Romanian anti-communist resistance movement

Romanian anti-communist resistance movement

The armed resistance against the communist regime in Romania lasted between 1948 and the early 1960s. Armed resistance was the first and most structured form of resistance against the communist regime. It wasn’t until the overthrow of Nicolae Ceauşescu in late 1989 that details about what was called “anti-communist armed resistance” were made public. It was only then that the public learnt about the numerous small groups of "haiducs" who had taken refuge in the Carpathian Mountains, where some resisted for ten years against the troops of the Securitate. The last “haiduc” was killed in the mountains of Banat in 1962. The Romanian resistance was one of the longest lasting armed movement in the former Soviet bloc. [ Consiliul National pentru Studierea Ahivelor Securităţii, "Bande, bandiţi si eroi. Grupurile de rezistenţă şi Securitatea (1948-1968)", Editura Enciclopedica, Bucureşti, 2003 ]


In March 1944, the Red Army set foot in Bukovina advancing into Romanian territory.Hundreds of people went into the forests forming anti-Sovietic guerrillas of 15-20 people"Din istoria rezistenţei anticomuniste in România", Adrian Stǎnescu, "Curierul Românesc", Year XVI, number 5 (208), May 2004, pages 8-9.] .

After the Soviet-Romanian Armistice (11-12 September 1944), the Red Army had free run in Romania and the Romanian government did not have authority over Northern Bukovina.In late 1944 and early 1945, some small armed groups were dropped in Romania, with a mission of harassing the Red Army in a future Soviet-Western War. After the war, most of these groups dissolved while some others stayed in the mountains until 1948, when they became active. In May 1946, General Aurel Aldea, the former Minister of the Interior of the Sănătescu government, was arrested and charged with "bringing together various subversive organisations under his command". It appears, however, that the "National Resistance Movement", which he coordinated, posed little threat, if any, to the establishment of the communist regime.

After the elections of 1946, a coalescence of anti-communist forces led to a structure reuniting generals, senior officers and politicians preparing and coordinating armed groups under a single command Deletant, Dennis, "Communist Terror in Romania", Chapt. 10, Armed Resistance, pp. 225–234, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1999 ] . The central coordinating structure inside Romania reported on this initiative to the Romanian National Council residing in Paris, which in turn informed the Western governments. The project was eventually intercepted by the Romanian authorities, which subsequently carried out massive arrests in spring 1948, comprising up to 80% of those who were implicated in the movement. Thus, the coordinated national resistance was decapitated.

Onset of the armed resistance movement

However, starting with the summer of 1948, individuals or small groups went underground into the Carpathians, forming various groups of armed resistance in what was a relatively large movement, gathering several thousand people. The rebels came from all social strata and all areas of the country, spreading everywhere the terrain could shield them. The movement is related to the spate of mass arrests hitting the country after the communist power seizure on the eve of 1948, as well as to the political and economical measures which ruined a sizeable part of the peasantry and the middle class.

There were several reasons for people seeking shelter in the mountains. While some went underground to escape imminent arrest, more generally people fled as they abandoned hope for surviving after being economically ruined and risking detention or worse. Significantly, entire families took flight in late 1948 and early 1949. Thus, the British consular official in Cluj, reporting on May 1st, 1949 on the situation of partisans under the leadership of General Dragalina noted that::“clothing and medicine are short and this is probably true as their numbers have been increased by a considerable proportion of women and children since the March 1st land expropriation. I have been given a figure as high as 20,000 as the number who has joined since the expropriation (…) The increase in the number of women and children will create problems of survival next winter (…) I am told now and again of lorries of army supplies going over to the partisans, sometimes by capture and sometimes by desertion, but I cannot say to what extent…"Actually, retreating in the mountains from internal of external oppressors was a spontaneous and ancestral strategy of the Romanian peasantry. Significantly, the members of the armed resistance were not called "partisans" by the population, but "haiduci" [ [ Claudia Dobre, Rezistenţa aticomunistă în România: memorie şi istorie in Memoria, Revista gândirii arestate, Nr. 55] ] , the word for the generous bandits that had fought the Austrian occupiers and were considered folk heroes.

