." [8] But the new Power had already settled on the evening of December 22, being represented, among others, by Iliescu and Mazilu. According to the Larousse dictionary, the revolution was over and triumphant. In this case, were the events after December 22 a counter-revolution? Whose?

Petre Roman has a different historical perspective: "It has been often said and written that the Romanian revolution was “confiscated”.  I think the term is largely correct: on the very night of December 22-23, 1989, the democratic liberation movement of Romanian society was confined within the close boundaries of a somewhat modernized version of the old regime. And power was monopolized, or at least heavily infiltrated, by old communists whose only will was to give the fallen regime, through a purely "cosmetic" operation, the appearance of the legitimacy it had lost because of Ceausescu's madness. In short, when all the democratic possibilities were opening up for Romania, it got stuck into a confused species of perestroika.”[9]

With all the uproar created by disinformation in the decades that followed, it is impossible to shed light on what happened without access to evidence. The December 2017 communiqué of the Public Ministry thus becomes extremely important. The statement that "in December 1989 there was no power vacuum" can only be interpreted in one way: The Communist Party maintained power, and the execution of the Ceausescus was just an episode in the takeover series staged from inside the communist nomenclature. In this case, however, the subordination of the power enforcement structures to the new power, on December 22, 1989, should have been followed by the famous "consensus" invoked by Ion Iliescu. However, on the evening of the 22nd, the massacre began. Why?

At around 6p.m., a rally had been summoned via the public television, in front of the Central Committee headquarters, where the names of the future leaders of the state were to be communicated. When, on the balcony where the Ceausescu couple and other communist dignitaries had stood the day before, notorious former party activists appeared, led by Ion Iliescu, a party dissident, the crowd began shouting "No more communists!", "No more communists!" and then the firing started. 

Also at 6 p.m., six tanks of the 20th Regiment (UM 01060) received the order to fight and defend the Central Committee and the Palace of the Republic, "to destroy the elements in these headquarters and hand them over to the higher bodies." [10] The crowd began shouting "Stop the fire!", "Stop firing!", "The army is with us!". Inside, the National Salvation Front was starting its first meeting, while outside the "terrorists" appeared on the scene and the Army started fighting them.

Do prosecutors suggest that the Communist Party retained power after December 22, 1989? In this case, we can speculate that the demands of the crowd to eliminate the former communists and also the Communist Party itself from the new political life urged them to stage that large military exercise with war ammunition, combined with disinformation and radio-electronic warfare. In short, a genuine hybrid war.

Therefore, was it a counter-revolution led by the Communist Party against its own people? Did the nomenclature and the Securitate need blood and diversion to render themselves legitimate again? Diversion followed the Bolshevik pattern of the foreign “provocation”. Romanians needed a new enemy, for the people and the new leadership to reach that "union in thought and feelings" that the communist propagandists had talked about all along. First, it was the terrorists, then the Soviets.

If Ceausescu had lived to tell, he would say that in December 1989 a Soviet coup took place, with the support of the Warsaw Pact countries. That's what he said in December 1989. The fact that the narrative is identical with the one used today by the former Securitate officers is not accidental - after all, Ceausescu had the information from them. If we are to carry through this exercise of logic, it would mean that either, indeed, GRU staged a coup d’état, taking people to the streets of Timisoara, or that Ceausescu was disinformed by his own trusted people. Maybe the Military Prosecutor's Office will finally help us solve this colossal conundrum.

The information broadcast by the "Romanian Free Television" was handled to that end: the terrorists had poisoned the water, intended to blow up the dams and the Nuclear Research Institute in Pitesti, foreign commandos were attacking the ports, foreign helicopters were hidden near the Bucharest-Pitesti highway, trap cars had been placed in Bucharest, etc. The news was presented by the same television anchors who used to present the news bulletins during the communist regime - Petre Popescu, George Marinescu, Victor Ionescu, Cornelius Roșiianu and Teodor Brateș, former deputy editor-in-chief of the Newsroom. They called on the army and the population to "defend the Revolution": "Television is surrounded by these bandits, by scattered groups. Television is in danger! We urgently ask the army to intervene! No more time to waste! Give the proper orders as you have committed yourself to doing before the people! ” (Teodor Brateș), “Soldiers, use the weapons you have without waiting for a formal approval. The people are giving you orders now! Do not expect orders only from some commanders, who are maybe too limited because of so many years of dictatorship. Let's defend ourselves with what we have at hand!” (Victor Marinescu), “Use all your strength! All the weapons, all the ammunition!”(George Marinescu)

Disinformation continues outside the country’s borders as well. Radio Budapest, just like the Tanjung, ADN and BTA news agencies report a growing number of dead. [11] The indictment issued for the Ceausescu couple mentions the figure of 60,000 victims. 

