Silviu Brucan (born Saul Bruckner; 18 January 1916 – 14 September 2006) was a Romanian Communist politician. Though he disagreed with Nicolae Ceauşescu's policies, he never gave up his Communist beliefs and did not oppose Communist ideology. After the Romanian Revolution, Brucan became a political analyst and author of books on Communism and Eastern Europe.
Silviu Brucan was born in Bucharest to wealthy Jewish parents living in Berzei Street, near Matache Măcelaru Market. Brucan's father was a wholesale wool merchant who imported fabrics from England in the aftermath of World War I, suits of fine English fabrics being a luxury item that was popular among the Romanian bourgeoisie rising due to the economic boom. He attended the German-language Evangelische Schule of Luterană Street and the Saint Sava National College.
In 1929 came the Wall Street Crash, leading to the Great Depression, which slumped the luxury industry, including English clothes and Brucan's father's shop in Şepcari Street went bankrupt and the Brucan family was left penniless. They moved into a modest apartment on Vlad Ţepeș Street. Brucan's father found a job as a fabric expert working for a German merchant, but as this was not enough to feed a family of six, Silviu Brucan began giving private lessons to pupils of wealthy families, thus gaining access to the world of the rich landowners and industrialists. In his memories, Brucan said that the sharp contrast between the world of luxury of the privileged classes and the misery of those who worked hard all day to earn a living and the feeling of social injustice strongly influenced him.
As a social outcast (his father had been indicted for fraudulent bankruptcy) and as a Jew in the 1930s, he was prevented by the Iron Guard supporters from formally studying at the University of Bucharest. Nevertheless, with the help of some friends, he did attend some courses at the university, such as the lectures of historian Nicolae Iorga, the philosopher Constantin Rădulescu-Motru, the aesthetician Tudor Vianu, and the philosopher Nae Ionescu.
Brucan joined the left-wing movement at the age of 18. He was attracted by the opinions found leftist and antifascist weekly newspapers such as Stînga (The Left), Era Nouă (New Era) and Cuvîntul Liber (Free Word). Brucan joined the communist groups who organized "cultural evenings" at the houses of some supporters, where he met literate communist supporters such as Alexandru Sahia. He began reading Marxist literature and soon he was co-opted into party operations, being asked to illegally hide some party documents (speeches at a Comintern meeting in Prague) at his home.
In 1935, the moderate left-wing Dimineaţa newspaper competed against Universul, a nationalist right-wing newspaper. In order to eliminate his rival, the owner of Universul, Stelian Popescu, began an anti-semitic campaign (the owners of Dimineaţa were Jews) leading to fascists burning copies of the newspaper and associated posters. The communist and socialist youth organized vigilante groups which defended the newsstands. Brucan was part of one of the left-wing groups defending the newsstands of Gara de Nord and was involved in a fight with the Iron Guard supporters, sustaining a severe head injury.
He subsequently worked as a journalist, first writing a fashionable social column at Gazeta de seară, then working as a proofreader at Adevărul Literar Brucan met Aurel Alicu, a leader of the National Peasant Youth, with whom he started in 1937 a weekly called Dacia Nouă, having writers from both the traditional parties (National Liberal and National Peasants Party) and from left-wing circles (Miron Constantinescu, Corneliu Mănescu, Roman Moldovan and Victor Iliu). The newspaper was published for a year, until the Octavian Goga government shut it down.
In late 1938, he was conscripted, serving at a border guard unit at the frontier with Bulgaria, where he was acquainted with both komitadji extremists who attacked Romanian outposts, the Aromanian colonists in Southern Dobruja, and the Middle Eastern smugglers who illegally crossed the border with hashish or opium.
During World War II, Brucan lived in the attic of a house in a quiet area in Cotroceni, working as an illegal press worker for the Communist Party's newspaper Scînteia. In 1943, he was arrested by a police agent who accidentally noticed him on Buzești Street, recalling his face from a photograph of a fellow Communist who had been previously arrested. However, as the police could not find any incriminating evidence, he was released a few days later.
After the 23 August 1944 coup
In September 1944, upon Romania's exit from the Axis camp and the onset of Soviet occupation, he was named the general secretary of Scînteia (the deputy editor in chief to Leonte Răutu), the official newspaper of the PCR.
As long as the other newspapers still were published, Scînteia competed with them for the readers and Brucan with the rest of the editors tried to make a professional newspaper. However, as party newspapers and independent newspapers were forcefully closed one-by-one by the new communist authorities, the Scînteia journalists became office clerks working 9 to 5 and writing ideological editorials for the indoctrination of the workers, who were "full of hope for a glorious future".