A further major component of the armed resistance consisted of individuals and groups motivated by anti-communist convictions and persuaded that only an armed engagement could contain increasing terror and prevent irrevocable communist takeover. Some of the resistance groups were led by ex-army officers and acted in a more coordinated and planned way. It appears that they put their hope in stirring up a more general armed insurrection, which never came to life. A smaller category of insurgents were Romanian refugees recruited in Europe by the Office of Policy Coordination, trained in France, Italy and Greece and then dropped in the Carpathians. It seems, however, that most of them, not being able to create local contacts imperative for survival, were soon captured.

Resistance groups

Ion Gavrilă-Ogoranu, a survivor who led a resistance group in the Făgăraş Mountains from 1948 to 1956, and remained undetected until 1976, worked out a set of defining traits of the typical Romanian resistance group. Gavrilă-Ogoranu Ion, Short History of Armed Anti-Communist Resistance in Romania in Ioniţoiu, C., Cartea de Aur a rezistenţei româneşti împotriva comunismului. Vol. I-II, Bucureşti, Ed. Hrisovul, 1996] According to this author, such a group was rather small, but could number up to 200 men. A resistance group was located in a mountainous/forested area which comprised some communities. It was supported by a significant number of inhabitants (up to several thousands), who provided shelter, food and information.

Resistance groups were the target of systematic and enduring military actions from fully armed regular troops of the Securitate. The strength of the Securitate troops could vary from platoon to battalion up to regiment, including armoured vehicles, artillery and occasionally even aviation. Insurgent groups sustained losses consisting of dead and wounded captured by the Securitate. They also fell victim to treason from supporters or infiltrated persons, which led to losses and captures. Gavrilă-Ogoranu claims that some of the arrested rebels and their supporters were killed during interrogation, while other members of resistance groups were indicted in public or secret trials, and sentenced to death or prison. He estimates that several thousands of convictions were imposed. Death penalties were carried out either secretly, with bodies thrown into unknown common graves, or publicly in order to intimidate the local population. A significant number of detained rebels, who had not been sentenced to death, were killed outside prisons, under unexplained circumstances. In areas where the rebels were active, the population underwent systematic intimidation and terror from the authorities.

tructure and function

Dispersal, extent and duration of the resistance rendered research after 1990 more difficult in ascertaining structural information on the movement. Evaluating the archives of the Securitate the CNSAS (National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives) has assessed a provisional figure of 1196 resistance groups acting between 1948 and 1960.Consiliul Naţional pentru Studierea Arhivelor Securităţii, Mişcarea armată de rezistenţă anticomunistă din Romania. 1944-1962, Editura Kullusys, Bucureşti, 2003] The size of the groups varied from small groupings of less than 10 members to intermediate sized groups counting around 40 fighters up to larger detachments of more than 100 men, with the highest distribution density placed around a strength of 15–20 men. According to these assumptions, the total number of active resistance fighters may not fall below 10,000 persons, with an estimated figure of at least 40–50,000 supporting persons. The number of killed victims on the insurgents’ side could be established according to both archive data and various memoirs published after 1990. The archives revealed several hundreds of death penalties, yet a much larger number of resisters have been killed either in battle or during different phases of detention. [ Dobre Florica (Edt.), Bande, bandiţi şi eroi. Grupurile de rezistenţă şi Securitatea (1948-1968), Ed. Enciclopedică, Bucureşti, 2003 ] An estimated figure could amount 2,000 lost lives.

The social structure of the insurgent groups was heterogeneous, comprising a considerable part of peasants, many students and intellectuals as well as several army officers . The same heterogeneity characterised the political structure of the resistance. A report of the Securitate from 1951 containing information on 804 arrested resistance members ranking among 17 “mountain bands” reveals following political affiliation: 11% National Peasant Party, 10% Ploughmen’s Front, 9% Iron Guard, 5% Communist Party, 2% National Liberal Party.

