Romanian anti-communist resistance movement | Wikipedia audio article

The Romanian anti-communist resistance movement
was active from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s, with isolated individual fighters remaining
at large until the early 1960s. Armed resistance was the first and most structured
form of resistance against the communist regime. It wasn’t until the overthrow of Nicolae Ceauşescu
in late 1989 that details about what was called “anti-communist armed resistance” were made
public. It was only then that the public learnt about
the several small armed groups, which sometimes termed themselves “haiducs”, that had taken
refuge in the Carpathian Mountains, where some hid for ten years from authorities. The last fighter was eliminated in the mountains
of Banat in 1962. The extent and influence of the movement is
often exaggerated in the post-Communist Romanian media, memoirs of the survivors and even historiography,
while the authoritarian, anti-Semitic and/or xenophobic ideology of part of the groups
is generally overlooked or minimized. The Romanian resistance is sometimes claimed
to be one of the longest lasting armed movements in the former Soviet bloc.==Preliminaries==
In March 1944, the Red Army set foot in Bukovina advancing into Romanian territory, at the
time an ally of Nazi Germany. Hundreds of people went into the forests forming
anti-Soviet guerrilla groups of 15-20 people.After the Allied armistice with Romania (11–12
September 1944), the Red Army had free run in Romania and the Romanian government did
not have authority over Northern Bukovina. In late 1944 and early 1945, some small armed
groups were formed in Romania, with a mission of harassing the Red Army in a future war
between the Soviets and the West. After the war, most of these groups dissolved
while others remained in the mountains until 1948, when they became active. In May 1946, General Aurel Aldea, the former
Minister of the Interior of the Sănătescu government, was arrested and charged with
“bringing together various subversive organisations under his command”. It appears, however, that the “National Resistance
Movement”, which he coordinated, posed little threat, if any, to the establishment of the
communist regime. After the elections of 1946, a coalescence
of anti-communist forces led to a structure reuniting generals, senior officers and politicians
preparing and coordinating armed groups under a single command. The central coordinating structure inside
Romania reported on this initiative to the Romanian National Council residing in Paris,
which in turn informed the Western governments. The project was eventually intercepted by
the Romanian authorities, which subsequently carried out massive arrests in spring 1948,
comprising up to 80% of those who were implicated in the movement. Thus, the coordinated national resistance
was decapitated.==Onset of the armed resistance movement
==However, starting with the summer of 1948,
individuals or small groups went underground into the Carpathians, forming various groups
of armed resistance in what was a relatively large movement, gathering several thousand
people. The rebels came from all social strata and
all areas of the country, spreading everywhere the terrain could shield them. The movement was related to the spate of mass
arrests hitting the country after the communist power seizure on the eve of 1948, as well
as to the political and economical measures which ruined a sizeable part of the peasantry
and the middle class. There were several reasons for people seeking
shelter in the mountains. While some went underground to escape imminent
arrest, more generally people fled as they abandoned hope for surviving after being economically
ruined and risking detention or worse. Significantly, entire families took flight
in late 1948 and early 1949. Thus, the British consular official in Cluj,
reporting on 1 May 1949 on the situation of partisans under the leadership of General
Dragalina noted that: clothing and medicine are short and this is
probably true as their numbers have been increased by a considerable proportion of women and
children since the March 1st land expropriation. I have been given a figure as high as 20,000
as the number who has joined since the expropriation (…) The increase in the number of women
and children will create problems of survival next winter (…) I am told now and again
of lorries of army supplies going over to the partisans, sometimes by capture and sometimes
by desertion, but I cannot say to what extent…” The members of the armed resistance were not
called “partisans” by the population, but haiduci, a word for the generous highwaymen,
considered folk heroes. A further major component of the armed resistance
consisted of individuals and groups motivated by anti-communist convictions and persuaded
that only an armed engagement could contain increasing terror and prevent an irrevocable
communist takeover. Some of the resistance groups were led by
ex-army officers and acted in a more coordinated and planned way. It appears that they put their hope in stirring
