Petru Groza's Premiership

Romania Table of Contents

Petru GrozaPetru Groza's appointment amounted to a de facto Communist takeover. Groza named Communists to head the army and the ministries of interior, justice, propaganda, and economic affairs. The government included no legitimate members of the National Peasant Party or National Liberal Party; rather, the Communists drafted opportunistic dissidents from these parties, heralded them as the parties' legitimate representatives, and ignored or harassed genuine party leaders. On March 9, 1945, Groza announced that Romania had regained sovereignty over northern Transylvania, and in May and June the government prosecuted and executed Ion Antonescu, Mihai Antonescu, and two generals as war criminals.

At the Potsdam Conference in July and August 1945, the United States delegation protested that the Soviet Union was improperly implementing the Yalta declarations in Romania and called for elections to choose a new government. The Soviet Union, however, refused even to discuss the question, labeling it interference in Romania's internal affairs. The Soviet Union instead called for the United States, Britain, and France to recognize Groza's government immediately, but they refused. The Potsdam agreement on Southeastern Europe provided for a council of foreign ministers to negotiate a peace treaty to be concluded with a recognized, democratic Romanian government. The agreement prompted King Michael to call for Groza to resign because his government was neither recognized nor democratic. When Groza refused to step down, the king retaliated by retiring to his summer home and withholding his signature from all legislative acts or government decrees.

In October 1945, Romania's Communist Party held its first annual conference, at which the two factions settled on a joint leadership. Though the Soviet Union favored the Muscovites, Stalin backed Gheorghiu-Dej's appointment as party secretary. Pauker, Luca, and Georgescu emerged as the party's other dominant leaders. The party's rolls swelled to 717,490 members by mid-1946, and membership exceeded 800,000 by 1947.

At a December 1945 meeting of foreign ministers in Moscow, the United States denounced Romania's regime as authoritarian and nonrepresentative and called for Groza to name legitimate members of the opposition parties to cabinet posts. Stalin agreed to make limited concessions, but the West received no guarantees. Groza named one National Peasant and one National Liberal minister, but he denied them portfolios and FND ministers hopelessly outnumbered them in the cabinet. Assured by Groza's oral promises that his government would improve its human- and political-rights record and schedule elections, the United States and Britain granted Romania diplomatic recognition in February 1946, before elections took place.

The Communists did all in their power to fabricate an election rout. Communist-controlled unions impeded distribution of opposition-party newspapers, and Communist hatchet men attacked opposition political workers at campaign gatherings. In March the Communists engineered a split in the Social Democratic Party and began discrediting prominent figures in the National Peasant and National Liberal Parties, labeling them reactionary, profascist, and anti-Soviet and charging them with undermining Romania's economy and national unity. On November 19, 1946, Romanians cast ballots in an obviously rigged election. Groza's government claimed the support of almost 90 percent of the voters. The Communists, Social Democrats, and other leftist parties claimed 379 of the assembly's 414 seats; the National Peasant Party took 32; the National Liberals, 3. Minority-party legislators soon abandoned the new parliament or faced a ban on their participation. The regime turned a deaf ear to United States and British objections and protested against their "meddling" in Romania's internal affairs.

During its first weeks in power, Groza's government undertook an extensive land reform that limited private holdings to 50 hectares, expropriated 1.1 million hectares, and distributed most of the land to about 800,000 peasants. In May 1945, Romania and the Soviet Union signed a long-term economic agreement that provided for the creation of joint-stock companies, or Sovroms, through which the Soviet Union controlled Romania's major sources of income, including the oil and uranium industries. The Sovroms were tax exempt and Soviets held key management posts.

Allied aerial bombardment and ground fighting during the war had inflicted serious damage to Romania's productive capacity, particularly to the most developed sector--oil production and refining. Furthermore, the excessive post-war reparations to the Soviet Union and Soviet exploitation of the Sovroms overburdened the country's economy. In 1946 Romanian industries produced less than half of their prewar output, inflation and drought exacted a heavy toll, and for the first time in 100 years Moldavia suffered a famine. By mid-1947 Romania faced economic chaos. Foreign aid, including United States relief, helped feed the population. The government printed money to repay the public debt, bought up the nation's cereal crop, confiscated store and factory inventories, and laid off workers. Romania, like the other East European countries under Soviet domination, refused to participate in the Marshall Plan for the economic reconstruction of Europe, complaining that it would constitute interference in internal affairs.

In February 1947, the Allies and Romania signed the final peace treaty in Paris. The treaty, which did not include Romania as a co-belligerent country, reset Romania's boundaries. Transylvania, with its Hungarian enclaves, returned to Romania; Bessarabia and northern Bukovina, with their Romanian majorities, again fell to the Soviet Union; and Bulgaria kept southern Dobruja. The treaty bound Romania to honor human and political rights, including freedom of speech, worship, and assembly, but from the first, the Romanian government treated these commitments as dead letters. The treaty also set a ceiling on the size of Romania's military and called for withdrawal of all Soviet troops except those needed to maintain communication links with the Soviet forces then occupying Austria.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress