|Corneliu (Cornel) Coposu|
May 14, 1914|
Bobota, Sălaj County
|Died||November 11, 1995
Cornel Coposu was born in Bobota, Sălaj County (in Transylvania, part of Austria-Hungary at the time) to the Romanian Greek-Catholic archpriest Valentin Coposu (17 November 1886 - 28 July 1941) and his wife Aurelia Coposu (née Anceanu, herself the daughter of Romanian Greek-Catholic archpriest Iuliu Anceanu). Corneliu had four siblings: Cornelia (1911–1988), Doina (1922–1990), Flavia Bălescu (b. 1924), and Rodica (b. 1933).
He too was a devout member of the church and joined the Romanian National Party (PNR), a group dominated by Greek-Catholic politicians - Gheorghe Pop de Băseşti was an acquaintance of the Coposu family, and Alexandru Vaida-Voevod was a relative on Corneliu Coposu's mother's side.
After studying Law and Economy at the University of Cluj (1930–1934), he engaged in local politics with the PNR's direct successor, the National Peasants' Party (PNŢ), and worked as a lawyer. In 1937, Coposu became the political secretary of Iuliu Maniu, the historical leader of PNR and PNT, former representative in the Budapest Parliament, with a crucial role in Transylvania's union with Romania (December 1, 1918, later the National Day of Romania). In 1938, Coposu was elected President of the National Peasant Youth organisation.
World War II
Coposu moved to Bucharest in 1940, when Northern Transylvania was ceded to Hungary, and, during World War II, he was an important member of the PNŢ delegation in the clandestine opposition to Ion Antonescu's regime. He established links between the movement and the United Kingdom, and was one of the politicians charged with maintaining contacts between Romanian politicians who were negotiating the country's exit from the Axis Powers and the Western Allies (an alternative kept by the Antonescu government).
In 1945, after the royal coup against the Antonescu regime, Coposu became deputy secretary of the PNŢ and, after the reunion of Northern Transylvania, the party's delegate to the leadership of provisional administrative bodies. He was also active in organizing the party as the main opposition to the Communist Party and the Petru Groza cabinet before the 1946 general election.
The communist regime established with Soviet assistance, arrested him on July 14, 1947, together with all the leadership of the National Peasants' Party, after some of the party leadership had allegedly tried to flee the country in a plane landed at Tămădău (see Tămădău Affair). He was imprisoned without trial for nine years, as all charges brought against him were dismissed due to lack of evidence. Coposu later attested that his imprisonment, imposed by Soviet officials overseeing the Securitate, was among those causing a stir in the higher echelons of the Communist Party — Belu Zilber, a Communist who was purged together with Lucreţiu Pătrăşcanu, later told him that prominent party politician Ana Pauker had unsuccessfully opposed the move in front of Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej.
In 1956, Coposu was sentenced to life imprisonment for "betrayal of the working class" and "crime against social reforms". In April 1964, he was freed after 15 years of detention and 2 years of forced residence in Rubla (Brăila County), having spent, in all, 17 years of incarceration in 17 notorious detention and hard labor facilities associated with the communist regime, including Sighet prison, Gherla, Jilava, Râmnicu Sărat, Piteşti prison, and the Danube-Black Sea Canal (where he was imprisoned with his friend and collaborator Şerban Ghica).
Coposu later testified having been impressed by the deep scars collectivization had left in the country, as well as by the resilience of the Rubla deportees (see Bărăgan deportations) — "They traded in vegetables they had grown themselves while locals could not be convinced that these could actually grow on the Bărăgan". In the 1990s, during debates over the overall number of victims of the Communist regime between 1947 and 1964, Coposu spoke of 282,000 arrests and 190,000 deaths in custody.
After his release, Coposu started work as an unskilled worker on various construction sites (given his status as a former prisoner, he was denied employment in any other field), and was subject to Securitate surveillance and regular interrogation.
Coposu managed to keep contact with PNŢ sympathisers, and re-established the party as a clandestine group during the 1980s. In 1987, Coposu managed to avoid the close supervision of the political police, Securitatea, and contacted Western political leaders, for the illegal affiliation of the National Peasant Party to Christian Democracy and the Christian Democrat International. Immediately after the collapse of the communist regime, Coposu and the other leaders legally registered the party with its new Christian-Democratic identity, as the Christian-Democratic National Peasant Party.
