Securitate

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The Securitate (pronounced [sekuriˈtate], Romanian for Security) was the popular term for the Departamentul Securității Statului (Department of State Security), the secret police agency of Communist Romania. Previously, the Romanian secret police was called Siguranța Statului. Founded on August 30, 1948, with help from the Soviet NKVD. After Ceaușescu was ousted, the DSS lived on until 1991, when Parliament approved a law reorganizing the DSS into various subdivisions.

The Securitate was, in proportion to Romania's population, one of the largest 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: 64% were workers, 4% peasants, 28% clerks, 2% persons of unspecified origin, and 2% intellectuals.[citation needed] 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 Ceaușescu, the Securitate employed some 11,000 agents and had a half-million informers[1] for a country with a population of 22 million by 1985.[3] Under Ceaușescu, the Securitate was one of the most brutal secret police forces in the world, responsible for the arrests, torture and deaths[citation needed] of thousands of people.[1]

History[edit]

Founding[edit]

The General Directorate 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 precursors going back to August 1944, when Communists began to organize it, following King Michael's Coup that took place then.[2] Its stated purpose was to "defend democratic conquests and guarantee the safety of the Romanian Peoples' Republic against both internal and external enemies."[citation needed]

The Securitate was created with the help of SMERSH, the NKVD counter-intelligence unit. The SMERSH operation in Romania, called Brigada Mobilă ("The Mobile Brigade"), was led until 1948 by NKVD colonel Alexandru Nicolschi.[citation needed] The first Director of the Securitate was 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 (Pantiușa) 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 PoliceDirecția Generală a Poliției de Siguranță in Romanian) members. However, before long, Pantiușa 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 organization.

Method[edit]

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 college and university students, writers, directors and scientists who opposed the philosophy of the Communist party. Assassinations were also used to silence dissent, such as the attempt to kill high-ranking defector Ion Mihai Pacepa, who received two death sentences from Romania in 1978, and on whose head Ceauşescu decreed a bounty of two million US dollars. Yasser Arafat and Muammar al-Gaddafi each added one more million dollars to the reward.[5] In the 1980s, Securitate officials allegedly hired Carlos the Jackal to assassinate Pacepa.[6]

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. After coal miners' unions went on strike and several leaders died prematurely, it was later discovered that Securitate doctors had subjected them to five-minute chest X-rays in an attempt to have them develop cancer.[7] After birth rates fell, Securitate agents were placed in gynecological wards while regular pregnancy tests were made mandatory for women of child-bearing age, with severe penalties for anyone who was found to have terminated a pregnancy.[7]

The Securitate's presence was so ubiquitous that it was believed one out of four Romanians was an informer. In truth, the Securitate deployed one agent or informer for every 43 Romanians, which was still large enough to make it all but impossible for dissidents to organize. The regime deliberately fostered this sense of ubiquity, believing that the fear of being watched was sufficient to bend the people to Ceausescu's will. For example, one shadow group of dissidents limited itself to only three families; any more than that would have attracted Securitate attention.[8] In truth, the East German Stasi was even more ubiquitous than the Securitate; counting informers, the Stasi had one spy for every 6.5 East Germans.[9]

Downfall[edit]

After Ceaușescu was ousted, 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[edit]

General Directorate for Technical Operations[edit]

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.

Directorate for Counterespionage[edit]

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. One of the tasks of this Directorate was to stop Romanians from seeking asylum in foreign embassies.

Directorate for Foreign Intelligence[edit]

The Directorate for Foreign Intelligence conducted Romania's espionage operations in other countries, such as those of Western Europe. Among those operations sanctioned by the Communist government were industrial espionage to obtain nuclear technology, and plots to assassinate dissidents, such as Matei Pavel Haiducu was tasked with, though he informed French authorities, faking the assassinations before defecting to France.

Directorate for Penitentiaries[edit]

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.[citation needed]

Directorate for Internal Security[edit]

The Directorate for Internal Security was originally given the task of monitoring the activities going on in the Romanian Communist Party. But after Ion Mihai Pacepa's defection in 1978 and his exposing details of the Ceauşescu regime, such as the collaboration with Arab terrorists, massive espionage on American industry targets and elaborate efforts to rally Western political support, international infiltration and espionage in the Securitate only increased, much to Ceauşescu's anger. 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.[citation needed] 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[edit]

The National Commission for Visas and Passports controlled all travel and immigration in and out of Romania. In effect, traveling abroad was all but impossible for anyone but highly placed Party officials, and any ordinary Romanian who applied for a passport was immediately placed under surveillance. Many Jews and ethnic Germans were given passports and exit visas through tacit agreements with the Israeli and West German governments.[10]

Directorate for Security Troops[edit]

The Directorate for Security Troops acted as a 20,000-strong paramilitary force for the government, equipped with artillery and armoured personnel carriers. The security troops selected new recruits from the same annual pool of conscripts that the armed services used. The police performed routine law enforcement functions including traffic control and issuance of internal identification cards to citizens. Organized in the late 1940s to defend the new regime, in 1989 the security troops had 20,000 soldiers. They were an elite, specially trained paramilitary force organized like motorized rifle (infantry) units equipped with small arms, artillery, and armored personnel carriers, but their mission was considerably different.[11]

The security troops were directly responsible through the Minister of the Interior to PCR General Secretary Ceausescu. They guarded important installations including PCR judet and central office buildings and radio and television stations. The Ceausescu regime presumably could call the security troops into action as a private army to defend itself against a military coup d'état or other domestic challenges and to suppress antiregime riots, demonstrations, or strikes.[11]

To ensure their loyalty, security troops were subject to intense political indoctrination and had five times as many political officers in their ranks as in the armed services. They adhered to stricter discipline than in the regular military, but they were rewarded with a better standard of living. 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.[11] 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.[11] 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[edit]

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

Directorate V[edit]

Directorate V were bodyguards for important governmental officials.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Library of Congress Country Studies.

  1. ^ a b c 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 0-520-23747-1 p. 20
  5. ^ "Book Inspired Counter-Revolution" by Alfred S. Regnery, published in Human Events, October 22, 2002
  6. ^ "The Securitate Arsenal for Carlos," Ziua, Bucharest, 2004
  7. ^ a b Crampton 1997, p. 355
  8. ^ Sebetsyen, Victor (2009). Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire. New York City: Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-375-42532-2. 
  9. ^ The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/k/koehler-stasi.html |url= missing title (help). 
  10. ^ June 29th 1973 Agreement between the Socialist Romania and German Federation
  11. ^ a b c d http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field%28DOCID+ro0233%29

References[edit]

  • Crampton, R. J. (1997), Eastern Europe in the twentieth century and after, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-16422-2 
  • Turnock, David (1997), The East European economy in context: communism and transition, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-08626-4 
  • 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.

External links[edit]