The LAND of ENOUGH
Once upon a time...
Not very long ago, in
27 November 1989
Ceausescu defiantly denounces the political changes sweeping across
Eastern Europe at the 14th Congress of the Romanian Communist Party.
None of the 3308 members vote against his re-election. However,
security is tight, flags are flying and for a while the borders are
sealed and international flights cancelled. The atmosphere on the
streets is tense and there are a number of isolated incidents of
defiance. In Cluj there is a brief panic when the words "Down
with Ceausescu" are written in the snow of Piata Libertatii one
are other minor incidents and an unusual feeling of excitement and
expectation which largely goes unreported
17 November 1989
In the city of
small group of faithful followers forms outside the home of a
popular Calvinist pastor called
He has long been a thorn in the side of the Securitate for his
criticism of the Ceausescu regime and finally his bishop has called
in the police to evict him from his church-owned home - he has
refused to take up a new post in a less "sensitive" rural parish.
This intervention provokes the initial demonstration and some
reports suggest that a picket continues outside his house through
the following weeks. 15 December has been set as the deadline for
In Timisoara, the deadline arrives for
Tökes to be evicted.
His parisioners gather outside and sing psalms and read prayers. The
crowd swells to several hundred people including women and children.
The mayor arrives and asks them to disperse but they refuse to move
and are still there the following morning.
The protest continues and the crowd continues to grow through the
afternoon, the original core of Hungarian-speaking Calvinists now
far outnumbered by ordinary, ethnic Romanians. In the evening an
crowd marches into town shouting anti-communist and anti-Ceausescu
slogans for the
first time and demanding democracy. Another group marches on the
town hall and the Communist Party HQ, destroying files and throwing
portraits of Ceausescu and Communist literature onto a bonfire they
have made in the street.
A shout goes up when a
flag appears with a hole in the centre where the communist logo has
been torn out - the Revolution has a symbol.
The regime has lost
control of Timisoara but the Army and Securitate have not yet opened
fire on the crowd, they had not anticipated the scale of the
uprising. Meanwhile, Tökes and his wife are arrested by the
Securitate and held prisoner in a farmhouse in the countryside.
The factories around Timisoara go on strike and the demonstrations
continue. Ceausescu becomes aware of the situation and the failure
of the army to act decisively. He calls a meeting of the Politburo,
launches a scathing attack on the defense minister (General Milea)
and chief of Securitate ( General Vlad) and threatens to dismiss
them. Finally, after receiving a pledge that the army will shoot to
kill, he embarks on a State visit to Iran, confident that the
situation has been contained. Elena takes control. It should be
Ceausescu still does not realize that HE is the target of the
he believes that they are the result of foreign spies and agents
trying to destabilize the country - for many years he has been only
fed with what he wants to hear!
order to shoot by Ceausescu himself arrive in Timisoara that
afternoon. At 17:00 water cannons and tear gas are used against the
people, tanks and APD's enter the streets and the shooting begins at
about 18:00. They fire indiscriminately into the crowd.
This was the watershed of the Revolution - differentiating it from
previous demonstrations such as strikes in the Jiu valley and the
1987 riots in Brasov. News spreads quickly, especially by foreign TV
and radio transmissions from neighboring countries. The scale of the
massacre becomes more and more exaggerated with reports of up to
The borders are closed
so frustrated reporters cannot verify anything (actual figures later
published were 97 dead and 210 injured in total). That same night
there are sporadic anti-Ceausescu riots in other towns including
- 20 December 1989
Confusion about what is happening in Romania reigns in the West. The
Romanian embassy in London are being elusive but advise that there
are new visa requirements which require a delay of at least 20 days.
Press reports liken Timisoara to the Tienamen Square massacre
riots in Cluj and Iasi are reported.
A crowd of some
50,000 in Timisoara
continues to demand Ceausescu's resignation.The
and refuses to shoot
even when Ceausescu returns from Iran and orders an immediate
crackdown in the city. He decides to make a direct appeal to the
people that evening. He talks of "international and terrorist
actions by imperialist circles and foreign espionage agencies"
designed to "provoke disorder and destroy the institutions" of the
country. He ranted and rambled on praising the army for defending
the homeland and suggested that no more than 10 people had been
killed. Nobody was fooled.
For the first time he
was seen as weak and his admission enabled people to read between
the lines - there was light at the end of the tunnel!