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The Securitate (pronounced [sekuriˈtate], Romanian for Security; official full name Departamentul Securităţii Statului, Department of State Security), was the secret service of Communist Romania. Previously the Romanian secret police was called Siguranţa Statului (State Security). Founded on August 30, 1948 with help from the Soviet NKVD, the Securitate was abolished in December 1989, shortly after President Nicolae Ceauşescu was ousted.

The Securitate was, in proportion to Romania's population, one of the largest and most brutal secret police forces in the Eastern bloc.[1] The first budget of the Securitate in 1948 stipulated a number of 4,641 positions, of which 3,549 were filled by February 1949. By 1951, the Securitate's staff had increased fivefold, while in January 1956, the Securitate had 25,468 employees.[2] Under the regime of Nicolae Ceauşescu, the Securitate employed some 11,000 agents and a half-million informers[1] for a country with a population of only 22 million by 1985.[3]

Contents

History

Founding

The General Direction for the Security of the People (Romanian initials: DGSP, but more commonly just called the Securitate) was officially founded on August 30, 1948 by Decree 221/30 of the Presidium of the Great National Assembly.[2] However, it had effectively existed since August 1944, when communists began to infiltrate the Ministry of Internal Affairs on a large scale.[2] Its stated purpose was to "defend democratic conquests and guarantee the safety of the Romanian Peoples' Republic against both internal and external enemies."

The Securitate was created with the help of SMERSH, an NKVD unit charged with demolishing existing intelligence agencies and replacing them with Soviet-style bodies in the Soviet-occupied countries of Eastern Europe. The SMERSH unit in Romania, called Brigada Mobilă (The Mobile Brigade), was led until 1948 by the NKVD colonel Alexandru Nicolschi. The first Director of the Securitate was the NKVD general Gheorghe Pintilie (born Panteleymon Bondarenko, nicknamed Pantiuşa). Alexandru Nicolschi (by then a general) and another Soviet officer, Major General Vladimir Mazuru, held the deputy directorships. Wilhelm Einhorn was the first Securitate secretary.

As Vladimir Tismăneanu says, "if one does not grasp the role of political thugs such as the Soviet spies Pintilie Bondarenko (Pantiuşa) and Alexandru Nikolski in the exercise of terror in Romania during the most horrible Stalinist period, and their personal connections with Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and members of his entourage, it is difficult to understand the origins and the role of the Securitate".[4]

Initially, many of the agents of the Securitate were former Royal Security Police (named General Directorate of Safety PoliceDirecţia Generală a Poliţiei de Siguranţă in Romanian) members. However, before long, Pantiuşa ordered anyone who had served the monarchy's police in any capacity arrested, and in the places of the Royal Security Policemen, he hired ardent members of the Communist Party, to ensure total loyalty within the organisation.

The first budget of the Securitate in 1948 stipulated a number of 4,641 positions, out of which on February 11, 1949, 3,549 were filled: 64% were workers, 4% peasants, 28% clerks, 2% persons of unspecified origin, and 2% intellectuals.

Methodology

In the 1980s, the Securitate launched a massive campaign to stamp out dissent in Romania, manipulating the country's population with vicious rumors (such as supposed contacts with Western intelligence agencies), machinations, frameups, public denunciations, encouraging conflict between segments of the population, public humiliation of dissidents, toughened censorship and the repression of even the smallest gestures of independence by intellectuals. Often the term "intellectual" was used by the Securitate to describe dissidents with higher education, such as University or College students, writers, directors and scientists who opposed the philosophy of the Communist party. For example, assassinations were also used to silence dissent, with the attempt to kill high-ranking defector Ion Mihai Pacepa being well known among intelligence officials. In the 1980s, Securitate officials hired Carlos the Jackal to assassinate Pacepa, but the attempt failed.

Forced entry into homes and offices and the planting of microphones was another tactic the Securitate used to extract information from the general population. Telephone conversations were routinely monitored, and all internal and international fax and telex communications were intercepted. Securitatea's methods were largely similar to those of the Stasi and the KGB and often similar technology was used in accomplishing the tasks needed. After coal miners unions went on strike and several leaders later died of premature disease, it was later discovered that Securitate doctors had subjected them to five minute long chest X-rays in an attempt to develop cancer.[5] After birth rates fell, Securitate agents were placed in gynecological wards while regular pregnancy tests were mandated for women of child-bearing age, with severe penalties for anyone who was found to have terminated a pregnancy.[5]

Downfall

The Securitate was abolished in late 1989, after the Communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu was ousted.

Until 2005 it was generally accepted that to the very end of Nicolae Ceauşescu's rule, the Securitate was fiercely loyal to the government. Allegations were also made that at a speech by Ceauşescu to a handpicked crowd of 100,000, the Securitate opened fire on the defenseless crowd after some anti-Ceauşescu shouts were heard.

However, articles published in Romanian newspapers after the post-communist leader Ion Iliescu ended his second presidential mandate suggest that large segments of the Securitate were actually involved in Ceauşescu's fall. This is a theory supported by the fact that there was a strong anti-Ceauşescu movement in the Securitate (see Ion Mihai Pacepa).

Today a number of wealthy individuals, large business owners and millionaires in Romania are suspected or confirmed to have been high-ranking members or collaborators of the Securitate.

The DSS lived on until 1991 when Parliament approved a law reorganizing the DSS into a few special and secret services like the SRI (Romanian Intelligence Service) (with internal tasks such as counterespionage), the SIE (Foreign Intelligence Service), the SPP (Protection and Guard Service) (the former Directorate V), the STS (Special Telecommunications Service) (the former General Directorate for Technical Operations), etc.

