Where can I read more about the Romanian Revolution in December 1989, and the events leading up to it?
January 7, 2011 10:06 PM   Subscribe

Where can I read more about the Romanian Revolution in December 1989, and the events leading up to it?

Through a random chain of references I got to reading about how Nicolae Ceauşescu, former president of Romania, was overthrown in 1989 and it really piqued my interest--most specifically, what conditions led up to this (e.g. the fact that a year into office he set a ban on abortion). I'm trying to find more reading beyond a Wikipedia article--non-fiction books (journalistic account, say) is preferable but a fictionalized account would be interesting too. Thanks in advance...
posted by lovableiago to Law & Government (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Freakonomics has a chapter about that.
posted by wayland at 10:17 PM on January 7, 2011

Best answer: In Romania, they're arguing about what caused the Revolution more today than ever before, and the general belief seems to be coalescing around the idea that the whole thing was a coup started by the Securitate, which used "real" protests by an ethnic Hungarian priest in Timişoara as a means of getting the whole thing going on a national level. (Sadly, Laszlo Tökes, the priest who started it all, and one of the few obvious true leaders of the Revolution is, to this day, reviled by most Romanians.) Eventually the coup took on a life of its own and the Securitate lost control of it (though ex-members of the Securitate hold many powerful positions today.)

The more I read about it, the more this makes sense. "The Hole In The Flag" by Andrei Codrescu is an interesting look at Romania, post-Revolution, by a famous expatriate. "Looking For George" by Helena Drysdale is one of the most chilling (true) stories ever, and provides better insight into Romanian life prior to the Revolution than any other book I can think of. Ion Pacepa's "Red Horizons" is an incredible look into the lives of the Ceauşescu family, written by the highest-ranking official to ever defect from a Communist country, with unparalleled access to all sorts of nasty stuff.

I haven't read a really solid book *about* the Revolution itself. But "12:08 East Of Bucharest," "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," "Children Underground," "Ryna" and "The Death Of Mr Lazarescu" are all readily-available Romanian-produced films that - for varying reasons and in varying ways - give insight into Romania in ways that will help you understand more.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 10:33 PM on January 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire by Victor Sebestyen is an excellent book that looks at events in five Central European countries, Romania being one of them. There is a lot of information given on the Ceauşescu's and their craziness.
posted by Asparagirl at 10:37 PM on January 7, 2011

Best answer: The ban on abortion was troublesome for many people, a death sentence (in essence) for others. And a very bad idea in general. It exacerbated issues with hunger, jobs, quality of life, and so on. But at most, it was only a contributing factor to an already wobbly system, and not something that Romanians were protesting any more than most other really bad things in Romania at the time. Just to be clear.

Oh, and no one should miss out on Herta Müller's writing. She won the Nobel Prize in literature in 2009. She was a member of Romania's German minority, who left the country a few years before the Revolution, but her poetic and paranoid impressionistic novels also convey a lot of information about pre-Revolution conditions. I especially like "The Passport."

Here she describes her 'battles' with the Securitate, and it's one of the best essays on anything I've ever read - and I read a lot! Very recommended for anyone with any sort of interest in the way the world works.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 10:43 PM on January 7, 2011

"...Hungarian priest in Timişoara..."
I met a guy here, in Berlin, and he told me a rather fantastical story about the involvement of Quebecois separatists in the organizing and implementing the revolution. He was finishing a documentary on just this subject. I'll look for it again, but at the time (three years ago) I couldn't find any evidence of it on the internet.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:20 AM on January 8, 2011

! Found it, "Dracula's Shadow". But it does not appear to be widely available yet.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:25 AM on January 8, 2011

I can't check right now but I'm pretty certain The Guardian had some articles remembering the revolution recently.
posted by jontyjago at 4:32 AM on January 8, 2011

Ditto on everything Dee Extrovert says, and also check out Harun Farocki's excellent film Videograms of a Revolution (review here).
posted by agent99 at 8:55 AM on January 8, 2011

Seconding Revolution 1989. It glosses over a lot of the detail, but for getting a sense of the wider context all this was happening in (Romania's not the only place where the revolution could have been started by security services, too) it's a great starting point.
posted by bonaldi at 12:47 PM on January 8, 2011

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