Shock Waves: Eastern Europe after the Revolutions

By John Feffer | Go to book overview

Chapter 8
Romania. . .
Amoral domestic policy

In any group of three Romanians one was Securitate.

—Romanian saying

While other Eastern European countries have made government files public, promoted press freedom, and, in general, opened up what were previously closed societies, Romania remains shrouded in mystery. When I visited the country in 1990, rumor was still the primary source of Romanian information, especially the information that people trusted. Too many times I would ask where someone had acquired his or her information and the response would be "from a very reliable source." "A newspaper?" I would press. "Oh no, a very reliable friend." Some Romanians had friends in the political parties who fed them inside tips; journalists could refer to colleagues and off-the-record asides; the head of Bucharest's drivers' union told me about the trustworthy information that the rank-and-file picked up on the street. Everyone had a personal source for news as they once had informal connections to get meat or foreign magazines.

Not only is the informational infrastructure lacking—a reliable press agency, credible non-governmental organizations, accepted statistics—but the very approach that most Romanians have toward the "news" is distinctly non-informational. The people I interviewed frequently editorialized without substantiation, spoke in the abstract, or simply avoided reference to historical detail and stubborn facts altogether. Faced with this informational tangle, a journalist must construct a "truth" out of a multiplicity of subjective accounts. 1 Romania truly is "a plotless detective novel," as literary critic Nicolae Manolescu once observed. 2

The contemporary Romanian situation is therefore best expressed not by a series of propositions, but by a set of questions that can only be half-answered. What exactly is the National Salvation Front and why did

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