In the 1980s, the economic and systemic crisis of the communist regime had reached a climax
In Romania, everything was brought to its peak by Nicolae Ceausescu's ambition to pay the country's debts in full, placing the burden squarely on the shoulders of the populace. The economic crisis meant rationing food, hot water, heating and electricity for domestic consumption. The pain was felt by the masses, while the members of the state and Communist party apparatus lived in opulence.
This policy of extreme austerity, in spite of the repressive regime, led to protests. The tension caused a burst of discontent on the morning of November 15, 1987. The previous night, a labor conflict arose in section 440 of the Red Flag industrial plant. The spark that ignited the conflict was a drastic cut in wages. That occurred as the communist press published information according to which the centralized plan was met, but living conditions kept worsening.
On November 15, local council elections were scheduled, with foregone winners. After several incidents between employees and management, in which the head of section, the Communist Party secretary and the head of union were molested, about 200 employees in factory overalls and flags in hand went on a march along the city streets, towards the Brasov Communist Party Organization headquarters. They were chanting slogans such as “Give us our money!”, “Down with the dictator, down with the bastards!”, “Down with Ceausescu!”, “Down with the Communist Party!”. The protesters were joined by passers-by, as well as by fellow workers from the Tractorul industrial plant. About 15,000 protesters gathered in the center of the city, in front of the Communist Party headquarters, where they destroyed portraits of Ceausescu and copies of his books.
Security forces intervened, arresting about 300 protesters. The rest of the country, however, could only find out about the event from Radio Free Europe, which was broadcasting from West Germany, since such incidents were not mentioned in the press controlled by the Communist regime in Bucharest.
Mircea Carp recalled the events, in 1997, in an interview with the Oral History Center of Radio Romania, telling us about how it all started: “What we were waiting for, for a long time, was a fundamental change in Romania, not necessarily by violent means, but if possible by evolution, as was the case for other countries. For us, this wait reached a very short-lived climax, the revolt of Brasov in November 1987. I was on duty when the news came that there was trouble in Brasov, that the workers took to the streets. According to the instructions I had been issued, both Radio Free Europe and The Voice of America, and the other media, we could not put out a piece of news unless it was confirmed by two sources. The news about what was happening in Brasov had come from only one source, but a trustworthy source, a very important one. Vlad Georgescu, who was the head of the Romanian Department with Radio Free Europe, and myself, who was presenting the political program, reached the conclusion that we should air that, because the next day would be too late.”
One other Radio Free Europe journalist, Emil Hurezeanu, recalled in 1999 how they brought in the news that the Brasov workers were rising up against the exploitation they were subjected to by the communist regime: “I remember that it was a November evening, it was a holiday in Munich, in Catholic Bavaria. I was working with Vlad Georgescu on a political show, when Vlad Georgescu told me to go quickly to the English Park, a huge park, at the American consulate, a fortress just as well defended like Radio Free Europe, because I had to pick up an envelope with something important. I went there as fast as I could, I picked up a sealed envelope, I took it to Vlad Gerogescu, he read it, and told me: ‘Brasov is moving’. It was Sunday, November 15. The consulate had received by diplomatic courier from Bucharest the encrypted report of a correspondent from Brasov, who had been witness to the scattering of the protesters. Of course we dug into this piece of news, we were the first to broadcast it. In the following few hours and the following day we got a lot of information, including information from a woman from Brasov who had left Romania with her child for Belgium, and who had been there. Of course we turned the Brasov story into an international story, because we were keeping in touch with foreign journalists as well.”
On December 3, 1987, against complete silence from the regime, trials against 61 protest leaders started. In addition to the physical and psychological torture they were subject to, they were branded as hooligans and depraved members of society. They got compulsory sentences of 3 to 5 years in jail, and home arrest in a different city.Only one of the protesters. worker Vasile Vieru, father of 5, died nine months after the trial as a result of torture.