The Fall of Communism in Czechoslovakia

Velvet Revolution

Unlike any other communist country that had to go through a violent revolution, Czechoslovakia fortunately had a non-violent revolution. The non-violent revolution which saw the overthrow of the Communist government took place on the 17th of November to the 29th of December 1989 was named the Velvet Revolution.
On the 17th of November 1989, a group of students held a peaceful demonstration in Prague but was suppressed by the riot police. A student was attacked by the riot police (Tim Lambert, N/A). Following the incident, it sparked a lot attention and ignited the anger within the people thus causing a series of demonstrations that continued until late December. On the 19th of November, human right activist formed the Civic forum (Tim Lambert, N/A). The number of peaceful protestors in Prague grew from 200,000 to 500,000 in merely two days. Although the government resigned on the 24th of November due to the pressure, that was not the end as the demonstrations went on.

On the 27th of November, all citizens of Czechoslovakia took part on a two hour general strike. Eventually, the Communist party agreed to end the 1 party rule and promised to form a coalition government (Tim Lambert, N/A). The citizens of Czechoslovakia were not satisfied with the new government as they were still under the power of the communist party. So, the citizens held more demonstrations. Due to the pressure, a new government was formed on the 10th of December where the Communist became the minority. On the 29th of December, Vaclav Havel a playwright and leading opponent of Communism was elected as the president by the Federal Assembly.

Finally for the first time in 40years, Czechoslovakia held its first multi-party elections and a new government made up of a coalition of parties opposed to the transitional government and Havel was re-elected (Howstuffworks, (N/A).

Tim Lambert. N/A. The Fall of Communism In Eastern Europe. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.localhistories.org/communism.html. [Accessed 15 April 13].

How Stuff Works. N/A. History of Czechoslovakia. [ONLINE] Available at:http://history.howstuffworks.com/european-history/czechoslovakia3.htm. [Accessed 15 April 13].

Foong Lin, Liew

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‘Eastern Bloc’ Central and Eastern Europe Communist Countries

‘Eastern Bloc’ refers to the former communist states of Central and Eastern Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact.  These countries include Czechoslovakia, Romania, East Germany, Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary.  The term Communist Bloc was used to denote the groups of states associated with the Soviet Union.

eastern bloc

European Communist Countries (sourced 22 april 2013)

These European countries experienced communism and their dictators relied on spectacle in order to create and maintain their citizen’s compliance to their communist ideology and used fear, oppression, arrests and killings to suppress the public but in the end mass revolts helped restore democracy. “Whoever becomes the ruler of a city that is accustomed to freedom and does not destroy it can expect to be destroyed by it, for it can always find a pretext for rebellion in the name of its former freedom” (Debord 2009:113).

“Communist states claim to be guided by a specific law of interpretations and goals  – these are Marxism-Leninism” (Wesson 1978:13) and there is quite a lot of similarities within these countries during the periods they experienced communism.  These similarities include totalitarian rule, dictatorship, food shortages and terrible war crimes.

Communist societies are very militaristic and include long periods of military duty, glorification of military heroism, cult of leadership and of violence and loyalty is the basic virtue (Wesson 1978:12-13). 

Rose Muzvondiwa

Prague and The communist architecture

Pavel Kalina

“The communist architecture has many negative connotations, of course. The architecture […] of those townships or settlements built in 1960s, 1970s, are of course not taken as the good address. In the same time, the townships din not change islams, anything like that. They are normally inhabited by the new generations, but usually are the old generations of people. Many of those buildings were renovated, in the last 2 decades, many of them were given façades  for example, so sometimes you would not recognise that they are from the time of the communist regime. So, I think normal people do not take these houses as good addresses, good architecture, as a good place to live. But they are cheap, they are a form outside of the historical cities, so in this aspect is not completely a bad place to live and they are sometimes defended as urban textures by historians of architecture who are interpreting these buildings as a part of our heritages.

I think very problematic. I myself live in a town from 1994, which was designed in the 1980s. And I’m not completely satisfied with the building, but I live there since 1994, so.. but it is not a typical housing, but I think it is a normal place where you  live in present day Prague. In present day Prague, people do not live in the historical centre. The historical centre is futurist and for managers and international accountants, but not so much for normal people.”

