Academic journal article East European Quarterly

The Period of De-Stalinization in Romanian Culture, 1959-1965

Academic journal article East European Quarterly

The Period of De-Stalinization in Romanian Culture, 1959-1965

Article excerpt

After 1958, Romania assumed to itself the rise of a brand new internal and external politics, unthinkable up to that time. In the context of the aggravation of the conflict between Moscow and Peking, when Khrushchev and Mao were girding themselves, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej realized a masterstroke. Beginning in 1962, Romania became more and more detached from Moscow.

For the other part, the Valev incident had represented the apogee of the Soviet-Romanian cold war. Khrushchev ordered a boycott of Romania, but this boycott actually hastened the Romanian orientation to the West. (1)

In 1959 trade missions headed by senior communist officials explored the possibilities of increased trade with France, Great Britain, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland and even the United States and concluded agreements with several West European companies.

The drive was continued in 1960 with increased energy and even greater success. By the end of that year, official statistics indicated a decrease in Romania's trade with the Soviet Union from approximately 46 percent in 1959 to 40 percent in 1960; a corresponding increase in Romania's trade with the Western countries was recorded. Intellectuals and technocrats were sent abroad to proclaim in fluent French, English or German the historic legitimacy of the Communist regime and to seek recognition of that doctrine for the Romanian side. Select foreigners were invited to Bucharest to convince themselves of the validity of the Communists' claim. Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej's basic purpose was to secure the economic assistance necessary for political emancipation from Moscow. But he was also willing to allow, in small doses, cultural interaction between Western European countries and the Romanian People's Republic. (2)

This allowed him to lead a unique policy of "disengagement" vis-a-vis the Soviet Union and of "national communism"--this combination characterizing the "Gheorghiu-Dejism" that was analyzed by Professor Stephen Fischer-Galati. It had originated in Gheorghiu-Dej's appreciation of the events of the Autumn of 1956--the Hungarian revolt and Polish riots--which made him wish to be less dependent on the unpredictable and divided Soviet leadership, through widening his popular basis and strengthening the national feeling among the ordinary citizenry, and later by using the new tendency to polycentrism in the communist world and developing relations with the West. (3)

The re-orientation of Romanian external politics coincided, after 1960, with significant mutations in internal Romanian politics, beginning with the relaxation of the police regime. The prisons had begun releasing prisoners in 1962 when, according to official statistics, 1304 persons were liberated; in 1963 another 2892 persons were set free and in the first months of 1964 year the last 464 political prisoners were released (many of them were imprisoned after 1944, others had been there from 1941 on). (4)

All of these changes, remarkable if we compare them with the situation in the 1950's, determined a climate of relative social agreement and national consensus as the hopes of liberation from communism seemed, now, indefinitely postponed. With the escalation of polemics which had begun with the Soviets, and because the moment was auspicious, the Romanian Communist Party achieved very quickly a series of measures, which may be called "derussification."

The action culminated in 1963, when the institutes created in 1948 were closed, when the Russian names of streets and cinemas were changed, when Stalin-Town received its old name, Brasov. Countless streets and institutions which had received Russian names were renamed throughout the country. Only a few streets and institutions kept their Russian names--for example--in Bucharest, the Tolbuhim Boulevard, and the Zoia Kosmodemianskaia Secondary School. In Bucharest different American exhibitions were opened, western books were translated, foreign (Western) franchises were bought, and Western films and songs took the place of Russians ones. …

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