Inside the Securitate Archives

A review of the current state of the archives of the Romanian Securitate by Lavinia Stan.

Mar 04, 2005

The Securitate archive remains the subject of much controversy, where fact and supposition, myth and reality, condemnation and approval, shame and pride blend together in a strange mix. Fifteen years after the collapse of President Nicolae Ceausescu's sultanism-cum-totalitarianism, there are only a handful of English-language books and articles detailing the activity of the notorious Securitate, the Romanian communist secret political police, the panoply of repressive methods it employed, and the archive of documents it diligently produced.[1] In two pioneering volumes, historian Dennis Deletant (1995 and 2000) detailed the Securitate's structure, methods and relationship with the Communist Party under Ceausescu and his predecessor, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej. Historians Marius Oprea and Stejarel Olaru (2003) explored one of the few instances of collective opposition toward the Ceausescu regime with the help of Securitate documents and interviews with participants in the Brasov workers' uprising of 15 November 1987. In a series of recent articles, this author (2000, 2002 and 2004) detailed the political negotiations preceding the adoption of legislation that gave Romanians access to a limited number of Securitate files, the provisions of the so-called "Ticu law," and the factors explaining Romania's delayed transitional justice process. In separate articles, Deletant (2001), Larry L. Watts (2004) and Stan (2004) presented post-communist Romania's information services and their relation to the communist political police. Shorter articles were signed by Mihai Sturdza (1990), Michael Shafir (1993) as well as Dan Ionescu (1994 and 1995).[2]

While all these English-language authors have talked about the role of the political police and its archive in the communist political system of terror, none has drawn an exact picture of the contents of this elusive collection of documents, mostly because few had direct access to the archive and because the information on specific Securitate documents that surfaced to date in Romania has been some times contradictory and other times inexact and unequal. Moreover, the general public and these researchers alike have seemingly worked with the implicit assumption that once the entire archive becomes publicly available many of Romania's transitional justice problems (chief among them being the identification of the victims and victimizers of communist repression and the nature of the crimes committed) will be solved. Faced with the obstinate refusal of the successor secret services to open up the archive and disclose even the most basic information about the Securitate, the public has perceived the problem of the Securitate archive as being primarily quantitative, ignoring the issue of the quality of the documents, and the degree to which they reflected reality. It is this oversight that this article tries to address.

Based on primary Romanian language sources, personal interviews with members of the National Council for the Study of Securitate Archive, the Romanian Information Service and the Romanian Association of Former Political Prisoners, and my own direct observations collected during a summer 2004 visit to the communist political police archives in Bucharest, this article offers a picture of the Securitate archive in terms of the number and types of the full-time agents and part-time informers that compiled it, the reasons for starting and ending collaboration, and the most notable material that was seemingly lost, destroyed or never produced, providing concrete examples of the different types of archival documents that can be found in various collections. Some of the reports, notes and analyses described below refer to real victims and spies, and were the subject of much public scrutiny in Romania, often exposing informers to public condemnation and occasionally putting an untimely end to their political careers. The files compiled on the activity of other Romanians likely offer significantly different details, but the types of documents generally remain unchanged across files, although some files might have more and other files fewer documents of one particular type.

While the present article discusses the more technical aspects of the Securitate archive, it should be remembered that the totality of repression in communist Romania was greater than the sum of individual cases the Securitate worked on. The political police, moreover, never admitted to being a repressive apparatus bent on destroying opposition to the communist regime, and instead insisted that it honestly and thoroughly sought to defend the state's security interests in the face of domestic and foreign agents threatening Romania's independence and sovereignty. Reading the Securitate files today cannot be done without contextualizing the information and remembering the wooden language the communist regimes used to give a veneer of legitimacy to their most atrocious human rights violations. For some readers the very existence of a trail of documents testifies to the fact that the political police was a law-abiding structure that sought to be productive, efficient, and correct. The problem, they claim, lies not with the political police, but with the repressive, unjust, discriminatory and abusive communist legislation. It is also true that transparency and accountability were never among the goals of the political police, which occasionally even the Communist Party had difficulty to control, although the secret police was created as the party's repressive tool.

Readers familiar with the East German Stasi should note that the Romanian and East German communist secret police conducted similar recruitment, surveillance and data gathering activities, but the archives they left behind have met with different destinies. Whereas the Stasi archive was taken over by the so-called Gauck Agency (the Agency of the Federal Commissioner for Documents of the State Security Police of the former German Democratic Republic, often referred to by the name of its first head, former East German pastor Joachim Gauck) soon after the collapse of the communist regime of Erich Honecker and was made available to the public almost in its entirety (with many of the shredded files painstakingly reconstituted), the Securitate archive remains scattered across several state agencies, a large part of it is unavailable to the public, and many Romanians believe that since 1989 the archive in its entirety has been altered beyond recognition by unnamed individuals close to the country's successive governments. As such, many issues that in the case of the Stasi are certitudes remain at best crude estimates in the case of Securitate.

The Securitate Information Network

The Securitate was set up in 1948 by the communist regime as a Soviet-style secret political police entrusted with the task of eliminating opponents in order to consolidate power, ensuring compliance to the regime and its leader, as well as shaping public sentiment and gaining acceptance for public policies. The structure had two main departments, charged with conducting operations within and outside the country, respectively. Over the years, the Securitate's methods, goals and personnel changed. While from 1948 to 1964 uneducated and brutal officers engaged in summary executions, illegal house arrests, imprisonment and deportations, after Ceausescu became the country's ruler the Securitate preferred a more subtle control of the population that no longer aimed to physically annihilate dissenters but instead publicly discredited them or encouraged them to emigrate.

The political police employed some 14,000 full-time agents and 400,000-700,000 part-time informers selected from all walks of life. Official figures suggest that on 22 December 1989 the Securitate had 13,275 officers and 984 civilian personnel, but the figures fail to mention the percentage of Securitate troops engaged in counter-espionage activities conducted outside the country.[3] The number of full-time agents varied over the years, according to the needs of the political police. On 11 February 1948 there were 3,549 employees, of whom 64 percent were workers, 4 percent peasants, 2 percent intellectuals and 28 percent clerks. Eight years later the Securitate troops reached 72,697, including 7,865 officers, 5,306 sergeants, 1,565 civilians and 57,961 high school graduates drafted for up to a year and a half long military service. In April 1977 the Securitate boasted a total of 20,297 agents at the rank of army officers, of whom 13,397 were engaged in permanent missions and 6,900 could be drafted for occasional special missions, while six years later it included 1,389 officers, 968 sub-officers, 574 civilians and 20,459 young recruits—young men who just finished high-school or university and were neither Securitate civilians, nor officers—to a grand total of 23,381 individuals.[4] Some 90 percent of Securitate agents were Communist Party members.[5] According to documents Constantin ("Ticu") Dumitrescu obtained in 1993, the political police had 507,003 informers, but archival evidence confirmed the involvement of only 486,000. Of these 29,613 were Nazi sympathizers, 10,367 members of the inter-war Peasant and Liberal Parties, and 2,753 former political prisoners. Demographically, 241,932 were sixty and older, 145,294 between forty and sixty, 81,572 between thirty and forty, and 17,995 under thirty years of age. The number of active informers fluctuated over time, depending on the domestic and international political situation, but steadily increased from 73,000 in 1968 to 144,289 in 1989. Following an undated socio-economic analysis of 3,007 new informers, 39 percent had university and 37 percent had high school education, 18 percent were engineers and researchers, 17 percent were professionals, 19 percent were public servants, and 32 percent army officers, workers or peasants.[6]

The agents, graduates of the Baneasa Securitate Officers Training School, could have their identity covered, partially covered or fully covered, with the former being the highest position in the political police ranks. Some agents worked in counterintelligence, but the majority of political police officers were engaged in domestic repression and surveillance. Agents recruited and monitored the activity of the informers, identified targets (victims), gathered and analyzed data and reports received from informers, designed strategies to collect additional information, intimidate victims, tighten surveillance, preempt information leaking and keep informers loyal, reported results of their investigations to their superiors and reevaluated their plans of action in light of received feedback. As a communist institution, the Securitate was handed down quantitative plan targets from the party leadership, targets it did its best to fulfill, even when unrealistic.[7] While occasionally engaged in counter-terrorist actions, the investigation of economic crime and the protection of national state security, the Securitate remained a political police whose primary role was to quash dissent and opposition to the country's communist leaders, ideology and policies.