Klara Mergerova

“I’m a historian of architecture, so I, myself see the qualities and of course I try to show that there are buildings which were constructed during the communist regime, but which still present some qualities, but I think the general opinion is that those buildings were there to abrupt intrusion and most people refused even to think about qualities connected to the regime, so even buildings which are considered from architectural point of view are not appreciated by the general public. But there are of course, more and more tourists, which try now to see them as something specific for this region and who come to see them.”

Pavel Kalina

“Here in Prague, the  most despised project of the communist era was the so called Palace of Culture. It is just behind the border of the historical city, but even this project, which is ugly, even this project was no exception in the European architecture in the 1970s, 1980s, including Western European. You will find many ugly buildings in Western Europe as well. This building was not much bigger, not much ugly than the lords houses… I don’t like… I would never say that …in this aspect… that the communism expressed the totalitarian character in every house, or in every part of the town. It would be very, very exaggerated.”

Klara Mergerova

“Then you have Czech Department Stores, which are also found all over the country and also in Prague. We have some really good examples in the city centre (Department Store Kotva) which are representants of the most quality architecture of the period.  On the other hand, they are also disputable and not maybe … the quality isn’t fully recognized until today because they are very monumental  and people still see them as the residues of communist architecture. […]

Kotva Department Store

These buildings were financed by the communist regime, so they reflect (the department stores) reflect their aims to compete with the other world, the Western commercial centres, etc. The other buildings reflect the aim to impress and to prove the power of the regime.”

Marina Gogeanu

Interviews transcribed by: Marina Gogeanu

Ceausescu against the invasion of Czechoslovakia (1968)

We’ve asked Dr. Michal Pullman to think about 1968 and Romania which was against the invasion of Czechoslovakia.  What did that say about Ceausescu which was against any freedom in Romania and now he was suddenly approving freedom of press, freedom of speech, etc in Czechoslovakia? Do the Czech people remember this and consequently perceive Romania in a different way?

Here is what he said:

“The perception of Romania and Czechoslovakia was also ambivalent in this way; on the other hand Romania was perceived as a country where the communism had the most violent practices.  The Securitate was very well known in the whole Eastern block and was referred to as a kind on non-human or was synonymous for non-human approach of the system towards its inhabitants, towards the people.

At the same time, the Czechs and Slovaks saw the social situation of Romania which belonged to the worst ones in the whole Soviet block and it was very bad but on the other hand they knew the political representation who was very violent and repressive at home refused soviets in 1968 to invade Czechoslovakia and Romania even did not provide any technical, nothing… cause as we know the Germans did not come because it was not acceptable till 20 years after the war that the East German army to come to Czechoslovakia, so the East Germans stayed at home but provided, they provided  technical equipment for the Soviets; but Romania refused even that and this was the main ambivalence of perception of Romania  at the end of the 80s and it was of course, no public topic in the time of the 70s and first half of the 80s because of the brotherhood of Ceausescu and Hauseck… or both of these political representations with were strongly (specially the Czechoslovak one was) strongly bound to the Soviet politics but to some kind of hard administrative line of building socialism with a hat of communist party… so it became a topic in the very days of upheaval or in the splendid days of November 1989,  the fact that the Romania had not invaded Czechoslovakia.[…]  The people knew somehow but did not care too much because Romania is not the direct neighbour so they accepted the fact that Romania was not participating in any way at the occupation fell into oblivion a little bit in the public sphere.”

Marina Gogeanu

Transcribed by Rose Muzvondiwa

The initial reaction to communism in Czechoslovakia

Dr. Oldrich Tuma also talked to us about the initial reaction to communism in Czechoslovakia:

“In Czechoslovakia and especially the Czech lands part of Czechoslovakia, I think was an exception in Eastern Europe because there the communist party had the communist ideology immediately after 1945 and they had perhaps support  not from the majority of the society, but definitely from a very important part of it; (not only workers but intellectuals, artists) […]. They had hoped and trusted that this is an area especially to improve special economics, social life and to establish a system of social justice and things like that.

[…] there was the experience of Second World War and of course a very important issue was how to keep Czechoslovakia safe, how to take care of the security of Czechoslovakia after the experience of military occupation of Czechoslovakia. […] I think that this was not only communist that were persuaded but even many people who wished to have democracy were persuaded that the only way that to make Czechoslovakia secure in the middle of Europe was to cooperate very closely with the Soviet Union against Germany. Because there was a lot of opinions that in a few years Germany would be strong again or an aggressive state.

