Alexandru Bârlădeanu (or Bîrlădeanu; January 25, 1911 – November 13, 1997) was a Romanian Marxian economist who was prominent during the Communist regime until being sidelined in 1968. In his later years, following the collapse of the regime, he served as Senate President.
Origins and early career
Born into a family of teachers in Comrat in the Imperial Russian province of Bessarabia, he finished primary school in Căuşeni in 1921, studying in Tighina in 1921–1926 and attending high school in Iaşi from 1926 to 1928. His first job was in 1928, as a functionary at the Tighina school inspectorate. For the following eight years, he was a tutor and substitute teacher at the commercial school and the apprentices' school in Iaşi. From 1929 to 1931, he attended Politehnica University of Bucharest sporadically, but did not graduate. From 1933 to 1937, he attended the Political Economy section of the University of Iaşi Law faculty, receiving his doctorate in 1940, having worked as university assistant under Gheorghe Zane for the preceding three years. Generally thought to have joined the banned Romanian Communist Party (PCR) in 1943, other sources place the date at 1935. In either case, the student environment at Iaşi had drawn him into communist circles by 1933. Between 1934 and 1936 he headed the communist-inspired student organization "United Centers", worked on the leftist newspaper Manifest, and was an active member of the Antifascist League, the Tighina Antifascist Committee and Amicii URSS. In 1936, he was also in the leadership of the Iaşi section of the Student Democratic Front.
The June 1940 Soviet occupation of Bessarabia found him on vacation there; he chose to remain and become a Soviet citizen. In September 1940 he began working at the Institute for Scientific Research in Chişinău, forced to flee in June 1941 following the province's recapture by Romania. Ending up in the Karaganda area, for nearly two years he was a teacher, school director, miner and party activist on a kolkhoz, until being sent to Moscow in 1943 to resume his studies. An active member of the Romanian communist exile circle in the Soviet Union during World War II, he worked in the Romanian-language division of Radio Moscow (1943–1945); contributed to TASS and to Graiul liber, the newspaper of Romanian prisoners in the Soviet Union (1943–1946); and was a teacher at the Romanian section of the anti-fascist school for prisoners (1944–1946), heading it in 1945. A member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, he undertook the latter task as a party employee, helping indoctrinate Romanian prisoners. He also studied political economy at the Plekhanov Moscow Institute of the National Economy from 1943 to 1946 on a scholarship from the Chişinău institute. He taught there as well during his last year of study, but did not graduate because he left the country. He was brought back to Romania in June 1946 at the PCR's request, officially joining the party after recommendations from Leonte Răutu and Mihail Roller. From June to November 1946, he worked as instructor and assistant director at the central committee's economic section, beginning a rise that was aided by his start in an important position and his educated background.
Years in power
His return to Romania saw him beginning to hold influential positions in economic ministries. In 1946, he was chosen economic expert on the government committee participating in the negotiation of the Paris Peace Treaties. In December 1946 he became secretary general at the National Economy Ministry, serving until the following August, when he was transferred to the Industry and Commerce Ministry in an equivalent position, remaining until March 1948. He was thus part of the group that enacted the 1947 monetary reform. Following the establishment of a Communist regime, he was, together with Gheorghe Gaston Marin, a creator of the planned economy imposed on the country, serving successively during 1948 as deputy Industry and then Commerce Minister. Top posts in foreign trade and planning came: Minister of Foreign Trade (1948–1954), vice president (1954) and president (1955–1956) of the State Planning Committee, deputy prime minister for economic issues (1955–1965 and 1967–1969) and first deputy prime minister (1965–1967). As Romania's representative at the Comecon between 1955 and 1966, he frustrated Soviet plans for creating a supranational economic area, earning him the enmity of Nikita Khrushchev. During the same period, he also represented Romania at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. Meanwhile, he began opening the economy to the West, signing economic and commercial agreements with France, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium as early as 1959, later promoting ties to West Germany and Italy. In 1964, he helped conceive a foreign policy declaration of active neutrality within the communist bloc, wherein Romania was no longer subservient to the Soviet Union but neither embraced the militant outlook of China under Mao Zedong.