Subdivisions

General Directorate for Technical Operations

The General Directorate for Technical Operations was a key part of the Securitate. Created with Soviet assistance in 1954, it monitored all voice and electronic communications in and out of Romania. They bugged telephones and intercepted all telegraphs and telex messages, as well as placing microphones in both public and private buildings. Nearly all conversations conducted in Communist Romania would be listened to by this department.

Directorate for Counterespionage

The Directorate for Counterespionage surveyed all foreigners in Romania, and did their utmost to impede contact between foreigners and Romanians. Contact that was impossible to stop was instead monitored. It enforced a variety of measures to prevent Romanians living with foreign nationals, one of these being the requirement to report any known foreigners to the Securitate within 24 hours. This Directorate also stopped Romanians seeking asylum in foreign embassies.

Directorate for Penitentiaries

The Directorate for Penitentiaries operated Romania's prisons, which were notorious for their horrendous conditions. Prisoners were routinely beaten, denied medical attention, had their mail taken away from them, and sometimes even administered lethal doses of poison.

Directorate for Internal Security

The Directorate for Internal Security was originally charged for monitoring activity going on in the PCR. But after Ion Mihai Pacepa's defection in 1978 and claims to expose details of Ceauşescu's regime, such as collaboration with Arab terrorists, massive espionage on American industry and elaborate efforts to rally Western political support, international infiltration and espionage in the Securitate only increased, much to the infuration of Ceauşescu. In order to solve this problem the entire Division was reorganized and was charged with rooting out dissent in the Communist Party. A top secret division of this Directorate was formed from forces loyal only to Ceauşescu and charged with monitoring the Securitate itself. It acted almost as a Securitate for the Securitate, and was responsible for bugging the phones of other Securitate officers and Communist Party officials to ensure total loyalty.

National Commission for Visas and Passports

The National Commission for Visas and Passports controlled all travel and emigration in and out of Romania. In effect, emigration was impossible for anyone but highly placed Party officials, as any normal Romanian who applied for it would immediately be placed under surveillance. Many Jews and Germans were given passports and exit visas through tacit agreements with the Israeli and West German governments, whereby Romania would receive a payment of 5 to 10 thousand USD per exit visa. Regular people who were not Jewish, German, Baptist, or highly placed Party Members were also able to apply for emigration to the West. The drawback was that the average waiting period was 3 to 4 years between an application to emigrate was filed and until a Romanian passport was issued. This waiting period amounted to nothing more than a light prison sentence as applicants would be immediately fired from their jobs, thus deprived of their right to earn a living, and were subject to harassment by Securitate personnel. When laws related to travel abroad were relaxed in 1988, 40,000 Romanians went to Hungary refusing to return home.

Directorate for Security Troops

The Directorate for Security Troops acted as a 20,000 strong paramilitary force for the government, equipped with artillery and armoured personnel carriers. They guarded television and radio stations, and Party buildings. To ensure total loyalty amongst these crack troops, there were five times as many political officers in the Directorate for Security Troops than there were in the regular army. In the event of a coup, this Directorate would be called in to protect the regime. Security troops enjoyed special treatment, and often lived in far superior conditions to their countrymen.

After the Revolution, the Directorate for Security Troops was disbanded and replaced first by the Guard and Order Troops (Trupele de Pază şi Ordine), and in July 1990 by the Gendarmerie.

Directorate for Militia

The Directorate for Militia controlled Romania's standard police force, carried out tasks such as traffic control. In 1990 it was replaced by the Romanian Police.

Directorate V

Directorate V were bodyguards for important governmental officials.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b Craig S. Smith, "Eastern Europe Struggles to Purge Security Services", The New York Times, December 12, 2006
  2. ^ a b c Cristian Troncota, "Securitatea: Începuturile", Magazin Istoric, 1998
  3. ^ Turnock 1997, p. 15
  4. ^ Stalinism for All Seasons: A Political History of Romanian Communism (University of California Press, Berkeley, 2003). ISBN 0520237471 p. 20
  5. ^ a b Crampton 1997, p. 355

References

  • Crampton, R. J. (1997), Eastern Europe in the twentieth century and after, Routledge, ISBN 0415164222
  • Turnock, David (1997), The East European economy in context: communism and transition, Routledge, ISBN 0415086264
  • Lavinia Stan, ed., Transitional Justice in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union: Reckoning with the Communist Past, London: Routledge, 2009.
  • Lavinia Stan and Rodica Milena Zaharia, “Romania’s Intelligence Services. Bridge between the East and the West?”, Problems of Post-Communism, vol. 54, no. 1 (January 2007), pp. 3-18.
  • Lavinia Stan and Lucian Turcescu, “The Devil’s Confessors: Priests, Communists, Spies and Informers”, East European Politics and Societies, vol. 19, no. 4 (November 2005), pp. 655-685.
  • Lavinia Stan, “Spies, Files and Lies: Explaining the Failure of Access to Securitate Files”, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, vol. 37, no. 3 (September 2004), pp. 341-359.
  • Lavinia Stan, “Moral Cleansing Romanian Style", Problems of Post-Communism, vol. 49, no. 4 (2002), pp. 52-62.
  • Lavinia Stan, "Access to Securitate Files: The Trials and Tribulations of a Romanian Law", East European Politics and Society, vol. 16, no. 1 (December 2002), pp. 55-90.

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