Contemporary Civil-Military Relations in Romania:

From World War II to the Revolution of 1989.

Jeremy Hubble
May 1, 1997


Romania has had a history of strong nationalism.  The military there has generally been respected by the citizens and free to implement a great deal of activities.  In the following pages, the relations between the Romanian people and government and the military will be analyzed.  Various aspects dealing with the professionalism of the military, their recruitment, and the manner of control will be analyzed.  The events of the revolution will be placed in context of the undercurrents in the civil-military relationships that have taking place within the country.  By analyzing the actions of the military in consequence to the revolutionary affairs of the country the source of impetus for the military coup and revolution can be described.  Finally, the structure of the military will be placed forward to predict the future role of the military in the affairs of Romania in the next decade.

The countries of the former Warsaw Pact have undergone a great deal of structural change in the past decade.  After a half century of service as mere satellites to the desires of Moscow, the countries began to break free, and institute democratic reforms and to declare their own sovereignty.  Crucial to the effectual implementation of this process is a large redefinition of the roll of civil-military relationships in these countries.  In some countries, the military and para-military organizations served as the implementors of the revolutionary activities.  In others, the military helped carry out processes that had already began.  In all, the relations between the civilian and military populations changed greatly during the last decade.

In order to adequately analyze the process in effect in these countries, various concepts of military relationships with society must be analyzed, as well as the history of these patterns in the development of these countries.  Key aspects, such as professionalism of the officer corps, and the method of recruitment of members of the military had an impact on the structure of the society.  Furthermore, in most countries, the communist party implemented a great deal of subjective control, dictating many of the militaries activities.  Furthermore, paramilitary organizations and secret police were present in many of the regimes to ensure that loyalty to the communist regimes remained.  When some of these structures began to change, the entire military structure changed also.  Before proceeding further, many of the key terms must be defined.

The presence of a professional soldier is important to the success of a society.  Three main characteristics are used to define professionalism are expertise, responsibility, and corporateness.  All professionals must have expertise in their field that sets them apart from common people. The professional soldier goes through a general and technical education in order to become a professional military leader.  A professional man is also responsible to society.  Instead of being set purely by the market forces, his salary is often regulated by professional customs and law.  If the professional chooses to act in opposition to society, he ceases to be professional.  Only by improving society can he accomplish his goals.

Corporateness is another key aspect of professionalism.  Members of a professional body are unified together.  Their extensive training allows them to share common interests.  Furthermore, the organization of this unified body allows them to be separated from common men.  Furthermore they can assure that all can use their professional competence only in ways to which it is suited.

The professional military officer’s skill lies in the management of violence.  He is not a mercenary, but is instead a loyal member of society.  His motivation stems primarily from a love of the military craft and a desire to so utilize it for the benefit of society.  A complex systems of rules and regulations are followed by the officer in carrying out his duty.  His ‘clientele’ is not any individual, but the collective state.  In order to enter into the profession, he must undergo a great deal of training and education.  An officers commission is only offered after a soldier has proved himself competent in the art of violence management. As a group, officers tend to be more isolated from society than other professional men.  Their uniforms and associations tend to set them apart from common man.  Furthermore, he is greatly separated from the enlisted man.  The enlisted man’s focus is the application of violence, while the officer is concerned with the management of violence.  The strong line drawn between the two emphasis the nature of one as a profession, while the other is a mere trade that requires a much less extensive training and education.[1]

The countries of Eastern Europe were all Marxist-Leninist regimes.  Marxism by nature is antimilitary, and glorifies the internal goodness of men.  Thus, the military is set immediately at a disadvantage.  It is common in most of these countries to have a military under subjective control.  When the military is under subjective control, it is subordinate to the desires of the state in all activities.  A military under subjective control would find the government interfering in its everyday decision making, and utilizing this influence to control the affairs of the military and the country as a whole.  (This is opposed to objective control, where the military is allowed autonomy in its decision making process.)  To obtain pure subjective control by all civilians is an impossibility.  (Though Marxist rhetoric would have you believe that it could be carried out.)  Thus subjective control often implies that a single group influence the military to so adhere to its desires.

  "In its various historical manifestations, subjective civilian control has been identified with the maximization of the power of particular government institutions, particular social classes, and particular constitutional forms."[2]

The military seeks to maximize their objective control, whereas power-seeking civilian groups seek to maximize subjective control.  Instead of serving one civilian group as would happen in subjective control, the objectively controlled military stands ready to serve whatever body legitimately comes to power in the state.  Thus only a professional military can be under objective control.

Within communist regimes, the power of the military becomes neutralized by the power of the regime.  However, in both the case of democracy and communism, the military remains an important force in the area of influence of foreign affairs.  In Romania this was easily observed by the important role of the secret police (securitate) and the Internal Military Force. 

