A Yugoslav Ambassador reports on the current situation in Romania
As the government of Nicolae Ceauşescu in Romania began to collapse in a wave of strikes and riots, Moscow looked on with growing concern. Shortly before Christmas 1989, the Soviet Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs met with the Yugoslav ambassador to the Soviet Union to discuss the situation. The ambassador described how an attempt by local police to evict the popular priest and regime critic László Tőkés from his church quickly led to large and generalized protests in Tőkés' city, Timisoara, and surrounding cities. Hundreds died in the ensuing clashes between civilians and the military. According to the Yugoslav ambassador, the main cause of the disorder was widespread anger at low living standards and lack of government accountability. For Romania's Yugoslavian neighbors, the main areas of concern were the generalized disorder at their border, deaths of women and children at the hands of police and military, and the possible fate of Yugoslav minorities in Romania in such and environment. It was necessary for the USSR to be briefed by third parties because of the longstanding poor diplomatic relations between the USSR and Romania.
I. P. Aboimov, diary entry, 22 December 1989, Cold War International History Project, Virtual Archive, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).
... The beginning of the dramatic development could be traced to the events of 15-16 December in Timisoara where a large group of people protested against the action of the authorities with regard to the priest L. Tokes. This process grew into a huge demonstration of the population of the city against the existing order. According to the estimates of officials of the General Consulate of the SFRY, there were up to 100,000 people, including workers, university and school students, who participated in the demonstration...
Large contingents of militia and military were used against demonstrators in Timisoara. According to the Yugoslavs, during those clashes several hundred people died, and according to some unchecked data the number of casualties exceeded 2,000. In the downtown area shops, restaurants, cafes were destroyed, many streetcars and automobiles were also burnt down. Timisoara is surrounded by troops, but protest actions continue in the city. Workers seized factories and are threatening to blow them up if the authorities do not satisfy the people's demands. Officials of the General Consulate of the SFRY, the Ambassador remarked, noticed that a number of soldiers and militiamen expressed their sympathies with demonstrators....
According to Yugoslav estimates, stressed M. Veres, the main reason for disorders in Timisoara and their spread subsequently around a number of other cities, including the capital of the SRR, is rooted in profound popular dissatisfaction with the economic situation in the country accumulated over [many] years, with low living standards, the lack of basic food and consumer goods, and with the unwillingness of the leadership to undertake at least some measures to democratize the political system. The Ambassador pointed out that the Yugoslav public is very concerned about the situation in the neighboring country....