The most important cleavage dividing the informer network related to party membership, with party members working for the political police being known as "collaborators" and non-party members being labeled as "informers," a difference not necessarily translated in the kind of information the two groups provided. As communism matured, the Communist Party took greater care to hide both the identity and the collaboration of party members turned Securitate informers. While analyzing the activity of the Ministry of Interior, the Central Committee of the Communist Party decided during its June 1967 and April 1968 meetings that the Securitate would no longer create personal files for party members supporting the political police and the militia, and would no longer be allowed to use nomenclatura members and individuals elected to party and state leadership positions. As a result, the Securitate was asked to collect and destroy all of the pre-1967 files and cards referring to individuals who meanwhile joined the Communist Party. After 1968, archived Securitate documents referring to informers turned party members were destroyed, an operation laconically noted in special memos kept by the political police. In 1998, Romanian Information Service deputy director Mircea Gheordunescu declared that by 1974 some 230,000 files and attached folders of party members had been destroyed.[8] These decisions did not apply to documents on informers who were not party members, whose ties to the political police were not so well guarded.

Another cleavage dividing the informer network was represented by the services provided to the political police, and distinguished between informers (informatori), supporting individuals (persoane de sprijin), residents (rezidenti) and hosts of meeting places (gazde ale caselor de intilniri). The 1987 top secret "Instructions on Setting Up and Using the Securitate Informer Network" explained the difference between these four categories.[9] Informers were individuals who could offer relevant information and, under the guidance of the Securitate officer, actively sought and collected data on specific persons, deeds and events (Article 5). Supporting individuals monitored, pursued, harassed, investigated, spied and reported on individual citizens, in accordance with specific instructions received from the political police agent (Article 6). Residents were trusted individuals who, under the supervision of the Securitate officer, maintained regular and secret contact with up to 30 supporting individuals in order to collect information from them and transmit it to the officer (Article 44). In exceptional cases, the resident facilitated the relationship between informers and agents. Residents were selected from among retired Securitate agents, informers or experienced supporting individuals, but not from those recruited through blackmail or with known anticommunist opinions, whose loyalty to the political police was hard to sustain (Article 7). The hosts were individuals who accepted to make a room of their house, apartment or workplace available for the Securitate to organize secret meetings between officers and informers, support individuals or residents. A meeting place could be used by only one agent (Article 8). With the information available to date, it is impossible to estimate the percentage of each one of these categories in the total Securitate network.

The Instructions further detailed the stages of the recruitment process, which included 1) ranking, verifying and analyzing potential candidates, 2) selecting the candidate, 3) designing the recruitment plan, and 4) recruiting (Article 10). Selected for their positive opinion on the communist regime, quality of the information they could provide, and openness to collaborate candidly and secretly, candidates were recruited for different specific intelligence projects (Articles 11-12). The recruitment strategy had to be detailed in a report drafted by the agent and approved by the agent's superiors (Article 15). The instructions told agents what to do in case collaboration was accepted, but remained silent on cases when candidates refused to collaborate. Informers were contacted by the agent or resident at least once a month, and were instructed on ways to pass urgent information to the political police between the meetings by way of conspiratorial addresses, hidden places, postal boxes or codes for sending data in writing or by phone (Article 27). Agents and residents met with informers secretly in pre-designated meeting places or other secure areas (Articles 28-29). Securitate agents had to meet at least twice a year with supporting individuals who usually provided information to the residents (Article 30). After recruitment, information network members were continuously verified by the agent to ensure their loyalty (Articles 31-33).

The reasons why citizens became victims of or decided to collaborate with the political police varied over the years. During the 1950s, when the communist regime tried to assert its monopoly of political power over the country and root out opposition from inter-war political parties and anti-communist resistance groups the main criteria were social class and status, political involvement and even descent. Inter-war state dignitaries and their relatives, leaders of political parties and movements, revolting peasants, their families and those who assisted them in any way were targeted. The 1960s witnessed a relative thaw when tens of thousands of political prisoners were allowed to come back home, but by 1971 Ceausescu had launched his cultural revolution and personality cult, followed by a massive crackdown on individual and organized active resistance. Telling a simple joke that mocked Ceausescu or his wife Elena became a good enough reason for Securitate to start monitoring an individual. The Minister of Interior Order 001050 of 25 May 1977 listed "individuals under information surveillance, information network members, former political prisoners, individuals condemned for security crimes or subject to prevention actions (dissolving groups, warning, public analysis, prematurely ending their visit to Romania), individuals refusing to return from abroad, trying to cross the border illegally or seeking permission to emigrate or marry foreign citizens, foreign citizens visiting Romanian embassies in a non-official capacity, Romanians maintaining unofficial ties to foreigners, and foreigners living in Romania" as categories the political police was interested in.[10]

Pop musician and interpret Cezar Grigoriu became a target in 1960 for dating Constantina (‘Tanti') Gheorghiu, the youngest daughter of communist leader Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, who probably considered the musician an unworthy suitor. Grigoriu described his experiences with the secret police:
Around midnight, on my way back home from a show, in front of the Izvorul Rece restaurant I was taken from the street by three plain-cloth[es] individuals who forced me to wear tin glasses, pushed me into a black car and drove me away…I asked what'll happen to me, and in reply I received punches and curses and was told that I'm not allowed to talk…I was forced into a room, in a chair, the glasses were taken off. I saw two civilians, a sub-lieutenant…and a woman platoon commander. They ordered me to strip. Then I was introduced in a cell…I was alone. Every ten minutes the sub-lieutenant opened the door, kicked me, ordering me to turn my face to the door. In the morning, with the tin glasses on I was led to an office…There, behind a desk there was a civilian of 45-50 years old, dark haired, prominent hair loss, with the head turned a little to the side. He was Colonel Izidor Holingher [then the Securitate Counter-espionage Department head]. He asked me if I worked for the Americans or the Brits…kicked and cursed me, and ordered another civilian to take me where I'll have time to think. Again I was brought to the cell. That night I was taken out in the car, and on Olari street they took my tin glasses off. Once there, the one who asked me who I worked for again kicked, cursed and ordered me to tell no one what just happened.[11]

The reasons why individuals accepted collaboration with the political police differed widely. For some it was misplaced patriotism or the genuine desire to help their country, which they believed was threatened by domestic and foreign agents working to destroy its independence and sovereignty. For others it was financial reward, permission to travel abroad, university entrance for their off-springs, the promise of moving from rural to urban areas, or the desire to speed up their career and obtain leadership positions in their work field. Still others did it for revenge, to get back to old enemies by reporting true and often false information about them. Securitate records claimed that 97 percent of informers were recruited voluntarily because of their "political and patriotic sentiment," 1.5 percent through offers of financial compensation, and 1.5 percent through blackmail with compromising evidence. Fear motivated many citizens, who believed that the all-powerful Securitate would not accept refusal, an intuition not far from reality, since the political police automatically placed individuals refusing collaboration under surveillance. Agents did not take refusal lightly but saw it as a personal defeat that had to be swiftly avenged. In his memoirs, World War II veteran George Marzanca revealed that in March 1952 the Securitate officer Nicolae Popa tried to recruit him as an informer. His refusal prompted Popa to enter Marzanca's name on the Securitate's black list. Within a month the army officer was arrested, interrogated and condemned to four years jail time for crimes he did not commit. When realizing the mistake of Marzanca's arrest, the Securitate captain Sarbu told him "you had the misfortune of being included on the black list as a dangerous element by our intelligence agent, and even if this was a mistake we cannot do anything in your case."[12]