Today, there are five basic topologies used to identify the different civil-military relationships in the newer nations: 1)authoritarian-personal control, (2) authoritarian-mass party, (3) democratic competitive and semi-competitive systems, (4) civil-military coalition, and (5) military oligarchy. In the first three topologies, the military’s participation in domestic affairs is minimal. The first type, the authoritarian-personal type is often found in countries just beginning the process of modernization, where the power is rooted in one man’s personal power.  If control is rooted in the control by a one-party state, topology 2, authoritarian-mass party control, will be in place.  The military may be poorly develop and often finds itself ‘competing’ with the police and other paramilitary institutions.  Where the military is limited in function due to the strength of competitive democratic institutions in the state, the civil-military relationship can be described by topology 3, democratic-competitive.  Often this system develops due to the constraints placed on the military during prior periods of colonial rule. 

The last three types are marked by strong military influence in domestic affairs.  In type four, civil-military coalition, the military serves as a bloc in support of certain political groups.  In this topology, the military may even be required to establish a temporary government in its continuing role as umpire in the disputes of the various competing political factions.  The military’s involvement in domestic affairs can lead to topology 5, military oligarchy.  In this type, the military is the ruling body.  They exercise control of and suppress the civilian groups.  A sixth theoretical type may also be developed as the military attempts to select a new government (either made up of its own personnel or others) to continue the domestic development of the new society.[3]

Romania’s civil-military development differed from many of the other Warsaw Pact countries.  Ceausescu served as leader for much of the Romanian communist era.  He would not comply to every desire of the Kremlin, and thus was favored by the west.  However, internally, he was leading a highly oppressive regime.  The civil-military relations in Ceausescu-era Romania is clearly type (1) authoritarian-personal control.  Ceausescu was the supreme authority in the land, and exercised this control over all aspects of his country.  His control was further enhanced by the placement of family members in key leadership positions in the country.  It was almost impossible for any outsider to penetrate the ruling elite in Romania.  Furthermore, he exercised direct control over the military, including the power over the dismissal of officers.  Even further, he had control over a group of internal quasi-military units.  The securitate were the secret police of the country.  They had widespread infiltration in the country, and even a larger number of informers who would aid them in reporting any counter-state activity.  The Internal Military Force would quickly enter to quell the seeds of any revolutionary activity that appeared to be breaking out.

The officers in the Romanian military kept themselves content following the orders of their superiors.  Due to the widespread permeation of the informers and secret police, nobody could be trusted.  Even a careless remark that one was dissatisfied with the country could lead to a sudden disappearance.  The military (especially the internal military) was often called upon to perform tasks which appeared to be ethically wrong.  However, due to fear and the military ethic, the soldiers performed the tasks assigned to them.

There are some basic characteristics of the professional soldier.  He exists to serve the state.  The soldier must carry out the orders of the his political leaders no matter how militarily unsound they are.  A soldier who ceases to be loyal and obedient ceases to be a professional.  Huntington succinctly states:

The soldier "is judged not by the policies he implements, but rather by the promptness and efficiency with which he carries them out."

If the military man feels a requested operation will prove to be disastrous, his responsibility is to inform is civilian superiors.  If they still demand that he carry out the course of action, he is bound to so do, no matter how ridiculous it may scene.  However, when the course of action conflicts with the law of the land, the officer has the duty to appeal the order to the appellate body of his country.  Some instances, however, involve situations which are strictly military.  If a civilian leader attempts to mandate details of a military operation, the soldier can rightfully object.  The civilian can tell the officer what to get done, but shouldn’t mandate the strictly military details of how to do it.[4]

Unfortunately for the Romanian soldiers, they lacked the final options of being able to object to undesirable actions.  They thus were able to share some of the characteristics of a professional military, however, were far from being professional.  They perhaps bore a relationship more closely akin to a peasant and his lord than to a professional serving his country.

Importance of Russian Policy

From the end of World War II until the collapse of the Soviet Union, Romanian policy was very much dependent on Russian policy.  Romania was on of the most independent of the Soviet satellites.  However, there is in part due to the excellent job that the Romanian leaders performed in ensuring the security of the Russians.  Romania could feel free to deviate from the Russian desires when it felt that Russia had no vital interest in intervention.  However, when Russia had a vital security interest, Romania could step up and work to aid them in that interest in order to appease the Russians.

The communist Russian military was under the subjective control of the communist party leadership.  When Marshal Zhukav attempted to lesson the influence of the party in professional military affairs, Khrushchev, in 1957, promptly removed him from his post as the Minister of Defense.[5]  Similar events happened later in Soviet history.  When military leaders attempted to obtain too much autonomy, or move in directions contrary to those desired by the party leadership, they often found them ousted from their posts.

In spite of the control exhibited by the party, the military did have a degree of control over its own military actions.  Even without direct control, the military still had a chance to argue its case, and could try to persuade the party to listen to its view.  It was often the case that there existed different views, even within the military itself concerning policies.  In areas distant from the homeland, the influence of the military was perhaps even greater.  Thus in the formation of policy towards the Eastern European satellites, such as Romania, the opinion of the Soviet military leaders would have been significant.

A changing of the guard in military leadership within the Soviet Union could have significant impact on the Romanian policy.  The strong military leaders tended to favor a tough stance on the satellite countries.  Other leaders, however had differing views.  Some leaders felt that the positive effects of an invasion would not compensate for the risk involved in the alienation of a natural allies.  Still other leaders came from more civilian backgrounds and had interests in certain parts of Europe.  When the leader was not significantly interested in Romania, the policy could afford to be more liberal in its actions.

