Category Archives: Romania

What happened in Rumania was not genocide

Rumania under Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu, writes Dalrymple, was

a Balkan North Korea, spared somewhat by its corruption, inefficiency and disorganisation.

Dalrymple is ashamed to say that when he heard that the couple had been tried and shot,

my heart leapt with joy. It took a little while for a reaction to set in. Their trial was perfunctory, to say the least, and grossly unfair. No one should be taken out into a courtyard and shot like stray dogs, least of all by people who, until only a few days before, would have fawned upon the condemned and obeyed their every order. As is so often the way with very bad people, the Ceaușescus achieved some slight dignity in the face of death. My initial reaction taught me that I was not immune from the evil of political passion.

The charge of genocide against the Ceaușescus did, however, appal Dalrymple straight away.

They were quite bad enough without having to accuse them of the most abominable of crimes. Rumanian behaviour in Trans-Dniestr and Odessa during the war had been incomparably worse than anything done by the Ceaușescu régime. True, the Ceaușescus were guilty of genocide in the narrowly juridical sense that they sold practically all Rumania’s remaining Jews to Israel and the Saxons to Germany, in the latter case ending a six-century-old cultural tradition: but the juridical sense makes no moral sense, because selling people for money, not even into slavery, is a far cry from exterminating them. One might as well draw no distinction between robbery and murder.

Dalrymple points out that the murder of the Ceaușescus

was more like getting rid of the evidence than an act of justice. Ceaușescu was the kind of man whose greatest intellectual asset was probably a filing-cabinet memory for all that his associates had done. A real trial in which he had been allowed a defence would have been a festival of tu quoque pronounced against his accusers.

It is the achievement of totalitarian régimes such as that of the Ceaușescus that

no one emerges both alive and innocent, which is one of the reasons why the effects of such régimes last at least a generation or two.

It would take three generations to overcome the legacy, the Rumanian historian Andre Pippidi told Dalrymple in Bucharest three months after the overthrow.

High academic merit of the Mother of the Romanian Nation

In the time of Ceaușescu, Elena‘s great work was widely available, even when most other commodities were in short supply

Dance of the dictators

Men with notebooks standing behind leaders and taking down their precious words are, writes Dalrymple,

a constant of communist iconography. Someone like Nicolae Ceaușescu had only to step into a turnip field for him to become the greatest expert on growing turnips. Usually the leader was dressed in some kind of pseudo-proletarian costume, with or without a specially-tailored cloth cap.

Ceaușescu, Dalrymple notes,

was much influenced by Kim Il-sung. There is a wonderful film of Kim’s state visit to Rumania in 1975 in which Kim dances with Rumanian pseudo-peasants in colorful national costume. How communist dictators loved folk-dancing!

The Domino Theory

Dalrymple explains that according to the theory,

all the countries of Southeast Asia (and beyond) would fall to communism if one of them did so. It was therefore vital to prevent any of them from falling.

He asks:

Who can say what would have happened in Southeast Asia if the Americans had acted differently, according to some other geopolitical theory? It is not even possible definitively to decide whether the policy followed was a success or a failure. Even at a cost of hundreds of thousands of lives and untold destruction, to say nothing of the economic cost to America itself, it did not prevent the spread of communism in Indochina.

On the other hand, communism

spread no further, nor did it last indefinitely.

Whether its durance was longer or shorter because of the war

will remain forever a matter of speculation.

Dalrymple notes that the Domino Theory seemed to have held in Eastern Europe, though in reverse.

Brezhnev enunciated a doctrine of his own, namely that a country, once communist, could not return to capitalism.

This, Dalrymple points out, was

the Marxist equivalent of the Islamic doctrine that once Islamic, a country could not revert, which is one of the reasons why Spain, or al-Andalus, looms so large in the minds of fanatics.

But

it was obvious that once an Eastern European country had seceded from communism, the holdouts — Rumania and Albania — could not long survive.