As editor of Scînteia, he supported the prison sentences of Iuliu Maniu, Gheorghe I. Brătianu, and Corneliu Coposu (see Tămădău Affair). He also supported the repression of anti-Communist journalists, such as Radu Gyr and Pamfil Şeicaru, asking for the death penalty for the latter.
During this period, Brucan's wife, the Stalinist Alexandra Sidorovici (with whom he had three children, daughter Anca, and sons Dinu and Vlad), became a public prosecutor of the People's Tribunals, an office which allowed her to ask for death sentences for many enemies of the Communist regime; the sister of Teofil Sidorovici, she was a member of the nomenklatura of the Communist government.
A close collaborator of Communist leader Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, Brucan, with Sorin Toma and Mihail Roller, was among the prominent Party ideologues of the group coordinated by Leonte Răutu after the late 1940s and into the 1950s.
Ambassador to the United States
A loyal Soviet agent, Brucan was ambassador of Romania to the United States in 1955. He used this experience as the basis of a book he co-authored with Sidorovici (a virulent attack on American institutions), He was ambassador to the United Nations between 1959 and 1962, as well as the head of Romanian Television.
Conflict with Ceauşescu
Progressively from the 1960s, Brucan became an opponent of the new PCR leadership around Ceauşescu. Initially, upon news that Ceauşescu had been appointed general secretary, he considered renouncing his political career to focus on an office at the University, before being persuaded by Emil Bodnăraş to remain an activist. He was a professor of Scientific Socialism at the Bucharest Faculty of Medicine. According to Brucan himself, he faced a period of financial insecurity, and began work as a translator in order to cover his expenses. He also sent several works, subject to censorship at home, to be published in the United States; they showed his move towards reformism, which he advocated to be applied inside the Eastern bloc.
In 1987, after sending an anti-Ceauşescu declaration to the foreign press (to the BBC, the International Herald Tribune, and United Press International), a relatively mild criticism for the violent repression of the Braşov Rebellion, he was sentenced to house arrest. At the time, Brucan had won the approval of Soviet authorities, which had by then already engaged in Perestroika policies, and had been extended informal protection by the Soviet embassy in Bucharest (allowing him a relevant degree of freedom).
With help from Iulian Vlad, the chief of the Securitate, he was issued a passport, and in 1988, despite being expelled from the PCR, spent six months in the United States, where he was in contact with the United States Department of State (headed by George P. Shultz). Brucan also claimed to have been invited to Moscow by Soviet politicians Mikhail Gorbachev and Anatoly Dobrynin, who endorsed criticism of Ceauşescu and a Romanian version of Glasnost; based on the personal testimonies of Gorbachev's advisers, the scholar Vladimir Tismăneanu has disputed Brucan's account in its entirety.
The fact that Ceaușescu allowed Brucan to travel freely shows that Ceaușescu was not subjecting him to the same restrictions as the common dissidents, especially because of the interest about his safety, shown by both the Soviet Union (by making sure that the Pravda correspondent in Bucharest would keep close contact with him) and the governments of Britain and the United States (by inviting him as a special guest in their countries).
Letter of the Six
In March 1989, together with five other Communist dignitaries (Gheorghe Apostol, Alexandru Bârlădeanu, Grigore Răceanu, Corneliu Mănescu, and Constantin Pîrvulescu), he signed the open letter known as Scrisoarea celor şase - "The Letter of the Six".
The document, which was immediately broadcast on Radio Free Europe and Voice of America, was a left-wing critique of Ceauşescu's policies, and it led to the swift arrest and interrogation of the signatories by the Securitate, and then to their internal exile and house arrest at various locations. The Securitate depicted Brucan as one of several "hostile, inveterate, elements" and "the agent of foreign imperialist secret services". Although lacking in actual popular support, the letter was argued to be the among most important and influential acts of opposition during its period, and a notorious break with the tradition of strict obedience and party discipline.
Brucan was sent to a location on the outskirts of Bucharest, in Dămăroaia — the reason for his subsequent colloquial moniker, "The Oracle of Dămăroaia". Despite increased pressure, most contributors to the protest refused to withdraw their statement. Brucan later accused Apostol of having given in to pressures.
During and after the Revolution
Brucan was part of the National Salvation Front (FSN) during the Romanian Revolution, joining the Provisional Council of the FSN and its Executive Committee. As a member of the Council, he was also involved in selecting Roman for the office of Premier.