In order to determine the best course of actions, Romania spent a great deal on intelligence operations.  By knowing the state of affairs within the Soviet Union, Romania could more effectively gauge what the Soviet response would be towards a given Romanian activity.  Furthermore, Romania kept a close eye on the actions of its other neighbors.  Since actions in other counties could trigger a strong Soviet response, Romania could be best prepared by having a detailed knowledge of all the nearby countries.  Being prepared, Romanian policy could safely deviate from the will of the Soviet Union.  Some of the deviations included:

unilateral Romania troop and length of military service reductions (which constituted foreign policy as well since Romania was a member of the WTO), call for abolition of military blocs, refusal to take part in Warsaw Pact maneuvers, the passage of restrictive laws on the movement of foreign troops through Romanian territory, constant public reiteration of the defensive nature of the Warsaw Pact, maintenance of military contacts with China and Yugoslavia, the passage [1972] of an "all-horizons" defense law, Romanian refusal in 1974 to allow the construction of a wide-gauge railway from the Soviet Union to Bulgaria which could have been used to carry Soviet troops to maneuvers in Bulgaria in the summer of the same years, and finally Romania’s continued pressure in 1976 for the transformation of the Warsaw Pact.[6]

Understandably, the Soviet Union did not turn a blind eye to these actions.  The Soviets were particularly outraged when the Romanians (along with the Yugoslavs) failed to aid the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.  Romania exerted her will and dictated that the Romanian military would only accept orders from Romania.  The Soviets responded by reducing military aid to Romania (and providing older, outdated equipment), and by holding Warsaw Pact maneuvers close to the Romanian border.  This prompted Romania to sign a treaty, giving in to some Soviet concessions, but still providing the Romanian military with a degree of autonomy greater than that found in Czechoslovakia or other Warsaw Pact countries.

The Romanian military was thus partially subjected to the desires of Moscow.  Even though Romania tended to act more autonomously than other nations, it’s military policy was still to some extent dictated by Moscow.  Thus certain features such as participation in alliances and universal conscription were mandated, and couldn’t be completely changed without fear of foreign military intervention.

Structure of Romanian Military Organization

The military is highly organized, and generally service therein follow a specific pattern..  An officer who has followed a prescribed career has followed the ideal pattern of military involvement.   He has been schooled in the proper functions and has received the training and experience that is expected.  An adaptive career results from additional and unusual activities. Officers that follow an adaptive career tend to have strong beliefs on one side or the other of major ideological issues, while those who followed the standard career were by and large neutral.  Thus by following an adaptive career, an officer is more likely to be a mover and shaker in the armed forces.

The Romanian military shared many of the characteristics of that of a new nation.  (After all, only at the time of World War I had Romania been formed, unified and independent.)  Like a new military, Romania tended to be highly nationalistic and xenophobic.  It tends to be anticommunal.  Furthermore, it tends to be puritanical and desire that society can too employ its hard-working values.  They tend to be highly moralistic.  They also tend to accept collective social action for the achievement of goals, and thus tend to have a leftist orientation.  Finally, and perhaps the most important characteristic of the new military is its strong anti-political sentiment.  The military loathes politicians and sees itself as above politics.  The military thinks that there is a simple solution to all problems, and sees the constant debate and compromise of the political arena as highly ineffectual.  However, due to the structure of the communist system, and the strong dictatorial reign of Nicolae Ceausescu, the Romanian military was unable to publicly exert any disgust for the political establishment.  The Romanian secret police (the Securitate) were ever present, ready to report any sentiments of dissatisfaction, and instigate an ousting of the dissatisfied from his position of power.

The strong cohesiveness of a military leads to its effectiveness in intervening in political affairs.  Social cohesion in the military requires effective procedures for assimilating new personnel, meaningful authority and sanction systems, allocation of equitable rewards and promotions, and a sense of organizational purpose.[7]  Military activity is a life-consuming endeavor, and the unification of living work and community create a total involvement.  The process of assimilation and indoctrination is a continual one, with the newer and less experienced officers tending to have a lesser strength of identification and indoctrination than the more seasoned veterans.  Militaries can also gain strength through common experiences and separation from police forces.  However, other areas can lead to cleavage.  Romania had both domestic and foreign military forces along with police and secret police.  The many different units can lead to differences of opinions among soldiers.  Officers trained in conventional warfare, and those in guerrilla units can have their differences. Personal conflict and personality can also be a factor which leads to cleavage in the military.

Nationalism and Recruitment

Nationalism is very strong in Romania.  Even though the Dacian race has virtually been a non-entity since the 11th century, Romanians take great pride in their Dacian-routes.[8]  Romania has been conquered and integrated with many of the neighboring Slavic countries during the past two millennia.  However, in spite of this combined heritage, Romania still view outsiders as inferior to the Romanians.  This is seen primarily in the treatment of the minorities found in Romania.  Hungarians, Jews, Germans, and Gypsies are all despised.  Gypsies are especially hated by Romanians, due not only to their heritage but also due to their poor reputation.

