30 years since the Romanian Revolution, commemoration events in Timisoara where the anti-communist uprising started

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Romania is marking these days 30 years since the fall of the communist regime and since the bloody days of the Romanian anti-communist Revolution. The spark of the riot that led to the toppling down of the Ceausescu’s regime began in Timisoara, western Romania on December 16 through December 20, 1989, while December 21 became the first day of the Bucharest Revolution.

A memorial service to commemorate martyrs of the December 1989 Revolution took place on Monday at the Metropolitan Orthodox Cathedral in Timisoara, with President Klaus Iohannis attending the event, the moment of silence and lighting of the “Immortality Candles” at the Romanian National Opera and he also laid a wreath at the Heroes Monument in Timisoara.

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During the speech delivered at the Romanian National Opera of Timisoara, President Iohannis said that denying the existence of an anti-communist revolution in Romania of 1989 represents “a shameful act of denying the huge human sacrifice.”

The head of state reminded that, 30 years ago, it was in Timisoara, that the communist regime was defeated for the first time and “the first sign of liberty was given.”

Three decades ago, the people from Timisoara, led by noble feelings of solidarity and courage, lit the spark of the Revolution. After a long period of time, almost 45 years under a totalitarian regime, our nation started to  break free. The weak flames of the candles lit by the locals in the Maria Square, in protesting against an abuse of the repressive authorities, planted the seed of revolt. In the next hours and days, a lot of blood was shed on the streets of Timisoara, in the name of freedom and democracy. The blood of our fellow citizens! For the first time, people started to said aloud what their conscience dictated them to say, believing that the bullets cannot kill their ideals or break their dreams,” President Iohannis said.

He pointed out that Timisoara ceased to be just a city 30 years ago, when it became a symbol – “the living and undeniable spirit of our much dreamed freedom.”

“United by only one goal, the people from Timisoara had the courage to fight for the freedom of our nation. Their courage came from the need for dignity of a nation that was held captive in the totalitarian darkness by an anti-Romanian communist regime, illegitimate and criminal (…).”

The correct assumption of the facts of the December 1989 revolution, as well as the public condemnation of the crimes of communism represent extremely important steps in defending the memory of our heroes, as well as for preventing some mean disguises of those taking advantage of the passage of time and implicitly of the collective memory dilution. Saying today that in Romania of 1989 there wasn’t an anti-communist revolution is a shameful act of the huge human sacrifice,” Iohannis further underlined.

People were dying mowed down by bullets on the stairs of the Metropolitan Cathedral in Timisoara on December 18, 1989, after the army started to shoot at the youngsters who took the streets to voice their outrage against the communist dictatorship.

The anti-communist Revolution started in Timisoara, where “Down with Ceausescu” slogan was heard for the first time on December 16, 1989.

All started with the communist authorities’ attempt to transfer the Magyar reformed bishop Laszlo Tokes from his post and to evict him from his church flat. On 15 December, a human chain was formed around the block where Tokes was living. The pastor thanked the crowd for support but advised them to leave, and yet several hundred stayed in groups close to the flat. Demonstrations continued the next two days. On Sunday, 17 December, the army fired into the crowd and tens of people were reportedly dead. On 18 December, tens of thousands of industrial workers in Timisoara peacefully took up the protest; by 20 December the city was effectively in insurrection.

December 18 was also the day when tens of bodies were stolen from the morgue in Timisoara and taken to Bucharest and cremated, with the ash being thrown in the sewage. It was called the “Rose” operation, with local military and political leaders from Timisoara being involved.

The protesters’ repression in Timisora had started a day ago, but it continued on December 18. Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s wife, Elena Ceausescu ordered that 40 (43 other sources claim) bodies should be cremated in Bucharest.

Events sum up

  • December 19, 1989. Mass protests in Timisoara, the army deployed in garrisons.
  • December 20, 1989. The revolutionists get out on the Opera’s balcony, declaring Timisoara the first city released from the communist regime.
  • December 21, 1989. Bucharesters took the streets as well, shouting “Down with Ceausescu!”, “Freedom!”. Blockade set up downtown the capital, in front of the famous “Intercontinental” Hotel. First dead reported in Bucharest.
  • December 22, 1989. The National Salvation Front founded, with Ion Iliescu on the council’s list.
  • December 23, 1989. The fight with the alleged” terrorists escalates. Hundreds of innocent people, mostly youngsters, die.
  • December 24, 1989. Dictator Ceausescu’s fate is sealed. Ion Iliescu signs the foundation of the Exceptional Military Tribunal that sentences the Ceausescus to death.
  • December 25, 1989. Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu are shot.
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