So the situation after Second World War was very similar to the one after the First World War [..]. But Germany became a different sort of society and state, so it was a misperception […].

Unlike the Polishes, Romanians, Hungarians, Czechs never had any direct experience with Russia. There were no common borders, there were no wars since the middle ages and so on. So Russians and the Russian state was more something like a distant but relatively beloved cousin if not then brother in the passive conflict that there was a long time confrontation between the Czechs and Germany, not only Germany but Germans living within Bohemia and Moravia. So it seems that this powerful Slavic state and Great Russian cultural heritage was really admired in the 19th Century. So there were a lot of sympathies and genuine sympathies for Russia with some over also for Czechs I think 1945, Soviet Union was especially Russia. So Soviet soldiers were red army soldiers, who were Russian soldiers, so they […] had to save Czechs from Nazi Germany (I think more understood it as German occupation not Nazi occupation).

So originally there was a lot of sympathies but many people also were aware that there is a danger that the communists who were speaking like democrats perhaps were for a coalition government (they spoke about free elections and so on). But there was a danger that it could turn into a totalitarian regime, undemocratic regime so there was a conflict within the society. Unfortunately the communists were much better prepared; they knew what they wished to achieve and fortified the position of the other political parties. And simply by waiting some hoped this is an extraordinary situation after war we have to survive and so on but it didn’t.

Communists seized power in 1948 and again that is the difference in Czechoslovakia; It happened during one short political crisis; in fact it was one week. In other countries it was a really long process. Let’s remind this Hungarian guy and his army tactics. In a way it was in Czechoslovakia too, but finally it was really a takeover it happened with the mobilisation of supporters of communism and paramilitary forces marching into the streets and so on. Even after 1948 still important part of society especially young people and so on who really trusted and hoped that very quickly that it would lead to the communist regime to very different directions and very different levels of great development of society and cultural social, economic and so on. And if it is necessary to pay something for some time to repress opponents of communism so we have to do it but during the next ten years would definitely be 56 or 58 most of those people I mean young communist people who were enthusiastic about communism but after 1945 became more sceptical and started to think about problems, mistakes and lies and so on. Didn’t see any great economic or social progress, they were more and more averted in cultural and educational, information. There was more and more censorship and so on and they didn’t like it.

So from that milieu Not yet resistance to communism, but very common I think in Czechoslovakia in the 1950’s early 60’s, was this idea of the necessity to reform the generated system. I think there was a majority of Czechoslovak society who simply didn’t like communism as for them it was an oppressive regime. In the early 50’s many people simply hoped that next fall or the next spring or something like that there will be war…there were a lot of illusions that the West will somehow intervene with diplomatic or economic measures that will make the communist regime to have elections and so on and so on. I think this illusion disappeared between 53 and 56, so definitely after the Hungarian uprising in 56 when there was no Western intervention. So this would be the end of the illusion that this will be for just a short time and the west will do something; it simply disappeared… more and more people realised that maybe it’s forever… and if they didn’t feel like that then, in 68 they understood that it was about to be for a very long time. So, they thought… if we can’t get rid of the system, maybe we can improve it or reform it. And so from this I think there was this general ethos of the 60’s in Czechoslovakia and of 68 which was something like a merge of very different opinions, a lot of very enthusiastic communists that hoped they would be able to improve the regime and even create something like a sort of model for other, even for Soviet Union. They thought that maybe the Russian communists will follow them…  But they were really disappointed instead, when these Russian tanks arrived.So people who simply didn’t like communism and understood 68 (the Prague spring) as an opportunity to at least change something and improve the system realised there were some limits.”

 

Marina Gogeanu

Interview transcribed by: Mwen Fikirini

Short analysis of the totalitarian regimes in Europe

During our trip in Prague, we had the pleasure to interview Dr. Oldrich Tuma -the director of the Institute of contemporary study who tried to give us an insight into the mechanisms of the totalitarian regimes in Europe and the way they function.

“So, We try to compare communist regime and the Nazi regime, sometimes the fascism regime?!

hmm I think Italy was a bit of a different case. Definitely Italy was not a totalitarian regime.