The patterns of recruitment logically follow the nationalistic stance of race relations.  Since other minorities are looked upon as inferior their service is not desired in the military force.  The officers are primarily those of Romanian decent who hold strong Dacian ties.  Military service however is obligatory for all citizens.  Thus Romanians of other national origins (such as those of Hungarian decent) are required to serve in the armed forces for a period of enlisted duty.  However, the officer corps is dominated by the pure Dacian Romanians.  Through this method of recruitment, the nationalist Romanians can further solidify their control of others.

The high leadership of Romania has also invoked the name of Romanian nationalism in attempts to help strengthen their position among the people and military bodies of Romania.  Ceausescu enjoyed telling the story of the great Dacian warrior-kings Burebista and Decebal who helped secure early Romania from the invading Slavs and Romans.  He further alluded to the fact that they had assuredly settled in the same town that he came from.  In so doing, he implied that he was in some way at least a spiritual decedent of these great warriors.[9]  After his fall, rumors quickly spread that Ceausescu was not a Dacian.  He was deemed instead to have been a Gypsy, disguising his ancestry to wreck havoc on Romania.

The strong Dacian nationalism possibly contributed to the Romanian sympathy with the German fascist cause in World War II.  Just as Hitler held the Aryan race to be the superior race that needed to be promulgated, the Romanians viewed the Dacians as superior.  Similarly, both nations have taking actions to eradicate the Jewish population therein.  (Though Hitler’s holocaust was done earlier and much more severely than the more ‘peaceful’ removal in Romania.)  It is somewhat ironic that Romania would hold the ‘superiority’ of its race, due to the fact that Romanians of today are primarily a mixture of many other races.  However, Ceausescu, in his history books, downplayed the intermarriage and other integration of races that took place, and instead emphasized the Dacian roots.  This is the same pattern that was passed down even later.  Furthermore, similar beliefs were in existence long before the dictator seized power in 1965.

The area in which a military focuses its recruitment can have a profound impact on the structure of the military.  Recruitment is the manner in which a military obtains its officers and enlisted men.  Generally, these two groups are recruited in different manners to help field the ideal military.  Romania, with the common universal military service gathered basic recruits from all over the nation.  However, the officer corps came primarily from the Dacian strongholds and away from the frontiers that tended to have a strong foreign influence.

Communist Party and Ceausescu

The military in Romania was highly subservient to the Communist party.  Thus the military is said to be under subjective control.  (see earlier definition) Under the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu, from 1965 to 1989, the degree of subjective control was especially strong.  Ceausescu was a unique person who had gradually risen to power and taken control of the nation in his own hands.  He saw himself as an expert in everything, and accordingly ruled in all aspects of human life.  His regime became one of the most oppressive of all of the Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe during the Cold War period.

Ceausescu dictated details of every facet of human life, and instituted a high degree of public indoctrination.  He authored (or at least credited himself with the authorship of) the textbooks that were studied in school.  He required the pupils to start the day reciting nationalist rhetoric praising the dictator.  In order to limit the spread of ‘un-Romanian’ thought, he required all typewriters to be registered.  Television was restricted to just a few hours each day - the time that Ceausescu himself deemed appropriate.  The only art and literature accepted was that which praised Ceausescu, Communism and Romania.  In order to reduce Romania’s debt and dependence on other nations, Ceausescu exported a great deal of fuel and other resources and forced the Romanians to live a Spartan lifestyle, without many of the common amenities seen in other countries of the world.

Ceausescu viewed himself and his family as experts in all they did.  His wife was deemed the primary scholar of the country, and had her name accredited to all scientific papers published in the country.  His other relatives were also placed in primary positions of responsibility.  History was also written to his pleasing.  In the rewrite the most recent ruling-line of kings were discredited.  King Michael (who had been exiled away from Romania after the Communist arrival in power), was not mentioned as being any significant player in any part of Romanian history.  Other aspects of history were also rewritten in order to give predominance to the supports of Ceausescu’s brand of Romanian nationalism.

With control of the education and actions of the Romanians, Ceausescu had little problem in assuming direct control over the military.  As in other areas of leadership, Ceausescu viewed himself as the dominant expert in all military affairs.  He required all soldiers to daily proclaim praises to the country, and the dictator.  The soldiers were under just as much obligation to the person as they were to the country.  (And furthermore, both were so intertwined that it was difficult to see where one ended and the other began.)

To further his rulership and insure no problems arose, Ceausescu employed a large number of secret police and informers.  The secret police (Securitate) regulated the military just as they regulated civilian life.  A large number of "informers" also helped this process.  The "informers" provided the Securitate with information on anyone who may be acting or talking in ways that are against the state of Romania.  Thus, anybody who uttered a statement against the ruling body was quickly disappeared, and often found himself in jail or executed.  The fear of retaliation helped to prevent any retaliation, and allowed Ceausescu to continue to directly control the entire Romanian population, and the military especially.