On December 22, 1989 (during the Romanian Revolution), he and Ioan Raţiu issued a manifesto that confirmed the PNŢ's entry into legality, under the name Christian-Democratic National Peasants' Party. On January 8, 1990, Tribunalul Municipiului Bucuresti authorised Partidul National Taranesc Crestin Democrat (Christian-Democratic Peasant's Party) as the first legal post-communist party founded after the collapse of communism. The President of PNTCD (CDNPP) was Corneliu Coposu, between 1990-1995. In an interview realised immediately after the breakdown of communism, Coposu revealed he was followed step by step by the same Securitate agents that persecuted him during communism, and he complained about this situation to the new leader of the country, Ion Iliescu.
For the rest of his life, Cornel Coposu was the main voice of the opposition to the National Salvation Front (from 1992, the Democratic National Salvation Front). Coposu and the other leaders of the "historical parties" (the parties from the interwar period, outlawed during communism) organised the first huge protest of the opposition, on January 28, 1990, against the decision of the NSF to participate in elections. At that time, NSF represented the legislative power and the executive power, and one of its responsibilities was to organise the first free and fair elections, in post-communist Romania. But at the same time, the main authority of the state and the organiser of elections decided to contest in elections, as a political party. The huge mass protest organised by Coposu and the other leaders in Piata Victoriei (the Victory Square) scared the authorities, which organised a "counter-manifestation". The NSF authorities mobilised workers from Bucuresti and different cities, and brought for the first time in Bucuresti the coal miners ("prima mineriada", "the first Mineriada"), which assaulted the headquarters of PNTCD (CNDPP) and the other historical parties. The workers carried a coffin, inscribed with "For Mister Coposu", and wanted to lynch the Christian-democratic leader. Eventually, Coposu was protected by the prime-minister Petre Roman, who sent an "armoured fighting vehicle" (TAB) to evacuate the endangered old leader. The protest organised by Coposu and the opposition leaders had an important institutional effect: the NSF authorities conceded to form the first Parliament, a primitive parliament, Consiliul Provizoriu de Uniune Nationala (the Provisional National Unity Council), in order to give an appearance of legality to the legislative process.
On November 26, 1991, in Bucuresti, fourteen political parties and organisations of the civil society (Partidul National Taranesc Crestin Democrat; Partidul National Liberal: Partidul Social Democrat Roman; Uniunea Democrata a Magharilor din Romania; Partidul Ecologist Roman; Partidul Aliantei Civice; Partidul Unitatii Democratice; Uniunea Democrat Crestina; Asociatia Fostilor Detinuti Politici din Romania; Alianta Civica; Sindicatul politic "Fraternitatea"; Uniunea Mondiala a Romanilor Liberi; Solidaritatea Universitara; "Romania viitoare"), founded Conventia Democratica (the Democratic Convention, later the Romanian Democratic Convention). The first President of the Democratic Convention was Corneliu Coposu, between 1991 and November 1992. As a political strategist, Coposu and the leaders of the opposition parties realised that the only possible way to defeat the hegemonic power of President Ion Iliescu and of the National Salvation Front (Frontul Salvarii Nationale), was by uniting the forces of the opposition, both political parties and civil organisations. In 1996, that strategy proved correct, and the Democratic Convention won all the elections - local, parliamentary, and presidential elections.
On November 26, 1992, Coposu proposed the university professor Emil Constantinescu, the Rector of the Universitatea Bucuresti (the University of Bucuresti), the presidential candidate of the opposition, as the new President of Democratic Convention. Corneliu Coposu selected with care the new political leaders, in particular personalities with no previous political affiliations. Some of them had notable political careers. Emil Constantinescu, the Rector of the University of Bucuresti, became the presidential candidate of the Democratic Convention in 1992, and in 1996 was elected President of Romania. In September 1995, Coposu met Victor Ciorbea, a young lawyer and union leader, and made him the proposal to become the Democratic Convention candidate for mayor in the capital city of Bucuresti (Bucharest). In 1996, after he became the mayor of Bucuresti, Victor Ciorbea was designated as Prime Minister by President Constantinescu.