I have my doubts with the communist regime for the longest period of their existence, especially in Eastern Europe if they were totalitarian. I think that they tried to be but they failed very soon. And it was…I guess you know different typology of undemocratic regimes. So I like that part of one of …. response.

[…]

Definitely there was a great difference compared to the situation in Czechoslovakia after 1968 but even before after 56/ 58 or something like that, or Poland after 56 -if you compare this situation with the regime as they were… and the instruments, and the ways the regime used to control the society with the situation in the Soviet Union definitely under Stalin and even later. Or in East Europe say 48 to 53 or something like that, so this still was the same regime based on the same ideology and somewhere on the same ambitions for the future. […] but the future was more and more postponed.

So I think that finally the idea of communist society was there like a very unclear dream for the very future but the focus was simply to keep what already existed.

Which if we should compare it, it is very difficult because the Nazi regime just lasted twelve years and two thirds of the time were during war so anything was different and so on.

So I agree that those regimes, there were some common features based on ideology. Communist ideology was definitely more universal, Nazi ideology was focussing on the nationalism, anti- Semitism and rationale and so on and so on. On the other hand communist ideology was more easily acceptable for different nations and different people and so on.

Nazism was exclusive for German people hardly anyone. The Czechs couldn’t be Nazis, because the Czech would tell them that even if they wanted to be and so on. They used for the most similar methods of uhm… how to deal with any kind of resistance, real or alleged. So I think definitely communist secret security worked in a similar way like the gestapo (The German secret police under Nazi rule) did, even sometimes using similar methods of torturing people and so on.

But in the case of Nazi Germany say part of the economic life of society was not under so strict control of the regime, like it was in communist times In Czechoslovakia; I think in the Romania it was similar. In Czechoslovakia also maybe not in Poland and Hungary in Czechoslovakia 90% of economic activities were nationalised; they were controlled by the regime. But on the other hand there were some few cultural, life and educational and which simply the regime tried to intervene but then left it to the side.

So I never think that the communist regime in Czechoslovakia definitely controlled everything. Yeah they tried but they also realised it would lead to more and more conflicts in the society. The people; they needed to be at least loyal if not to support the regime, so I think that for the most time they concentrated on the administrative control of the society. They of course tried to eliminate any real resistance but otherwise they left people take what they wanted to…it’s a very improvised version than in the other countries.”

Marina Gogeanu

Interview transcribed by: Mwen Fikirini

Bucharest- urban planning, the instrumental use of space and its symbolic use

bucarest_in_europe_map

The existing city arrangement of Bucharest can be categorised as a radial-concentric one, maybe even a mono-centric one. For us to understand its urban typology, we’ll have to observe the modifications of the city as a result of the sociological, economical and geographical issues. Also, the symbols of Bucharest, its planning and use of space have been essentially determined by its influences and models.

Although the existence of Bucharest was first attested in 1459, its first utilisable map only appeared in 1852. As you can see from the map below, the radial rings prove that the city grew concentrically.

Map illustrating the phases of evolution of the city limits

Historically, during Carol I’s kingdom, the development of the city changed through the implementation of 60 miles of new roads (1895-1899). These initial operations were finally concluded between the 2 World Wars and the result was of an old city built within the new structures.  The city was called “little Paris” as the French influence was clearly observed on all the major boulevards where restaurants, cinemas, theatres and small palaces were easily accessible for a more fulfilling social life.

However, between 1945 and 1989, when the communist regime was in power, new ideas had been implemented in the urban structures of city: uniformity, control, centralised economy and density of population. One of the first stages was to centralize the industrial zones, to build on a big scale so that people would feel the power and solidity of the new environment. The constructions from that time are still considered out of scale and out of time.

It was during the 1960s that a severe economic and social change happened in Romania and it was perceived initially as a step towards the values of the West. Fundamental during that time was in 1968, when Romania defended the “national” rights of the Warsaw Pact community during Czechoslovakia’s invasion by the Russians. It was in this context that the idea of a new urban Romania was first instilled. The major peasant class was somewhat negating the plans for a liberated industrial country and as such, an upheaval started in most major cities. In Ploiesti, Onesti, Bucharest (among others), lots of new grey concrete flats buildings were suddenly constructed, the Iron Gates dam was built and various other industrial projects emerged. This was all part of a jump to urban industrialism. Wherever a new mega-plant was built, enormous blocks of apartments were also raised to house the workers.

