Primary Sources

Breakdowns in Soviet-Romanian Relations

Description

In its final years, Nicolae Ceausescu's dictatorial regime in Romania increasingly isolated itself from the rest of the Eastern Bloc. Likewise, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev distanced himself from the ultra-hardliners in Bucharest. In keeping with Gorbachev's policy of non-intervention into East European domestic affairs, the Soviets had not commented officially on the mid-December shootings by Romanian security forces of demonstrators supporting minister Laszlo Tokes in Timisoara. However, as seen in this December 21st informational note, the Soviets were finding it difficult to maintain their neutral stance. In the note, Romanian ambassador to Moscow Ion Bucur informs his superiors about his meeting with Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister I.P. Aboimov the previous day. The main issue was Aboimov's desire to obtain factual information about the situation in Romania. Officially, Romanian ambassadors had been instructed to deny knowledge of the unrest. However, Western media was reporting on the gruesome nature of the Timisoara crackdown and Soviet news agencies were picking up these stories. Aboimov was concerned that this bad press might motivate some Soviet deputies to push their government to articulate an official position on the Romanian government's actions, an act which Bucur informs Aboimov would damage Romanian-Soviet relations.

Source

Ion Bucur to Ion Stoian and Constantin Oancea, 21 December 1989, trans. Mircea Munteanu, Cold War International History Project, Documents and Papers, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

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1. Lately, the Soviet press published news in connection to events unfolding in Romania, specifically with the events in Timisoara. It is true that some of the published materials are based, generally, on foreign [i.e. not Romanian] sources. It is evident that the [Soviet] mass media need information on the basis of which to inform the public. Aside from this, during meetings with foreign journalists, there were many requests addressed to the Soviet [government] to state its position in regards with the events taking place in Romania as they were presented by various press agencies.... The [Romanian] Foreign Ministry is also informed that interest in this matter was expressed during working meetings of the Second Congress of the People's Deputies taking place in Moscow at this time....

Due to such problems, the Soviet government asks that the Romanian government send an informational note, even one that is restricted regarding the events that are really taking place in Romania.... If information is not received, it would be extremely difficult to create an effective set of directions for the Soviet mass media, with which there are, even so, many difficulties. [The Soviet government] is worried that, based on the news reported in the press, some of the deputies participating at the sessions, would ask that the 2nd Congress of the People's Deputies take a position vis-à-vis the alleged events taking place in Romania. The MFA prepared for the deputies an information note in which it stresses that it does not have any official information, but it is possible that this argument will not accepted long....

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3. With regards to the above statements, I said that I would, of course, inform Bucharest of this. At the same time, I expressed the displeasure [of the Romanian government] with the fact that the Soviet radio, television and newspapers have distributed news regarding events in Romania taken from foreign news agencies, agencies that are distributing distorted and overtly antagonistic stories regarding the situation in Romania....

I expressed my displeasure with the fact that some Soviet correspondents in Bucharest-- including the TASS correspondent--have transmitted materials from unofficial sources, which contain untruthful descriptions of the events and which create in [the mind of] the Soviet public an erroneous impression of the situation existing in our country. I stressed the point that such behavior is not conducive to strengthening the relationship between our peoples and governments, on the contrary, causing [only] serious damage [to said relationship]. I brought to the attention of the Deputy Foreign Minister in no uncertain terms that a resolution of the Congress of the People's Deputies [concerning] the alleged events taking place in Romania would be an action without precedent in the history of relations between the two countries and would cause serious damage to the relationship.

At I. P. Aboimov's question, I described the events regarding the situation of pastor László Tökes, as described in your memorandum, stressing that this information does not have an official character. I presented, in no uncertain terms, the decision of [the government of] Romania to reject any attempts at interference in the internal matters of Romania. I expressed the decision [of the Romanian leadership] to take any necessary measures against disruptive and diversionary actions perpetrated by reactionary, anti-Romanian circles, by foreign special services and espionage agencies....

4. The conversation took place in a calm, constructive atmosphere.

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How to Cite this Source

Ambassador Ion Bucur, "Breakdowns in Soviet-Romanian Relations," Making the History of 1989, Item #205, http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/items/show/205 (accessed October 21 2014, 1:24 am).