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Forewarned is Forearmed: How the Hungarian Crisis of 1956 Helped the Romanian Leadership

Forewarned is Forearmed: How the Hungarian Crisis of 1956 Helped the Romanian Leadership

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Drawing on archival documents, this article examines how the Hungarian crisis and Soviet interventions strengthened the Romanian leadership. Copyright: "Forewarned is Forearmed: How the Hungarian Crisis of 1956 Helped the Romanian Leadership," Europe-Asia, vol. 62, no. 4 (June 2010), pp. 615-645.
Drawing on archival documents, this article examines how the Hungarian crisis and Soviet interventions strengthened the Romanian leadership. Copyright: "Forewarned is Forearmed: How the Hungarian Crisis of 1956 Helped the Romanian Leadership," Europe-Asia, vol. 62, no. 4 (June 2010), pp. 615-645.

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Published by: szerzo on May 28, 2013
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01/04/2014

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Forewarned is Forearmed: How the Hungarian Crisis of 1956 Helped the Romanian Leadership
Johanna Granville
Copyright: Johanna Granville, "Forewarned is Forearmed: How the Hungarian Crisis of 1956Helped the Romanian Leadership,"
 
Europe-Asia, vol. 62, no. 4 (June 2010), pp. 615-645.
Abstract 
Drawing on archival documents, this article examines how the Hungarian crisis and Sovietinterventions strengthened the position of the Romanian communist leadership. First, it erodedthe respect of several Bucharest officials for the Soviet army, reinforcing their desire to see Soviettroops leave Romania. Second, the crisis brought back memories of earlier historical events thatseemed to provide
‗proof‘ of Hungarian bellicosity, which
the Romanian leadership used todiscriminate against ethnic Hungarians in Romania. Third, the crisis aroused fears of Transylvanian irredentism, which Bucharest used to control the population. Fourth, byincarcerating Imre Nagy, Bucharest leaders could witness his suffering, which motivated them toavoid his fate.I
T CANNOT BE GAINSAID THAT THE
H
UNGARIAN
CRISIS
 
OF
1956 was a sordid event that stole the lifeof a well-intentioned revolutionary leader, the lives of over 2,500 other Hungarians and 725 Sovietsoldiers, displaced around 200,000 refugees and profoundly disillusioned true-believing
 
communists around the world. However, in terms of 
realpolitik 
, the crisis also had a positiveaspect, at least for the communist leadership in neighbouring Romania. Drawing on archivaldocuments, published memoirs and recent Romanian scholarship, this article will examine howthe Hungarian crisis and Soviet military interventions actually helped the Romanian leadership toconsolidate its power in four ways.
1
First, for at least three Romanian politicians, it appeared toerode their respect for the Soviet army and its ability to protect Romanians, and strengthenedtheir desire to see the Soviet contingent leave Romanian soil. Second, the crisis dredged upmemories of 1919 and 1944
 – 
1945, providing the Bucharest leadership with a template for how to
respond. In furnishing fresh ‗proof‘ of Hungarian bellicosity, the crisis also enabled Romanian
ideologists later to craft a policy of discrimination against ethnic Hungarians in their country.Third, the Hungarian revolt conjured up the spectre of Transylvanian irredentism, which the
Bucharest leadership used to control the country‘s population. As we shall see, various rumours
and comments were recorded among the general population and even spread from above by party
1
The official name for the Romanian national archives (Bucharest) is
 Arhivele Naţionale Istorice Centrale
(ANIC), orNational Central Historical Archives of Romania. Communist Party archival documents were delivered to theNational Archives after 1989. The Foreign Ministry archive is known as
Arhiv 
ă
 
 Diplomatică,
Ministerul Afacerilor Externe 
(Arh. MAE). To my knowledge, all documents cited alone here have not yet been published or translated intoEnglish. These include protocols and minutes of Politburo sessions, as well as diplomatic telegrams sent to theRomanian leaders in Bucharest from Budapest. All passages are cited in the original Romanian as they appear in thedocuments. However, it should be noted that in 1993 the Romanian Academy decided to reverse the orthographicreform of 1953. Except at the beginning of a word or in compound words, the letter â replaces î (e.g. România, notRomînia). See Deletant (1995, p. 7). Several of the archival sources used in this article have also been published inedited collections of documents. In these cases both the archival and published references are provided in footnotesbelow.
 
authorities. Fourth, by keeping Hungarian Prime Minister Imre Nagy incarcerated on their soil,the Romanian leaders glimpsed at first-hand
the fallen leader‘s suffering, buttressing their desire
never to be in his shoes.The entire Romanian Politburo adopted emergency measures in response to the Hungariancrisis. Some officials were assigned to key cities to give speeches, and others formed an emergencycrisis team called the General Command (
Comandamentul General 
) with sweeping powers.
2
Stillothers participated in negotiations with Hungarian, Yugoslav and Russian representatives.However, five politicians took an especially active part, either in on-the-spot fact gathering inHungary or in containing the spread of the revolution within Romania: Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej(first secretary of the party), Valter Roman (director of the Political Publishing Company, or
 Editura Politică
),
Aurel Mălnăşan (deputy foreign minister), Nicolae Ceauşescu (Ce
ntralCommittee secretary responsible for organisational problems) and Miron Constantinescu (firstvice-president of the Council of Ministers and minister of education, 24 November 1956
 – 
16 July1957). A closer look at the personal biographies of these particular leaders helps to explain their
perceptions of the Hungarian crisis and the Soviet troops‘ performance.
Romanian perceptions of Soviet troops 
Western observers predicted that the Russians‘ unprecedented use of brute force against an ally of 
the Warsaw Pact, formed a year earlier, would arouse in other bloc states a greater fear of theSoviet army and act as a powerful deterrent, despite growing popular dissatisfaction throughoutEastern Europe. According to the authors of a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on 19 February
2
ANIC, Fond CC al PCR/Cancelarie, dosar nr. 358, ff. 3-
5. ‗Protocol nr. 58 al şedinţei Biroului Politic al CCal PMR din 30 octombrie 1956‘; also in Lungu and Retegan (1996, p.
 
144).

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