This whole concept of urban industrialization was inspired by Le Corbusier’s Radiant City idea from the 1930. In brief, the plan was based on the construction of 5 to 13 story blocks of apartments which were divided by “green spaces” and expansive boulevards. The same ideas were implemented in the USA, where similar housing projects became known as “The Projects”, places that have been transformed over time in racial ghettos (as was Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis before it was demolished).

Similar concepts were instilled in Paris (Nanterre neighbourhood), Moscow (huge housing development zones), Tokyo (“danchi” projects), New York (Coop-City), London (Thamesmead housing development)

Thamesmead, London, UKPhoto credits: George Rex

Thamesmead, London, UK
Photo credits: George Rex

Nevertheless, Romania’s idealism of a future based on high-rise blocks of flats was widely spread throughout the world and it was partly a result of a world-wide generation of architects and urban planners inspired by the idea of an apartment block where “good life” is enjoyed. That was at the time the international pattern for the “new urban persona”. The problem in Romania was, however, the intensity of this model. As it was apparent from other countries that have tried the same, the long-term benefits of these developments to the social life were to say the least questionable in Romania.
apartment blocks in romania

The most incapacitating effect was the complete “dehumanization” that these new urban developments imposed on their population. All the citizens’ homes became nothing more than numbers, tagged by a series of anonymous letters and numbers: (i.e. Bucharest, Sector 2, str. 1st May, Entrance B, Floor 6, Apt 39). Shopping was also controlled by the government and it was separated into various buildings where there was no emphasis on the customer’s needs. Basically, everyone had to buy what was offered, although this was rarely what was wanted (i.e. access to fruit, meat, milk and eggs was limited and based on the number of people from the household – you had to prove you have a family if you were to buy more than 3 eggs and so on). By congesting so many people together, the system eliminated any idea of shared responsibility for public spaces. In addition to this, people would be moved around as per the desires of the men in charge. Numerous families were moved from building to building and even from city to city as their homes would be taken away (for more important people). The apartments, even though very cheap to fund, were a tool of political manipulation, as they could have been taken away as randomly as they were given. On top of this, shortly before the communism fell, flats no longer had head in winter; there was scarce access to food, bad public transport and no concern for the individuals. The population was seen as a unit and devilishly, Ceausescu also decided that villages can be bulldozed and then substituted by concrete apartment blocks and this would also urbanize the peasant generation within a short period of time. Although this project was launched, the idea fell through because of his fall from power in late December 1989.

It is remarkable that major changes appeared over a relatively short period of time with the operations realised in the 1980’s, when the spatial configuration changed from an instrumental use, to a symbolic use, also confirmed by the location of different activities in relation to integration patterns.

1980

Marina Gogeanu

Romania’s communist architecture

During its entire existence in Romania, the communist regime was able to see its political message perhaps the best expressed in the architectural planning of Bucharest.

Architecture, seen as a science that designs buildings, both residential, as well as the institutional, could (as could any other scientific or cultural field) not have another faith than the one subordinated to the communist totalitarian system, which was a perfect mindset defined by the Orwellian formula of “double language” – meaning the difference between the official discourse and the real one.

The intentions of the country’s leaders in that period were to uproot the inhabitants of Romania in huge apartment blocks districts. This action was meant to accomplish several objectives: alienation, homogenization, the transformation of the Romanians into “automatic machines of modernity” in order to finally fulfil their evolution towards the “new man” (the socialist type)(connection with The futurist’s manifesto)

A second aspect of communist beliefs included the institutional buildings constructed in a megalomaniac way – specific to the totalitarian regimes, serve as an expression of prosperity and welfare of the state. 

Finally, one last way to put in practice the Communist totalitarian ideas was the destruction of monuments of historical value which served as memorial places for people, in order to erase the memory of a previous period regime off their minds.

Bucharest wasn’t literally torn down, but it was destroyed.  All the communist tenant blocks that were constructed during that time destroyed the air and elegance of “The little Paris”. Those constructions are connected to The Futurists Manifesto, as the tenant blocks were constructed in order to provide equality among the romanians, but they also provided lack of individuality and Romanians had to forget who they used to be.