List of major resistance groups

The territorial structure of the resistance covered the largest part of the country. A list of some of the most important resistance groups and their location: [ Ioniţoiu Cicerone, Rezistenţa anticomunistă din munţii României, 1946 - 1958., "Gîndirea Românească", 1993 also see [ online document] ] [ Brişca, Adrian, The Anticommunist Armed Resistance in Romania, 1944-1962, AT, nr. 34-35, 1-2/2002, p. 75-101 ]

Rather than a planned action, the resistance movement was a spontaneous reaction in response to the wave of terror initiated by the authorities after the seizure of power in early 1948 Onişoru Gheorghe (coord.) – Totalitarism şi rezistenţă, teroare şi represiune în România comunistă, Studii C.N.S.A.S, Bucureşti, 2001 ] . The spontaneous nature of the movement explains its marked fragmentation and the lack of coordination between the resistance groups. However, acting isolated and on a local basis conferred the groups a multiformity and flexibility which rendered the annihilation of the entire movement more difficult, and ensured a remarkable staying power for some groups. Furthermore, in some areas a notable reproducibility occurred, exterminated groups being replaced by new cores of resistance.

A characteristic trait of the movement was its defensive nature. Indeed, few offensive actions such as sabotages or occupation of localities have been recorded. While the groups did not pose a major material threat to the authorities, their dangerousness for the regime resided in the symbol they represented: as long as the resisters remained free, they created a tangible challenge to the regime’s claim of exercising total control over the country. [Addenda in Courtois Stéphane, "Du passé faisons table rase! Histoire et mémoire du communisme en Europe", Robert Lafont, Paris, 2002]


Adriana Georgescu Cosmovici was one of the first people to be arrested for belonging to the resistance movement. In July 1945, the 28-year old woman was arrested in Bucharest, and severely beaten by the Communist secret police investigators.Deletant, Dennis, "Communist Terror in Romania", pp. 122–123, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1999] In a statement made in Paris in 1949, she named three investigators as having threatened her with guns, one of them being Alexandru Nicolschi. According to a 1992 article from Cuvântul, Nicolschi ordered the murder of seven prisoners (allegedly the leaders of an anti-communist resistance movement) in transit from Gherlaprison in July 1949.

Elisabeta Rizea and her husband, two peasants opposed to the Communist policy of forced collectivization, joined the guerrilla group "Haiducii Muscelului" led by Colonel Gheorghe Arsenescu, providing food and supplies. Caught in 1952, she served 12 years in prison, during which time she was subjected to torture.

On 18 July 1958, Vasile Motrescu was executed. In 1959, 80 people led by Vasile Blǎnaru were judged for "armed insurrection" in the area of Câmpulung Muscel.

The implacable chase of the authorities on the resisters as well as the gag order on the existence of the resistance show how concerned the regime was, that the symbol of political insubordination might become contagious. The strong symbolic character of the resistance is illustrated by the words addressed to mountain wanderers by a resister in the 1950s: “Tell everyone that there is still a place in the Kingdom of Romania which has not bowed to Communism. As long as our heads are on our shoulders, this corner of the country will be free. Tell the people not to lose faith, for the day will come when the whole of Romania will be free. Pray God for it, so help us God.” [Gavrilă-Ogoranu I., Brazii se frâng dar nu se îndoiesc, Ed. Marineasa, 1995, Vol. I, p. 304]

ee also

*Works about the armed resistance movement in Communist Romania
*Braşov Rebellion
*Romanian Revolution of 1989

Anti-totalitarian resistances in other countries

*Cursed soldiers (Poland)
*Forest Brothers (Baltic states)
*Maquis, anti-Nazi guerrillas.
*Spanish Maquis, a subgroup of the Maquis which fought in France and Spain.
*Ukrainian Insurgent Army (Ukraine)


External links

* Georges Diener, [ "Résistance Paysanne et Maquis en Roumanie de 1945 à 1965 - La résistance paysanne à la collectivisation" ] , [] Genèses - Sciences sociales et histoireno, no. 43, 2001/2

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