A special category involved individuals who accepted collaboration out of blackmail, mostly former political prisoners wishing to redeem their past mistakes and endear themselves with the new communist regime. Former political prisoner Cezar Zugravu described four successive attempts to recruit him, and the agents' sweeping promises, which were too good to ever become reality. In 1960, Colonel Alexoaie of the Barlad Securitate office told Zugravu:

This work [as an informer] would be advantageous for you and your entire family. We don't ask anything for free, you'll be rewarded. First, we'll bury your file as a political prisoner. You'll be promoted, even up to the position of director general. Your currently unemployed wife would become a teacher. Your grown-up children would enter university. All of you'll travel abroad. You'll have money, another wage, is this bad? And a number of other advantages. Within the Securitate you'll have friends, not enemies. And if everything will go smoothly and the [communist] party will be satisfied with you, you might even be allowed to join it.[13]

The nature of the collaboration ran the gamut, although political police agents were instructed to recruit thoroughly verified individuals who "accepted to collaborate candidly, secretly and in an organized manner with the Securitate organs."[14] Some informers gave very few short reports that included trivial information they believed was not detrimental to victims. Taking no pleasure in reporting, realizing the unethical nature of their collaboration, and helping themselves more than the Securitate, these informers kept the meetings with the liaison officer or resident short, and refrained from passing judgment on the victim's activity. These cases, however, tended to be isolated, since the Securitate agents -- themselves under pressure to collect relevant information from as many sources as possible – either terminated the relationship or encouraged the informer to raise the quality of the data provided. Other informers relished in their new role, writing long, detailed reports of everything they saw and heard in the company of the victim, offering their own interpretation of events and even designing strategies to obtain additional information and penetrate even further into the victim's inner space. Informers included in the so-called Atlas program (professionals attending conferences abroad, medical doctors and scientists studying abroad, ordinary citizens visiting their emigrated relatives) gave reports each time they returned to the country as a condition to being allowed to travel abroad in the future. These reports presented the individuals with whom the informers met, the events they attended and the places they visited, and other people's remarks on Romania's economic and political situation, the activity of its leaders, and the country's domestic and foreign policies. Such reports were important for the data they provided on members of the Romanian groups traveling abroad and the political opinions and activity of the Romanian diaspora.

Equally varied were the reasons why informers ceased their activity, besides death or illegal emigration. Securitate agents were instructed to cease collaboration with individuals with criminal record, individuals who did not collaborate loyally and individuals who made their ties to the political police known, but when and how collaboration was terminated depended on the agent more than the informer. In some instances collaboration ended rather abruptly, when the informer died, emigrated or insisted to cut links to the agent. In these two latter cases, the informer rapidly joined the ranks of the victims he once spied upon and was placed under surveillance. In other cases collaboration continued over a number of years without having real substance, when the informer provided trivial reports at increasingly longer intervals. In these cases, it was the agent who put an end to collaboration, convinced that the informer could no longer supply relevant data. While not studied to date, the personal chemistry between agents and informers should not be discounted as a factor in pursuing or terminating such relationships.

The multifaceted activity of the political police was reflected in the trail of documents it produced until December 1989, which together constitute the Securitate archive. Only a fraction of the archive is extant, and only a fraction of the extant archive is currently available to the public through the National Council, its legal custodian.[15] The Council was set up in year 2000 as the state agency giving Romanians access to their own Securitate files, establishing an individual's involvement with the secret political police, and publicly identifying post-communist politicians with a tainted past. Some 60 percent of the Securitate archive is housed with the Romanian Information Service in large warehouses situated in military units located in Bucharest and the counties, relates to domestic repression and remains out of the public's reach. The documents reporting on the Securitate's counterintelligence activities abroad are housed by the Romanian External Service and are currently unavailable to the public. Set up in March 1990 through an unpublished presidential decree, the Information Service inherited the Securitate archive, buildings, assets and technical equipment, and a number of agents and informers. In the early 1990s, the Service announced that the Securitate archive totaled 35 kilometers of documents, of which 25 were victim files, 4 were informer files and 6 were attached folders, but local historians and former political prisoners disputed the numbers, pointing out that the Stasi archive totaled 188 kilometers for a population of 14.5 million (compared to Romania's 23 million inhabitants). Every meter of archive contains some 5,000 documents, and every file is on average 200 pages in length.[16] In 2004 the Service reaffirmed its willingness to give the Council 12 kilometers of Securitate archival material that did not relate to national security issues once the Council revamped a newly acquired storage space in the town of Popesti-Leordeni, Arges county, some 80 kilometers far from Bucharest. Since 1989, a number of secret documents and Securitate files appeared on the Bucharest black market, where they could be bought by politicians and business people eager to destroy the career of their opponents.

The Securitate Archive

Romanian Governmental Decree No. 50 of 30 March 1951 set up the Securitate Evidence Service, known as Direction C in Bucharest and Service C in the territory. Its 267 employees set up a complete and user-friendly system identifying individuals pursued by the Securitate, and received, registered and classified the files opened for such individuals. On 10 September 1971, Direction C was replaced by the Center for Information and Documentation, which remained active until December 1989 and included, besides the archive and the card system, the Center for Computerized Data Analysis, the Information and Documentation Office, the Microfiche Department and the Analysis and Synthesis General Service. According to the Securitate guidelines, the Center 1) studied, examined and synthesized materials revealing the forms, methods and means the enemy used against state security, 2) studied, examined and generalized the actions and methods the Securitate used against the enemy, 3) organized the card system that allowed names of individuals to be matched with corresponding files, 4) received and registered archival documents, 5) provided data, copies and photocopies of original documents to the Securitate, militia, Procuratura, courts and other state organs, and 6) registered, organized and conserved the Securitate archives.[17] After the Center acquired the best IBM computers and asked Stasi engineers to install them, the Securitate became the first Romanian institution to use high-performance large-capacity computerized systems.[18]

The Securitate archive contained several types of documents. Information surveillance files (dosare de urmarire informative or DUI), bearing the name of the victim, included one or several bound volumes of 300 to 400 pages each assigned a unique number. Gathering notes, reports, syntheses, photographs and addresses of individuals monitored by the Securitate, these files were opened for special cases that had to be solved within a year. Information network files (dosare ale retelei informative), bearing the name or the nickname of the informer, included one or several volumes usually accompanied by attached folders (mape-anexa) containing all the written reports the informer supplied to the political police. Criminal investigation files (dosare de ancheta penala) were opened for crimes against national security, as defined by the communist legislation. There were strict regulations – not always observed - on when, who and how to open and close these files, which documents to attach in what order.[19]