Photo source: reptilianul.ro

Photo source: reptilianul.blogspot.ro

Marina Gogeanu

 

Governmental buildings – Romania

Most of the governmental buildings of Romania were built during the economic boom of the late XVIII century and all of them are painted in white:  Bucharest’s city hall, Royal Palace, Central University Library, The Palace of Justice, Romanian Police, The Independence Hospital,  Institute of Medicine, The Postal Office, Ministry of Agriculture, etc.  Their color is “Optic White” and the factory that manufactures it claims that it can “cover up any tint or stain.”  The ripolin is a coverage of the past, and a reflection of the today impure world. The political leaders chose to cleanse Romania through this  “white-washing”, this use of white painting for the governmental buildings. This ripolin represents for Le Corbusier the perfect portrayal of a “calm and powerful” building which should be the perfect representation of a governmental construction. However, this colour is used in order to divide, to exclude and ultimately to control the citizens.

 

Palace of Justice

6 + 2 more allegorical statues (strength and prudence)

From the main hall, you can reach the building’s sides through the wide corridors, the stairs providing access to the mezzanine, first floor and the basement. The two scales of honor, are monumental, covered in marbles.

poza-justice-palace

palatul-justitiei-bucuresti-5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Central House of the Army, known as the National Military Circle, was built in 1912 taking the place of the “Sarindari” monastery. This neo-classical masterpiece was built by the Romanian architect Dimitrie Maimaroiu to host social events, cultural and educational needs of the Romanian army.

cercul militar national

Victoria Palace is the work of Professor Duiliu Mark (1885-1966), who  made several important public buildings since the mid-30s: Superior School of War, Victoria Palace, the Palace of the General Directorate of Railways – designed not as isolated objects but as parts of urban ensembles. The official function of these buildings and the architectural, cultural and political context of that moment, explain the choice of the neoclassical style and of the simplified language.

Victoria Palace was begun in 1937 and finished in 1944. Due to damages caused by the 1944 bombing, the work was resumed and completed in 1952. Originally designed for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Victoria Palace was during the communist period, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Council of Ministers and became, in 1990, the seat of the first post-communist government of Romania. In 2004, Victoria Palace was included in the list of historical monuments.

Initially, the main facade was, as the side facades, covered with Carrara marble and the two side fill ups had decorative panels carved from the same material; as a result of the damage caused by the 1944 bombing, the two panels were removed and the main facade was rebuilt with travertine tiles.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Marina Gogeanu

Pitesti penitenciary – Romania

I’m supposed to write a blog post about the crimes of communism, but having lived in a country still haunted by this appalling political regime, I feel I cannot do justice and explain properly the terror that the communist era has developed into the mentality of Romanians. Some people will read this having little to no knowledge about communism; others will read it feeling they already know everything there is to know about the crimes in that time… However, I dare anyone to put in plain words the sheer brainwash activity that has happened for more than five decades (1947-1989) in a country still feeling the consequences of the Second World War.

Communism in Romania:

In the immediate years after the WWII, the communist-aligned parties gained more and more power through constant elimination of adversaries. Thus, in December 1947, the rightful king of Romania, Michael, was forced to abdicate (and flee the country) by a growing body of communists. As a consequence, the People’s Republic of Romania was formed. Although we can talk about numerous crimes in the build-up to the coup d’état that happened in 1947, the most terrifying and frequent crimes came after the regime was officially in power. Most of the intellectuals (academics, students, writers, poets, philosophers, and priests, among others) opposed the change in power vocally at first, as they were concerned that the new political regime will prove similar to the one in Russia, where J. Stalin imposed the Great Terror in the late 1930s   (The Great Terror a.k.a. the Great Purge was a series of repressive measures in the USSR that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Old Bolsheviks – thought to be enemies of the state). Unfortunately, their worst fears turned out to be completely true.

In a perfect Communist country, the underlying Marxist ideology is “From every one according to their aptitude, to all according to necessity”. This is a very good idea for small groups of people, where public pressure and collective power prevent the creation of a privileged class. This way, communism guarantees an equal distribution of power and wealth, which can be seen as an egalitarian society. However, both the theory and the implementation of Communism in a country are flawed because of:

  1. Human nature – humans are not as group oriented in modern society as they were millions of years ago when they were required to stay together in order to survive. The consequence of this is that nowadays, humans will not work beyond the normal efforts just to get a normal reward. To be more explicit, if someone can get £5 for producing 5 items, they won’t strive to produce 10-15 items because in Communism they will only get the same reward of merely £5.
  2. Privileged class – in all communist countries, the party is solely responsible for the implementation of the communist ideology. Although ideally the party should be there to maintain the social parity and collaboration, realistically, the party is the group that dictates everything as it possess all the power. Unfortunately, there are no checks of power within the communist regime and as such, the leader becomes all powerful and terribly abusive, not to mention obsessed with his “perfect” personality.