up a more general armed insurrection, which never came to life. A smaller category of insurgents were Romanian
refugees recruited in Europe by the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), trained in France,
Italy and Greece and then dropped in the Carpathians. It seems, however, that most of them, not
being able to create local contacts imperative for survival, were soon captured.The rebels
had links with the CIA, which conducted parachute missions in Romania in the early post-war
years. At the beginning of 1949, the CIA through
its OPC began to recruit displaced Romanians from Germany, Austria, and Yugoslavia. Gordon Mason, the CIA station chief in Bucharest
from 1949–51, said that the smuggling of weapons, ammunition, radio transmitters, and
medicine were organized. Agents smuggled into Romania by the CIA were
to help organize the sabotage of factories and transport networks. In particular, a two-man team was parachuted
into Romania by the CIA on 2 October 1952 near Târgu Cărbunești in Oltenia. Three American-trained agents were sent in
June 1953 to the Apuseni Mountains, who were later captured, but not executed, as the Romanian
authorities intended to use them as double agents. In the Oradea-Satu Mare region, three airdropped
agents were killed, one of them in a firefight and two others later executed.Among Romanians
recruited by the CIA at the beginning of 1951 were Constantin Saplacan, Wilhelm Spindler,
Gheorghe Bârsan, Matias Bohm, and Ilie Puiu. The Securitate discovered that they had been
recruited in Italy by a former Romanian pilot. Following this, the Romanian Government sent
a note to the American protesting interference in the country’s internal affairs, and that
the captured CIA agents had been “sent to carry out acts of terrorism and espionage
against the Romanian Army.”==
Resistance groups==Ion Gavrilă-Ogoranu, a member of the Iron
Guard’s youth wing who led a resistance group in the Făgăraş Mountains from 1948 to 1956,
and remained undetected until 1976, worked out a set of defining traits of the typical
Romanian resistance group. According to this author, such a group was
rather small, but could number up to 200 men, located in a mountainous/forested area which
comprised some communities. Ogoranu further claimed that such groups were
supported by a significant number of inhabitants (up to several thousands), who provided shelter,
food and information. In the Apuseni region of Transylvania, the
most active group was led by Leon Șușman. The group mainly hid in the woods and acquired
part of its armament from a Iron Guard band that the Germans parachuted in the area in
1944-45. To eliminate this resistance group, the Securitate
used informers against them and intercepted the correspondence of family members. An armed group called “The National Defense
Front-The Haduc Corps” was headed by a former officer of the Royal Army who participated
in the war against the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front, Major Nicolae Dabija. Resistants from this group robbed the Tax
Office in Teiuș, armed with a rifle and handguns. The Securitate learned about the location
of this group after an arrested resistant revealed their location on Muntele Mare and
about their strength. An operation conducted by the Securitate forces
decided to attack the rebels on the morning of 4 March 1949. Securitate forces led by Colonel Mihai Patriciu
charged the peak where the rebels were located, with a gunfight and later hand-to-hand combat
occurring. The Securitate suffered three deaths and three
others wounded. Dabija was arrested on 22 March 1949 after
a local villager, whose barn he was sleeping in, notified the authorities of his presence. On 28 October 1949, seven members of the group,
including Major Nicolae Dabija, were executed in Sibiu. Resistance groups were the target of systematic
and enduring military actions from fully armed regular troops of the Securitate. The strength of the Securitate troops could
vary from platoon to battalion up to regiment, including armoured vehicles, artillery and
occasionally even aviation. The insurgent groups sustained losses consisting
of dead and wounded captured by the Securitate. They also fell victim to treason from supporters
or infiltrated persons, which led to losses and captures. Gavrilă-Ogoranu claims that some of the arrested
rebels and their supporters were killed during interrogation, while other members of resistance
groups were indicted in public or secret trials, and sentenced to death or prison. He estimates that several thousands of convictions
were imposed. Capital punishment was carried out – either
secretly, with bodies thrown into unknown common graves, or publicly in order to intimidate
the local population. A significant number of detained rebels, who
had not been sentenced to death, were killed outside prisons, under unexplained circumstances. In areas where the rebels were active, the
population underwent systematic intimidation and terror from the authorities.==Structure and function==
Dispersal, extent, and duration of the resistance rendered research after 1990 more difficult