Case files (dosare de problema) gathered information on target groups, not individuals, the political police viewed as important or problematic from an intelligence viewpoint. Case files could be opened only with the approval of the Securitate top leader, and were closed when the issue at hand was no longer interesting or the political police had solved the case. Individuals monitored as part of these larger cases had informative verification folders (mape de verificare informativa), which were closed and archived when the Securitate considered that the persons no longer posed a threat to the communist regime.[20] For example, a journalist traveling to Romania was placed under surveillance for his period of stay, and information was collected in a personal file attached to the "Foreign Journalists" case file. If the journalist manifested a "hostile attitude" toward the communist regime by making critical remarks or writing unfavorable reports, then a personal information file (DUI) was opened for him. Among the case files the National Council received from the Information Service were the files on "Arts and Culture" (detailing the activities and political positions of writers and artists, 78 volumes of 26,972 pages), "Bourgeois Political Parties" (on the inter-war Liberal and Peasant Parties, 177 volumes), "Anticommunist Resistance Movement" (on the resistance groups that remained active in mountainous areas during the first decade of communism, 300 volumes), "Eterul" and "Melita" (code names for the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 55 volumes), “Central Press” (19 volumes), “Religious Cults and Sects” (on religious life under communism, 56 volumes), Transcendental Meditation (on the 1980s spiritual movement, 4 volumes), and Cooperativization of Agriculture (on the transformation of pre-communist private farms into large cooperatives, 31 volumes).[21]

All documents included in nominal victim or informer files were bound together in standardized carton covers, with the front cover bearing the victim’s or informer’s alias which became the file’s name. Sometimes the front page bore the conspiratorial alias the informer assumed, but in case the same person acted during two different periods under two different aliases the two resulting informer volumes were classified as a single file. Once archived, each single or multivolume bound file was preserved in carton boxes bearing the number code corresponding to the card system. Part of the archive was lost because before 1970s documents were deposited in precarious conditions in dusty, dirty, humid and overcrowded rooms or even prison cells. The Bucharest warehouse I visited stored around 800 meters of archive the Romanian Information Service used to train archivists, included six vertical rows of carton boxes marked “Operative Archive,” and could be accessed only with two keys entrusted to two different persons. The warehouse was located in a permanently guarded military unit that could be accessed only with special permit.

The Securitate confiscated and archived a number of manuscripts in an effort to stop their publication and distribution. Until 1989, some 110,000 pages of manuscript were confiscated in surprise searches carried out in the homes of philosophers, writers, former political prisoners or ordinary citizens who confided their dissatisfaction with everyday life in Romania to personal diaries. Among those who lost manuscripts were philosopher Lucian Blaga, poet Ion Caraion and pre-communist political party leader Constantin Titel Petrescu. After 2000, the Information Service published the list of authors whose manuscripts were found in the Securitate archives for the authors’ descendants to reclaim the writings. By March 2004, only 37 individuals had asked for manuscripts, receiving a total of around 50,000 pages. The remaining 60,000 pages belonging to some 105 individuals (including Orthodox priest Gheorghe Calciu-Dumitreasa, monk Nicolae Steinhard, theologian Dumitru Staniloae, poets Virgil Carianopol and Vasile Voiculescu, literary critics Ion Negoitescu and Ovidiu Papadima, folklorist Ovid Densusianu, former political prisoners Paul Goma and Marcel Petrisor, writer Petre Tutea, pre-communist politicians Ion Puiu, and engineer Gheorghe Ursu) were transferred to the National Council, and are now available to researchers on request.

The card system (called the General Documentary Card System) was located in Bucharest and included alphabetically-organized cards listing the names of all individuals with personal Securitate files. The card system included the names of all individuals the Securitate monitored, persons sentenced for crimes against state security, members of the inter-war fascist Iron Guard, members of the pre-communist political parties and their youth organizations, pre-communist state dignitaries, members of Parliament and government, prefects and deputy prefects, leaders and agents of the pre-communist civilian and military information services, pre-communist army officers with anticommunist activity, individuals who legally or illegally left Romania, persons known for their critical stance against Ceausescu and his family, the party, the ideology and the general situation in Romania, and foreign travelers to Romania whom Securitate pursued. Case files and any files that pertained to groups not individuals were not included in the card system, which was strictly nominal. Each informer card specified the person’s name, parents’ names, birth date and place, nationality, citizenship, political membership, education, occupation, known foreign languages, position and workplace, date of recruitment and name of recruiting officer, contact officer, conspiratorial name and category.[22] Most of this information was found in victim cards. The card system was used manually by specially trained Securitate agents, each responsible for two to three letters of the alphabet and forbidden to search in the rest of the archive. The card system became too large to serve its purpose of easy reference when it was decided to fill in cards for possible variants of the names with a file. For example, when the card for file “Stan” was received, the personnel created additional cards for “Stana,” “Stancu,” and “Stanca.”

The archive in its entirety was grouped in collections or fonds (fonduri). The operative or information collection (fondul operativ sau informativ) consisted of the victims’ operative surveillance files and the pre-communist information service archives. The oldest extant documents in the Securitate archive were dated 1917 and had been drafted for the use of the royal intelligence service, Siguranta. The inoperative collection (fondul neoperativ) received the personnel files of Securitate, army and militia retired and reserve officers at all ranks and civilian personnel, payroll records, administrative and secretarial memos, as well as other materials without operative value. The criminal investigation collection (fondul de ancheta penala) included the criminal investigation files and the prison files of persons already sentenced or investigated for “actions against state security.” The network collection (fondul de retea) consisted of personal files of the Securitate informers and individuals who refused to collaborate with the Securitate. The documentary collection (fondul documentar) included reports, analyses, information notes, working plans detailing the activity of the Securitate as well as the activity of pre-communist state agencies and political parties, together with a number of other materials of interest for the communist political police. The correspondence collection (fondul corespondenta) was made up of correspondence between different Securitate and Ministry of Interior units and between them and other state institutions and party structures.[23]

According to Information Service data obtained by senator Constantin (‘Ticu’) Dumitrescu, there were a total of 1,901,530 extant Securitate files, of which 1,162,418 referred to victims (individuals or groups), 507,003 were informer files, 154,911 were attached folders with information notes and reports, 29,281 represented “documentation,” 47,917 were correspondence files, and 317,258 were unfinished files on which the agents were working on in December 1989.[24] It is harder to estimate how many of these files were extant in both hardcopy and electronic format, but we know that after 1971 the Securitate started to copy some of its paper documents in the Center for Information and Documentation computer. After the collapse of the communist regime, several new and old institutions became Securitate archive custodians. Some 60 percent of the archive continued to be stored in military units that in 1990 became the property of the Information Service, whereas the archives of the Securitate Troops Unit, the Baneasa Officers School and the External Information Center went to other institutions. During the last 15 years, the Information Service gave “several tens of thousands” of Securitate files of no operative value to the Ministries of Justice, Public Affairs, Interior and National Defense, the Communist Party Central Committee Archive and the National Archives, and reaffirmed its willingness to offer the National Council 12 of the 20 kilometers of Securitate archive it housed.

Missing Files

There are several important gaps in the Securitate archive we know about from the discussions that preceded the adoption of the Law on Access to Securitate Files (Law 187 of December 1999), and reports of the Romanian local press. First, numerous observers contend that the political police destroyed the files of party members turned informers at the order of the communist leadership. As previously noted, in 1968 the Communist Party Central Committee banned the Securitate from using party and nomenclatura members as informers. Informers drawn from these categories active at the time could no longer have personal Securitate files as other spies. As a result, the Securitate destroyed the pre-1967 files and cards of individuals who meanwhile became party members. Afterwards, as soon as an informer whose file was archived became a party member, his personal informer file, attached folder of denunciations, evidence card and microfiche were also destroyed.[25] According to Gheordunescu, by 1974 the files and attached folders of some 230,000 party members had been destroyed in the program.[26] Historian Marius Oprea believes that the information contained in these files and the identity of the informers drawn from party ranks could be reconstituted with the help of the Center for Information and Documentation computerized system and the separate lists the local Communist Party leaders dutifully compiled. Indeed, to recruit a party member as an informer the Securitate first needed to secure the approval of the local party leadership, which carefully kept track of such approvals by listing the candidates’ names and personal details in a well-guarded ledger. The Communist Party cadre department kept a wealth of records on each party member, and in many ways acted as another political police structure.[27]

The second category of lost documents includes the files, attached folders, microfiches and evidence cards of deceased informers and collaborators and older archived documents destroyed based on the Ministry of Interior Order No. 01051 of 25 May 1977. It is almost certain that the order was not followed to the letter and some agents kept certain files for future reference. Part of the information in the files could be recovered by piecing together the notes, reports and analyses the deceased submitted and the Securitate collected in victims files. The attached folders, which reportedly were no longer microfiched, were to be destroyed five years after an informer file entered the archive. Copies of information notes were included in the files of the victims they referred to, so a good part of destroyed attached folders could be reconstituted. The Information Service custodian of the Securitate archive Florin Pintilie reported that another internal order provided for the periodical destruction of old documents from the correspondence and non-operational collections, but did not give details on the specific type of documents he referred to or the criteria employed to select “old” documents slated for destruction.[28] This category included around 1,700 or 1,800 files not found in the Securitate archive immediately after December 1989, but identified as “files that disappeared” in a separate list.

The third group of Securitate files was lost in December 1989 in circumstances that were never fully clarified, and included some 40,000 files housed at the Securitate headquarters of the central Transylvanian Sibiu town, entirely destroyed in the fighting that pitted the Securitate troops against the army, and an additional 100,000 working files found at the time in the bureaus of Securitate agents in Bucharest and a number of counties, which were later officially reported as having been destroyed and stolen by “unidentified individuals.” At around the same time, the head of the Arges Securitate office, Colonel Gheorghe Dita, tried to destroy trucks full of sensitive data, an operation that was only partially successful. For days, neighbors of the Arges Securitate archive reportedly could see the flames of open fires and smell the burning paper. It is impossible to estimate how many of these files were recovered, reconstituted or definitely lost, but certainly a great number of them were used for political blackmail and manipulation during the last decade and a half. In 1998, writer Romulus Rusan quoted Pintilie’s statement to the Chamber of Deputies that “the estimated total number of Securitate files lost during the December 1989 – March 1990 period is 130,000, of which only a tiny number were recovered from those who retained them illegally.”[29]

There is evidence that in the early 1990s former Securitate officers working for the Information Service tried to destroy thousands of political police files and standardized forms in an ill-conceived operation that was eventually revealed to the press. Probably aware of Dita’s unsuccessful attempt to burn the files completely, former Securitate agent Bordeianu believed that throwing the documents in the Berevoesti forest ravine and covering them with dirt was a better destruction method. Following a succession of mistakes make by the agents accompanying the truck load, the residents of the nearby village quickly discovered the site and rescuing the Securitate documents became their preferred passé-temps before being leaked to the media. While over the years a number of documents saved from the ravine were published in Bucharest newspapers, the total number of Securitate files lost in Berevoiesti remains unknown.[30]

The Information Surveillance Files and the Securitate Victims

The victim’s file (which could include from one to as many as 19 different volumes) usually began with the report in which the officer explained to his superior why the person had to be placed under surveillance (“to be worked”), and not, as one might expect, with the denunciation that started off the surveillance process. If the proposal gained approval, the report bore the signature of the two superior officers and any hand-written remarks they considered appropriate to make. The report was followed by a number of documents detailing the victim’s activity, the notes filled by informers, neighbors or workmates, the agent’s requests for information from other Securitate structures, periodical analyses in which the agent and his superiors evaluated the progress of the investigation (including strategies to solve the case, specific deadlines and each officer’s responsibilities), the report on the termination of surveillance, the decision to archive the file and eventually the stamp attesting that the file had been microfiched. If the victim was incarcerated, the file also contained interrogation memos. Although documents in archived files had to observe the chronological timeline, most files are organized differently. Sometimes the order of documents was the order in which the agent produced or received them. Other times, documents were classified by type. For example, all mail interception reports were kept together to help other officers identify specific information without having to read the entire file. Non-chronologically ordered files are generally harder to read and understand.

In summer 2001, the National Council allowed writer Stelian Tanase to read a copy of his two-volume file with the names of third parties deleted, as the legislation required. Tanase was placed under surveillance shortly after the publication of his first novel The Luxury of Melancholy. The monitoring intensified when he refused to rework two other novels to make them acceptable to censorship, deciding instead to try to send them to the West for publication despite opposition from communist authorities. After reading the material, Tanase came away with the belief that file “Stefan” (which had around 500 pages in total and detailed his life during the 1983-1989 period) lacked important pieces of evidence, but remained informative since, in his own words, “one could get a glimpse of a house through a door left ajar.”[31] Marked by the experience of finding out that his closest friend had been a zealous Securitate informer until the very last hours of the communist regime, Tanase decided to contrast his Securitate file with his own diary. Acasa se vorbeste in soapta. Dosar & jurnal din anii tirzii ai dictaturii (At Home We Speak Quietly. File & Diary from the Late Dictatorship Period) became a bestseller in Romania, mostly for identifying Dan Oprescu, a well known and respected intellectual close to the pro-democratic political camp, as the zealous secret spy. As a result, Oprescu lost many friends and was mocked for his belated and halfhearted apology. While it included only a selection of the Securitate file Tanase received, which itself was a selection of the original file, the volume was important for presenting the variety of documents the political police produced.
Much of the published file documents refer to interception of phone conversations, an operation carried out by the special Securitate unit T. On 22 August 1984 the Securitate agent “working” the case asked for Tanase’s phone to be listened to to find out “any kind of political comments, data on his literary projects, the nature of his relationships with other writers, his plans to contact foreign citizens in order to have his manuscripts published abroad.”[32] The report had the approval, official seal and signature of the head of unit T, and was followed by transcripts of phone conversations Tanase made or received over a number of years. The last such transcript was dated 19 December 1989, three days before Ceausescu had to flee Bucharest. The Securitate technical equipment allowed it to identify the phone numbers Tanase contacted, but not those where he was contacted from. Sometimes the transcripts (always drafted in unique, secret, hand-written copies) detailed the entire conversation even if laden with colloquial expressions and identified the dialogue partners, other times it summarized the most important passages and highlighted relevant material. Thus, we find out that on 26 August 1989 at 2:05 pm “Stefan” received a call from an unnamed fellow writer who wanted another job

because her current position does not allow her sufficient time to write, cannot meet the plan targets, does not receive the salary. “Stefan” recommends her to think not of writing, but of surviving, and adds that he too wrote some books that still wait the communist censorship’s approval for their publication. Today writing is detrimental, this era is not for writing and intellectuals. He only suffered because of his writings. She should tell nobody about her writing because she could suffer. He also says that she will have a difficult time to find another job because people are laid off everywhere.[33]

Other reports detailed the victims’ activity and daily errands, the places they visited, the routes they took to get from home to office and back, and the people they met and discussed with. The second volume of Cartea Alba a Securitatii (The White Book of the Securitate) published political police documents pertaining to writers and artists and included such a report. On 9 November 1971, Lieutenant-Colonel Dumitru Istrate sent out a note on the surveillance of objective “Lulu” (writer Gabriel Andreescu, today head of the Romanian branch of the Helsinki Committee) carried out the previous day.[34] The note could be summarized in a single paragraph: “that afternoon, “Lulu” made two calls from public phones and visited three different addresses in an attempt to show or give documents contained in a suitcase he carried with him all the time. After each visit, he came out with a different person whom he accompanied to various destinations and talked to. Two of the persons are known to the political police, the third, nicknamed “Liviu,” 60-65 years old, medium built, grey hair. Suitcase in hand, “Lulu” returned home at 11:20 pm.” The report itself runs for six paragraphs, giving exact addresses, times and names, and describing the exact routes “Lulu” took from home to work, from work to his visits, and from those back to his home, including bus numbers and names of streets and intersections, and even mentioning how much coffee he bought at a shop close to his home.

