Petru Groza

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Petru Groza
Petru Groza Anefo.jpg
President of the Presidium of the Great National Assembly
In office
12 June 1952 – 7 January 1958
Preceded byConstantin Ion Parhon
Succeeded byIon Gheorghe Maurer
President of the Council of Ministers
In office
6 March 1945 – 2 June 1952
MonarchMichael I (1945–1947)
PresidentConstantin Ion Parhon
DeputyGheorghe Tătărescu
Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej (1948–1952)
Preceded byNicolae Rădescu
Succeeded byGheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej
Vice President of the Council of Ministers
In office
4 November 1944 – 28 February 1945
MonarchMichael I
Prime MinisterConstantin Sănătescu
Nicolae Rădescu
Preceded byMihai Antonescu
Succeeded byGheorghe Tătărescu
President of the Ploughmen's Front
In office
Succeeded byGheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej (party merged with the Romanian Workers' Party)
Minister of State
In office
30 March 1926 – 4 June 1927
Prime MinisterAlexandru Averescu
Minister of Public Works
In office
30 March 1926 – 14 July 1926
Prime MinisterAlexandru Averescu
Preceded byTraian Moșoiu
Succeeded byConstantin Meissner
Personal details
Born(1884-12-07)7 December 1884
Bácsi, Hunyad County, Transleithania, Austria-Hungary (now Băcia, Romania)
Died7 January 1958(1958-01-07) (aged 73)
Bucharest, Romanian People's Republic
Political partyRomanian National Party
People's Party
Ploughmen's Front
Alma materUniversity of Budapest
Leipzig University

Petru Groza (7 December 1884 – 7 January 1958) was an Austro-Hungarian-born Romanian politician, best known as the first Prime Minister of the Communist Party-dominated government under Soviet occupation during the early stages of the Communist regime in Romania, and later as the President of the Presidium of the Great National Assembly (nominal head of state of Romania) from 1952 until his death in 1958.

Groza emerged as a public figure at the end of World War I as a notable member of the Romanian National Party (PNR), preeminent layman of the Romanian Orthodox Church, and then member of the Directory Council of Transylvania. In 1925–26 he served as Minister of State in the cabinet of Marshal Alexandru Averescu. In 1933, Groza founded a left-wing Agrarian organization known as the Ploughmen's Front (Frontul Plugarilor). The left-wing ideas he supported earned him the nickname The Red Bourgeois.[1]

Groza became Premier in 1945 when Nicolae Rădescu, a leading Romanian Army general who assumed power briefly following the conclusion of World War II, was forced to resign by the Soviet Union's deputy People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Andrei Y. Vishinsky.[2] During Groza's tenure, Romania's King, Michael I, was forced to abdicate as the nation officially became a "People's Republic". Although his authority and power as Premier was compromised by his reliance upon the Soviet Union for support, Groza presided over the onset of full-fledged Communist rule in Romania before eventually being succeeded by Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej in 1952 and became the President of the Presidium of the Great National Assembly until his death in 1958.[2]

Early life and career[edit]

Born as one of the three sons of a wealthy couple in Băcia (then called Bácsi), a village near Deva in Transylvania (part of Austria-Hungary at the time), his father Adam was a priest. Groza was afforded a variety of opportunities in his youth and early career to establish connections and a degree of notoriety, which would later prove essential in his political career.[3][4] He attended primary school in his native village, then in Coștei and Lugoj in the Banat. In 1903, he graduated from the Hungarian Reformed high school in Orăștie (now the Aurel Vlaicu High School). That autumn, he began his law and economics training in Hungary, studying at the University of Budapest. In 1905, he took courses at the University of Berlin, heading to Leipzig University in 1906. He obtained a doctorate from the latter institution in 1907.[2][3][4]

After completing his studies, Groza returned to Déva (today Deva) to work as a lawyer. During World War I he served as a soldier in the 8th Honvéd Regiment. In 1918, at the war's end, he emerged on the political scene as a member of the Romanian National Party (PNR) and obtained a position on the Directory Council of Transylvania, convened by ethnic Romanian politicians who had voted in favour of union with Romania; he maintained his office over the course of the following two years.[3]

