Coming to Terms with Dictatorial Past: Lessons from Romania

Adrian Cioflâncă (Conselho Nacional para o Estudo dos Arquivos da Securitate | Bucareste)

21 de junho de 2012, 17h00

Sala 1, CES-Coimbra

Introdução: Mihaela Mihai | Interlocutor: António Sousa Ribeiro


Tony Judt once said that, for East-Europeans, the recent past is an archipelago of memories - very diverse, paradoxical and often conflicting. To reconcile them in metanarratives that attract minimum consensus proved to be one of the most difficult tasks during the post-communist transition.

In Romania, according to the polls, over 50% of the population express nostalgia for communism, consider communism a good idea wrongly implemented and don’t trust the perspective of historians on the recent past. When asked about the Holocaust and Romania’s responsibility for it, half of the Romanians don’t know what to answer.

In order to deal with this type of perceptions and lack of knowledge, the Romanian state created two truth commissions – The International Commission on Holocaust in Romania (2003-2004) and the Presidential Commission for the Analysis of the Communist Dictatorship in Romania (2006). In contrast with ex-Soviet countries where truth commissions studied Holocaust and communism altogether on the background of a discourse about national victimhood, in Romania the two topics were separated because of the conflicting memories of the two difficult pasts.

The commissions were designed – and managed – to provide scientific reports, based on archival material, meant to document Romania’s involvement in the Nazi genocidal project and, in the second case, the policies and terroristic methods used by the communist dictatorial system against the society. Both commissions, the Wiesel Commission and the Tismăneanu Commission (named after their chairs), issued recommendations – with partial effect – for public policies in domains like education and research, for reparatory and retributory legislation, for symbolic and commemorative gestures. Overall, the Final Reports of the two commissions offered the ground for the official acknowledge of Romania’s participation in the Holocaust (the Wiesel Commission) and the symbolic condemnation of the communist dictatorship as „illegitimate and criminal” (the Tismăneanu Commission).

The two Commissions had mainly an academic and political dimension, but their activity had also some social and institutional effects. New institutions to deal with the recent past were created, the access to archives was liberalized, courses on the history of the Holocaust and the history of the communist regime were introduced in new curricula and textbooks, commemorative days for the victims of the Holocaust and the communist dictatorship were established, new transitional legislation was initiated etc. At certain social levels, perceptions modified and more knowledge on the recent past has been internalized.

Otherwise, it has proved very difficult to bring communist perpetrators to justice, there have been some results in the effort to limit the access of former Securitate officers and collaborators to public offices, some reparatory legislation have been implemented and the most obvious progress have been in changing official attitudes and providing social access to proper knowledge on the dictatorial past.

Nota biográfica

Adrian Cioflâncă é  historiador. Os seus actuais interesses de investigação são: a história do comunismo, a história do Holocausto, o estudo sobre os regimes não-democráticos, a história cultural e a metodologia dos estudos históricos. É membro do Conselho Nacional para o Estudo dos Arquivos da Securitate e investigador da Academia Romena e do Instituto de História  “A. D. Xenopol”, em Jassy. Exerce também o cargo de professor na universidade  “Al . I. Cuza”. Entre 2010 e 2012  trabalhou para o Instituto de Investigação dos Crimes Comunistas e da Memória do Exílio Romeno. Entre 2003 e 2004 foi membro da Comissão Internacional sobre o Holocausto na Roménia e foi co-autor do relatório final desta comissão (Polirom, 2005). Em 2006 foi contratado como  perito na Comissão Presidencial para a Análise da Ditadura Comunista Romena, contribuindo também para o relatório final da respectiva comissão (Humanitas, 2007). Em 2009 foi Investigador Convidado do United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, em Washington. Editou cinco volumes, entre os quais: “In medias res. Estudos de História Cultural” (juntamente com Andi Mihalache, 1997) e “Cultura Política e Políticas Culturais na Roménia Moderna” (juntamente com Alexandru Zub, 2005).

Coorganização: Instituto Cultural Romeno em Lisboa (ICR), Centro de Estudos Sociais da UC (Iolanda Vasile e Mihaela Mihai - Núcleo de Estudos sobre Democracia, Cidadania e Direito | DECIDe) e Fundação Mário Soares