Corneliu Coposu was elected to the Senate of Romania in the 1992 general election. In 1995, the government of France granted him the Grand Officier de la Légion d'Honneur during a ceremony in Bucharest. A staunch monarchist who supported reinstating Mihai I as King of Romania, Coposu nevertheless personally promoted Emil Constantinescu as the CDR's candidate for the presidential office.
- Tismăneanu, p.270
- Ștefănescu, p. 43.
- Roman jr.
- Roman jr.
- Levy, p.284
- "Distrugerea ţărănimii"
- "Distrugerea ţărănimii"; Roman jr.
- "Distrugerea ţărănimii"
- Coposu, in "Distrugerea ţărănimii"
- Cioroianu, p.313
- Deletant, Preface, p.xxvii-xxix
- Pavel, Huiu, p. 18.
- Pavel, Huiu, pp. 17-18
- See [Dan Pavel]'s interview with Corneliu Coposu, "Partidul celor 71 de procente" ("The Party of 71 Percents"), 22, Annul I, nr 2, January 27, 1990;
- Tismăneanu, p.270, 279, 281
- Pavel, Huiu, pp. 32-36
- Pavel, Huiu, p. 39.
- Pavel, Huiu, p. 89.
- Pavel, Huiu, p. 158.
- Pavel, Huiu, p. 239 - 240.
- Tismăneanu, p.281, 360
- Tismăneanu, p.270
- OMRI Daily Digest, No. 223, November 15, 1995
- (Romanian) "Distrugerea ţărănimii" ("The Destruction of the Peasant Class"), in Jurnalul Naţional
- Adrian Cioroianu, Pe umerii lui Marx. O introducere în istoria comunismului românesc ("On the Shoulders of Marx. An Incursion into the History of Romanian Communism"), Editura Curtea Veche, Bucharest, 2005
- Dennis Deletant, Ceausescu and the Securitate: Coercion and Dissent in Romania, 1965-1989, M.E. Sharpe, Armonk, New York, 1995
- (Romanian) Gabriela Gheorghe, Adelina Huminic, "Istoria mineriadelor din anii 1990-1991" ("The History of the 1990-1991 Mineriads"), in Sfera Politicii
- Robert Levy, Ana Pauker: The Rise and Fall of a Jewish Communist, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2001;
- [Dan Pavel]'s interview with Corneliu Coposu, "Partidul celor 71 de procente" ("The Party of 71 Percents"), 22, Annul I, nr 2, January 27, 1990;
- Dan Pavel, Iulia Huia, '<<Nu putem reuși decât împreună.>> O istorie analitică a Convenției Democratice, 1989-2000' (<<We Can Succeed Only Together.>> An Analytical History of the Democratic Convention, 1989-2000), Editura Polirom, Iași, 2003, ISBN 973-681-260-X;
- Nicolae Prelipceanu's interview with Corneliu Coposu, in Agora, IV/4, October–December 1991, pp. 29–40
- (Romanian) Toma Roman jr., "Nobleţe - Modestie princiară" ("Noblesse - Princely Modesty"), in Jurnalul Naţional, August 25, 2005;
- Domnița Ștefănescu, Cinci ani din istoria României. O cronologie a evenimentelor, decembrie 1989-decembrie 1994 (”Five years from the history of Romania. A chronology of events, December 1989-December 1994"), Editura Mașina de Scris, București, 1995;
- Vladimir Tismăneanu, Stalinism pentru eternitate, Polirom, Iaşi, 2005 ISBN 973-681-899-3 (translation of Stalinism for All Seasons: A Political History of Romanian Communism, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2003, ISBN 0-520-23747-1)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Corneliu Coposu.|
- (Romanian) Corneliu Coposu foundation
- (Romanian) Short bio on the Romanian Chamber of Deputies site
- (Romanian) Short bio on the Sighet Memorial site
- (Romanian) Corneliu Coposu on the condition of the intellectual, Radio Free Europe interview, February 1993
- (Romanian) "Corneliu Coposu" at the Mari Români site
- (Romanian) More about Corneliu Coposu