The Romanian People's Republic

Romania Table of Contents

In March 1948 the government held elections that for the final time included the facade of opposition-party participation; the Popular Democratic Front took 405 of the 414 seats. On April 13, 1948, the new National Assembly proclaimed the creation of the Romanian People's Republic and adopted a Stalinist constitution. The assembly ostensibly became the supreme organ of state authority; in reality, however, the Communist Party's Politburo and the state Council of Ministers held the reins of power. The constitution also listed civil and political rights and recognized private property, but the authorities soon renounced the separation of the judiciary and executive and established the Department of State Security (Departamentul Securitatii Statului), commonly known as the Securitate, Romania's secret police. In 1949 acts considered dangerous to society became punishable even if the acts were not specifically defined by law as crimes, and economic crimes became punishable by death. The central government also created and staffed local "people's councils" to further tighten its hold on the country.

In June 1948, the national assembly enacted legislation to complete the nationalization of the country's banks and most of its industrial, mining, transportation, and insurance companies. Within three years the state controlled 90 percent of Romania's industry. The nationalization law provided reimbursement for business owners, but repayments never materialized. In July 1948, the government created a state planning commission to control the economy, and in January 1949 Romania joined the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon), an organization designed to further economic cooperation between the Soviet satellites.

Romania launched an ambitious program of forced industrial development at the expense of agriculture and consumer-goods production. In the First Five-Year Plan (1951-55), planners earmarked 57 percent of all investment for industry, allotted 87 percent of industrial investment to heavy industry, and promised the workers an 80 percent improvement in their standard of living by 1955. The government began construction of the Danube-Black Sea Canal, a project of monumental proportions and questionable utility.

In 1949 the government initiated forced agricultural collectivization to feed the growing urban population and generate capital. The state appropriated land, prodded peasants to join collective farms, and equipped machine stations to do mechanized work for the collective farms. Government forces besieged rural areas and arrested about 80,000 peasants for being private farmers or siding with private farmers, who were reviled as "class enemies;" about 30,000 people eventually faced public trial. Forced collectivization brought Romania food shortages and reduced exports, and by late 1951 the government realized it lacked the tractors, equipment, and trained personnel for successful rapid collectivization. The forced collectivization campaign produced only about 17 percent state ownership of Romania's land. The authorities shifted to a policy of slow collectivization and cooperativization, allowing peasants to retain their land but requiring delivery to the state of a portion of their output. Large compulsory-delivery quotas drove many peasants from the land to higher-paying jobs in industry.

Industrialization proceeded quickly and soon began reshaping the country's social fabric. Although Romania remained a predominantly agricultural country, the percentage of industrial workers increased as peasants left the fields and villages for factory jobs and overcrowded city apartments. Trade school and university graduates also flocked to the cities. By 1953 government decrees had made most professionals state employees, eliminated private commerce, and bankrupted the commercial bourgeoisie.

In 1948 the regime determined to reform the social structure and inculcate "socialist" values. The authorities tackled illiteracy, but they also severed links with Western culture, jailed teachers and intellectuals, introduced compulsory Russian-language instruction, rewrote Romania's history to highlight Russia's contributions, and redefined the nation's identity by glossing over its Western roots and stressing Slavic influences. Party leaders ordered writers and artists to embrace socialist realism and commanded teachers to train children for communal life. The state transformed the Romanian Orthodox Church into a government-controlled organization, supervised Roman Catholic schools, jailed Catholic clergy, merged the Uniate and Orthodox churches, and seized Uniate church property. After 1948 Stalin encouraged anti-Semitism and the Romanian regime restricted Jewish religious observances and harassed and imprisoned Jews who wished to emigrate to Israel. Despite this pressure, however, a third of Romania's Jews had emigrated by 1951.

On June 28, 1948, the Yugoslav-Soviet rift broke into the open when the Cominform expelled Yugoslavia. Gheorghiu-Dej enthusiastically joined in the attack on Yugoslavia's defiant leader, Josip Broz Tito, and the Cominform transferred its headquarters from Belgrade to Bucharest. Romania sheltered fleeing anti-Tito Yugoslavs, beamed propaganda broadcasts into Yugoslavia denouncing Tito, and called on Yugoslav communists to revolt. Tito's successful defiance of Stalin triggered a purge of East European communists who had approved Titoist or "national" approaches to communism.

Romania's purge of Titoists provided cover for a major internal power struggle. The authorities imprisoned Patrascanu as a "national deviationist" and friend to war criminals. In 1949 the party purged its rolls of 192,000 members. The Muscovite party leaders fell next. In 1951 Pauker and Luca celebrated Gheorghiu-Dej as the party's sole leader, but in May 1952 Pauker, Luca, and Georgescu lost their party and government positions. A month later, Gheorghiu-Dej shunted Groza into a ceremonial position and assumed both the state and party leadership. The government soon promulgated a new constitution that incorporated complete paragraphs of the Soviet constitution and designated for the PMR a role analogous to that of the CPSU in the Soviet Union--the "leading political force" in the state and society. In 1954 the military tried and shot several "deviationists" and "spies," including Patrascanu.

Through the purge, Gheorghiu-Dej established a unified party leadership of Romanian nationals and forged a loyal internal apparatus to implement his policies. Gheorghiu-Dej elevated young protégés, including Nicolae Ceausescu, a former shoemaker's apprentice who had joined the party at age fourteen and had met Gheorghiu-Dej in prison during the war, and Alexandru Draghici, who later became interior minister. The PMR's unity allowed it successfully to assert its interests over Moscow's in the next decade.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress