SS2 June 2021


Alice Mihaela BARBU

University of Bucharest


Abstract: The rally organized on December 21, 1989 for NicolaeCeaușescu to obtain the support of the population of the Romanian capital and to stabilize the course of events that shook Romania, was hijacked and destabilized public order. The author of the article explains the events using archive documents, bibliography and interviews that she herself took to some actors of the events, like Virgil Măgureanu and Dan Voinea, or to some investigators of the events, like SorinRoșcaStănescu.

The author shows that the events were also the result of dissatisfaction accumulated and stimulated by the event organizers, but also influenced by foreign intelligence services, making special reference to the CIA.

The article also mentions how Nicolae Ceaușescu reacted to this event.

Keywords: Romanian revolution; Nicolae Ceaușescu; Romanian Security; popular revolt; the involvement of CIA in the Romanian revolution; diversion
Contact details of the authors: E-mail:
Institutional affiliation of the authors:  

University of Bucharest

Institutions address: Bd. Regina Elisabeta 4 -12

București 030167, 021-305.37.08


In the context of hostile and destabilizing events, which were in full swing deployment in the western part of the country, the organization of a large-scale rally in Bucharest, which is meant to represent the “unshakable unity of the population around the party”, was, at first, a standard, efficient and verified procedure. The rally functioned in 1968 and in the previous month in November 1969, it had honored the efforts of the XIV Congress of the Romanian Communist Party (RCP), with a memorable and uncontrollable crowd made for the communist leader. Each member of the crowd was called, in the same place, to validate and support the actions and decisions of the “beloved leader”.

On the morning of December 21st, the dictator is to be found in his office at the Central Committee, when around 8.00 am, Constantin Dăscălescu[1] and Emil Bobu[2] reported the worrying situation in Timișoara. After a whole night in which the patriotic Guards of the great industrial platforms of the capital had been mobilized and equipped, (at whose disposal?), NicolaeCeaușescu cancels the initial program of the day, then urgently summons BarbuPetrescu, the mayor of the Capital and orders the start of the rally. This decision might seem spontaneous to NicolaeCeaușescu but it was already taken by others since the day before, in the military units, the order of a televised pursuit by the military of the comrade’s speech had been sent.

A colonel within the leadership of the Bucharest Security Inspectorate presents some important explanations regarding the organization of the rally: “On the 21st of December he wanted to visit approximately 15-17 enterprises in Bucharest. We, the ones dealing with this kind of thing, knew the state of mind of the population, especially after what happened in Timisoara and therefore I did not agree. Those from the Analysis-Synthesis Department said that these visits are not suitable from this point of view, but moreover there was not enough staff to be deployed for their protection in all 17 enterprises … The idea of a rally came up when General IulianVlad presented the issue to the Central Committee (C.C.). The one who had this very idea was, as far as I know, BarbuPetrescu”[3].

In the meantime, security managed to convince NicolaeCeausescu to revoke the rally. Some troops started back, others stood waiting. This made people impatient, agitated and uncertain, causing confusion and annoyance. Silviu Curticeanu[4] insisted on giving up; NicolaeCeaușescu hesitated, but the assurances given by BarbuPetrescu, the first secretary of the Municipal Party Committee and the mayor of Bucharest made him continue with the idea of holding that rally. He could not conceive that the masses could radically change their beliefs from “Long live Ceaușescu” to “Down with Ceaușescu”.

Nearly 150,000 people, carefully selected and equipped with the appropriate props, gathered in front of the Central Committee (C.C.), waving thousands of banners with supporting slogans. A witness of the rally, told Alex Stoenescu in 2004 that: “Ever since we arrived, around 06:45 a.m, we were informed at the enterprise that we will participate in the rally.Until 10:00 a.m we were told several times either to get dressed up or to undress, waiting for the order to attend the rally. Around 10.00 a.m we were taken from the enterprise by a couple of buses to Constitution Square. About an hour before the start of the rally, there was still enough space between us in our area, we were scattered, it was possible to move. “At 12.00 p.m therepresentatives of the working class take the floor: “We became aware of the serious situation in Timișoara, of the attempts of the reactionary and imperialist groups to deviate from the path of building socialism …”[5] then Barbu Petrescu gave the floor to Nicolae Ceaușescu. It was 12.30 p.m. The head of state appears once again, in front of his own people, tense, scared, dissatisfied, insecure and anxious, with an almost personal speech transmitted between pursed lips, raised eyebrows and a wrinkled forehead.