The Revolution

The end of 1989 saw the collapse of the single-handed Ceausescu dictatorship.  With a regime so tightly ruled as he had rule dit, it is remarkable that he was able to exhibit such close control over all aspects of life for such a long period of time.  Perhaps his control would have been extended even longer were it not for the events occurring in the world at the end of the 1980s.  Previously, Romania had been able to play the Americans off the Russians.  Publicly, Romania was pro-west, and anti-Russian.  The United States, with its strong anti-communist belief was quick to embrace the pro-western beliefs in Romania (just as they had supported anti-communist tyrants in China, South America and elsewhere.)  However, with the fall of the Soviet Union, and the change in the American policy, Romania was no longer able to continue this game of playing one superpower off the other.

As long as Ceausescu retained control of the military and his various paramilitary organizations, however, he could still control Romania.  his Securitate still had the power to help control the mind and beliefs of the Romanians.  Furthermore, he still had the firepower to put down any revolution that would begin to breakout.  Even in the event that his grip on the everyday control of the country would falter, he still had his close friends in military leadership that he could depend upon.  As further security precautions, he had planned a large number of escape routes, including underground tunnels that would lead him through to a path where he could quickly leave the country and reach asylum elsewhere.

The military, even though it held a great deal of national pride and respect for the ruler, was not willing to participate in a losing cause.  Furthermore, the military officers were reluctant to fight against innocent civilians, solely for the purpose of appeasing the ego of the dictator.  Even high ranking officers, such as defense minister Vasile Milea were willing to sacrifice their lives rather than fight an unjust cause:

After weeks of unrest, violent anti-Ceausescu demonstrations broke our in Timisoara on December 16 [1989].  The following day (December 17), Ceausescu accused general Vasile Milea, the defense minister, of disobeying orders, and threatened him with dismissal if he did not order Romanian troops to open fire on the crows.  The general had acquiesced, but only in front of Ceausescu.  he had not issued such orders, and by the morning of December 22, he would be dead, a "suicide," according to official reports, a victim of a Ceausescu-ordered execution, according to others.  Months later, the true circumstances of his death were still in doubt.  What is certain is that Milea’s death caused the senior-most commanders of all three services to realize, they had not already done so, that Ceausescu was now a lost cause.  The head of the Securitate, General Aeolian Vlad, had already come to that conclusion.[10]  

Military Coup

Though the details are sketchy at best, it appears that a military coup had been planned before the insurrection broke out in Timisoara.  The other members of the communist part had tired of the strict authoritarian dictatorship of Ceausescu.  They desired to institute their own leadership.  In order to best carry out their plan, they had sought the aid of the military officers.  Of course, due to the many security measures put in effect by the dictator, planning had to be carried out with the utmost of secrecy.  Even a minor leak, or a mention of the details in the street may alert an informer or member of the Securitate.

Romania already had many of the characteristics needed for a military coup as defined by Welch and Smith:[11]

1) The likelihood of military intervention rises should the armed forces become heavily involved in primarily domestic police-type or counterinsurgency activities.

Romania had a secret police, and a domestic military used to put down insurgencies.  The military was used more for domestic operations than for foreign battles.  The Securitate were constantly involved in regular military operations.  Romania had had very little in the area of external conflict.  However, due to the strong hand that the dictator exercised over his country, the military found themselves heavily involved in the internal affairs of the country.

2) The likelihood of military intervention rises should the armed-forces be ordered, contrary to the advice of the officer corps to use coercion against domestic opponents of the government.

Ceausescu had ordered the officers to fire on the crowd of demonstrators.  The military leadership (as noted above) was opposed to the move, and did not wish for the order to be carried out, in spite of the desires of the dictator.  This led to a gradual disintegration of the direct personal control that Ceausescu had had over the military.  The soldiers had ties to many of the people demonstrating.  Many had even served together in the military with them.  Thus, they were reluctant to engage them in fire.  Furthermore, the high ranking officers had withheld the orders for they better understood the military situation and the fallacies of Ceausescu’s intentions.

3) Differentiation between service to "the government" and service to "the nation" encourages the armed forces to move directly into politics (i.e. the belief of the officers that the military alone can "save" the country from certain perils figures prominently in the rationalizations of coups.)

The government was viewed as the everything instigated by the dictator.  The nation however, consisted of all people of Romanian origin.  These people were protesting against the one-man government, with legitimate concerns.  The military saw the opportunity and the means to help rid Romania of the tyrant.

4) Likelihood of military intervention rises with a perceived deterioration of economic conditions, especially if accompanied by a belief that the government cannot resolve, or is responsible for, this deterioration.

While the world was growing and advancing greatly, Romania was stuck in a rut.  Even basic food items were in short supply and difficult to come by in large numbers.  Fuel and power were very scarce.  Ceausescu sent the great resources of Romania abroad and left nothing for the Romanians themselves.

5) Military intervention resulting from specific policy grievances may lead to the restoration of civilian rule when the grievances have been rectified.

The Romanians were fed up with Ceausescu.  He was seen as the prime source of all of the problems that were being faced by Romanians.  The dire straights of the Romanian economy, along with the many human rights violations drove the military in to action.  Once they had achieved their goal of disposing of the dictator (through a quick tribunal and execution) they stepped down to let the civilians take control of the government.  The military helped in the stages of the demonstration.  They began to fight with the demonstrators, instead of fighting against them.  The communist party and institutions of the dictator were the evils that they were all fighting against.

6)The likelihood of military intervention rises as contending groups solicit support from the armed forces in order to achieve political power.

It was the army and the Securitate who were able to seize control and jail Ceausescu and prevent his escape attempt.  The newly formed counter-communist party needed the support of the military to defeat Ceausescu.  They had probably been planning the coup together with the military officers long before the actual coup took place.  (Again, due to the high degree of infiltration in all aspects of life, it is difficult to find any details or official plans today.  It is unlikely that any written plans will materialize.  Furthermore, the fear ingrained in the people by the strict dictatorship make them reluctant to share such information with the public.)

With these many factor already in place, it was nearly inevitable that a coup would take place in Romania.  The changing situations throughout Eastern Europe further escalated the tensions.  It was thus fitting that the first major outbreak of the revolution took place in Timisoara.  Situated close to the Yugoslavian and Hungarian border, the residents there were able to listen to the radio and here what was coming to pass in the other nations.  They heard about the toppling of the communist dynasties, and felt a desire for some of the same.  These internal consideration greatly escalated the demands of the people for liberal reforms.  The dictator, however, was unwilling to grant any of these desired reforms.  Thus the civilians began to team up with the military.  They knew that as long as the Ceausescu controlled the military, he would still be able to exert control over the nation as a whole, and quell any revolution.  Some demonstrators, however, must have known about the internal falls in the military.  The leadership had already realized that the support of Ceausescu was a lost cause.  They saw that he had little hope of continuing his reign, and thus they were willing to through their weight elsewhere in order to ensure that they (the officers) could continue in their position of responsibility.  The civilians were counting on these actions when they launched in to their demonstrations.  Had the military not decided to side with the civilians, the revolution would have ended right when it started.  However, due to the assistance of the military, the revolution was able to go forth, and the goals were able to be obtained.

Adherence to Protocol and Corporatism

The military has strong institutional beliefs and practices in effect at all times.  Even during the time of the revolution, the military continued to adhere to its chain of command and protocols.  One interesting case in point is the capture and execution of president Ceausescu.  The pilot of the helicopter continued to follow his reporting procedures, reporting his actions to his military base.  It is through these actions that the military was able to find and apprehend the dictator.  Furthermore, the military continued to use its procedures in the jailing, trial and execution of the former ruler of the country.  The officers followed there orders, and didn’t give the Ceausescus any special treatment.  The soldier continued to carry out their responsibilities just as if it was a routine operation.

Had the military structure been less well defined, anarchy may have broken out with the capture of the dictator.  He had used a great deal of personal control in dealing with the army.  Thus, with the loss of the principle leader, and the disintegration of the command structure, a non-corporate army would fall apart.  Corporatism is a key aspect of professionalism; members of a professional body are unified together.  Their extensive training allows them to share common interests.  Furthermore, the organization of this unified body allows them to be separated from common men.  Furthermore they can assure that all can use their professional competence only in ways to which it is suited.  The Romanian was a corporate entity organized under strict guidelines.  They would continue to exist and operate as a corporate unit even if the hierarchical organizational structure broke down.

When they finally captured the Ceausescus they continued to adhere to protocol.  They jailed him like any other captive.  Then, like all prisoners, he needed to stand trial.  Thus, with the aid of the civilians, they organized a tribunal and were able to try them in a ‘quasi-court’.  They were even appointed defense attorneys (who urged them to plead insanity).  Charges were brought up relating to the many killings that they had demanded and the money that they had stolen.  They were found guilty and then executed.  The military was content in having appeared to follow the law.  Though they failed to follow some basic principles (there must be a wait for an appeal of a death sentence before the execution takes place, among other things), they believed that they had continued to carry out their rules and regulations as they saw fit.  They were not guilty of employing any form of tyranny during this revolution.  Thus the Romanian military was able to retain its unity, Corporatism, and professionalism during the course of the coup and the installation of a new government.

Post-revolutionary military

The Romanian military underwent a series of changes after the revolution of 1989.  however, the changes in effect in Romania were not nearly as drastic as those that took place in many of the other Eastern European countries.  Because of the great deal of oppression and the informers in place in Romania, the people were reluctant to embrace the openness and liberality that was gradually instigated.  The initial ruling coalition was, in fact, made up in the most part by former communist party members. Ion Iliescu, the first elected leader of "free" Romania was once a high ranking communist party member.  However, he had had a fall out with the Ceausescu and the party a few years before the dramatic events of 1989.  He had probably been planning with military leaders to organize a coup long before the actual events transpired in Timisoara that escalated the implementation of the coup and the change of leadership.