in ascertaining structural information on the movement. Evaluating the archives of the Securitate
the CNSAS (National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives) has assessed a
provisional figure of 1196 resistance groups acting between 1948 and 1960. The size of the groups varied from small groupings
of less than 10 members to intermediate sized groups counting around 40 fighters up to larger
detachments of more than 100 men, with the highest distribution density placed around
a strength of 15–20 men. According to these assumptions, the total
number of active resistance fighters may not fall below 10,000 persons, with an estimated
figure of at least 40–50,000 supporting persons. The number of killed victims on the insurgents’
side could be established according to both archive data and various memoirs published
after 1990. The archives revealed several hundreds of
death penalties, yet a much larger number of resisters have been killed either in battle
or during different phases of detention. An estimated figure could amount 2,000 lost
lives. The social structure of the insurgent groups
was heterogeneous, comprising a considerable part of peasants, many students and intellectuals
as well as several army officers. A report of the Securitate from 1951 containing
information on 804 arrested resistance members ranking among 17 “mountain bands” reveals
following political affiliation: 11% National Peasants’ Party, 10% Ploughmen’s Front, 9%
Iron Guard, 5% Communist Party, 2% National Liberal Party.==List of major resistance groups==
The territorial structure of the resistance covered mainly the mountainous and heavy forested
parts of the country. A list of some of the most important resistance
groups and their location: Rather than a planned action, the resistance
movement was a spontaneous reaction in response to the wave of terror initiated by the authorities
after the seizure of power in early 1948. The spontaneous nature of the movement explains
its marked fragmentation and the lack of coordination between the resistance groups. However, acting isolated and on a local basis
conferred the groups a multiformity and flexibility which rendered the annihilation of the entire
movement more difficult, and ensured a remarkable staying power for some groups. Furthermore, in some areas a notable reproducibility
occurred, exterminated groups being replaced by new cores of resistance. A characteristic trait of the movement was
its defensive nature. Indeed, few offensive actions such as sabotages
or occupation of localities have been recorded. While the groups did not pose a major material
threat to the authorities, their dangerousness for the regime resided in the symbol they
represented: as long as the resisters remained free, they created a tangible challenge to
the regime’s claim of exercising total control over the country.==Repression==
The Romanian security forces succeeded in defeating rebel forces due to coordination
between the Securitate and militia forces, as well the penetration of the insurgent groups
with the use of informers, intelligence gathering, and persuasion.Adriana Georgescu Cosmovici
was one of the first people to be arrested for belonging to the resistance movement. In July 1945, the 28-year-old woman was arrested
in Bucharest, and severely beaten by the secret police investigators. In a statement made in Paris in 1949, she
named three investigators as having threatened her with guns, one of them being Alexandru
Nicolschi. According to a 1992 article for Cuvântul,
Nicolschi ordered the murder of seven prisoners (allegedly the leaders of an anti-communist
resistance movement) in transit from Gherla prison in July 1949.Elisabeta Rizea and her
husband, two peasants opposed to the government’s policy of forced collectivization, joined
the guerrilla group “Haiducii Muscelului” led by Colonel Gheorghe Arsenescu, providing
food and supplies. Caught in 1952, she served 12 years in prison,
during which time she was subjected to torture. On 18 July 1958, Vasile Motrescu was executed. In 1959, 80 people led by Vasile Blǎnaru
were judged for “armed insurrection” in the area of Câmpulung Muscel.The implacable chase
of the authorities on the resisters as well as the gag order on the existence of the resistance
show how concerned the regime was, that the symbol of political insubordination might
become contagious.==See also==
Braşov Rebellion Romanian Revolution
Anti-Soviet partisans Vin americanii!==References====External links==
William Totok, Elena-Irina Macovei: Între mit şi bagatelizare. Despre reconsiderarea critică a trecutului,
Ion Gavrilă Ogoranu şi rezistenţa armată anticomunistă din România, Editura Polirom,
Iaşi, 2016. (in French) Georges Diener, “Résistance Paysanne
et Maquis en Roumanie de 1945 à 1965 – La résistance paysanne à la collectivisation”
, [1]Genèses – Sciences sociales et histoireno, no. 43, 2001/2 (in English) Toma Arnăuțoiu – The anti-communist
partisans of Nucșoara – Biography, photos, documents about Toma Arnăuțoiu.

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