“Dear comrades and friends, citizens of the capital of Socialist Romania (looks around with uncertainty) first of all, I would like to address to you, the participants of this great assembly, to all the inhabitants of Bucharest, a warm revolutionary greeting together with the best wishes for success in all fields of activity “. The population cheers him on. “I would also like to thank the initiators and organizers of this great event of the population in Bucharest (noises begin to be heard, he widens his eyes) considering this (stays focused on the population) as a … (the screams start, the camera filming him starts to move, he becomes visibly marked by what has happened and is trying to continue, he raises his hand slowly to try to stop the screams of the crowd).”

Silviu   Curticeanu, head of the Presidential Chancellery: “… very shortly after Nicolae     Ceaușescu spoke, I heard a growing roar, unnatural, probably produced by technical means and then a few bangs, and the world started moving chaotically in all directions. It was impossible to stop them”[6].

For the first time in 24 years of dictatorship, Nicolae Ceaușescu failed to be heard by his own people; it was a shocking moment both for him and for his relatives and especially for all the spectators of the event. In a dialogue with the first head of the Romanian Intelligence Service, Virgil Măgureanu, he presented his own perspective on what happened at the rally: “During this dissatisfactory state of mind, there was no internal group to fight for a different outcome… The last 10 days of December were controlled by a foreign group. It was an agreement made in Malta; there were people such as General Vlad and the former head of the Department of State’s Security (DSS) who knew this… Who pushed him to make the demonstration on the 21st? Nevertheless, the finale would have been the same, but this manifestation through which they wanted to reject the spirit of Timișoara, was based first of all, on Ceaușescu’s mentality which made him think of himself as the same as 20 years ago, when the whole population listened blindly to him and that it was enough for him to give a brilliant speech, for which everyone applauded him. This was only in his head, because the population that had showed up was against him. He indeed had no escape, especially after the irreversible occurrences in Timișoara”[7].

The presence of foreigners in the country was already known by the Security, as well as byNicolaeCeaușescu always presented the foreign inVol.vement in the events of the country as imminent. With or without foreign aid, the Romanians knew only one thing: they were tired of NicolaeCeaușescu.

The prosecutor Dan Voinea, during a conversation, wanted to share an unknown fact: “The Bucharest attack on 21st. This matter cannot be found anywhere else, it has not been made public nor sent to court. The rest of the country wasunaware of the events unfolding in Timișoara, which exacerbated tensions in the city and its people. Their leaders said, in the afternoon of the 20th, at the Opera Square, that groups of Timișoara residents should be heard by sending them across the country. A large group of over 50 people boarded the train that was leaving from Timisoara at 12 a.m and arriving at Northern Railway Station (Gara de Nord)at 5 a.m. We started interviewing some of them, but failed to identify them all. They arrived at 5 a.m in Bucharest … the youth, hardened in the heat of battle, were no longer afraid of the authorities. They arrived in Bucharest and waited in Cișmigiu until the crowd gathered at the Palace Square. In the morning of the 21st, the party activist of Bucharest convened a meeting in support of NicolaeCeaușescu and criticism of the hooligans in Timișoara. NicolaeCeaușescu always called them hooligans, irredentists and terrorists. He was the first to use the word “terrorists”. They came prepared with flags without coat of arms. They showed up when the rest of the rally appeared in the Square. The police force managed to divert them from their course and so they went to the Palace Hall, reached the ȘtirbeiVodă Boulevard and turned right, where a male, who was working as a mechanic at the Bucharest Hotel, describes them very well. He said that there was a blonde girl who he had asked about her job position and was told she is a student. The police came out at the junction between Știrbei Vodă Boulevard and CaleaVictoriei and the latter rushed into them. The blonde girl, who said she is a student, managed to knock down a militiaman. The riot began once the police managed to break through the crowd by using sharp weapons. In the meantime, another Timișoara resident was glued with his back to the National Library’s wall and while holding a shoe box in his hands he kept saying “You’ll see!” At one point, this individual took two firecrackers out of the box and, without using it yet, managed to scare everyone. He waited until the arrival of the rest of Timișoara residents and used it then. Fears heightened in that moment and consequently the protesters started throwing away the banners, pushing each other. They withdrew and positioned themselves in the Institute of Architecture. At that moment, the University Place’s traffic was stopped. A coalition was formed and accordingly the University Square was founded”[8].

Nonetheless, Ceaușescu’s speech did not stop then. While the crowd was beginning to calm down, he continued in a much firmer tone to convey the decisions that were to be taken from January 1990: “Once again, I want to emphasize that we must show all our strength and unity in defending Romania’s independence, integrity and sovereignty. This is one of the fundamental problems (the crowd is continuously stirred up) “. He then promised the following: to increase the minimum wage from 2000 to 2200 lei, increasing the allowances for children between 30-50 lei,the birth allowance of 1000 lei for all women who have only one child, and for those who had two or more, the allowance was 2000 lei, the increase of the minimum pensions from 800 to 900 lei.

“We talked about the events in Timișoara last night. It is becoming clearer that thecombined action of different parties is what can destroy the integrity and sovereignty of Romania, it can stop the construction of socialism and put our people under foreign rule again and therefore we must defend with all our might the integrity and independence ofRomania … we must act in full unity, firmly against all those who try to take the power and unity of our nation that works for various espionage services and imperialist groups in order to divide, once again, Romania. You know what our ancestors were saying (the pride on his face was visible) “It is better to die with glory in the battle than to be slaves again” … I want to declare that we will do everything in our power to defend the integrity and sovereignty of Romania, the life of our people, the well-being of the entire nation (The people: We will work and fight/The country we will defend!) … Let us all protect our people, independence and socialism”.

Colonel Ionel Bejan, one of those who werepart of the protective barrier located between the Cina restaurant and the former Bohemian Garden, stated the following: “The atmosphere at the beginning of the well-known rally was more than oppressive so that only the applause and cheers could have been heard. Around 12.30 p.m, the first screams which had nothing to do with the theme of the rally were heard near the Royal Palace. All of a sudden, the crowd fled on the streets adjacent to the Square, leaving it empty. I was with the other colleagues of the protective barrier on Maria Rosetti Street, between the Cina restaurant and the former Bohemian summer garden, when the second round of screams started. That was the break-point of the rally. For a better understanding of the terror that was at this point, it must be said that not only flags, banners with slogans and other propaganda materials remained behind the protesters, but also women’s shoes and handbags …”[9].

NicolaeCeaușescu leaves the balcony with the same state of anxiety and stress with which he began his speech that lasted no more than 21 minutes. At 12.41 p.m, the protesters near Athenaeum start to evacuate the Palace Square, leaving behind them the core of what they needed for a future dismissal of the head of state. After 10 minutes the rally ends. The situation is heating up by the appearance of the flags without coats of arms while the military unsuccessfully tries to disperse the crowd.

On February 9th 1994, general GianuBucurescu, former deputy head of the Department of State’s Security (D.S.S.), stated, before the Senate Committee for the investigation of the events of December 1989, the following: “I was on the balcony when the rally broke and heard screams, a roar that seemed to be made by a megaphone, a roar you hear during an earthquake, coming from the Palace. The aggressive mass which was leading the roar withdrew. I heard a noise which initially I thought to be a falling megaphone, but then I found out it was a firecracker. Earlier to this point, that mass appeared accompanied by the screams of women. Then people dispersed, the protective barriers located at the end vanished, the propaganda materials were left behind trampled on the ground and so I sent the troops gathered in front of Athenée Palace back to the unit. My mission being over, I was not inVol.ved in anything else once the rally ended. I was told that the screams of the women were due to stabbing”[10].

Journalist Sorin Roșca Stănescu, presented from his perspective the interruption of Ceaușescu’s speech by the chaos produced by the population: “It was not an opportune time for this great manifestation of so-called sympathy, but either way, these manifestations were extraordinarily well controlled. Everything was supervised. That’s why, only at the end of the rally, people could no longer be controlled. From all the official information I gathered, the rally broke as follows: people, especially women, were stabbed in the back with the end of the flags’ picks that had been sharpened. Then some of them started screaming and this noise amplified throughout the square which made the others panic. Chaos was created. The Romanians were already enraged, it was enough to light a spark to set them off. That’s how it all started”[11].

The Report of the Senate Commission on the events of December 1989, brings some additional statements to the noise hypothesis: “Numerous witnesses confirm the unbearable noise equivalent to that produced by aircrafts, helicopters and tanks that originally came from a source of interference amplified by speakers. According to some participants, the panic produced was due not to the noise, but to the existence of a physical fear which was so strong that it gave the impression of fainting. Such feelings can be caused, according to the statements of some specialists, by the emission at high intensity of low frequency waves, below the audible threshold … Another aspect refers to the people who used their picks, which were sharpened at the ends beforehand, to stab those around them while screaming “Run, they are going to kill us! The tanks are coming!” and booing. The bangs heard were the product of explosions of firecrackers or the breaking of light bulbs, glass globes or other improvised materials. According to the information gathered by his men, Colonel Goran[12] states: they used the flag’s picks, which were sharp, to stab the women who were screaming. The hijacking of the rally continued with the appearance of some groups of protesters in the main locations of the centre of the capital chanting anti-Ceausescu slogans and asking the crowd to join them. According to the Romanian Intelligence Services’ (S.R.I.) report, people who came exclusively for this event from Timisoara were among them”[13].

However, the sound propagated throughout the Square seems to have its own history: “Carlo had also received a magnetic tape from Langley with some awful recorded noises on it. His friends from the Center claimed that there were legitimate noises recorded by C.I.A. in various real missions such as screams of children crushed under the tracks and screams of people stabbed, shot or tortured. A range of desperate shouts and cries before the moment of their death. They consisted of all the fears known and unknown to human kind. Noises were suddenly heard and it was as if a regiment of tanks had started to crush the people gathered in the Square. For a second it was quiet, then the noise amplified to an unbearable magnitude. The speakers mounted by the Security were on the verge of exploding. Those in their vicinity suddenly went mad, their state of mind becoming foggier. An atavistic and animalistic fear wasborn within themselves embodied in their insanity, which made them act violently as they were trying to stop the speakers”[14].

The assumption made by the C.I.A that the recording was fabricated is not an impossible one to believe. Although it cannot be proved by a related document, there are nominal aspects that support this theory. SilviuBrucan, the signee of the Letter of the Six (the first letter, which was publicly condemning Ceaușescu’s regime), who was pursued by the Security for his contact with foreigners, former Romanian ambassador in the U.S. and also director of the Romanian Broadcasting Company, was to become one of the members who were about to take over the country on the 22nd of December. According to the National Security Archives, in a note given by Aristotel Stamatoiu[15] to AurelianMortoiu[16], Silviu Brucan had connections within the Institute for East-West Security Studies of New York, which was used as a cover by the C.I.A. for its actions.

These actions served as a disinformation and propaganda in supporting the diversionary ideas of the US administration on matters related to the affiliations with socialist countries. This theory was confirmed by David Kamporl, former intelligence officer. David Kamporl also states that: “Brucan was accompanied by C.I.A. personnel for two weeks and, on the 1st of June 1989, the American ambassador together with the special advisor asked to meet him”[17]. Based on this evidence found within the National Security Archives we can conclude that there were enough external links and those who were personally inVol.ved could have facilitated the use of special techniques and devices, purchased and prepared in advance in order to create panic and instability.

Ionel Dumitrescu confidently confirms that the noises came from a foreign system which belonged to the Romanian Broadcasting, an institution where SilviuBrucan used to be in charge. Thus, through the analogies made based on the given statements, we have the proof that NicolaeCeaușescu was somewhat right regarding his obsession with potential actions of foreign agents inside the country, as well as his fear about the appearance of new political leaders who would be supported by foreign, hostile identities. “Back in December 1989, I was an officer of the Ministry of National Defense with the rank of Colonel Engineer within the Technical Materials Section of the Superior Political Council of the Army, having as a main attribution the provision of special propaganda methods – specific to psychological warfare… On the 21st of December 1989, four special vehicles were sent from the unit I was working in, with the role of amplifying the sound supplied by the Romanian Broadcasting Company.I am fully aware when stating that one of the special vehicles was the source of the low frequency sounds of panic that caused disorder in the crowd gathered at the Palace Square. The panic represented the enemy’s signal for its successful work of propaganda. I am pointing out the fact that the specified panic sounds, which were recorded on two magnetic tapes, might be imported … It is important to note that the magnetic tapes were not registered in the records of the unit until the 21st of December 1989 when they were used for the first time … if the opportunity would have arisen, they were to be used during Ceaușescu’s speech. This precisely happened when the protesters were infiltrated by certain people, whose purpose was to end the rally … On the evening of the 21st of December 1989, the magnetic tapes containing the panic sounds were burnt. In the creation of these sounds armor blasts, fire of heavy or light guns as well as explosions (firecrackers, grenades) are used”[18].