Throughout this period of his life, Groza established a variety of political connections, working in various Transylvanian political and religious organizations. From 1919 to 1927, for example, Groza obtained a position as a deputy in Synod and Congress of the Romanian Orthodox Church. In the mid-1920s, Groza, who had left the PNR after a conflict with Iuliu Maniu and had joined the People's Party,[3] served as the Minister for Transylvania and Minister of Public Works and Communications in the Third Averescu cabinet.[2][3]

During this period in his life, Groza was able to amass a personal fortune as a wealthy landowner[5] and establish a notable reputation as a prominent layman within the Romanian Orthodox Church, a position which would later make him invaluable to a Romanian Communist Party (PCR) that was campaigning to attract the support of Eastern Orthodox Christians who constituted the nation's most numerous religious group in 1945.[2][5]

Rise to power[edit]

Groza in a formal attire portrait

Despite having briefly retired from public life in 1928 after holding a series of political posts, Groza reemerged on the political scene in 1933, founding a peasant-based political organization, the Ploughmen's Front.[3]

Although the movement originally began in order to oppose the increasing burden of debt carried by Romania's peasants during the Great Depression in Romania and because the National Peasants' Party could not help the poorest peasants, by 1944 the organization was essentially under Communist control.[3][6] The Communist Party wished to seize power but was too weak to seize it alone – post-communist historiography would later claim that in 1944 it had only about a thousand members. Accordingly, the Romanian communist leaders decided to create a broad coalition of political organizations.

This coalition was composed of four major front organizations: the Romanian Society for Friendship with the Soviet Union, the Union of Patriots, the Patriotic Defense, and, by far the most widely backed by the Romanian populace, Groza's Ploughmen's Front.[dubious ] Being a chief political actor in the largest of the Communist front organizations, Groza was able to assert himself in a position of eminence within the Romanian political sphere as the Ploughmen's Front joined the Communist Party to create the National Democratic Front in October 1944[7][8] (it also included the Social Democrats, Mihai Ralea's Socialist Peasants' Party and the Hungarian People's Union, as well as other minor groups). He was first considered by the Communist Lucrețiu Pătrășcanu for the post of Premier in October 1944.[7]

Groza's prominent status within the National Democratic Front afforded him the opportunity to succeed General Nicolae Rădescu as premier when, in January 1945, top Romanian communist leaders, namely Ana Pauker and Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej rebuked Rădescu with allegedly failing to combat "fascist sympathizers".[7] With the help of Soviet authorities,[7] the Communists soon mobilized workers to hold a series of demonstrations against Rădescu, and by February many had died because the demonstrations often led to violence. While the communists claimed that the Romanian Army was responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians,[7] Rădescu weakened his own popular support by stating that the communists were "godless foreigners with no homeland".[8] In response, Andrei Y. Vishinsky, the Soviet vice commissar of foreign affairs, traveled to Bucharest and allegedly gave King Michael an ultimatum—unless he sacked Rădescu and replaced him with Groza, Romania's independence would be at risk. The king had hoped that General Gheorghe Avramescu, who commanded the Romanian 4th Army in the fight to liberate Transylvania and Hungary, would be designated the next prime minister, but, while Michael was waiting on 2 March for Avramescu to return from the front to Bucharest, the NKVD arrested Avramescu in Slovakia, and he died the next day.[9] Faced with mounting Soviet pressure, Michael complied, and Groza became prime minister on 6 March 1945.[7][8][10]

The Groza cabinets[edit]

Groza on a 1946 Romanian stamp

Groza gave key portfolios such as defence, justice, and the interior to the Communists. It nominally included ministers from the National Liberals and National Peasants as well, but the ministers using those labels were fellow travellers like Groza, and had been handpicked by the Communists.[11]