In addition, Tanase’s file included a note presenting in full a conversation he had on 5 November 1987 with former political prisoner and interwar Peasant Party leader Nicolae Carandino at the Capsa bistro in downtown Bucharest. The dialogue was taped with the help of a bugged ashtray planted on the table by a solicitous waiter whose identity remained unknown. Copies of the informers’ notes were also attached to a victim’s file like Tanase’s, often bearing on the margins hand-written comments by the agent and/or his superiors. Also important were the periodic reviews the Securitate officer drafted for the benefit of his superiors to summarize the case, explain whether progress was satisfactory, identify issues that had to be addressed in the future, and specify questions that still needed an answer. Predictably, these reports tended to be self-congratulatory, since any serious oversight in the adopted strategy represented a bad mark for the case agent.

The Information Network Files and the Securitate Informers

The 1987 Instructions confirmed that the political police opened files for information network members, be they informers, residents, supporting individuals or hosts of meeting places. For students and army recruits acting as supporting individuals agents did not open personal files, but filled in standardized forms, attached to case files together with those persons’ collaboration pledge and reports on their victims (Article 37). An informer’s personal file included the recruitment report (raportul de recrutare), detailing the reasons why the candidate could prove useful for solving cases at hand, the conspiratorial name, the loyalty guarantees, the recruitment method, the basis for recruitment (voluntary collaboration, financial payment or blackmail), the contact system of passwords and countersigns to be used if meetings could not be organized at the pre-established time and place, the collaboration pledge (angajamentul de colaborare), several surveillance, verification and analysis materials in which the agent noted the loyalty and productivity of the informer, and the abandonment report (raportul de abandonare), detailing the reasons for and the method of deactivating the informer. There was also a list of documents included in the file, another list of the Securitate personnel who knew the individual belonged to the information network, a third list with the informer’s contacts that were valuable to the Securitate, and a note explaining the method of contacting the informer and the conspiratorial meeting places the informer was told about (Article 38).

The resident’s file contained an additional list with the names of the supporting individuals the resident was responsible for and the places where they met. The host’s file presented a map of the meeting place and its location, the list of the installments the Securitate paid as rent in exchange for the host’s services, the stories (legende) used to cover up the secret meeting and present it to inquisitive neighbors, a list of Securitate agents and information network members who entered the house, and the results of the periodical verification the host was subjected to. These files were accompanied by attached folders (mapele anexa), where the informers’ original notes, the reports the agent drafted on the basis of the notes, the information obtained during meetings with the informer and the way it was used were collected (Article 39). According to the Instructions, files were transferred to a new Securitate branch if informers changed their address (Article 40), and only in exceptional cases Securitate agents working on could consult the files of informers used by other agents (Article 41). The political police kept statistics on the information network, but indicators were secret (Article 43). Each Securitate county branch organized its archival materials alphabetically, and kept documents that pertained to persons located and events taking place in the respective county.

A 1950s collaboration pledge this author accessed in the Securitate archives included a short machine-typed text and the signatures of the informer and recruiting officer. Names were given in full, although subsequently the informer signed his reports and notes with the nickname. The informer ceased collaboration in 1958 and was reactivated sometime during the 1970s under a different nickname. The pledge mentioned that the informer promised to offer relevant data but did not specify the names of the individuals spied upon, the recruitment method or the expected duration of the collaboration. It also stressed that the informer could receive one to five years jail time for divulging the secret nature of his or her collaboration with the political police. The 1987 Instructions included a standardized collaboration pledge Securitate agents had to use for future recruitment. The pledge was longer than the one described above and included a carefully written justification for spying on others worded in the patriotic terms and the wooden language of the time:

Knowing that country and state security defense is the patriotic obligation of the entire people, a duty of honor for every citizen, stipulated in the Constitution; Knowing the importance of the contribution I am asked to bring, as citizen of the Socialist Republic of Romania, to the country’s defense; I [name], born [date] in [locality], residing at [address] pledge to support in a secret, organized and active manner the Securitate organs in their activity to prevent, discover and liquidate threats to state security, to fight any actions undermining the interests of our socialist regime. In my collaboration with the Securitate organs I pledge to: actively seek information of interest for the Securitate and offer it in a timely fashion through pre-established channels of communication; to fight for finding the truth and strictly observing the law; firmly and actively prevent criminal actions; promptly prevent deeds threatening state security; show vigilance against the country’s enemies; offer information sincerely, objectively and correctly; not abuse the collaboration, not divulge its secrecy to anyone. Animated by the desire to bring my contribution to defending our people’s revolutionary accomplishments, I will do everything needed to translate this pledge into reality, understanding fully the negative consequences that the failure to fulfill it could bring to our state security.[35]

According to the Instructions, the informers had to sign the pledge with their nicknames, if these had already been selected, and the pledge could be tailored for each new recruit. Selected individuals who could not sign a collaboration pledge because of objective reasons had to sign a document promising that they will keep the secret of their collaboration.

Other important documents in these files were the notes by which the informer provided data on other people, copies of which could be found in the victim’s file. The notes were kept separately from the informer’s file in the attached folder (mapa anexa), differed in length, detail, accuracy and perceptiveness, and where signed by the informer with real or assumed name. For example, on 17 October 1988 the economic deputy director of the Constantin Tanase Theatre in Bucharest, Corneliu Popa, delivered a note describing the cocktail reception organized by the cultural attaché of the French Embassy to Bucharest in honor of a visiting French jazz group. After listing the names of the Romanian and foreign artists, musicians and diplomats attending the event, describing the general program, and presenting the food and drinks offered, Popa mentioned that Tanase was also present. His note went on to include short evaluations of the party’s success and the guests’ civilized behavior, and mention the exact time when the Romanians left. In the note, Popa used his own name.[36] As only a line of the note referred to Tanase, it is likely that Popa was asked to describe the party in as much detail as possible, not to denounce Tanase. Spending considerable time and space for describing the food and drinks, Popa was probably content with himself for solving the difficult predicament of serving the political police while at the same time limiting the damage done to the people he mentioned. Little did he know that his deposition was to be used as evidence for Tanase’s efforts to contact attending foreign citizens who could help transport his manuscript to a Western country.

Not all informers were brave enough to use their real name. Oprescu assumed the nickname “Valeriu Cristescu” when offering information to the Securitate.[37] In his note of 13 April 1989 Cristescu alerted agents that Tanase believed he was followed and his phone calls were intercepted, and described in detail the devices and strategies his friend used to mislead the Securitate. The writer had acquired an answering machine to register calls received when he was not at home, installed an alarm system making noise when somebody tried to enter his home, and placed small pieces of papers throughout his apartment to see if anybody walked through. After disclosing the measures Tanase took to protect himself, Cristescu revealed Tanase’s plans to attend the funerals of respected Orthodox monk Nicolae Steinhardt, and his literary projects, which included the English-language translation of an original manuscript to be published in the West. A trusted Securitate informer, Cristescu even dared to admit that he had accepted Tanase’s request to make his home available for meetings with the translator, and detailed the system the three of them would use to keep the meetings secret from the political police. A week later, Cristescu disclosed Tanase’s plans to hide the only three copies of his novel’s English-translation, mentioning that one copy would go to him, another one to the embassy contact who promised to take it out of Romania, and the third to an undetermined safe location.[38]

On 14 August, Cristescu commented on his meeting with Tanase and the young British journalist John, who wanted to meet with Romanian dissident writers. The three met in Tanase’s apartment, talked in English, listened to loud classical music all the time, and were served sweets and lemonade. Cristescu convinced John and Tanase to let him arrange a money transfer through Romanian emigrant to West Germany C. S., but told the Securitate that he “made such proposal so that the relationship between John (and whoever is hiding behind him) and Stelian Tanase be somehow controlled. Of course, when C. S. will come to Romania, the source [Cristescu] will ask him [how the transfer went]; it is advisable that no other person asks C. S. about this issue, since he is suspicious [of everyone] and a useful informational link could thus be lost.” Although worried that the Securitate could accidentally disclose his identity, Cristescu accompanied his denunciations with personal opinions and evaluations. He noted that

despite his youth, John was not naïve. When the source [Cristescu] tried to open a discussion on the German romantic philosophers (Fichte, Schelling, etc.), a subject John should be interested in and closely familiar with, since it is the topic of his doctoral thesis, John avoided the subject, on grounds that he started to work on the topic only very recently and does not have a good grasp of it. This fact, corroborated with others (for example, the fact that he came to Romania with a list of people to contact, or the fact that he and “his friends” want to finance some Romanian intellectuals with “liberal” views, etc.) made me think that John was sent to Romania in an exploratory mission under a cultural and humanitarian pretext.”[39]

Afterwards, Cristescu reported additional details on John and Tanase, and again voiced his worry that his work for the Securitate could be uncovered. Days earlier, Tanase’s neighbor was asked to confirm information the Securitate found out through the bugging system installed in the writer’s apartment. Realizing that his apartment had been bugged, Tanase took additional precautions to protect himself from the political police. Cristescu tried to convince Tanase that his conversations at home were private, and stressed that “given the importance of my entire effort to monitor Stelian Tanase, I dare to consider that [the incident] was an imprudent move that could have resulted in the disclosure [of my collaboration with the Securitate].”[40]

In August, Cristescu delivered to the political police the list of people and their addresses Tanase wanted him to contact in case he was arrested, in September described Tanase’s meeting with the US cultural attaché A[lice] Kuperman, his plans to translate an anti-governmental declaration into English and disseminate it abroad, his hopes to meet an unnamed British citizen, and in October noted that Tanase received a letter from a British lady and planned to put together a collection of non-political essays signed by well-known dissident writers. A week before the collapse of the communist regime, Cristescu was busy writing detailed reports for the political police, seemingly oblivious to the monumental changes his country went through. In his 14 December 1989 report, the informer commented the letter of 18 young writers and intellectuals protesting against communist censorship, which Radio Free Europe had broadcast several days before, while two days later advised the political police that five older writers and two researchers decided to join the protest. His last report was dated 20 December, just two days before Ceausescu fled Bucharest in a panic, and disclosed in detail Tanase’s plans to hide with friends for several days for the political police not to find and arrest him.[41]

Not all denunciations were handwritten and signed by the informer, as the latter could refuse or the circumstances of the agent-informer meeting might not allow the informer to sit down and write the note. In these cases, and when the meeting had to be kept short, the officer wrote down the information that interested him and later prepared a summary of the information received orally, selecting it and commenting on it according to his own training, interests and ideological position. These documents also found their way in informer files.


At the time when the Securitate signed its own death certificate in late 1989, it left behind a wealth of material detailing life under communism. Some Romanians were firmly convinced that the archive found in December 1989 in the Securitate warehouses was but a small part of the archive the political police produced over its entire existence. In 1999, the Romanian Parliament decided that only a fraction of the extant archive could become available to the public, on condition that it did not relate to issues of national security, a term legislators failed to define clearly. Since then, only a tiny segment of the 12 kilometers of Securitate archive meeting that condition had been transferred to the National Council for the Study of Securitate Archives to become available to the public. With all its shortcomings, the Securitate archive remains a valuable source of information that hopefully will become available to historians, political scientists, sociologists and other researchers interested in state-society relations, dissidence, terror and repression or life under the Romanian communist regime. Its testimonial value is likely to increase if the archive is complemented with information drawn from other sources, including the National Archives and the Communist Party Archives, since we know that some materials were never collected or were destroyed by the Securitate. The documents, files and collections presented here, incomplete as they are, tell the sad story of people entangled in a web of lies, deception and intimidation as spies, informers or victims. It is a story worth telling.

Research for this article was generously supported by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. I thank Florin Abraham for his support in accessing materials published in Arhivele totalitarismului, Stejarel Olaru, Mircea Stanescu and Gabriel Catalan for helping me understand the intricacies of archival investigation, Paul Goma for his hospitality, and Major-General Marius-Sorin Brateanu and archivist Nevian Tunareanu for giving me access to the Securitate archive and its documents. Special thanks go to Larry Watts and director Radu Timofte for their support. All factual and interpretation errors are mine.

About the Author:

Lavinia Stan received her PhD from the University of Toronto, and then joined the Department of Political Science at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, where she heads the Center for Post-Communist Studies. I am the author of Leaders and Laggards: Governance, Civicness and Ethnicity in Post-Communist Romania (Boulder: East European Monographs, 2003), and the editor of Romania in Transition (Aldershot: Dartmouth, 1997).

Lavinia Stan
Center for Post-Communist Studies
St. Francis Xavier University
Antigonish, NS, B2G 2W5, Canada


1] While English-language analyses are few, there is a growing Romanian-language literature on the Securitate. It includes collections of primary documents like Marius Oprea, Banalitatea raului. O istorie a Securitatii in documente 1949-1989 (Bucharest: Polirom, 2002), Marius Oprea, ed., Securistii partidului. Serviciul de Cadre al PCR ca politie politica. Studiu de caz: arhiva Comitetului Municipal de Partid Brasov (Bucharest: Polirom, 2002), Serviciul Roman de Informatii, Cartea Alba a Securitatii, 2 volumes (Bucharest: Editura Presa Romaneasca, 1996 and 1997), and Consiliul National pentru Studierea Arhivelor Securitatii, Trupele de Securitate (1949-1989) (Bucharest: Nemira, 2004) si Arhivele Securitatii (Bucharest: Nemira, 2004). There are books written by Securitate victims (Ion Diaconescu, Ion Ioanid, Iosif Colpas, Florin Constantin Pavlovici and Paul Goma), its agents (Mihai Pelin and Nicolae Plesita) or writers (Virgil Ierunca and Stelian Tanase). Among the most important are Ion Diaconescu, Temnita. Destinul generatiei noastre (Bucharest: Nemira, 2003), Dupa Temnita (Bucharest: Nemira, 2003) and Dupa revolutie (Bucharest: Nemira: 2003), Ion Ioanid, Inchisoarea noastra cea de toate zilele, 3 volumes (Bucharest: Humanitas, 1999), Iosif Colpas, Secvente din inchisorile comuniste (Bucharest: Humanitas, 2003), Florin Constantin Pavlovici, Tortura pe intelesul tuturor (Chisinau: Cartier, 2001), Paul Goma, Soldatul cainelui (Chisinau: Editura Flux, 2003), Culoarea curcubeului ’77 (Chisinau: Editura Flux, 2003), Patimile dupa Pitesti (Bucharest: Cartea Romaneasca, 1990), Gherla (Bucharest: Humanitas, 1990), Virgil Ierunca, Fenomenul Pitesti (Bucharest: Humanitas, 1990) and Stelian Tanase, Anatomia mistificarii (Bucharest: Humanitas, 2003).

