Violence in Romania

After reviewing the fall of communism in all the different countries in class, Romania was the only one that led a violent revolution. Was there a reason for this? The other countries were able to defeat communism without having to resort to violence so why couldn’t Romania do the same? Poland took down communism when free elections were held and the communists lost while the solidarity allied with the small parties. Hungary took down communism when the fence on the border of Austria was taken down and many East Germans fled to West Germany, forcing the East German government to take down the Berlin Wall. Lastly, Czechoslovakia took down communism by starting the Velvet Revolution. All three of these methods didn’t involve violence but were still successful. The people of Romania took part in armed uprisings and mass protests, which were very violent. I’m not completely sure why Romania was the only country that had to use violence to defeat communism but I feel it has a lot to do with their leader Nicolae Ceausescu. His ruthlessness and brutality might have proven to the people of Romania that the only way he could be overthrown was through violence, and that peaceful protests would be unsuccessful. Do you think there is another reason why Romania led a violent revolution against communism or was it all because of their communist leader?

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7 Responses to Violence in Romania

  1. KassieF says:

    I think that one of the main reasons that Romania had such a violent revolution was because of the severity of Romania’s dictator and his wife. In other countries such as Poland and Czechoslovakia, it seemed as if the rulers almost immediately caved in to the people’s rebellions. Romania’s dictator, however, wanted, without a doubt, severe communism and was in complete opposition of any other way. Like you said, it was his violent mentality that drove his people to use similar tactics against him. Just as in the Indian Revolution, when India learned values concerning independence and equality from Britain and then used those same values to revolt against Britain, Romanian people learned violence from their leader and then used what they had learned in violent revolts against him.

  2. Dr. K says:

    I think leadership does play a major role. The hardline leader of East Germany, Erich Honnecker, was apparently willing to use force to suppress protests, but he was removed from power by reformist forces before he could do so. But it’s not clear it would have worked. It’s worth noting that Ceausecu had developed a secret police force, loyal to him and practically a parallel army. So institutionally, he might have been more capable of it than other leaders. But I think that just as interesting as the question you ask–why is there violence in some situations and not others–is the question that came up in class yesterday–why does violence sometimes work to suppress revolts, and sometimes fail.

    Emma Montoya actually wrote her research paper on precisely this question about Romania last year. If you want to know more, I would encourage you to talk with her.

  3. Katherine says:

    I agree with Kassie and Carly, that the leader is what makes the people either violent or peaceful in revolution. If the government has set an example of strength in nonviolence, than the people of that country will be more likely to peaceful. However, once people get the idea that violence is the only way gain control, the citizens will also resort to violence. The British used violence to suppress the Americans before the Revolutionary war, and because of that the Americans were violent back to the British. The leaders who are violent towards their people, give the citizens an excuse to be violent back in times of revolution and unrest.

  4. Sheena says:

    I agree with Katherine, Carly, and Kassie’s view that a leader is the one who can force the violence. As we learned today Bosnia had a similar experience. Without Miloshevich supplying the weapons to the Serbs to help them enforce their ethnic cleansing the three years would not have been nearly as tragic. He forced the violent nature and without his involvement the damage would have decreassed. His support caused millions of lives to be lost in the dismissal of communism. A leader can always influence the course of events in a revolution. In other words, without a violent leader the revolution can not follow a violent path.

    • Dr. K says:

      It’s a good example, Sheena. But I wonder if a non-violent leader can prevent violence if many people in society are inclined that way? In other words, does a leader make a difference, or can he/she be trumped by social forces?

  5. Carly says:

    I think another good example of how a leader influences his people was when Khomeini used violence against his opponents by executing a lot of them. The people’s response, more specifically the Mujahedeen, was to launch a guerrilla war against the government, killing the ayatollah’s lieutenants. I agree with everyone that violence from the people was a result of the violence that the leader of the country engaged in, but I still wonder why the leaders of other countries where communism fell, such as Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland, did not engage in violence against their opponents and try harder to keep their rule and communism in their country. Why did the leaders give in so quickly to the protestors? Even though communism still fell in Romania despite Ceausescu violently resisting the anti-communist protests, the leaders of the other countries might have been able to stop the fall of communism in their own country if they had used violence.

    • Dr. K says:

      It may also be that there are leaders, and there are leaders. Ceausescu on his own might not have been able to stop the fall of Communism, because Gorbachev had set the context. But if Gorbachev had used violence to stop reform, he might have gotten away with it. After all, Khrushchev and Brezhnev got away with it.

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