A Mineriad (Romanian: Mineriadă) is the term used to name any of the successive violent interventions of miners in Bucharest. These interventions were generally seen as aimed at wrestling policy changes or simply material advantages from the current political power. The term is mostly used to refer to the most violent mineriad, which occurred in Bucharest during the period June 13-15, 1990.
January 1990 mineriad
After the National Salvation Front's decision to transform itself into a party, an anti-Communist demonstration took place in Bucharest's Victoria Square (Piaţa Victoriei), organised by the Christian-Democratic National Peasants' Party (PNŢCD), National Liberal Party (PNL), and other smaller parties. The manifestation was mainly aimed at President Ion Iliescu.
The National Salvation Front (FSN) also organized a demonstration, bringing in workers from factories in Bucharest, many of whom reportedly were armed with clubs and crowbars. Even if the anti-Communist demonstration started out, and was intended to be, non-violent, the protesters charged on the Parliament building and demanded their resignation. After that, the FSN started talks with opposition parties. In the mean time, Ion Iliescu called upon the population of Romania to come to Bucharest to protect democracy.
On the morning of the 29th of January, over 5,000 miners from Jiu Valley came to Bucharest. In the ensuing confrontation, the PNŢCD and PNL headquarters were attacked and damaged. Petre Roman, Prime Minister at the time, came in a military vehicle and pulled Corneliu Coposu from his party's besieged headquarters. Iliescu and Roman then addressed the crowd, calming things and sending the miners home.
February 1990 mineriad
Less than a month after the January mineriad, another anti-Communist manifestation took place in Bucharest (February 28). Despite the demonstrators' pleas to non-violence, several persons started throwing stones into the Government building. Riot police and army forces intervened to restore order, and on the same night, 4,000 miners headed to Bucharest.
Opposition leaders and independent media speculated that the demonstration was manipulated by Securitate and FSN. Miners maintain their relative innocence of the violence, claiming that the agitation and most of the brutality was the work of Iliescu’s government agents who had infiltrated and disguised themselves as miners.
June 1990 mineriad
The Romanian miners of Jiu Valley were called by the newly-elected power to Bucharest to end the riots that broke up on 13 June 1990. As President Ion Iliescu put it, the miners were called to save the "besieged democratic regime" and restore order and democracy in Bucharest. The government trucked in thousands of miners from the Jiu Valley to Bucharest to confront the demonstrators. The rest of Romania and the world watched the government television broadcasts of miners brutally grappling with students and other protesters.
Over the course of a month-long demonstration in University Square, many protesters had gathered with the goal of attaining official recognition for the 8th demand of the popular Proclamation of Timişoara, which stated that communists and former communists (including President Iliescu himself) should be prevented from holding official functions. Many people, most of them intellectuals, were dissatisfied with Iliescu's first government, made up mostly of former communists, because it implemented reforms very slowly or not at all. There had been a protest and hunger strike since 20 May, the general elections day, when the protesters were angry that Iliescu's FSN won the elections mostly because the opposition had no chance to mount an effective campaign, and that former communists were in power — the only other country of the ex-Soviet bloc in which this happened was Bulgaria, where the Bulgarian Socialist Party won a 52.7% majority. Some among the protesters in University Square grew violent and attacked the police headquarters and the national television station. When the police were unable to contain the violence, Iliescu appealed to the miners to defend the country. Special trains transported some 10,000 miners to the capital, where the miners violently confronted anyone they saw as opposing the government.
The official figures say that during the third Mineriad, seven people were killed and more than a thousand were wounded. However, some NGOs say that at least 100 people died. The newspaper România Liberă said that on 29 June 1990 over 40 bodies were buried in a common grave in Străuleşti, near Bucharest. Conspiracy theories and rumors circulated as to the origins and development of the mineriad, with some believing that both the Romanian Presidency and Secret Service had a hand in it. Later parliamentary inquiries into the potential role of the Secret Service contributed to the widespread public mistrust of the post-Ceauşescu intelligence service.
Government inquiries would show that the miners had indeed been "joined by vigilantes who were later credibly identified as former officers of the Securitate", and that for two days, the miners had been aided and abetted by the former Securitate members in their violent confrontation with the protesters and other targets.
September 1991 mineriad
The fourth mineriad began on 24 September, with the miners claiming that government had not lived up to its economic promises. The miners occupied the town hall of Petroşani and from its balcony, Miron Cozma, who at the time was President of the League of Miners Unions of the Jiu Valley, said "We're going to Bucharest". They commandeered a train and several thousands miners left toward the Victoria Palace, the headquarters of the government. When they arrived, they found that Petre Roman refused to negotiate with them. Rioting ensued and lasted over four days. The Roman government resigned a day later. Before leaving, the miners went to the Chamber of Deputies asking for Iliescu's resignation, but after Iliescu met with Cozma the miners left Bucharest. According to some sources, three people died and 455 were wounded during this mineriad.
January-February 1999 mineriad
The Jiu Valley miners left again for Bucharest, unhappy with the governmental reduction of the subsidies, which would result in the closing of the mines. The barricade installed by the gendarmes at Costeşti was crossed by the miners and near Râmnicu Vâlcea a Gendarmerie unit was ambushed by the miners. Reaching Râmnicu Vâlcea, they sequestered the prefect of Vâlcea County. Radu Vasile, Prime Minister at the time, negotiated an agreement with Miron Cozma, the miners' leader, at the Cozia Monastery, nearby.
On 14 February 1999, Cozma was found guilty for the 1991 mineriad and sentenced for 18 years in prison. The miners led by Cozma left for Bucharest attempting a new mineriad, only this time they were stopped by the police at Stoeneşti, Olt. In the clash that followed, 100 policemen and 70 miners were wounded and one miner died. Cozma was arrested and sent to Rahova prison.
Ion Iliescu pardoned Cozma's sentence on December 15, 2004, a few days before his term ended, but revoked the decision two days later, having faced the outrage of Romanian and international media and politicians.
Cozma successfully challenged the legality of the withdrawal of the pardoning, and on the 14th of June 2005 he was freed by the Judge Court of Dolj county. However, on September 28, 2005, Cozma was sentenced by the Romanian High Court of Cassation and Justice to serve 10 years in prison for the January 1999 Mineriad, which included time aleady served. His request to be released on parole was denied on June 2, 2006. After serving the full term, Cozma was finally released on the 2nd of December, 2007, but was restricted from returning to either Petroşani or Bucharest.
- ^ , History of Jiu Valley - Jiu Valley Portal, January 1. 2005
- ^ a b c "Chapter 25: The Security Services since 1989: Turning over a new leaf." Deletant, Dennis. Romania since 1989: politics, economics, and society. Carey, Henry F., ed. Lexington Books: Oxford. 2004. Page 507.
- Academia Caţavencu, 13-15 Iunie: Trei zile cu ghinION, no. 16/2005, 27 April 2005.
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