Despite the annoyance of the two powers, the Communists constituted only a minority in Groza's cabinet. The leading figures in the Romanian Communist Party, Pauker and Gheorghiu-Dej, wanted the Groza government to preserve the façade of a coalition government and thus enable the Communists to win the confidence of the masses, since right after the Second World War the communists enjoyed very little political support. For this reason top communist figures like Pauker and Gheorghiu-Dej did not join Groza's cabinet. They planned to gradually impose an out-and-out Communist regime under the veil of the existing coalition government.[12] By conflating the successes of the regime with their Party, Pauker and Gheorghiu-Dej hoped to win support for the party and lay the foundations for a one-party state. Accordingly, Groza maintained the illusion of a coalition government, appointing members of diverse political organizations to his cabinet and formulating his government's short-term goals in broad, non-ideological terms. He stated at a cabinet meeting on 7 March 1945, for example, that the government sought to guarantee safety and order for the population, implement desired land reform policies, and focus on a "swift cleanup" of the state bureaucracy and immediate prosecution of war criminals, i.e., officials of the Fascist wartime regime of Marshal Ion Antonescu (see Romania during World War II and Romanian People's Tribunals).[13]

To confirm Groza in office, elections were held on 19 November 1946. The count was rigged in order to give an overwhelming majority to the Bloc of Democratic Parties, a Communist-dominated front that included the Ploughmen's Front. Years later, historian Petre Țurlea reviewed a confidential Communist Party report about the election that showed the BPD had, at most, won 47 percent of the vote. He concluded that had the election been conducted honestly, the opposition parties would have won enough votes between them to form a coalition government—albeit with far less than the 80 percent support long claimed by opposition supporters.[14]

In the mind of the Groza government, the 1946 election confirmed it in office. This claim was made in the face of protests by the United States and the United Kingdom who held that, pursuant to the agreements reached at the Yalta Conference in 1945, only "interim governmental authorities broadly representative of the population", should be supported by the major powers.[15] As a result, Groza's government was permanently estranged from the United States and Great Britain, who nominally supported the waning influence of the monarchist forces under King Michael I.

As Prime Minister[edit]

Groza (left), with Gheorghe Tătărescu and Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, on a visit to Bulgaria, July 1947

Within days of becoming premier, Groza delivered his first major success. On 10 March 1945, the Soviet Union agreed to return to Romania Northern Transylvania, a territory of over 45,000 km2 (17,000 sq mi) that had been assigned to Hungary through the 1940 Second Vienna Award sponsored by Germany and Italy. Groza promised that the rights of each ethnic group within the restored territory would be protected (mainly, as a reference to the Hungarian minority in Romania), while Joseph Stalin declared that the previous government under Rădescu had permitted such a large degree of sabotage and terrorism in the region that it would have been impossible to deliver the territory to the Romanians. As a result, only after Groza's guarantee of ethnic minority rights did the Soviet government decide to satisfy the petition of the Romanian government. The recovery of this territory, nearly fifty-eight percent Romanian in 1945, was hailed as a major accomplishment within the formative stages of the Groza regime.[16]

Groza continued to improve the image of his own government while strengthening the position of the Communist Party with a series of political reforms. He proceeded to eliminate any antagonistic elements in the government administration and, in the newly acquired Transylvanian territory, removed three city prefects, including that of the region's capital, Cluj. The prefects removed were immediately replaced by loyal government officials directly appointed by Groza, so as to strengthen loyalist elements in local government in the region. Groza also promised a series of land reform programs to benefit military personnel, which would confiscate and subsequently redistribute all properties in excess of 125 acres (51 ha) in addition to all the property of traitors, absentees, and all who collaborated with the wartime Romanian government, the Hungarian occupiers during Miklós Horthy and Ferenc Szálasi's régimes, and Nazi Germany.[17]

Despite giving the appearance of liberal democracy by granting women's suffrage, Groza pursued a series of reforms attempting to clamp down on the prominence of politically dissident media outlets in the nation. During the first month of his premiership, Groza acted to close down Romania Nouă, a popular newspaper published by sources close to Iuliu Maniu, leader of the traditional National Peasants' Party who disagreed widely with Groza's attempted reforms. Within a month of his assumption of the premiership, Groza shut down over nine provincial newspapers and a series of periodicals which, Groza declared, were products of those, "who served Fascism and Hitlerism".[18] Groza soon continued this repression by limiting the number of political parties allowed within the state. Although Groza had promised to purge only individuals from the government bureaucracy and diplomatic corps immediately after assuming power, in June 1947 he began to prosecute entire political organizations, as, after the Tămădău Affair, he arrested key members of the National Peasants' Party and sentenced Maniu to life in prison "for political crimes against the Romanian people".[12] By August of that year, both the National Peasants' Party and the National Liberal Party had been dissolved and in 1948, the government coalition incorporated the Romanian Workers' Party (the forced union of communists and Romanian Social Democrats) and the Hungarian People's Union, effectively minimizing all political opposition within the state.[8]

