Mr. Iliescu, there is an old saying according to which the dead never return. I don’t think this is true. The first and most important duty of a statesman, writes philosopher Peter Sloterdijk, is to defend and protect the lives of the citizens of his or her country. Yet, in June 1990, you threatened these lives when you invited the so-called miners to Bucharest and instigated them to beat students, intellectuals, and all those suspected of freethinking. This was not an error. You did it cynically and in full awareness. You used the monopoly of legitimate violence arbitrarily and abusively.

In May-June 1990, you were exasperated by the spontaneity of the University Square marathon demonstration. You resented the joyful songs and the free speech. You resorted to venomous propaganda to stigmatize those who merely requested a retrieval of the revolution you and your acolytes had confiscated. Instead, you gave the order to have the civic activists beaten, tortured, and terrorized. For all these criminal actions, you will be judged and will receive, I wholeheartedly hope, the punishment you fully deserve!

As the indictment published on Monday this week by the general prosecutor’s office states, you have perpetrated crimes against humanity. It is high time you and your accomplices — former prime minister Petre Roman, former deputy prime minister Gelu Voican Voiculescu, former secret police boss Virgil Magureanu, former minister of internal affairs General Mihai Chitac, and the exalted Leninist ideologue Nicolae S. Dumitru — were held accountable.

Mr. Iliescu, we have met several times. In 1994, I wrote that you enjoy the voluptuousness of historical chiaroscuro. Countless articles during the past half-century further testify that I have not spared my power to expose what needed to be diagnosed and decried: cynicism, corruption, clientelism, the refusal to confront the past, the perpetuation of blatant lies.

We composed a book of dialogues in 2004. In the “Argument” to that volume, I stated clearly that I had been and remained a critic of the regime that you established on the ruins of Nicolae Ceausescu’s dictatorship. In this book, you also admitted, “the balance sheet of communism in the twentieth century was globally negative.” I don’t think you have ever said this on another occasion. As a political scientist and historian of world communism, allow me to tell you as directly as possible: you are part and parcel of that negative balance sheet!

When our book of dialogues was published, you were at the end of your last presidential mandate. Romania had entered NATO. I sincerely believed that, your ideological apparatchik past notwithstanding, you had learned the rules of democratic behavior. Then, in December 2004, you decorated Miron Cozma, the leader of the barbaric miners’ assault, as well as Corneliu Vadim Tudor, the rabid anti-Semite, the ultra-nationalist, and Ceausescu nostalgic, awarding them both the highest Romanian medal. I publicly declared at that moment that I could not cope with such aberrations and that I regretted our book of dialogues.

In 2006, you acted as the main saboteur of the action to condemn the communist dictatorship and the workings of the Presidential Commission appointed by Traian Basescu (a Commission that I chaired). You called me a “scribbler” and “Basescu’s puppy.”

Mr. Iliescu, you have harmed this country a great deal! Generations of Romanian citizens have missed a huge number of opportunities as a result of your policies. You have trampled the rules of democratic normalcy. You are the symbol of all that prevents Romania from being a robust, credible, and functional democracy. You execrate civil society. You fear freethinking. You indulge in the company of lackeys, gangsters, scoundrels, and sycophants. At this moment, the dead return from their graves and call for justice!

2 thoughts on “Open Letter to Former Romanian President Ion Iliescu: The Return of the Dead

  1. It will be interesting to see if this appears. The penchant of Professor Tismaneanu on the site (in Romanian) where he has published repeated iterations of this in recent days is to censor (an open secret to almost anyone who has ever argued against Tismaneanu on that site). Like many, I too believe Iliescu has responsibility for the both arbitrary and targeted violence that happened on 14-15 June 1990, although he is far from alone, and the events leading up to it are more complicated than Professor Tismaneanu stridently maintains. True, Professor Tismaneanu was a bitter critic of Iliescu from 1990 until the early 2000s and then again after 2005. But it is telling exactly what Tismaneanu said in his “book of dialogues” that he refers to above. In the Romanian version, after Iliescu characterized the demonstrators remaining in University Square on 13 June 1990 as having “aberrant and incoherent demands, without any popular support. The elections had already taken place, it was a time to enter into normalcy,” Tismaneanu responded “I completely agree” (page 241 Romanian edition). Tismaneanu also meekly asked Iliescu if perhaps the characterization of the demonstrators by Romanian Television as Romanian fascists (legionari) might have been a “misperception,” an exaggeration (as opposed to the strident language he uses above, pages 244-245 Romanian edition). The point is, sadly, that Tismaneanu, as the communist era dissident Dorin Tudoran has argued, is a personal cameleon. Since 2005, he is Iliescu’s mortal enemy, but between 2003-2004 he had cozy nomenclaturist discussions with him. Thus, Tismaneanu may have a point in criticizing Iliescu for his actions in June 1990 (and not just then), but he is simply not a credible source, by any stretch of the imagination, to make such claims. Additionally, I encourage the readers of this site to check out Tismaneanu’s English-language contributions on the site to get a full sense of the breadth of his views.

  2. Kudos to for their openness in publishing the previous commentary. Be prepared, however, for a potential response by Professor’s ambulatory court of admirers, searching for any and every means of shutting down criticism. This is, unfortunately, the way of Romanians who came of age in the era of intensified patron-client relations that characterized the communist era, but perhaps particularly, the golden epoch of Nicolae Ceauescu (whether or not you genuinely supported him). Tismaneanu is an important historian of the communist and post-communist era in Romania, but his writings require, like anyone else’s, an effort at unbiased evaluation. Thank you.

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