The military had played a vital part in the organization and implementation of the coup, and they were rewarded accordingly.  Perhaps the most important action of the military was to turn against the counter-insurgency forces and fight with the demonstrators.  When the people saw that the military was fighting for their cause, they grew to support the military.  This was one of the greatest public relation moves that the military could instigate.  The military had good reason to fight with the masses.  The officers had already seen that supporting Ceausescu was a losing cause.  Since there was no leadership firmly established, they sought legitimacy through other means.  A legitimate military body is one that has the support of the state and the people.  When the nation as a whole views the military as being a representative of themselves, and a protector of the essential interests of their nation, the military has a greater degree of legitimacy.  With legitimacy, the military can more effectively carry out its missions and responsibilities to society.  Like a doctor must gain the respect of his clients, the military must gain respect of the nation.  If most of the patients of a doctor died, the doctor would have a great degree of difficult recruiting patients for experimental procedures.  However, if he has had a great deal of success in his previous operations, the patients will flock to him, and he will have the legitimacy needed to engage in the operations that he so desires.

During the revolution, the military was faced with the decision of whom to support.  They could chose to support the leader of the country even in his trying position.  However, who was the legitimate leader?   had a claim to legitimacy based on the atrocities committed by Ceausescu.  The dictator likewise had a legitimate claim to authority based on precedent and servitude based on the constitution.  The military’s decision, however, was made somewhat easier by Ceausescu’s actions.  His attempts to engage in a great deal of subjective control over the military caused them a great degree of alienation.  They desired to have their autonomy and be able to engage in their own decision making.  However, with subjective control of small day-to-day activities, the military could not have this control.  Ceausescu saw himself as an expert military officer.  The real officers, however, knew this was not true.  They had participated in the extensive training of military officers.  They had gained the knowledge and skills that would prepare them to participate in international conflicts in the most proper manner.  They had, too, been indoctrinated by Ceausescu as to the inherent goodness and strength of the dictator and his programs.  However, their experience and basic military training had also taught them that many of these pro-Ceausescu indoctrinations were contradictory.  How could a leader that appeared to violate basic principles of the professional military claim to be the ideal military leader?

With this degree of alienation with their leader, the military officer were more easily led to a partnership with the opposition.  They saw that the public was rallying against Ceausescu.  The decision had to be made as to whether they desired to serve the people or the leader whom they distrusted.  If they had been able to extract some concessions from the dictator, they might have remained loyal for a greater period of time.  However, the death of Milea sharply reduced the chances of any settlement.  Ceausescu was still ordinate an implementing direct control over the military.  Insubordination would not be tolerated.  The military thus saw the only solution being the disposition of Ceausescu and the implementation of a new leader.  The dictator, seemed to be unaware that he was fighting a losing cause.

The army thus fortified its position by fighting with the people, whom they saw as the winning cause.  Furthermore, by assisting in the execution of the dictator, the military separated themselves from the past atrocities and fortified their position in the new Romania.  As a body, the military wanted its autonomy.  They had no desire to rule the country.  They only wanted to rule themselves.

The new Romanian constitution further fortified this position.  Article 40 prevented the intervention of the army in politics.  In an election of 1992, however, the military apparently violated this principle:

According to Pro-Democracy (a civic body monitoring the conduct of the election that had been given formal observer status by the National Electoral Commission), ‘General Cheler made base accusations about the character of the Democratic Convention candidate, attempting to discredit him publicly in two articles in three local dailies, including the propaganda newssheet of the NSF’[12]

The uproar that this caused is indicative of many of the changes that had taken place and the strong position that the military had occupied after the revolution.  While students studying away from home are unable to vote in the elections in their college town, soldiers are able to vote in the local elections wherever they are stationed.  Furthermore, the military held a great deal of influence over the opinions and actions of the public.  The military was still seen as a prestigious organization that was due the respect of the public.

The career of General Cheler is also a good case study in the changes in the military organization after the revolution.  Cheler had started in the Romanian army, and had advanced a great deal under Ceausescu.  However, after failing to appease Ceausescu in some way (unbeknownst to the general), his advancement ground to a halt.  He was stuck in a virtual non-advancable quagmire, and saw a reduction of responsibilities and position from 1984 until 1989.  After the revolution, however, he was installed in the position that he deserved.  He finally had a key responsibility due to him to his expertise and experience.  immediately after being promoted, he moved to strengthen his position and solidify his control. He adopted a policy of extreme nationalism.  Romanians have historically been a nationalist bunch, and this nationalist rhetoric would help him to gain supporters.  However, his own interpretation of nationalist responsibility was even greater than that shared by other Romanians.  He quickly moved to indict Hungarian paramilitary groups drilling in the west.

This attack on ‘foreigners’ performing actions in their own homeland serves to help unite the Romanian people.  After a revolution, it is often difficult to solidify power and obtain legitimacy.  However, when the nation as a whole has a common enemy this process of unification is eased.  Initially, the nation was fighting against the common enemy of Ceausescu.  After his tyrannies were eliminated, the army needed a scapegoat to focus its energies and rhetoric.  Thus the army launched a rhetorical assault of the foreigners within the homeland.  With all the nation unified against the common enemy, the military had no trouble reaching a consensus in its public support throughout the nation.  Furthermore, the general’s rhetoric against the non-nationalist candidate was a continuation of his nationalism.  Anyone who attempt to undermine the Romanian dominance in the state of Romania was obviously an enemy of the country and must not be allowed to succeed.