During his term as premier, Groza also clashed with the nation's remaining monarchist forces under King Michael I. Although his powers were minimal within Groza's regime, King Michael symbolized the remnants of the traditional Romanian monarchy and, in late 1945, the King urged Groza to resign. The King maintained that Romania must abide by the Yalta accords, allowing the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union to each have a hand in post-war government reconstruction and the incorporation of a broader coalition force he had already organized. Groza flatly rejected the request, and relations between the two figures remained tense over the next few years, with Groza and the King differing on the prosecution of war criminals and in the awarding of honorary Romanian citizenship to Stalin in August 1947.[19]

Early on the morning of 30 December 1947, Groza summoned Michael back to Bucharest, ostensibly "to discuss important matters"; the king had been preparing for a New Year's party at Peleș Castle in Sinaia. When Michael arrived, Groza presented the king with a pretyped instrument of abdication and demanded that Michael sign it. According to Michael's account,[20][21][22][23][24][25] when he refused, Groza threatened to launch a bloodbath and arrest thousands of people.[26] Michael eventually signed the document, and a few hours later parliament abolished the monarchy and declared Romania a republic.[26]

Last years[edit]

Groza stepped down as premier in 1952, and was succeeded by Gheorghiu-Dej. He was then named president of the Presidium of the Great National Assembly (de facto president of Romania), a post he held until 1958, when he died from complications following a stomach operation.[2] He was buried at Ghencea Cemetery; his remains were later moved to the Carol Park Mausoleum, and finally to the cemetery in his native village, Băcia.


Fallen statue of Petru Groza next to the Mogoșoaia Palace (2010)

The mining town of Ștei in Bihor County was named Dr. Petru Groza after him, a name it kept until after the Romanian Revolution of December 1989.[27] After his death in 1958, Transylvania Boulevard in Bucharest was renamed Dr. Petru Groza Boulevard;[28] it is now named after Gheorghe Marinescu. There are streets named after Groza in Cluj-Napoca, Galați, and Medgidia.

A 4.5 m (15 ft) bronze statue of Groza, placed on a red Carrara marble pedestal, was unveiled in Deva in 1962. The monument, designed by sculptor Constantin Baraschi [ro], was removed in 1990, and replaced in 1999 by a statue of Trajan; in 2007, Groza's statue was transported to Băcia.[29] Another statue of him, sculpted by Romulus Ladea [ro], was inaugurated in the Cotroceni neighborhood of Bucharest in 1971; this statue was taken down in 1990, and replaced in 1993 by a monument to the Artillery Heroes.[30] As of 2010, it lied in an open field near the Mogoșoaia Palace, next to a statue of Vladimir Lenin that used to be in front of Casa Scînteii.[31]