He was a member of the Romanian Academy despite not having written any noteworthy scientific publications, elected in 1955 alongside high-ranking party members Ion Gheorghe Maurer and Lothar Rădăceanu, and served as its vice president from 1990 to 1994. He was also an honorary member of the Academy of Sciences of Moldova. Starting in 1949, he taught for many years at the Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies, later heading its Political Economy department He first won a legislative seat in 1946, entering the Assembly of Deputies; he then sat in the Great National Assembly from 1948 to 1975, successively representing the Prahova, Iaşi and Constanţa areas. Bârlădeanu was in the party leadership for nearly fifteen years, sitting on the central committee from 1955 to 1969, and was one of the party's ideologues. An alternate member of the politburo under Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej from 1962 to 1965, followed by a stint as full member (March–July 1965), he joined the political executive committee (CPEx) and the permanent presidium at the ninth party congress in July 1965 under Gheorghiu-Dej's new successor, Nicolae Ceauşescu.
Banishment and return to public life
He entered into conflict with Elena Ceauşescu as head of the national council for scientific research, which he began heading at the end of 1967, resigning from all his posts in December 1968, although he remained on the central committee and the CPEx until the following August. This forced retirement saw colorless apparatchiks appointed in his stead to supervise scientific and technological research, further solidifying Elena's rise to the apex of political power. With economic experts like him long sidelined, by the late 1970s, the dictator's wife was far more influential than any civil or military official; of her, Bârlădeanu wrote that "hateful vindictiveness, stupidity, nastiness, insensitivity and brazenness" were her "most obvious" negative qualities. In later years, he and Paul Niculescu-Mizil helped create the myth of a "patriotic faction" within the party where a radical break was marked between early Stalinism and post-1960 developments; Bârlădeanu in particular fostered the image of a benign Gheorghiu-Dej in contrast to Ceauşescu. During the two decades after his fall from grace, he ran into trouble with the authorities twice: once in the 1970s for publishing an article in Contemporanul without approval, and once in the 1980s for discussing with Gheorghe Apostol how Ceauşescu might be removed from the leadership. He also encountered difficulties while selling expensive goods, confiscated during the nationalization process, that he had acquired. In March 1989, he was a signatory of the Letter of the Six, terrified of Ceauşescu's approach to the command economy; the regime responded by placing him under house arrest, while accusing him of being a spy and a speculator and removing him from the party.
Following the fall of the regime at the end of that year, he was awarded important posts and honors as an elder statesman of the National Salvation Front (FSN), and as part of its council belonged to a group who had fallen foul of Ceauşescu. Among the positions he held was the Senate Presidency, from June 1990 to October 1992, having been elected in May for a Bucharest seat. While in this office, he spoke in January 1991 in commemoration of Bucharest pogrom and several months later delivered a message for the 50th anniversary of the Iaşi pogrom, in spite of a widespread climate of anti-Semitism at the time. That year also saw open conflict between him and Prime Minister Petre Roman and the latter's ally Adrian Severin over the speed of price liberalization and economic privatization, with Bârlădeanu, at the forefront of the FSN's more cautious wing, unsuccessfully pushing for a slower pace. Additionally, in 1990–1991, he was co-president of the committee charged with writing a new constitution, and was for a time honorary director of the FSN's newspaper Azi. In 1991, he quit (or was removed from) the FSN and withdrew from politics altogether in 1993. In 1995, eulogizing Corneliu Coposu, he publicly declared that, although the two men belonged to the same generation, it was the latter who had chosen the right path. He died in Bucharest in 1997.
His first wife was Russian. She was followed by the actress Marcela Rusu, and then by Mihaela, a researcher at the Academy's Institute of Linguistics. He had a son who emigrated to France prior to 1989 and a daughter.
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