The Future of Romania’s Military

The post-revolutionary Romanian military has enjoyed a history of strong public support.  The people have seen the military as a protectorate of the country.  They were instigators of the revolution that led to freedom from Ceausescu’s tyranny.  However, the strong nationalism adopted by the military will be one of the factors that will lead to its downfall.  The military has been heavily supported by the Party of Social Democracy.  This party was formed by many ex-communists, and has continued in many of the communist traditions.  However, in the most recent elections (November 1996), the party has lost its majority hold to Democratic Convention.[13]  This changing of the guard will surely signify major changes in the structure of the military.  Like the Party of Social Democracy, the military is controlled by people who have done their time and learned the system under the communist regime.  They have been strong nationalists, and reluctant to adopt liberal reforms.  However, with the economy faltering, the people are searching for a solution.  The ex-communists have become a scapegoat, and the new democrats are seen as the people with a solution.  The military must adapt to these desires of the people or it will fall victim to the same forces that have befallen the government.  It must back down from its strong nationalism and admit a further number of young officers who have never served the communist party.  However, these changes will be very difficult for the military to implement.  The military has always been very nationalist (even to the extent of supporting fascism in World War II.)  The minor excursions in to the political realm have also caused a reduction in the public support for the military.  Furthermore, with the adoption of liberalism, the country will have a lesser degree of support for the military.  Liberalism is s typically anti-military ideology, as opposed to conservatism, an ideology that tends to share interests in direct agreement with the military ethic.


The Romanian military has undergone a great deal of change in the past fifty years.  From the end of fascism through communism, conservatism, and liberalism, the military has endured the spectrum of possible ideologies.  even under subjective control of the dictator Ceausescu and the communist party, the military still held on to a great deal of professionalism.  The military has had a limited influence in the political affairs of the country, and accordingly has been able to maintain its position.  During the years of communist control, the actions of the military were often regulated by the events in Russia.  The leaders of Romania would use the military as a pawn to appease or displease the Russians.  The military thus had to engage in a variety of events that were not in its own interest.  Thus, the military soon sought for its own freedom and autonomy. By carefully choosing its sides, and remaining loyal to its military principles, the military was able to enjoy a great deal of public support following the revolution of 1989.  By following first its military ethic in spite of apparent contradictions with the goals of the ruling regime, the military was able to achieve a greater position of strength.  The military did not enjoy being under subjective control and thus was willing to do what was necessary to improve its autonomy.  Furthermore, many of the characteristics demanding military intervention in politics were already in place.  The military, however, has been excessively nationalistic, and this will lead to a reduction in the civil-military relationships.  As the leadership of the country changes from a more conservative to a more liberal ideology, the conflict between the military and the people may increase, possibly (though not likely) leading to further military intervention in the political affairs of the country.  More likely, the military will undergo an organizational change as the old hardliners retire to make room for newer, younger officers.


Antal, Dan. Out of Romania. London: Faber and Faber.1994.

Behr, Edward.  Kiss the Hand You Cannot Bite The Rise and Fall of the Ceausescus.  New York:  Villard Books. 1991.

Braun, Aurel.  Romanian Foreign Policy Since 1965: The Political and Military Limits of Autonomy. New York: Praeger. 1978.

Eisenberg, Jewlia and Trapp, Maggia. Eastern Europe with the Baltic Republics, 3rd edition.1996. New York: Random House.p. 476.

Gallagher, Tom.  Romania After Ceausescu The Politics of Intolerance.  Edinburgh, Scottland: Edinburgh University Press.  1995.

Georgescu, Vlad, Editor.  Romania: 40 Years (1944-1984).  New York: Praeger.  1985.

Huntington, Samuel P.  The Soldier and the State: Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.  1957,

Janowitz, Morris. Civil‑military relations : regional perspectives. Beverly Hills, Calif. : Sage. 1981.

Ratesh, Nestor.  Romania: The Entangled Revolution.  New York: Praeger.  1991.

Wingrove, David.  "With or Without You: Can the New Government Save the Romanian Economy."  Romanian Press Review.  November 27, 1996.

[1]Huntington, Samuel P.  Soldier and the State.Cambridge, MA: Balknap/Harvard.  1957

[2]Ibid, p. 81

[3]Janowitz, p. 81

[4]Huntington, p. 78

[5]Braun, Aurel.  Romanian Foreign Policy Since 1965: The Political and Military Limits of Autonomy.  New York: Praeger. 1978. p. 78.

[6]Braun. P. 88.

[7]Janowitz, p. 146

[8]Eisenberg, Jewlia and Trapp, Maggia.  Eastern Europe wit the Baltic Republics, 3rd edition.  1996.  New York: Random House.  p. 476.

[9]Behr, Edward.  Kiss the Hand You Cannot Bite.  New York: Villard Books.  1991.  pp. 29-31.

[10]Behr, Ibid.  p. 5.

[11]Welch, C.E. and Smith, A. K.  Military Role and Rule. Duxbury Press (Wadsworth Publishing Company).  1974.  p. 1-52.

[12]Gallagher, p. 166.

[13]Wingrove, David.  "With or Without You: Can the New Government Save the Romanian Economy."  Romanian Press Review.  November 27, 1996.