Bucharest

Romanian Revolution & The Mineriada

21 Dec 2016

While the Romanian revolution of December 1989 remains one of the first images of the country that foreigners conjure up, few remember the even bloodier Mineriada of June 1990. The madness of those June days, when at least 100 people were killed, 700 were injured and several thousand illegally arrested in a brutal, three-day long, government-approved riot, will forever cast a very dark shadow over Romania and its revolution.

The revolution and Mineriada are linked: the latter had its roots in the former; in the downfall of Romania’s communist regime. To this day the real stories behind both events remain well guarded secrets, and all we have to go on are best guesses.

The revolution began in Timisoara, in the west of Romania, in mid-December 1989.

By this stage, Romania was a failed country. Food and energy shortages were so serious that even hospitals suffered power cuts as there was no fuel for their generators: new born babies on ventilators and adults on life-support died.

Yet as late as November, all seemed well for Nicolae Ceausescu. He had been reelected president at the Romanian Communist Party's congress (unopposed, as was the custom) and there were few signs that his downfall was imminent.

Always a city whose people were better informed than the rest of the country (they could watch Yugoslav television) the population of Timisoara staged the first of many demonstrations on December 16, 1989 initially in protest at the demotion and transfer (for openly opposing the Nicolae Ceausescu regime) of a popular local Hungarian pastor, Laszlo Tokes.

Quickly however, the demonstrations became political, and spread. On December 17 tens of thousands gathered in front of the city’s Orthodox Cathedral. Ceausescu ordered the army to fire on the protestors, which it did. There were many deaths. The protestors dispersed and the next day the city was calm, with soldiers and secret policemen everywhere; Ceausescu proceeded with a planned two-day state visit to Iran.

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