Braşov Rebellion


Braşov Rebellion

The 1987 Rebellion of Braşov was a revolt against Nicolae Ceauşescu's economic policies in Communist Romania.

Beginning in late 1986, the seeds of the Romanian Revolution of 1989 were sown, as workers throughout this Soviet Bloc country mobilized in protest of communist leader Nicolae Ceauşescu's economic policies. Labor uprisings sprouted in the major industrial centers of Cluj-Napoca (November 1986) and Nicolina, Iaşi (February 1987), culminating in a massive strike in Braşov, Romania's second city. Ceauşescu's "draconian [economic] measures" sought to curb food and energy consumption and reduce worker's wages, leading to what Romanian émigré Vladimir Tismăneanu calls an "all pervasive discontent," making Romania "the Eastern Bloc country most vulnerable to revolution." Though Romania was the last of the Eastern European communist strongholds to succumb to revolution in 1989, his sentiments capture the social and economic volatility of Romania in the late 1980s. The Braşov Revolt reflected this instability; moreover, it was the one of the first large-scale public uprisings against the Ceauşescu regime. Located in southeastern Transylvania, Braşov was Romania's most industrially developed city, with over 61% of labor participating in industry. A skilled working class emerged in the 1960s as the Communist government forced migrations of Moldavian peasants to operate Braşov factories. Therefore, the industrial decline in Eastern Europe during the mid-1980s hit Braşov and its workers especially hard. Ceauşescu's debt reduction plan beginning in 1982 led to the collapse of the consumer market of the city. (Money intended for food production and distribution was in turn diverted to debt payment to the West.) Therefore, the state rationed key foodstuff and consumer goods, leading to long lines for the most basic commodities. It is in this climate of economic depression and food shortages that the Braşov Rebellion erupted on November 15 1987.

Early on the morning of the 15th, a local elections day, workers at the local Steagul Roşu plant (truck manufacturer) protested reduced salaries and the proposed elimination of 15,000 jobs in the city. Roughly 20,000 workers walked off the job and marched toward the Communist headquarters at the city center. Firstly, the demonstrators expressed loudly wage claims, then they shouted slogans like “Down with Ceauşescu!”, “Down with Communism!”, chanting anthems of the 1848 Revolution "Down with the Dictatorship" and "We want bread." Over 20,000 workers from the Braşov Tractor Plant, Hidromecanica factory and a number of townspeople joined the march. The combined mob sacked the headquarters building and city hall "throwing into the square portraits of Ceauşescu, and food from the well-stocked canteen." In a time of drastic food shortages, protesters were particularly angered to find festively prepared official buildings and food abundance in order to celebrate the local election victory. A massive bonfire of party records and propaganda burned for hours in the city square. By dusk, Securitate forces and the military surrounded the city center and disbanded the revolt by force. Though no one was killed, some 300 protesters were arrested. However, since the regime decided to play down the uprising as “isolated cases of hooliganism,” sentences did not exceed 2 years prison, which was a relatively moderate penalty in the communist penal code. After 1990, up to 100 prison convictions could be documented so far, while others have been forcibly relocated throughout the country.

Though the Braşov Rebellion did not directly lead to revolution, it dealt a serious blow to the Ceauşescu regime, and its confidence in the trade unions. This revolt reflected what historian Denis Deletant refers to as "Ceauşescu's inability to heed the warning signs of increasing labor unrest, plunging blindly forward with the same [economic] measures, seemingly indifferent to their consequences." Therefore, the Braşov Rebellion underscored the growing discontent among workers against the Ceauşescu regime; moreover, it foreshadowed the popular uprisings that would bring down the regime and Communism in Romania. (Rebellion returned to Braşov in December 1989, while Romanians ousted the regime and executed Ceauşescu.)

References

*Deletant, Denis. [http://www.isn.ethz.ch/php/documents/collection_14/introduction.htm "Romania, 1948-1989: A Historical Overview"] , 35-36, "Parallel History Project" on NATO and the Warsaw Pact.
*Keil, Thomas J.. "The State and Labor Conflict in Post-Revolutionary Romania", "Radical History Review", Issue 82 (Winter 2002), pp. 9-36.
*Kuran, Timur. "Now Out of Never: The Element of Surprise in the East European Revolution of 1989." "World Politics", Vol. 44, No. 1. (October 1991), pp. 7-48.
*Nelson, Daniel. "The Worker and Political Alienation in Communist Europe", Polity Journal, Vol. 10, No.3, 1978, pp. 1-12.
*Socor, Vladimir. "The Workers' Protest in Braşov: Assessment and Aftermath", Romania Background Report 231, Radio Free Europe Research, 4 December 1987, pp. 3-10.


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