The 'Samizdat', which was a key form of dissident activity across the Soviet bloc, appeared in Romania at a time when all publications were subjected to harsh communist censorship.
The 'Samizdat', which was a key form of dissident
activity across the Soviet bloc, in which individuals reproduced censored
publications passing the documents from reader to
Romania at a time when all publications were subjected to harsh communist
censorship. This form of underground press was used to disseminate ideas and
attitudes that criticized the regime, at the same time introducing political
and economic reforms. The particularity of this type of press was that it
wasn't published by a certain publishing house, but by the authors themselves.
One of the classics of this form of avoiding censorship was the Soviet writer
and physician Vladimir Bukovski. Another major figure of this phenomenon was
the Czech playwright Vaclav Havel. This type of press was either typewritten or
In Romania the Samizdat didn't reach the intensity it
had in the other communist countries because, under dictator Ceausescu, the
country had the most repressive political police. In order to stifle the
phenomenon, all those in the possession of typewriters had to have them
registered with the local police, which was called militia back in the day. In
spite of all those restrictive measures, some people resorted to this type of
press in order to rally support for human rights observance. One of the
subversive associations of the time was the Union of Hungarians in
Transylvania, set up by a professor of philosophy called Borbely Erno. In an
interview to the Oral History Center of the Romanian Broadcasting Corporation,
in 2002, Borbely told how he got the idea of setting up the organisation and
how he got the first samizdat texts.
Borbely Erno: "I decided to set up this organisation following a series of
discussions with colleagues and friends, with many intellectuals in Romania. I
had already started reading and disseminating banned texts, which I got from
abroad. One day we decided to take some action because we had that feeling of
hopelessness, of being unable to do
anything. So I came up with the idea of setting up an organisation. We got a
lot of texts from Hungary, Austria and France. France had a strong community of
Romanian expats at that time and from there we got a lot of Samisdat texts,
very critical of the communist regime and the dictatorship in Romania. A
similar organisation had been operational in Hungary since early 1970, but they
enjoyed some liberty there unlike us in Romania. Although dissidents were being
monitored there too, they had more freedom and there were more banned texts in
circulation, most of them written by professors of philosophy and sociology."
Back in the communist time, anyone joining an
association without the authorities' approval became a suspect of subversive
intentions and was thrown into prison. Knowing he was actually taking on the
communist Goliath, Borbely Erno decided to keep the organization small at
Borbely Erno: "We did not want to have many
members in our organization, as political systems usually do, party or
association members. It was a smaller group and its nucleus was made up of 3
people who had a lot of connections. We started having talks with people,
including with dissidents who were already famous at the time such as Kiraly
Karoly. We were holding those talks as we wanted to enlarge the group's nucleus
at a certain point. But we wanted to count on 3 persons. There were the 3 of
us, myself, Biro Katalin and Buzasz Laszlo. We knew it
very well that we could get caught, the Securitate officers were very clever,
they were tapping us everywhere we went and they had many collaborators across
the country among the general population".
Borbely Erno also talked about the purpose of the organization.
"We wanted to distribute more materials, including materials taken
over from samizdats written by experts in various fields, to draft our own
samizdats and to make a certain type of propaganda. Of course we could not make
a direct propaganda although we wanted to spread manifestos and the so-called
small journals in various cities and towns. We thought of a method to spread
them but we wanted them to reach various publications in the West, and
especially radio stations such as Deutche Welle, Free Europe and the Voice of
America, by means of which our texts reached back home. Through this method we
would have tried to make a certain type of propaganda, to draw attention on us.
If everything had gone smoothly without us being discovered, we would have
managed to co-opt more adherents. With the help of friends from the West we
could have gone public, in the sense of declaring ourselves as an official
association. They could have annihilated 2 or 3 people easily but it would have
been more difficult to kill 50 - 100."
The samizdat was more than a manifesto, it was a diagnosis put to an
ailing regime in its final stage, as Communism was. We asked Borbely Erno about
the content of the texts he used to write .
"Some of the topics I
approached were related to freedom: freedom of the press, freedom of speech,
free movement of people. We wanted to distribute a study that appeared in
France, about the Helsinki documents signed by Ceausescu, that had not been
either published or applied. We wanted to disseminate the human rights separately,
on leaflets. Then I approached topics related to social life and opportunities
for youth. Although we were a Hungarian organization, we were very aware that
eventually everyone suffered the same and the issues of the Hungarian minority
could not be solved without first solving the fundamental issues of society."
The samizdat in Romania was an attempt to mobilize the
population in order to set up a civil resistance against the regime's abuse.
Although it was not as widespread as in the Soviet Union, Hungary, the Czech
Republic and Poland, the samizdat in Romania got across to those who were
determined to change something.