  1. ^ Nick Thorpe (25 October 2011). "Romania's ex-King Michael I defends his wartime record". BBC News. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Petru Groza of Rumania Dies; Chief of State of Red Regime, 72", in The New York Times, 8 January 1958; ProQuest Historical Newspapers – The New York Times (1851–2002), p. 47
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Cioroianu, 6.1.1 (pp. 149–150)
  4. ^ a b Ioan Scurtu (2003) Structuri politice în Europa centrală și de sud-est (1918-2001): România, Editura Fundației Culturale Române, Bucharest, ISBN 9789735773540, p. 280
  5. ^ a b Cioroianu, 6.1.2 (pp. 150–152)
  6. ^ Liliana Saiu (1992). The Great Powers and Rumania, 1944–1946. New York City: Columbia University Press. p. 39. ISBN 0880332328.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Cioroianu, 6.1.3 (pp. 152–159)
  8. ^ a b c d R. J. Crampton (1997) Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century – And After, Routledge, New York City, ISBN 0415164230, pp. 229, 231
  9. ^ Paltin Sturdza. "6 martie 1945: Guvern general Avramescu sau dr. Petru Groza?" [6 March 1945: Government of General Avramescu or Dr. Petru Groza?]. Historia (in Romanian). Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  10. ^ Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain. Charles Sudetic (July 1989). "Postwar Romania, 1944–85". In Bachman, Ronald D (ed.). Romania: a country study. Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. LCCN 90006449.
  11. ^ Charles Sudetic. Petru Groza's Premiership. Romania: Country Studies.: "The government included no legitimate members of the National Peasants' Party or National Liberal Party; rather, the Communists drafted opportunistic dissidents from these parties, heralded them as the parties' legitimate representatives, and ignored or harassed genuine party leaders."
  12. ^ a b Stephen Fischer-Galați (1967), The New Rumania: From People's Democracy to Socialist Republic, Cambridge, Mass.: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, pp. 29–30, 35, OCLC 243006
  13. ^ "Groza Pledges Order", in The New York Times, 8 March 1945; ProQuest Historical Newspapers, The New York Times (1851–2002), p. 4
  14. ^ Petre Țurlea (2000), "Alegerile parlamentare din noiembrie '46: guvernul procomunist joacă și câștigă. Ilegalități flagrante, rezultat viciat" [The Parliamentary Elections of November '46: the Pro-Communist Government Plays and Wins. Blatant Unlawfulness, Tampered Result], Dosarele Istoriei (in Romanian), 11 (51): 35–36
  15. ^ Paul Winkler (22 March 1945) "Interim Government", in The Washington Post; ProQuest Historical Newspapers, The Washington Post (1877–1989), p. 6
  16. ^ "Transylvanian Area Restored to Romanians", in The Chicago Daily Tribune, 11 March 1945; ProQuest Historical Newspapers, Chicago Tribune (1849–1985), p. 8
  17. ^ "Sweeping Reform Begins in Rumania", in The New York Times, 12 March 1945; ProQuest Historical Newspapers, The New York Times (1851–2002), p. 5
  18. ^ C. L. Sulzberger, "2 Moves by Groza Spurring Reforms", in The New York Times, 25 March 1945; ProQuest Historical Newspapers, The New York Times (1851–2002), p. 16
  19. ^ W. H. Lawrence, "Chamber Ratifies Rumanian Treaty", in The New York Times, 24 August 1947; ProQuest Historical Newspapers, The New York Times (1851–2002), p. 43
  20. ^ "The Rescue of the Bulgarian Jews". Archived from the original on 7 September 2013. Retrieved 21 January 2008.
  21. ^ "Republica s-a instaurat cu pistolul" [The Republic was installed with a pistol]. Ziua (in Romanian). 10 May 1996. Archived from the original on 27 October 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  22. ^ (in Romanian) Timeline Archived 18 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine, semi-official site dedicated to HM King Michael I Archived 12 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine, as retrieved on 21 January 2008
  23. ^ (in Romanian)"Princess Margareta, designated dynastic successor", Antena 3, 30 December 2007
  24. ^ "A king and his coup". The Daily Telegraph. 12 June 2005. Archived from the original on 16 October 2007.
  25. ^ Craig S. Smith, "Romania’s King Without a Throne Outlives Foes and Setbacks", The New York Times, 27 January 2007
  26. ^ a b "Compression". Time. 12 January 1948. Archived from the original on 13 March 2007.
  27. ^ Lavinia Stan (2012). Transitional Justice in Post-Communist Romania: The Politics of Memory. Cambridge University Press, 17 Dec. pp. 211–213. ISBN 9781139619820.
  28. ^ Light, Duncan; Nicolae, Ion; Suditu, Bogdan (2002). "Toponymy and the Communist city: Street names in Bucharest, 1948–1965". GeoJournal. 56 (2): 135–144. JSTOR 41147676.
  29. ^ "Statuia Dr. Petru Groza (demontată în 1990)". (in Romanian). Retrieved 2 August 2021.
  30. ^ "Statuia Dr. Petru Groza din cartierul Cotroceni". (in Romanian). 15 April 2020. Retrieved 2 August 2021.
  31. ^ Ion, Alexandra (11 July 2010). "El Pais: Lenin și Petru Groza năpădiți de bălării și furnici pe maidanul de la Mogoșoaia". Retrieved 2 August 2021.


Party political offices
Preceded by President of the Presidium of the
Great National Assembly of Romania

12 June 1952 – 7 January 1958
Succeeded by
Preceded by Prime Minister of Romania
6 March 1945 – 2 June 1952
Succeeded by