Some historians and journalists claim that the terrorists existed and that they were handed over to the Ministry of National Defense, and the lists of data about them are held in the ministry’s archives. Former intelligence officers say they were taken out of the country by air and are ready to testify. Gelu Voican Voiculescu and Virgil Măgureanu support the theory according to which foreign powers were involved, mingling through the thousands of "tourists" who entered Romania in December 1989. The scenario was also supported by director Sergiu Nicolaescu: "The determined intervention of the masses and the military thwarted the plans of some domestic and external forces to create another Yugoslavia on Romanian soil. ”[12]

On December 23, announcer George Marinescu reads a paper handed to him by Teodor Brateș, stating: "We are informed that the Soviet embassy has been contacted, and they promised to immediately send military aid, as foreign agents dared send helicopters carrying armed men to destroy what the Romanian people had conquered.” Brateș would later state that the paper reached Marinescu coming “from the 11th floor”, while he was in the restroom. The documentary "Television at the wall of the revolution", made by Cornel Mihalache for the Romanian Television in 2014, clearly shows how Brateș hands Marinescu the paper, asking him: "Read this!". Was it a real request or mere disinformation meant to identify the Soviets as the new enemy?

The narrative developed after December 1989 and defended even today by former Securitate officers says that at first the Soviets instrumented the revolt that began in Timișoara, but its evolution took them by surprise. Then there was the need for a military coup, that of General Stanculescu, which had to be disguised as a revolution. The narrative is aimed to legitimize the Securitate as a deeply patriotic institution, the only one that watched over the territorial integrity of Romania.

Secretary of State James Baker stated on December 24, 1989 that “the U.S. would have no objections should the Warsaw Pact consider it necessary to intervene militarily in Romania "[13], in order to stop the bloodshed. The former Securitate considers the statement evidence of the Soviet-American agreement in Malta, of December 2-3, 1989, according to which Ceausescu had to be removed. The Secretary of State of the U.R.S.S. rejected Baker's suggestion. On December 26, 1989, at the Second Congress of People's Deputies in the USSR, Gorbachev told reporters: "Romanians have not asked us to do this, and we have decided to abandon the Brezhnev doctrine." Former Securitate officers claim that Gorbachev was unaware of the GRU's action to overthrow Ceausescu and assist the RCP in its relegitimization action. After all, they say, GRU wanted to overthrow Gorbachev in the August 1991 coup. It is hard to believe, however, that Gorbachev didn’t know anything about a possible involvement of GRU in the bloodbath in Romania. He was the one who would order the intervention of the Soviet army in Lithuania in January 1991, for the forceful repression of the independence movement. Gorbachev was no innocent, although history might eventually record him as such.

Let's try and review all these contradictory pieces of information, getting back to the communiqué of the Public Ministry of December 18, 2017 and the specifics regarding misinformation and diversion.

Prosecutors, therefore, found out who was the "source of the sound with panic effect” (made on December 21, 1989, during Nicolae Ceausescu's speech) which contributed, among other things, to stirring things up at the meeting held in the Palace Square and the start of protests in Bucharest ”, documented the diversion that “existed, manifested itself complexly on several levels, being the main cause of numerous deaths, bodily injuries and destructions ” as well as the “disinformation mechanisms” launched “via the public television and radio and military means of communication” which  led to the establishment of the "well-known terrorist psychosis." There was not only a "radio-electronic diversion" but also "diversionary military orders" which had "particularly serious consequences", prosecutors recalling here that "in 1987, the Romanian armed forces imported two types of military simulators, small arms fire simulators and simulators for parachute descent." In addition, there was a "better understanding of radio-electronic diversion".

We should find out who ordered that diversion from the military prosecutors, if no other unforeseen events occur in the meantime. A key element of the evidence is represented by the video recordings of the Romanian Television. In 2017, despite the massive protests held in January and February, the Social Democratic Party continued its efforts to amend the criminal codes. The amendment regarding limitations to accepting video evidence in investigations would lead, first of all, to the closure of the Revolution File, as the Prosecutor General Augustin Lazăr pointed out himself. [14] Is it just a coincidence?

Rendering the Romanian Communist Party legitimate again as a "leading force" was done by confiscating the revolution and starting the counter-revolution, by staging the largest military exercise with war ammunition in the history of Romania, combined with disinformation and radio-electronic warfare. The RCP was not the only beneficiary. The Securitate reinvented not only its past, showing that it had always been in the service of the people, but also its future, taking care to promote blackmailable people in state offices. [15

It was a genuine hybrid war against its own people, whose victors confiscated Romania for decades to come.

Fragment from “Liars’ Matryoshka” : Fake news, manipulation, Populism, Humanitas, 2018

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