Silviu Brucan was a member of the Council (together with Ion Iliescu, Petre Roman, and some generals, including Nicolae Militaru) that decided to put the Ceaușescu couple on trial at the site where they were being held in Târgoviște. This was due to the fear that Securitate snipers might attack the barracks and free them. According to the testimony of Petre Roman, Brucan was among those who insisted that Nicolae and Elena Ceauşescu be executed immediately after the trial, a claim denied by Brucan.
When it was decided that the 10-point programme be read on national TV on 22 December, according to Dumitru Mazilu, Brucan wanted it to include a clause saying that Romania will honour its obligations under the Soviet-controlled Warsaw Pact.
In early January, FSN official Brucan made an assurance that the FSN had no intention of turning into a political party, but would support some candidates. However, only three weeks later, he supported the transformation of the FSN into a political party, arguing that without the FSN, there would be a "political vacuum" that the new political parties would be unable to fill.
After public allegations, Brucan resigned from the FSN in February 1990, claiming that he had accomplished his mission, to restore stability in Romania and to put the country on a course toward multi-party elections. His prediction that the FSN would win the elections by more than 90%, supported the already wide suspicions of falsified ballots.
He did not wish to run in the 1990 elections, being "just the adviser" of President Iliescu. Nevertheless, he later issued a vocal criticism of President Ion Iliescu. In 1990, Brucan contended that Romanians would need 20 years to become accustomed to democracy. This claim became well known in Romania.
On the eve of the first free post-communist elections day (20 May 1990), Brucan argued that the 1989 Revolution was not anti-communist, being only against Ceauşescu, not against the communism of the 1950s and 1960s. He said that Iliescu made a "monumental" mistake in "conceding to the crowd" and banning the Romanian Communist Party.
From the late 1990s, Brucan hosted a news commentary program on the ProTV network (Profeţii despre trecut - "Foretellings on the Past"), initially together with Lucian Mândruţă. During his final years, he was also a columnist for Ziarul Financiar.
In 1998, he was brought to court by Vasile Lupu, a leader of the Christian-Democratic National Peasants' Party (PNŢCD) and a deputy for Iaşi County. Speaking on his show, Brucan had called Lupu "astute to the square" and "trained Securitate informant", indicating that "any good-faithed National Peasantist who still views himself as a party colleague with Vasile Lupu is self-excluding himself from the PNŢCD". In 2002, courts decided in Lupu's favor, and Brucan was found guilty of calumny; he was required to pay Lupu the sum of 30 million lei as compensation.
At the age of 90, Brucan underwent a seven-hour stomach operation on 4 September 2006. Despite an initial good recovery from surgery, his condition suddenly worsened on 13 September and he died the following day due to cardiac arrest.
Writing in 2006, Vladimir Tismăneanu criticized Brucan, arguing that, despite his renunciation of Communism, Brucan had continued to support authoritarianism in public life and to display a taste for intrigue, and that he had attempted to transform the FSN into a "big party", virtually replacing the PCR. Tismăneanu pointed out Brucan's post-1990 opposition to Mircea Răceanu, who had been imprisoned on dubious espionage charges under Ceauşescu, and who was later rehabilitated by Romanian courts. He has also contended that memoirs authored by Brucan showed little remorse, if not at all, for his early involvement in support of political repression.
According to Victor Neumann, Brucan's role in the Bucharest episode of the 1989 Revolution had apparently helped indirectly the original and virtually unrelated revolt in Timişoara, especially by preventing a more violent repression against it, but it was never explained. He also argued that Brucan's group of former inner-Party dissidents was, in the eyes of the uninformed public at large, the only "credible alternative" at the time, and cited Brucan's own statement: "The train had arrived in the station and we were the only ones who could get on it. What were we to say, that we will not get on? We did it". Overall, Neumann contended, Silviu Brucan's political and diplomatic expertise, as well as his adaptability, had made this old Stalinist the "ideologist of political transformations in 1989 Romania", and had contributed to the supremacy of left-wing discourse in the years following the Revolution (in regard to the latter point, he cited Brucan arguments, which challenged the existence of the right-wing themes in the ideological makeup of the 1989 movement).
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- (in English) Silviu Brucan Obituary The Washington Post
- (in Romanian) Biography at Polirom.ro
- Silviu Brucan,
- (in Romanian) "Pedeapsa trebue să fie maximă!" ("The Penalty Must be the Maximum One!"), article of November 10, 1947, republished by Adevărul
- (in Romanian) "Una este «reţea» şi alta este «urmărit»" ("An «Informant Network» and «Under Surveillance» Are Entirely Different Things") - his last column in Ziarul Financiar, August 28, 2006