As I said before, the intellectuals in Romania had plenty to fear about the new regime, nevertheless because of the newly created privileged class. The implementation of communism in Romania was of a very high standard. Immediately after the communists took over, a command of terror was spread across the country and the very first victims were the people who had position of power previously and the people who did adhere to the new rules. Principals of schools, with years of experience in both tutoring and running schools were dismissed and uneducated people were put in their position. The reasoning was very simple: take a detractor and destroy him and in the same time, replaces him with someone whose loyalty you can buy easily. Because people who had no power previously were tasked to run various institutions/companies, they listened blindly to what the people in power told them to do, even if that meant hurting other people. Because it was forbidden to say anything against such practices, everyone who dared to display signs of rebellion would be taken away and some of them were never to be found again.

This led in 1949 to the conception of the single most terrifying creation of communism in Europe, a place of pure horror: the Pitesti Penitentiary. On the 6th of December 1949, this place started the process of re-education with the aim to destroy any form of mental health of an individual. Most of the people who suffered this process were students, academics, intellectuals or communism haters. They were all called “enemies of the state” and the military police would force other people to say untrue stories just so they could have a claim against them. A confession taken after the Pitesti experiment had finished tells the story of a young man who was brought in for questioning for plotting against the communist party. Even though he was innocent, there were claims from secure sources that he “wanted to rebel against the party”, thus becoming an “enemy of the state”. After hours of questioning and beatings, he was finally shown who the police’s informer was: his wife, whom he married just a few months before, had been beaten and persecuted until she capitulated, lying that he was an “enemy of the state”. This is how it all began for most prisoners as the military police had no real claim against them so they had to force other people into inventing such things.

As soon as they had proof of claims against you, you were then taken into the penitentiary where the horrific process would begin. It was very detailed and aimed at destroying the innate being and beliefs of an individual and it consisted of 4 stages:

    1. External denunciation – through continuous torture, you were made to invent claims against your closest friends and acquaintances so that the military police could detain and prosecute them as well
    2. Internal denunciation – After you were made to lie about your friends, you were forced to start insulting yourself until you lost any respect for your upbringing, for your values, for the world that you constructed for yourself. One of the stories tells about a very religious man who was constantly forced to relieve himself on the Holy Cross whilst insulting God and anyone who would believe in him. The key for this process was to keep going like this until all the principles of an individual were destroyed through constant torture and unmitigated pain.
    3. Public moral denunciation – the third step of the process required the individual, again under severe and constant torture, to start criticizing his parents up to the point where the mother would become the biggest whore that ever existed and where the father would become anything as bad as a “paedophile” or “incestuous scumbag” who raised you as a “scumbag” as well.

Torture is very well spread in times of war and totalitarian regimes, everybody is aware of that. However, the difference with the Pitesti experiment was that torture was constant, it didn’t stop at all; it was continuous until the last stage of the process, the 4th step which is basically the complete dehumanisation of an individual.

                  4. The victim becomes the torturer. After you’ve gone through the first 3 steps of the programme, you were forced to do  the whole process to your best friend, thus becoming an executioner yourself. This was the final straw that ultimately destroyed the personality of all those who were re-educated. By becoming a torturer and doing the same atrocious acts to your best friend, they assured that you won’t have any chances of coming back to who you were previously. The transformation and brainwash were complete in every way and this is what made the Pitesti Penitentiary one of the most terrible places of those times.

Countless people have died before word got out of that was happening there in 1952. The government acted as if it was surprised at the activities that were held at Pitesti and they quickly condemned some of the torturers to death to silence everybody.

Even though the Pitesti phenomenon has been finished for more than 60 years, I am still deeply disturbed by what happened merely 80 miles away from my home city. Similar experiments have indeed taken place in other countries (this re-education process started in China and was copied by others later), but none of them went through all the 4 steps in order to complete the process.

Marina Gogeanu