2] Dennis Deletant, Ceausescu and the Securitate: Coercion and Dissent in Romania, 1965-1989 (Armonk: M. E. Sharpe, 1995), and Communist Terror in Romania: Gheorghiu-Dej and the Police State, 1948-1965 (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2000), Marius Oprea and Stejarel Olaru, The Day We Won’t Forget. 15 November 1987, Brasov (Bucharest: Polirom, 2003), Lavinia Stan, “Access to Securitate Files: The Trials and Tribulations of a Romanian Law,” East European Politics and Society vol. 16, no. 1 (2000), pp. 145-181, “Moral Cleansing Romanian Style,” Problems of Post-Communism vol. 49, no. 4 (July-August 2002), pp. 52-62, and “Spies, Files and Lies: Explaining the Failure of Access to Securitate Files,” Communist and Post-Communist Studies vol. 37, no. 3 (2004), pp. 341-359, Kieran Williams and Dennis Deletant, Security Intelligence Services in New Democracies (London: Palgrave, 2001), Larry L. Watts, “Intelligence Reform in Europe’s Emerging Democracies,” Studies in Intelligence vol. 48, no. 1 (2004), pp. 11-25, and Lavinia Stan, “Our Spies’ Keeper: The Romanian Information Service,” paper presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Association of Slavists, Winnipeg, 1 June 2004. Add Mihai Sturdza, “How Dead Is Ceausescu’s Secret police Force?,” Report on Eastern Europe (13 April 1990), pp. 28-36, Michael Shafir, “Best-Selling Spy Novels Seek to Rehabilitate Romanian Securitate,” RFE/RL Research Report (12 November 1993), pp. 14-18, and Dan Ionescu, “Personnel Changes in the Romanian Intelligence Service,” RFE/RL Research Report (8 July 1994), pp. 22-25, and “Big Brother Is Still Watching,” Transition (26 May 1995), pp. 20-28.

3] Monitorul Oficial, partea a II-a (22 November 1990). On 10 April 2004, the Ziua daily cited different numbers: a total of 15,312 employees, including 10,114 officers, 791 maistri militari, 3,179 sub-officers, and 1,228 civilians. Of the total, 6,602 worked in Bucharest, 6,059 in local branches, 225 in training schools, and 2,426 in special units. Deletant cited Virgil Magureanu, the first director of the Romanian Information Service, who claimed that on 22 December 1989, the Securitate totaled 14,259 military cadres, including 8,159 officers, 5,105 warrant and non-commissioned officers and 984 civilian personnel. See Deletant, Ceausescu and the Securitate, p. 392.

4] Florica Dobre, Florian Banu, Camelia Duica, Silviu B. Moldovan and Liviu Taranu, Trupele de Securitate (1949-1989) (Bucharest: Nemira, 2004).

5] Cristian Troncota, “’Noua politica’ in domeniul institutiei securitatii regimului communist din Romania, 1965-1989,” Arhivele totalitarismului vols. 32-33, nos. 3-4 (2001), p. 122.

6] Stan, “Moral Cleansing,” p. 55.The results of the undated analysis were first made public by Dumitrescu.

7] Sometimes the Securitate officers manufactured informer files for people who never agreed to spy and never submitted delations. Officers invented informers when under pressure to maintain a wide information network.

8] “Recursul la discurs,” 22 no. 45 (1998).

9] Oprea, Banalitatea raului, pp. 478-492.

10] Romania Libera (10 December 2001).

11] Cristian Troncota, “Din istoria aparatului de Securitate in Romania, 1948-1965,” Arhivele totalitarismului (Bucharest), vols. 26-27, nos. 1-2 (2000), p. 16.

12] G. Marzanca, Patru ani am fost … “bandit.” Confesiuni (Bucharest: Editura Vasile Carlova, 1997), p. 10 and 18.

13] C. Zugravu, “Securitatea m-a programat ‘turnator’,” Memoria vol. 10, no. 2 (1995), p. 60.

14] Oprea, Banalitatea raului, pp. 478-492.

15] The Council’s address is 12-14 Dragoslavele Street, Bucharest, not far from Victoria Square. To access files and obtain photocopies of documents, researchers must obtain accreditation by petitioning the Council and the Ombudsman. Accreditation is granted for individual projects, not individual researchers, and as a result it needs to be secured for each new project.

16] Stan, “Spies, Files and Lies,” p. 422.

17] Florin Pintilie, “Constituirea arhivei Securitatii,” Profil vol. 2, no. 4 (March 2004), pp. 6-8.

18] The Securitate first installed the computers and then told Ceausescu of the purchase. Its leader, Ion Stanescu, was not removed because the purchase was a barter against Romanian products. See Neagu Cosma and Ion Stanescu, De la iscoada la agentul modern in spionajul si contraspionajul romanesc (Bucharest: Paco, 2001), p. 202.

19] Pintilie, “Constituirea arhivei Securitatii,” pp. 6-8, C. Troncota, Istoria Securitatii regimului communist din Romania, 1948-1964 (Bucharest: Institutul National pentru Studiul Totalitarismului, 2003), pp. 125-134.

20] Such folders were also opened for former political prisoners after their release, and were archived when the person died or was believed that he “gave up all hostile activity.”

21] Ziua (12 November 2003) and Curentul (15 December 2003).

22] “Evidenta retelei informative a aparatului de securitate,” Sfera politicii no. 52 (1997), p. 39.

23] Florin Pintilie, “Pastrare si acces la documentele Securitatii aflate in arhivele SRI,” 22 (17 November 1998).

24] Stan, “Moral Cleansing,” p. 56.

25] Pintilie, “Constituirea arhivei Securitatii,” pp. 6-8.

26] Pintilie reported a total of 270,000 destroyed files.

27] Marius Oprea, ed., Securistii partidului. The need for party leadership approval was confirmed by communist leader Alexandru Draghici on 22 January 1955. Alina Tudor, “1955: Batuti la Securitate, doi ceferisti se pling lui Gheorghiu-Dej,” Cotidianul (27 May 1998), p. 12.

28] Pintilie, “Constituirea arhivei Securitatii,” pp. 6-8.

29] “Recursul la discurs,” 22 no. 45 (1998).

30] For details, see Kieran Williams and Dennis Deletant, Security Intelligence Services in New Democracies. The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001), and Lavinia Stan, “Our Spies’ Keeper: The Romanian Information Service,” paper presented at the Canadian Assoiciation of Slavists annual meeting, June 2004, Winnipeg.

31] Stelian Tanase, Acasa se vorbeste in soapta (Bucharest: Compania, 2002), p. 10.

32] ibid, p. 16.

33] ibid, p. 120.

34] Serviciul Roman de Informatii, Cartea Alba a Securitatii. Istorii literare si artistice, 1969-1989 (Bucharest: Editura Presa Romaneasca, 1996), p. 30.

35] Oprea, Banalitatea raului, pp. 478-492.

36] Tanase, Acasa se vorbeste in soapta, p. 71.

37] Various Romanian journals identified Dan Oprescu as the Securitate “source” (informer) “V. Cristescu.” See Traian Ungureanu, “Secu – Cornu – Corfu (istoria Romaniei trece in soapta),” 22 (23-29 April 2002), and Emil Berdeli, “Scurta cronica a unui scandal aflat abia la inceput,” Cotidianul (4-10 March 2002).

38] Tanase, Acasa se vorbeste in soapta, pp. 85-88 and 90-92.

39] ibid, pp. 106-107.

40] ibid, pp. 115-116.

41] ibid, pp. 118-166, 207-209 and 228-232.


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