The events of 21st December 1989, marked a significant milestone in which the population could fathom an escape fromNicolaeCeaușescu. With both foreign and internal support, this change marked the beginning of the end.SorinRoșcaStănescu: “…things eVol.ved slowly … I amtalking about the slogans. They eVol.ved from seemingly peaceful slogans like “We want democracy! Down with Ceaușescu!” to “Down with the communism!” The groups became radical during that day, until late in the evening when they started shooting at people.”[19]

Undoubtedly the revolution was a traditional, authentic, honest and aboriginal one. Many of the methods used (including the encouragement of the misguided decision to organize the rally) were unfortunately imported for the benefit of the skilled foreign “manufacturers” of political collision and of the local “import”.

The Romanian people achieved partial freedom…enough to feel enthusiastic for the years to come.


  • CIA    = Central Information Agency
  • DSS   = State Security Department




  1. Corneanu, Constantin, Victorie însângerată Decembrie 1989, Editura Cetatea de Scaun, Târgoviște, 2019
  2. Dan, Ioan, Dosarul revoluției. Adevărul despre minciuni, Editura Blassco, București, 2015
  3. Sava, Constantin; Monac, Constantin, Revoluția Română din Decembrie 1989 retrăită prin documente și mărturii, Editura Axioma, București, 2001
  4. Șerban Săndulescu The Report of the Senate Commission on the events of December 1989, Vol. II
  5. Siani-Davies, Peter, Revoluția  română din decembrie 1989, Editura Humanitas, București, 2006
  6. Stoenescu, Alex Mihai, The History of Coups, Editura Rao, București, 2010
  7. Ioan Tecșa, Crăciun 89, Editura Militară, București, 1998
  8. Troncotă, Cristian, Duplicitarii. Din istoria serviciilor de informații și securitate ale regimului comunist din România (1965-1989), Edirura Elion, București, 2014



  1. Archive of the Romanian Senate
  2. Preliminary point of view of the Romanian Intelligence Service regarding the events of December 1989
  3. Report of the Senate Commission on the Actions of the December 1989 Revolution
  4. The National Council for the study of Security Archives

[1] Prime Minister of Romania (editorial note)

[2]Secretary of Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party (editorial note)

[3] Alex Mihai Stoenescu, The History of Coups, Editura Rao, București, 2010, p. 229

[4]Head of the Chancellery Section of the CC of the PCR (editorial note)

[5] Alex Mihai Stoenescu, Op cit, pp. 217–218

[6]Silviu Curitceanu’s Statement, Indictment 05th of April 2019

[7]Interview with Virgil Măgureanu, by Alice Mihaela Barbu, 08th of June 2019

[8]Interview with Dan Voinea, by Alice Mihaela Barbu, 22nd of February 2019

[9] Alex Mihai Stoenescu, Op.cit., pp. 246–247

[10]Cristian Troncotă, Duplicitarii. Din istoria serviciilor de informații și securitate ale regimului comunist din România (1965-1989), Editura Elion, 2014, București, pp. 386-387

[11]Interview with Sorin Roșca Stănescu, by Alice Mihaela Barbu, 22nd of July 2018

[12] Colonel Gheorghe Goran was the head of the Bucharest Security (editorial note)

[13] Șerban               Săndulescu The Report of the Senate Commission on the events of December 1989, Vol. II, p. 168

[14]Ioan Tecșa, Crăciun 89, Editura Militară, București, 1998,  pp. 242–281

[15] General Aristotel Stamatoiu was deputy head of the DSS and head of Romania’s foreign intelligence (editorial note)

[16] General Aurelian Mortoiu was the head of the DSS counterintelligence service (editorial note)

[17] ACNSAS, File Silviu Brucan

[18] Indictment 05th of April 2019/ Dumitrescu               Ionel’s statement take at SPM on 30th of October 2017

[19]Interview with Sorin Roșca Stănescu, by Alice Mihaela Barbu, 22nd of July 2018