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Sovietization of the Romanian Academy

Sovietization hit Romania's institutions hard, one of them being the Romanian Academy.

Sovietization of the Romanian Academy
Sovietization of the Romanian Academy

, 11.12.2023, 14:00

At the end of WWII, the Soviet Union instated in all the countries where the Red Army was present a political regime that copied the one in the USSR. The process was called sovietization or communization, being a tool by which the political domination of the communist party was ensured by a physical repression apparatus and by the planned economy. Romania too had the historical misfortune of experiencing this type of regime between 1945 and 1989.



Sovietization hit Romania’s institutions hard, one of them being the Romanian Academy, established in 1866. For more than 80 years, the best Romanian and foreign scientists had been welcomed into the Romanian Academy. But the regime installed on March 6, 1945 abolished the old academy on June 9, 1948, by Decree no. 76. A new institution was established, the Academy of the Romanian People’s Republic, that later became the Academy of the Socialist Republic of Romania, where access was conditioned on the ideology of the communist regime. The consequences were extremely harsh, with 100 members being expelled and marginalized. Out of the 100 members, 33 academicians who had held the rank of minister were arrested, 20 of them imprisoned in Sighetu Marmației prison, known as the ministers’ prison, where 6 of them lost their lives.



Andrea Dobeș is a researcher with the Memorial to the Victims of Communism and Resistance in the former Sighet prison. She presented several cases of academicians who died there, and one such case was that of the historian Alexandru Lapedatu.



Due to the pain caused by gastric ailments and the lack of medical assistance in prison, on August 30, 1950 Lapedatu committed suicide by hanging, at the age of 73: Alexandru Lapedatu was arrested on the night of May 5 to 6, 1950 during the house search. They took three pocket phone books, a book on US history, a sum of money, a watch, two pairs of eyeglasses, a wallet with personal documents and suspenders. Among the objects taken, there was no material that could have interested the People’s Political Police or the Securitate. In the table drawn up in the spring of 1950 regarding the former ministers from 1918 to 1945 who were to be arrested, under the name of Alexandru Lapedatu it was mentioned that although he was not actively involved, he was a fierce enemy of the communist regime.



Gheorghe Tașcă, an economist and teacher, a minister of industry and trade in 1932 had a similar fate. Andrea Dobeș is back with details: Gheorghe Tașcă was arrested at the age of 75, on the night of May 5 to 6, 1950. He arrived in Sighet the next day and, unable to resist the conditions of detention, died on March 12, 1951. Historian Constantin Giurescu, imprisoned in Sighet for 5 years and 2 months, mentions pneumonia, in his memoirs, as a possible cause of Tașcăs death, in the context of a terrible general suffering. The former lawyer and undersecretary of state Alexandru Popescu-Necșești also mentions that he could hear him whining alone in his cell at night.



One of the most important Romanian historians of the 20th century was the scholar Gheorghe Brătianu, an expert in the Byzantine Empire. Imprisoned in Sighet, he died under unclear circumstances at the age of 55, in 1953.



Historians do not know even today whether he died from blows to the head, tuberculosis or suicide by neck artery cutting: As far as Gheorghe Brătianu is concerned, he was violently attacked in the pro-communist press since the fall of 1944. On August 15, 1947, invoking the existence of circumstances that required ensuring his security, he was forced into home detention in Bucharest, being under surveillance. He was arrested on the morning of May 6, 1950, and on May 7 he was imprisoned in the Sighet penitentiary. Constantin Giurescu also recollected in his volume of memoirs an incident that would have happened before Brătianu’s death. Giurescu had recognized Gheorghe Brătianu’s voice in the big courtyard. He couldn’t see what was happening outside, but he heard the sound of a thump. While Bratianu was being taken to the cell, Giurescu heard another blow, it sounded like a slap, accompanied by a series of curses. Bishop Ioan Ploscaru reports that the militiamen forced Brătianu, the day before he died, to collect pig manure from the yard with his hands.



The only academic who was brought before the court for a mock trial, was Iuliu Maniu. He did not lose his faith in God during the detention period, the future cardinal Alexandru Todea being the one who listened to his confession for the last time.



Andrea Dobes has details: On November 11, 1947, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for the crime of high treason. From the War School in Bucharest, where the trial took place, he was transferred to the penitentiary in Galați, and on August 16, 1951 he arrived in Sighet. The great Iuliu Maniu was already very weak, almost paralyzed, and the journalist Nicolae Carandino was the one who took care of him until the last moments of his life.



The academics who survived imprisonment continued to live a life of misery and social degradation. Under surveillance, they were periodically re-arrested and interrogated. But posterity did not forget them, and in 1990, the re-established Romanian Academy welcomed them back to its ranks. (LS)

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